Malware & Ransomware Protection

Data Classification: The First Line of Defense for Better SharePoint Security

rectangle Written by: Sotero rectangle 2 5 min read

Data classification is the process of categorizing and labeling data based on its type, sensitivity, and value. This is integral to the broader field of data security posture management (DSPM), which emphasizes a data-first approach to securing cloud data. Classifying enterprise data involves comprehending and outlining your data’s security stance, identifying the location of sensitive data, and determining who can access it along with their corresponding security positions. It’s the first line of defense for better SharePoint security.

Accurate data classification is critical to a robust SharePoint security strategy. Understanding which data aligns with which sensitivity level in the organization ensures that security teams focus the tightest security measures on the most sensitive data.


Why Is Data Classification Important For Sharepoint?

Imagine trying to secure your entire house with the same level of protection – deadbolts on every door, alarm systems on every window. Data classification allows you to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach. By classifying data, you can apply security controls proportionate to the risk. This can be vital from a resourcing perspective, ensuring that limited security budget is allocated to protecting the most important information.

Highly sensitive data (e.g., financial records, customer PII) requires stricter controls like encryption and restricted access permissions. Public documents, on the other hand, might only require basic password protection. Classification helps you allocate resources effectively and avoid over-protecting low-risk data, streamlining security management without compromising the protection of critical information.

Moreover, data classification could reduce the incidence of accidental data breaches. Imagine a user accidentally sharing a confidential document with an external collaborator because they weren’t aware of its sensitivity. Data classification labels serve as visual cues, and encourages users to exercise greater caution when accessing, sharing, or storing sensitive data. For instance, a document labeled “Highly Confidential” might prompt additional verification steps before allowing a user to share it externally.

This is especially vital from a compliance perspective. Because many regulations (e.g., HIPAA, GDPR) mandate specific data protection measures, data security teams need to show . Data classification helps you demonstrate compliance by showing that you have a systematic approach to identifying sensitive data. Auditors can easily see that you have classified sensitive data and implemented appropriate security controls to safeguard it, saving you time and resources during compliance audits.

How To Implement Data Classification In Sharepoint

Implementing data classification in SharePoint can be a lengthy process involving negotiations with multiple internal stakeholders. That said, classifying SharePoint data generally involves:

  1. Defining Your Classification Scheme: Don’t jump straight into labeling documents. The first step is to develop a clear and concise classification scheme with multiple levels (e.g., Public, Internal, Confidential, Highly Confidential). Each level should have a clear definition that is easy for users to understand.
  2. Automating Classification (where possible): Leverage the power of technology! Automatic classification tools available in SharePoint or third-party solutions can scan content based on keywords, patterns, or file types. These tools can significantly reduce manual workload by assigning labels automatically based on predefined criteria.
  3. Training Your Users: Even with automation, user education is essential. Educate users on the data classification scheme you’ve developed. Train them to identify sensitive information within documents and emails, apply appropriate labels consistently, and understand the security implications of each classification level.
  4. Integrating with Security Policies: Don’t let data classification exist in a silo. Link data classification to your existing security policies. Define access permissions, sharing restrictions, and encryption requirements based on the assigned classification label. For example, a “Highly Confidential” document might only be accessible to a select group of users, require multi-factor authentication for access, and be encrypted at rest and in transit.
  5. Monitoring and Audits: Security is an ongoing process. Regularly monitor how data is classified and accessed within your SharePoint environment. Review audit logs to identify inconsistent classification practices or potential security breaches. This proactive approach allows you to identify and address any issues before they escalate into major security incidents.


How Sotero Helps With Data Classification in SharePoint

The Sotero platform has built-in artificial intelligence and machine learning models that automatically discover and classify critical data. The Sotero AI ingests data and scans it, parsing both structured and unstructured data for potential sensitive attributes. This data is then automatically classified based on severity level, empowering security teams to deploy stringent data security on the most sensitive information.

The Sotero solution features customization of sensitivity parameters based on your data governance policies and compliance requirements. These attributes can be customized to align with your specific needs, ensuring the greatest possible flexibility in-platform. This ensures that you can classify data at the proper level and protect it. With the centrality of SharePoint to the modern Microsoft user, this facility with data classification is key.

Sotero customers can be confident in our comprehensive data security for both structured and unstructured data, whether on premises, in the cloud, or in hybrid environments. With Sotero, SharePoint security is strengthened and the risk of cyberattacks successfully capturing critical data is reduced.

To learn more, request a demo of Sotero today.


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