In our previous tutorial intro, we outlined the four pillars that are relevant to data governance. In this post, I will go for a deeper dive into the data security and data privacy aspects of data governance.

What is data security?

Data security is all about securing the data against intrusions from the in- or outside of an organisation. Basically, it deals with hardening any systems that store data and making sure that data is only stored in a safe and secure way.

When dealing with data privacy, it comes in several layers:

  • Infrastructure: ensuring that the physical infrastructure is protected against any unwanted access. This starts with physical access control to servers and any devices associated with the organisation. This layer is only relevant when done on-premise.
  • Operating Systems and virtualisation: here it needs to be ensured that the operating system is in a secure state. If done on-premise, it requires both the host and the guest OS and the virtualisation software. When done in the cloud, it only applies to IaaS
  • Databases and Data Stores: any databases need to be constantly checked for vulnerabilities. If using any other stores such as object stores, they also need to be secured. This applies to on-premise and IaaS cloud solutions, but not to PaaS or SaaS cloud solutions
  • Application Security: When building a software on top of the previous stack, it is necessary to write this software in a secure manner. This applies to both on-prem and cloud. When using PaaS or SaaS solutions, it is the only relevant security challenge for companies implementing it. Therefore, it is highly important to look for a comprehensive security concept on this layer.

What if you ignore it?

Having issues with data security is a frequent failure of companies. There are a lot of examples of data leaks like with LinkedIn, Deutsche Telekom or Twitter. Almost nobody is secure and thus this block needs to be taken into consideration at the highest level when building a data strategy. Experts argue that it might not be a question when an intrusion happens. The only question might be how long the organisation needs to realise it and thus take counter-measures and minimise the damage.

A key recommendation (but not the only one) is to encrypt all data, so that it is more challenging to get full access.

What is data privacy?

Another important block is data privacy. This now deals more with the question on who can read or access the data within a company. Basically, algorithms and people should work with (pseudo) anonymised data whenever possible. Analysts or Data Scientists shouldn’t see any personal information within the data that they are dealing with. If we take a marketing campaign, the analysts working with the data should only see the minimum available data for them necessary to build the campaign. The marketing tool should then combine the results of their selection with the addresses of their target. There are several tools available that obfuscate personal identifiable data (PID) and thus make the work with it easier.

The above described is also called as the “need to know principle”. People should only see the data that they really need to know. When looking at how companies build their access rights to data, it is often built on a very individual basis. People ask for access, state why they need it and the data owner gives them access. However, this is rather manual and not necessarily fit for the new era of privacy.

A business driven role-based access model

A much better approach is to build on a role-based access model. By roles, it doesn’t necessarily mean Active Directory roles. It is more built on the business roles that users are in. For example, a role would be “Marketing Analyst”. This user would get access to specific data that he or she needs for the daily work. Access to all data that are relevant should be given, but nothing more than that. The roles in this approach should be clearly business focused and not technology-focused.

Another key aspect in data privacy is to understand who was accessing what data. It is necessary to store a comprehensive audit log about all data access and thus make data breaches trackable.

This tutorial is part of the Data Governance Tutorial. You can learn more about Data Governance by going through this tutorial. On Cloudvane, there are many more tutorials about (Big) Data, Data Science and alike, read about them in the Big Data Tutorials here. If you look for great datasets to play with, I would recommend you Kaggle.

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