Mastering Data Flow: Enhancing Security and Compliance in the Cloud

Feb 14, 2024
4 minutes
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Many organizations struggle to determine their data’s precise locations and pathways, making it challenging to ensure security and compliance throughout its lifecycle, as it crosses borders and boundaries.

This blog post focuses on the importance of understanding data flow in the context of incident response and emphasizing the need for organizations to proactively address this aspect to enhance their overall data protection strategies.

Understanding Your Data Use

Understanding and monitoring how data is used within an organization is paramount. Without proper oversight, potential vulnerabilities can arise, leading to gaps in visibility for data extraction. This can range from malicious theft to unauthorized copying of sensitive data to insecure locations. Unauthorized access to sensitive data assets can also pose compliance challenges, as inappropriate access may be considered a breach or noncompliance.

Adhering to the principle of least privilege, where users only have access only to the data necessary to complete their job, not all staff require access to sensitive data. Because roles and permissions change over time, the proactive mitigation of risks associated with data usage requires access controls and monitoring.

Apps Accessing Sensitive Storage Assets

Understanding the access and usage of sensitive data extends beyond users to include applications. In general, nonhuman users introduce additional compliance challenges that organizations need to address. When applications interact with sensitive data, they often create copies of the data in memory or storage. These copied data instances, however, may lack the same rigorous security measures applied to the original data, which opens the door for vulnerabilities.

Improperly secured copies of sensitive data can serve as entry points for unauthorized access or breaches, jeopardizing the confidentiality and integrity of the information. Organizations must ensure proper security controls to protect the original data, as well as any copies or instances created by applications throughout their lifecycle. But the challenge here lies in determining where the copied data is and tracking it throughout its lifecycle.

More than 50% of sensitive data assets are accessed by 5-10 applications.

Knowing Where Your Assets Are Accessed

Ensuring appropriate location-based access to sensitive data is critical to data protection. Access to sensitive information from different geolocations can introduce significant challenges for organizations.

Regulatory restrictions, such as those imposed by GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CN (Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China), often prohibit sensitive data from leaving its designated geolocation. Violating these restrictions can lead to severe consequences. And to exacerbate data governance and security concerns, accessing data across borders can inadvertently result in the creation of unauthorized copies in forbidden locations.

Without in-depth visibility into cloud resource storage at rest and in transit, it’s virtually impossible to maintain data residency and safeguard sensitive information while adhering to regulatory requirements.

Over 56% of data assets are accessed from multiple geographic locations.

Where the Data Flows To

For organizations to effectively manage and protect their sensitive information, they must understand the flow of data. While data replication is necessary for ensuring redundancy and mitigating the impact of outages, it can also give rise to compliance challenges.

In unmanaged environments, the replication process can result in the creation of shadow data assets that persist. Residual replication data, for example, may remain after deleting an original database. What’s more, the residual replication data may contain sensitive information, now unmanaged. This poses a significant risk to data privacy and security.

6% of companies have data that’s been transferred to publicly open assets.

Like accessing data across regions or borders can give rise to compliance issues, data replication comes with the same challenges. It may violate data protection regulations and restrictions. The risks associated with data flow and cross-service flows further highlight the importance of implementing robust controls and monitoring mechanisms to ensure data replication is compliant and secure.

Learn More

Organizations can maintain control over data flow by implementing suitable data governance practices and using technologies that provide visibility, management and data encryption throughout its flow. This is the only way to minimize risks and ensure compliance with applicable regulations.

For insights into cloud security and a better understanding of how your data is exposed in the cloud, read our comprehensive State of Cloud Data Security 2023 report. This research sheds light on crucial aspects of cloud data security and provides actionable steps to defend your valuable data effectively.


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