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Securing Data in Cloud Chaos

To succeed, every enterprise depends on data and the insights that can be gleaned from that data. Enterprises today are creating much more data than in prior years—much of it critical to their digital transformation efforts. And how this data is stored within enterprises has changed dramatically, which is having a profound impact on how that data must be secured.

How so? At one time, most enterprise data resided within enterprise databases and applications, and these applications remained (relatively) safely on enterprise endpoints or tucked back in the data center. Not anymore.

That was the age of structured data. Today, data is more likely to be stored unstructured and reside in the form of word-processing files, spreadsheets, presentations, PDFs and many other common formats. The research firm Gartner estimates that 80 percent of all corporate data today is actually stored unstructured.

This means today our enterprise data is scattered everywhere. And just because it’s not structured within an application doesn’t mean the data isn’t critical – unstructured data today includes financial information, trade secrets, marketing plans and work with contractors and business partners. Not all of this data is the same nor is it managed in the same way — yet this data must be protected.

How we share unstructured data is also changing. No longer is data sent merely as email attachments. Today, data is shared through social media programs, cloud apps and communication platforms, such as Slack. In many organizations, staff are sharing sensitive data, such as consumer information, intellectual property, prospect lists, financial data and the like. Security teams need to be alerted when sensitive information is shared.

These trends should cause pause within anyone concerned about securing their enterprise information.

According to our 2018 Data Exposure Report, 73 percent of security and IT leaders believe there is data in their company that only exists on endpoints and 80 percent of CISOs agree that they can’t protect what they can’t see. Seventy-four percent believe IT and security teams should have full visibility over corporate data.

Unfortunately, without a dedicated and continuous focus on securing unstructured data, such visibility won’t ever exist. Only chaos. 

Yes, most organizations take reasonable steps to protect their applications and databases from costly data breaches. They invest in endpoint technologies that protect their users’ endpoints from malware. They focus on database security, application security and related efforts. And they try to control access to their local enterprise network. But the challenging reality remains: even if an organization executed perfectly on such a security architecture, it would still leave itself open to a vast amount of data theft and exploitation. The reason is that organizations are ignoring roughly 80 percent of their data that exists unstructured. 

Legacy security methods haven’t kept pace

It’s critical enterprises get the security of their unstructured data right. Securing unstructured data is different than securing data stored within applications and databases. 

One of the most important, and likely first, steps for any organization that wants to start proactively securing their unstructured data is to determine where that data resides and then find viable ways to protect that data. Other capabilities they’ll need in place will include monitoring who has access to that data, the ability to index file content across storage devices, cloud storage, and cloud services, and monitor that data for potential data loss, misuse and theft.

Having these capabilities in place will not only help organizations to better secure that data and identify careless handling of data or even malicious insiders, but also improve the ability to conduct in-depth investigations and identify threats, preserve data for regulatory compliance demands and litigation situations, and rapidly recover lost or ransomed files.

The fact is that unstructured data is 80 percent of enterprise data today, and the places it’s being stored are expanding. It’s imperative you give it the appropriate level of focus. While you can’t put the unstructured data back in the centralized data center again, you can bring a structured approach to data security that will reign in the chaos and adequately protect your enterprise information.

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