Data Discovery & Classification With DSPM

July 4, 2024

DSPM (Data Security Posture Management) is a cybersecurity tool that helps you understand what data you have and where it resides. It helps you discover and classify your data, including sensitive information, for easier retrieval and protection. DSPM also tells you who has access to your sensitive data and how secure it is.

How DSPM works

A typical mid-size to large enterprise will have a sprawling database with thousands of customer records, and financial transactions, and maybe even sensitive employee information. Without DSPM, finding and classifying this data would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. 

DSPM tools can scan through your systems, identify different data types, and categorize them appropriately. For instance, it can differentiate between personally identifiable information (PII) like social security numbers and non-sensitive data like product inventory lists.

Once the data is discovered, it is classified appropriately. This process involves tagging data based on its sensitivity and importance. 

For example, DSPM can tag customer credit card details as "highly sensitive" and public marketing materials as "low sensitivity." This way, you know exactly what needs the tightest security and what can be handled with more relaxed protocols.

How to develop a DSPM strategy

Step 1 - Assess current data security posture. 

Take a good look at your existing security measures and try to identify any weak spots. Review access controls to see if anyone has unnecessary permissions. This helps you understand where the risks are and what you need to address first.

Step 2 - Prioritize your data

Not all data is created equal, so you must determine your most sensitive information. Categorize data based on its importance and the potential impact of a breach. 

Customer financial information takes top priority, while less critical data, like internal meeting notes, can be further down the list. This step is essential for determining where to focus your efforts and resources.

Step 3 - Implement stringent access controls

Use role-based access control (RBAC) to ensure that employees only have access to the data they need for their jobs. For instance, the marketing team doesn’t need access to payroll information, so their permissions should be limited accordingly. This step reduces the risk of unauthorized access and potential data breaches.

Step 4 - Encrypt your data

You will do well to encrypt sensitive data both at rest and in transit. Use strong encryption protocols to protect data from unauthorized access. For instance, customer credit card details must be encrypted using AES-256, which makes it incredibly difficult for hackers to decipher the information if they manage to intercept it.

Regular security training for employees will add another layer of protection for your data. Conduct workshops and online courses to educate your team about the importance of data security and how to recognize potential threats. 

For example, teach them how to spot phishing emails and the importance of using strong, unique passwords. This training helps create a security-conscious culture within the organization.

Step 5 - Regularly monitor your data environment

Set up automated alerts to notify you of any unusual activities, such as multiple failed login attempts or large data transfers. These alerts help to quickly identify potential threats and respond accordingly. 

For example, an alert about a large data transfer at 2 AM should prompt a swift investigation. You may discover that it is only a scheduled backup process, not a security threat, but it could also be a security breach or an employee accessing documents they aren’t allowed to.

Step 6 - Develop an incident response plan

This plan details the steps to take in case of a data breach or other security incident. It must include contact information for key personnel and procedures for isolating affected systems and notifying customers. 

For example, if you detect a breach, the first step is to contain the threat by disconnecting affected systems from the network to prevent further data loss.

By following these steps, you can establish a robust DSPM strategy that protects your sensitive data and reduces the risk of security breaches. Each step brings you closer to a more secure data environment, and you will feel more confident in your ability to safeguard your information assets.

Integrating DSPM with existing security frameworks

Cloud-based computing has brought unprecedented opportunities for innovation but has also increased the complexity of securing data. Fortunately, DSPM integrates seamlessly with other security frameworks for a more robust cybersecurity posture.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

CSPM secures cloud infrastructure configurations and policies. It scans and monitors your cloud resources, identifies misconfigurations, and suggests remediation. However, CSPM lacks data awareness, which is where DSPM comes in handy. 

DSPM secures your cloud data by scanning and monitoring it, identifying sensitive data at risk, and orchestrating actions such as encryption and masking. Integrating DSPM with CSPM solutions is seamless and ensures both your cloud infrastructure and data are secure.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

CASB secures your cloud applications and services, focusing on access and usage monitoring. While CASB is excellent for securing SaaS apps, it only covers known applications. 

DSPM, however, brings data awareness to the table. It finds data even in unknown or shadow stores and secures it. Integrating DSPM with CASB solutions ensures that your cloud data is secured regardless of its location, enhancing your overall security posture.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

SIEM tools aggregate and correlate security data from various sources, providing intelligence on security status. DSPM enriches this data by adding context to your sensitive cloud data. This enriched context allows better prioritization of remediation steps. 

Therefore, integrating DSPM with SIEM solutions helps streamline policy optimization and incident response workflows, making your security operations more effective.

Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR)

SOAR tools automate and orchestrate security workflows. When integrated with DSPM, you can automate data security tasks, ensuring a responsive and scalable security architecture. This helps safeguard data as your cloud usage expands. 

Integrating DSPM with SOAR solutions enables you to define security playbooks that automate and coordinate various tasks, enhancing productivity and overall company efficiency.

DSPM integrates seamlessly with identity management, IDPS, key/secrets management, and vulnerability management tools. For instance, Okta secures users and devices while DSPM allows precise access policies based on granular data classification. Similarly, AWS KMS can encrypt data identified and classified by DSPM, ensuring compliance and security. 

By integrating with these tools, DSPM provides a comprehensive security framework, leveraging APIs or SDKs for smooth integration.

How to choose the right DSPM tools

Choosing the right DSPM tools doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. The key is to focus on your specific needs and the features that cater to those requirements. 

Consider tools that offer comprehensive visibility

Look for tools that offer comprehensive visibility into your data environment. For example, some tools provide robust data classification and monitoring capabilities. 

Such tools help you see where sensitive data resides and how it's being used. This visibility is crucial for identifying potential risks and ensuring compliance.

Prioritize ease of integration

Avoid tools that require a complex setup. Choose a tool that integrates seamlessly with existing infrastructure and starts providing insights immediately. The faster you can get a tool up and running, the quicker you can address security gaps.

Check for user-friendliness

A tool might have all the features in the world, but if it’s not intuitive, it’s not helpful. A clean dashboard that is easy to navigate means you can spend more time focusing on security and less time figuring out how to use the tool.

Do not neglect scalability

As your organization grows, your data security needs will also expand. Choose a DSPM tool that can handle everything from small deployments to large, complex environments, which makes it easier to manage data security as you grow.

Review support and community credentials

Even the best tools need support. Active user communities, customer support, and documentation can all help to solve problems you are likely to encounter. If you can’t get through to support, you can engage the community, or refer to the documentation for solutions.

Choosing the right DSPM tools is all about aligning them with your needs and ensuring they fit well within your existing ecosystem. It's a process, but getting it right pays off in stronger, more manageable data security.

The role of zero-trust architecture in DSPM

With cyber threats constantly evolving, assuming that no entity inside or outside your network can be trusted by default is essential. With ZTA, every access request is thoroughly vetted before granting any level of trust. This fits perfectly with DSPM's goal of robust data protection.

A network setup where one can move freely once they gain access is a recipe for disaster. With zero trust, even once inside, users and devices must continuously prove they're legitimate. 

For example, an employee accessing sensitive customer data will face continuous authentication checks. This means they're not trusted just because they're on the network, which aligns perfectly with DSPM's meticulous oversight of data access and usage.

Zero-trust also emphasizes the principle of least privilege. This entails granting users the minimum level of access they need to do their jobs, nothing more. 

Suppose you have a marketing team member who needs access to some sales data but not the financial records. Zero trust ensures that this individual is limited to only the data necessary for their role. This principle complements DSPM by minimizing the risk of data breaches through insider threats or compromised accounts.

Additionally, zero-trust architectures rely heavily on monitoring and analytics, which are key components of DSPM. Every action taken by users and devices is logged and analyzed. 

Unusual behavior, like a user downloading an unusually large amount of data, triggers an alert. This enables quick responses to potential threats, keeping your data secure.

Another crucial aspect of ZTA is micro-segmentation, a technique used to create "zones" within your network. This means even if an attacker manages to breach one zone, they can’t necessarily access the others. 

It’s like having multiple vaults for different sets of data, making it harder for intruders to get anything of value. With DSPM, this helps ensure that sensitive information remains protected even if one part of your network is compromised.

When you integrate zero-trust principles with DSPM tools, you gain a holistic view of data security. Both methodologies prioritize protecting data at every access point and maintaining strict control over who accesses what. The integration builds a more resilient defense strategy that allows you to stay ahead of potential threats.

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