Data drives the modern world, and today’s technology affords us an incredible amount of data about every aspect of life, whether social, business, or a mix of both. Organizations that leverage data sharing well in our perpetually connected, cloud-centered modern world dominate the market, creating new products, services, and solutions to drive customer satisfaction and boost revenue. However, only some organizations treat data sharing as a high priority. Others view it as a distasteful necessity rather than the engine that drives innovation.
The issue is that data sharing, while vital to collaboration, innovation, and business growth, is also dangerous. Collaborators must carefully consider what data they can share regardless of whether the sharing is occurring within your organization or with an external entity such as a vendor or third-party associate. Sharing data without violating confidentiality agreements, federal regulations, or privacy laws is crucial. For this reason, despite the competitive advantages associated with data sharing, many organizations avoid promoting data sharing, fearing that doing so will invite data misuse, a data breach, or worse — a ransomware infection.
A Good Data Security Strategy Promotes Data Sharing
In today’s digital age, where technology has advanced so rapidly, information sharing is an integral part of business strategy and success. To ensure that data sharing remains confidential and secure, companies must protect the integrity of sensitive data to avoid compromising their operations, reputation, and brand image. Implementing effective data security that secures sensitive information without hindering collaboration or dampening productivity is arguably the most challenging part of cybersecurity.
Data security policies aren’t enough to ensure that data is securely and still appropriately shared. The best approach is implementing an effective cybersecurity strategy that prioritizes data and promotes data sharing. Developing a data-centered cybersecurity program that emphasizes data sharing as a vital and appropriate aspect of business requires addressing the top concerns that create resistance to data sharing.
Concern 1: Poor Data Management Process
Data management is vital to any modern business initiative. When properly implemented, it ensures that data collected can readily be accessed, managed, and analyzed.
A lack of a proper data management process leads to poor internal visibility into usage patterns across the entire enterprise. Weak data management practices can result in documents being copied and distributed multiple times across various departments without proper oversight, including sensitive information such as financial records and patient medical histories.
Lack of data management practices can lead to problems such as employees having access to confidential material without authorization or unauthorized users gaining access to sensitive information. Without a solid foundation for managing data, it is easy for anyone inside or outside your company to gain inappropriate access to data, increasing the chances of inadvertent data exposure or malware infection.
Concern 2: Data Protection & Privacy Regulations
The proliferation of data security compliance laws and regulations has increased the complexity of data sharing. Data protection and privacy rules impose significant restrictions on what companies can do with personal information. In addition, many countries regulate the transfer of personal data outside of the EU/EEA region.
These regulations can make it difficult for companies to offer data-sharing solutions because the regulatory environment makes it hard to comply with existing data protection legislation while still offering value to customers.
Within the US data protection regulations like PCI DSA and HIPAA require organizations that store credit cards or sensitive health care information to ensure that those entities are secure. In addition to physical security measures, such as firewalls, encryption software, and password requirements, companies must also implement strict controls over what employees can do with this data. These include limiting employee access to the systems containing it, requiring multiple logins, and restricting how long they can retain the data.
In many cases, compliance requires implementing additional layers of security beyond the basic infrastructure. For example, some businesses use a third-party vendor to manage their payment processing systems. If the vendor is storing customer payments, it needs to comply with the same rules as the rest of the organization. Companies often find themselves having to build a separate part of the network for this purpose. They might even have to create a completely different system.
In fact, some organizations find themselves caught in the middle. They want to provide their customers with access to data that allows them to innovate faster and better understand customer needs. But they don’t want to violate data protection law.
Companies often end up having to choose between complying with regulations and providing data-sharing products. Some even go further and decide to stop offering data sharing altogether.
Concern 3: Risks of Data Sharing
Many organizations take an all-or-nothing approach to the risks of data sharing. Individuals either have access to data stores or it is completely inaccessible. While this seems reasonable on the surface, this does not account for the more complex use cases organizations require to operate.
For example, in a pharmaceutical organization, a single database may house research data for a given study. Teams of individuals may be out in the field gathering data, needing to upload, edit, or view information on their study members over the course of a study. While this could be granted across the board, it overexposes team members to collected data that they do not require access to, increasing the risk.
There are ways to reduce this risk through granular access controls and masking, but it requires a technology to deliver as it is far too complex to maintain manually. Automating the processes of protection reduces risk by reducing the scope of data visibility and ensuring that the control is always active.
Concern 4: Insufficient Technological Controls
With how easy it is to share information over collaboration software or the internet, many organizations lack any visibility into what is transferred over them. It takes no effort for employees to attach a document and share it with external parties such as contractors and collaborators. Once the information has been shared in this manner, there is no way to pull it back into the controlled space of the organization; it instead resides on the external parties’ endpoint.
To combat this, many organizations restrict the usage of collaborative tools, despite the increases in productivity and the advantages of external collaboration, especially in research areas. They feel that the risk of data leaking outside the perimeter offsets the benefits.
Managing secure sharing does not require cutting off the flow of information and communication but instead restricting access to sensitive data. Technological controls that restrict access, coupled with anomalous use detection, keep the data within the organization by preventing sharing with unauthorized parties.
Concern 5: New Technology is Scary
The cloud is an excellent facilitator of data sharing and inexpensive computing. Even though it has been a standardized business technology for many years, numerous companies still hesitate to embrace the power of the cloud. This holds especially true for organizations that manage highly-regulated or controlled data. They are used to traditional security perimeters and controls to keep this data secure, and moving to the cloud comes with new challenges in security.
These concerns are not entirely unfounded, as misconfigured cloud services can expose data on a wide scale. Examples of this are frequently noted, with numerous examples of improperly controlled data stores that have impacted major organizations, including the Pentagon.
Many of these challenges could have been avoided by using automated encryption to secure data in the cloud. By encrypting this data, even if the technology it is stored on is misconfigured, the contents are useless to attackers. Combining this with a system to manage access to the encrypted data not only keeps it secure but also facilitates secure sharing with individuals who are not directly located at the office. Another challenge is that cloud provider administrators have access to the encryption keys. Modern data security solutions allow an organization to own their encryption keys to keep their sensitive data protected and secure from access by a cloud database administrator.
Sotero Secures Sharing
Sotero’s Data Security Platform helps organizations safely and securely share data. Sotero takes a holistic approach to data protection, applying multiple layers of controls. It weaves together a collection of encryption and access controls to streamline the management of data, allowing easy, secure sharing of structured and unstructured data. Sotero augments this with behavioral monitoring that keeps track of your resources and helps to identify when they are being misused, catching attacks early.
Interested in learning more about our revolutionary technology? Click here to speak with one of our data security experts.