Data protection is about understanding potential risks to your data and how to take action if they materialize.

But how do you balance what your organization needs to get work done with what it needs to keep data safe?

These nine steps will walk you through how to implement data protection controls that are both measurably effective and practical for your day-to-day, and pinpoint opportunities to fortify your solution with risk-adaptive data protection.

1.Build an Information Risk Profile

A risk profile helps you understand what you need from your data protection solution. First, state the risks you want to mitigate and list out the types of data they pertain to, grouping by data type as needed. Then, define the networks, endpoints, and cloud channels where that data could potentially be lost along with the controls you currently use to secure them.

2. Create a Data Incident Severity and Response Chart

Mapping each data type to its business impact will allow you to prioritize your responses and keep security resources focused where they’re most effective. For some organizations, this can be a challenging exercise. To start, sit down with data owners to discuss which types should be protected and what’s at risk should they be compromised. Then, rank each on a scale of 1-5 (1=low impact, 5=high impact) and define an acceptable response time for each according to the severity of the risk—you’ll want to secure the high-risk data types first.

3. Determine a Data Incident Response by Channel and Severity

Staying a step ahead in data protection means knowing how to respond to incidents before they arise. List out all the channels on your network, endpoints, and cloud where data flows. Then, determine an appropriate response for low- to high-impact incidents based on the needs of the channel.

4. Establish an Incident Workflow

Ensure that your security teams can jump into action the moment an incident is detected by clearly defining the response workflow for low- to high-impact incidents. For lower-impact incidents, automate whenever possible. This will free up bandwidth for hands-on remediation of higher-impact incidents.

Flow Based on Severity and Priority of Inciden

5. Assign Roles and Responsibilities

Increase data protection program stability, scalability, and operational eefficiency by defining who’s who on your team. Assign key roles such as technical administrators, incident analysts, forensics investigators, and auditors and bestow the proper rights and access to each.

6. Begin Project in Monitoring Mode

Once you have your network data protection solution in place, a monitoring period will let you identify patterns in your activity and set a baseline to help you recognize normal user behavior. Once this period is complete, analyze the behavior you’ve observed and present your findings to your executive team, along with recommendations for how to mitigate risks. You can then put those recommendations into action, monitor their success, and present to your executives again.

7. Move to Proactive Protection

What you’ve learned in monitoring mode will give you the level of confidence you need to transition into blocking mode for high-risk events, or in accordance with your incident response plan. As you deploy data protection to endpoints and sanctioned cloud applications, you’ll monitor, analyze, report, optimize, and re-report your findings to the executive team.

8. Integrate Data Protection Controls Across Your Business

When delegating responsibilities to security leaders across departments, think “efficiency.” For example, data owners are already liable in the event of a data loss, so naming them incident managers helps them understand how data is used by others and assess their risk, eliminating unnecessary back-and-forth.

9. Track the Results of Risk Reduction

You started to set yourself up for this in Step 6—here’s what’s left: Group relative incidents together by criteria such as severity, channel, data type, and regulation. Then, set your Monitoring and Risk Reduction periods to be of equal length (try two weeks each to start) to preserve the integrity of your results.

Track the Results of Risk Reduction

With a risk-adaptive approach, you’ll want to provide a comparison of the incidents captured in audit-only mode (all incidents) versus incidents requiring investigation with graduated enforcement. The summary should show the number of incidents for each risk level 1-5, contrasted against those actually requiring investigation (risk levels 4-5).

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9 Steps to Success with Data Protection

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