Can Data Classification Simplify Your Data Universe?

Author : Alisha | July 28, 2023

Imagine a vast library with innumerable books, each one hiding a treasure trove of knowledge just waiting to be found. Imagine this library without any order, with books thrown around indiscriminately, making it difficult to access precise information. It sounds like it would be chaotic and overwhelming.

A similar dynamic plays out in the domain of data. Data is expanding exponentially and becoming more difficult to browse as a result of the exponential growth of digital information. Businesses, organizations, and people are trying to make sense of an overwhelming amount of data while drowning in it. The idea of data classification comes into play in this situation.

What is Data Classification?

The process of categorizing data into groups that make it simple to obtain, sort, and store for later use is known as data classification.

An effective system for classifying data makes it simpler to locate and retrieve crucial information. This can be especially important for risk management, legal research, and regulatory compliance.

What categories and criteria the organization will use to classify data should be specified in written procedures and guidelines for data classification policies. In terms of data stewardship, they also outline the duties and obligations of people inside the organization.

Security standards that specify appropriate handling techniques for each category should be provided when a data classification scheme has been developed. It is also necessary to take into account the data's lifetime storage requirements.

Types of Data Classification

Standard data classification categories include the following:

  • Public information

This kind of data is often stored by government organizations and is susceptible to public disclosure under certain legal provisions.

  • Confidential information

If personal data is handled improperly, there may be legal restrictions on how it can be used or other consequences.

  • Sensitive information

Any information that is kept or processed by governmental or other organizations that is subject to usage restrictions and authorization requirements is considered to be this data.

  • Personal information

Personal information, often known as PII, is typically protected by law and must be treated according to specific guidelines. There are occasionally discrepancies between the moral standards and the current legal safeguards for their application.

Reasons to Perform Data Classification

Every organization should organize, manage, and classify the data it produces. But in huge enterprise situations, it's even more crucial. Large businesses have data assets dispersed across numerous places, including the cloud, which explains this.

To make sure this information has the right authentication and access controls, administrators must monitor and audit it. Administrators can locate sensitive data storage locations and choose how it should be accessed and shared by using data classification.

The first step in practically any data compliance regulation is classification. 

Data must be labeled in order for security and authentication procedures to limit access, as required by HIPAA, GDPR, FERPA, and other regulatory regulating bodies. Labeling data makes it easier to organize and safeguard. Additionally, the exercise lowers the amount of data that is replicated pointlessly, lowers storage costs, boosts performance, and keeps the data trackable as it is shared.

The basis for efficient data protection laws and data loss prevention (DLP) regulations is data classification. You must first categorize your data to ensure that you are aware of the data saved in each file before implementing DLP rules.

Data Classification Process

The first step in classifying data to satisfy compliance criteria is putting protocols in place to help with data location, classification, and choosing the appropriate cybersecurity. The architecture that best secures data and your organization's compliance criteria will determine how each procedure is carried out. The steps for broad data classification are:

  • Perform a risk assessment: A risk assessment establishes the level of data sensitivity and pinpoints potential network defense vulnerabilities.
  • Develop classification policies and standards: A categorization policy offers to streamline a repeated process, making it simpler for staff members while minimizing errors in the process if you generate extra data in the future.
  • Categorize data: Create categories for your data depending on its sensitivity, who should have access to it, and any compliance repercussions should it be made publicly available after doing a risk assessment and putting policies in place.
  • Find the storage location of your data: You need to know where data is stored before you can implement the proper cybersecurity defenses. Finding data storage places reveals the kind of cybersecurity required to safeguard data.
  • Identify and classify your data: Data that has been identified can now be classified. This step of data classification and tracking is assisted by third-party software.
  • Deploy controls: Every person and resource requesting access to data should be required by the controls you apply to provide authentication and authorization. Users should only be granted access if they require data in order to carry out a specific job function, or on a "need to know" basis.
  • Monitor access and data: For compliance and the privacy of your data, monitoring is necessary. A hacker can have months to steal data from the network if there is no monitoring. By identifying anomalies, the right monitoring controls shorten the time needed to identify, contain, and eliminate the danger from the network.

General Data Protection Regulation

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union is a collection of international standards designed to aid businesses and organizations in handling sensitive and private data with care and respect. Seven guiding principles make up this system: fairness, limited scope, accuracy, storage constraints, rights, and integrity. In certain nations, breaking these norms carries severe penalties.

To comply with the many requirements of GDPR, methodical data classification must be put into practice. In order to prevent unauthorized disclosure, it is necessary for organizations to apply particular security control levels to data. Data security teams can identify data that needs anonymization or encryption by classifying the data.

Since it grants individuals the right to access, modify, and delete their personal data, GDPR also mandates effective data classification. Companies can easily get this information and satisfy a customer's specific request thanks to data classification.

Bottom Line

In the area of data management and analysis, data classification plays a vital role. Businesses, organizations, and people can gain useful insights and make wise decisions by organizing and categorizing data into meaningful categories. Data classification enables better data administration, better data security, and better data utilization.

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