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London, UK: Reacting to reports in the New York Times and Guardian newspapers on the leaking of wealth and tax arrangements data on 120,000 companies - plus 130,000 high net worth individuals and their financial agents – Varonis Systems says that this highlights the need for organisations to know who is accessing their data internally. And in particular, who has access to what data - and how it is being handled - especially unstructured data such as spreadsheets and documents in email, in order to protect the privacy of individuals.

 

David Gibson, the data governance specialist’s vice president, says that incidents like this leak by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show how not all organisations are equal when it comes to data protection.

“Wherever valuable, sensitive information is stored, it should come as no surprise that others – for whatever their reasons - will try to obtain this information. Management professionals need to realize that information now has a very tangible value that can escalate, depending on who wants that data, and what they plan to do with it,” he explained.

Gibson shares five governance rules to plan and militate against these types of disasters:

Understand the value of the information you store –Organizations store large quantities of digital information that often belong to their customers and business partners. Without the ability to access and share information securely, almost every business process will be impaired. For individuals it is not much different: imagine, for example, losing control of your Gmail account, and then your online banking account, etc.

Learn Your Way Around - once we learn to recognise the value of our information, we need to know understand where it's stored and how it is shared. Information can easily be exported, copied and replicated to many systems and formats. For example, don’t assume customer information is only in your customer database.

Insist on fundamental controls - wherever we have assets that need to be protected, we need basic controls around them - such as authentication, authorisation, auditing and alerting. These controls will not stop all attacks, but they will certainly stop most of them, and without them it will be very difficult to recover or even understand what happened.

Make sure data stays in controlled areas - Once you have got the right controls in place for secure collaboration, no one should be allowed to bypass them. The use of unsanctioned public cloud services is an example of how employees can circumvent internal controls. Unfortunately, services that the business does not know about - or approve of - are entirely outside of organisational control, and so is the information stored in them…

Extract Value From Your Data - when information cannot be shared it has little to no value. When it is available to too many people - or the wrong people – it becomes a liability. Information is most valuable when it's available to the right people, and only the right people.