All organizations deal with sensitive data. This could be in health, PII, or sensitive corporate data. It’s important to ensure that processes and procedures are in place to securely process sensitive data.

This is where data security governance comes into play; it creates policies, procedures, and standards that help maintain the overall confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.

What is Data Security Governance?

Simply put, it’s a collection of procedures, processes, and standards that are implemented to protect an organization’s sensitive data and ensure that it does not fall into the wrong hands.

The overall goal of data security governance is to prevent sensitive data from being:

  • Accessed in an unauthorized manner
  • Used unethically
  • Disclosed, modified, or removed without the owner’s knowledge

This is done by:

  • Identifying and classifying data
  • Defining roles and responsibilities
  • Implementing security controls
  • Monitoring and reporting on compliance

Creating a strong, mature data security governance framework increases the overall security of sensitive data and significantly reduces the risk of data breaches.

Examples of Data Security Governance

There are various strategies that you can adopt to implement data security governance within your organization. Some of these are probably actions that you already do.

Access Control Systems

Role-based access control (RBAC) or attribute-based access control (ABAC) systems ensure that employees and stakeholders access only the data necessary for their role, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Data classification

You can classify your data based on its sensitivity.

For example, some data may be classified as public, while others may be classified as confidential or highly sensitive.

This helps your organization understand which data are most important and need the strongest forms of protection.

Data Encryption

You can encrypt your data at rest and in transit to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. This can include using strong encryption standards for customer data, financial information, and other critical business data.

Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

You can consider implementing MFA, which requires users to provide multiple forms of authentication to gain access to a system.

For example, a user might be required to enter a password and provide a fingerprint or a one-time code generated by a mobile app.

This helps protect sensitive data by ensuring that only authorized users have access.

To be fair, these are just a few examples of data security governance in action. In reality, organizations must implement a range of controls and procedures to protect sensitive data, and data security governance is an essential part of this process.

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How do You Achieve Data Security Governance?

Effective data security governance involves establishing a comprehensive framework that protects data and aligns with the organization’s objectives, regulatory requirements, and risk management strategies.

Here are five essential steps to establish and maintain robust data security governance:

Step 01: Develop and Implement Security Policies and Standards

  • Identify critical assets: Determine which data and systems are critical to your organization’s operations and require protection.
  • Create security policies: Develop clear, enforceable policies that address data protection, access controls, and acceptable use of IT resources.
  • Establish standards: Set specific security standards that align with industry best practices and regulatory requirements. These standards should cover data handling, encryption, and incident response.
  • Adopt global regulations: Depending on your location, you can implement several global regulations that can help preserve data security. For example, if you’re working out of the European Union, you can leverage GDPR within your organization to improve data security. But, if you don’t implement it properly and end up with data breaches, there’s a strong possibility of fines.

Step 02: Assign Roles and Responsibilities

  • Define security roles: Establish dedicated roles such as a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), security analysts, and compliance officers.
  • Distribute responsibilities: Clearly outline the security responsibilities of all staff members within matrices such as RACI, ensuring that everyone knows their role in maintaining data security.
  • Establish accountability: Implement mechanisms to hold individuals accountable for complying with security policies and procedures.

Step 03: Conduct Risk Assessments and Management

  • Regular risk assessments: Periodically assess the security risks to your organization’s data and IT infrastructure. Identify potential vulnerabilities and threats.
  • Prioritize risks: Classify risks based on their potential impact and likelihood, prioritizing them to ensure that the most critical risks are addressed first.
  • Implement risk mitigation strategies: Develop and deploy strategies to mitigate identified risks, such as technical controls, administrative controls, and physical security measures.

Step 04: Implement Training and Awareness Programs

  • Security training: Conduct regular training sessions for all employees to raise awareness about security threats such as phishing, malware, and social engineering.
  • Update training material: Keep training materials up-to-date with the latest security practices and threat information.
  • Promote security culture: Foster a culture of security within the organization by promoting best practices and encouraging employee vigilance.

Step 05: Monitor, Audit, and Review

  • Continuous monitoring: Use security tools and techniques to continuously monitor the organization’s networks and systems for any unusual activities or breaches.
  • Regular audits: Schedule and conduct regular audits to ensure compliance with internal policies and external regulatory requirements.
  • Ongoing review and improvement: Regularly review the effectiveness of the security policies and practices. Update them to address new threats, technological changes, or business requirements.

It’s important to understand that by following these steps, organizations can establish a strong foundation for data security governance, ensuring that their data remains secure and that they manage risk and comply with applicable laws and regulations.

Wrapping Up

As an organization, it’s important to prioritize data security governance without treating data security as an afterthought. Companies are being targeted daily, and it’s important to ensure that you have the right controls set up so your organization’s data remains secure and safe from unauthorized access.