GDPR. CCPA. NYPA. Staying up to date on the proposed and implemented global compliance standards requires a glossary and possibly a legal degree. Adhering to these various standards necessitates a concerted, coordinated effort across an organization. While large businesses may have the luxury of entire teams devoted to ensuring compliance, the majority of small and medium sized businesses are doing their best to interpret the regulations themselves and implement processes that address requirements in the least disruptive way possible.
And when new regulations are introduced or the business expands to geographic regions governed by a different set of regulatory standards, the process begins again. Interpret, comply, repeat. Keeping pace on the hamster wheel of compliance can be exhausting and disruptive, while also distracting from core business objectives in a manner that few companies can afford.
Instead of continuing this cycle, businesses need to rethink their compliance tactics. The best approach to thriving in an accelerating regulatory landscape is to strategically focus on the root of the challenge: Protecting your data. By taking a data-centric approach to security, companies can be better prepared to adapt to whatever regulatory environment they find themselves operating in.
Rather than focusing on securing networks, applications, and endpoints, data-centric security shifts an organization’s focus to securing the data itself. The approach emphasizes protecting what really matters — sensitive data assets — rather than trying to protect everything. There are many approaches to achieve this goal but most are built around identifying, classifying, securing, and monitoring data throughout its lifecycle. This data lifecycle can be broken into three categories: data at rest, data in transit, and data in use.
Data at rest: Often residing on the hard drive or in databases, data lakes, or cloud storage, this represents inactive data stored in any digital form. It is often protected using perimeter-based, access control and user authentication technologies and additional protections such as data encryption can be added as warranted by the sensitivity of the data involved.
Data in transit: This designation represents data moving through a local device, private network, or public/untrusted space. Standard practice is to protect data in transit using transport encryption, an efficient and effective defense strategy assuming businesses adhere to proper protocols.
Data in use:Traditionally the least acknowledged among the three data segments as it has historically lacked technology solutions practical enough for commercial use, data in use has become the point of least resistance for increasingly sophisticated attackers. Protection strategies for data in use commonly rely on nascent technologies including secure multiparty compute, homomorphic encryption, and secure enclave.
It’s helpful to think of these three components as the data security triad. By viewing the data lifecycle in this holistic manner, organizations can eliminate protection gaps and more clearly recognize vulnerabilities in order to establish the thorough, flexible security frameworks that this type of regulatory environment requires. The tools and tactics may change over time, but the focus on protecting data at all points in its lifecycle remains the same. The introduction of new regulations will require making adjustments rather than overhauling an entire data protection strategy, which will allow organizations to remain focused on core business objectives.
It is important that a data-centric approach to security does not render the data locked and unusable. Privacy-preserving technologies can enable the collaborative business practices while respecting the boundaries of regulated environments. Utilizing these types of innovative technologies allows companies to securely share data, employ third parties assets, and facilitate a number of other business functions that might otherwise be blocked by the recent swell of privacy regulations.
In the age of accelerating regulation, ensuring compliance requires protecting data at all times — whether at rest on the file system, moving through the network, or while it’s being used or processed. By centering security strategies around the data itself, organizations are better prepared to navigate the frequently-shifting compliance landscape, which will remain a patchworked collection of regulations across region and industry for the foreseeable future.
Dr. Ellison Anne Williams is the Founder and CEO of Enveil. She has more than a decade of experience spearheading avant-garde efforts in the areas of large scale analytics, information security and privacy, computer network exploitation, and network modeling at the National … View Full Bio