December 22, 2023

Understanding and Protecting Shadow Data

Understanding and Protecting Shadow Data

A Vital Aspect of Data Security Posture Management

In the ever-evolving landscape of information technology, one aspect that often goes unnoticed yet remains critically important is the concept of shadow data. This term refers to the data stored across various repositories and applications without the explicit knowledge or control of an organization’s IT department. Shadow data is often generated through the use of cloud services, file-sharing platforms, and personal devices used for work purposes. Understanding and safeguarding this kind of data is crucial for maintaining your organization’s data security posture.

Here are the top five reasons why protecting shadow data is essential and will play a big part in your data protection strategy in 2024:

Preventing Data Leaks and Breaches

Shadow data, by its nature, is less secure than data managed directly by IT departments, as you can’t protect what you don’t know exists, which makes it more susceptible to leaks and breaches. When organizations fail to account for and secure shadow data, they insert the risk of unauthorized, or inappropriate access.

Cybercriminals can access available sensitive information or even people inside your organization who are supposed to not have access to the data. By protecting shadow data, organizations can close these gaps in security and reduce the risk of data breaches proactively.

Ensuring Compliance with Data Protection Regulations

Organizations are legally obligated to protect all data under their purview, including shadow data. Non-compliance with data protection laws like PCI, GDPR, HIPAA, or CCPA can lead to severe financial penalties and reputational damage. By identifying shadow data effectively, organizations can ensure they meet these regulatory requirements.

Maintaining Data Integrity and Quality

Ensuring the integrity and accuracy of data is paramount for any organization. Shadow data, if left unchecked, can introduce discrepancies or outdated information into critical systems. Such inaccuracies can lead to misguided decisions, operational inefficiencies, and eroded trust among stakeholders. Moreover, in an interconnected digital ecosystem, erroneous data can propagate quickly, amplifying its impact.

Internal Threat Mitigation

Unsecured shadow data presents an avenue for internal misuse, whether through unintentional mishandling or malicious intent by employees. Such breaches can lead to confidential information leaks, intellectual property theft, or unauthorized system manipulations. Beyond the immediate tangible damages, internal threats can erode trust within the workforce and compromise the organization’s culture. By proactively identifying and securing shadow data, companies can foster a secure work environment, deter insider threats, and uphold the integrity of their operations, ensuring sustainable growth and stakeholder confidence.

Enhancing Overall Data Security Posture

Protecting shadow data is a crucial element of strengthening an organization’s overall cybersecurity posture. It involves identifying, monitoring, and securing all data across the organization, including that which is not in plain sight. This comprehensive approach to data security helps in building a more resilient defense against a wide array of cyber threats and mitigates risk.

According to Gartner’s Innovation Insight: Data Security Posture Management

“Traditional data security products have an insufficient view to discover previously unknown, undiscovered or unidentified data repositories, and they fail to consistently discover sensitive data (structured or unstructured) within repositories. Such data is “shadow data” that can expose an organization to a variety of risks.”

Garter considers a Data Risk Assessment as one of the foundational measures in data security governance and one way an organization can uncover and protect its shadow data.

In conclusion, shadow data, while often overlooked, plays a significant role in an organization’s data security posture. It’s crucial for businesses to recognize the existence and potential risks associated with shadow data and take proactive steps to manage it effectively. By doing so, organizations not only protect themselves against data breaches and compliance issues but also ensure the integrity and reliability of their data, leading to better business decisions and a stronger security posture overall.

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PK Protect secures sensitive data in structured, unstructured and semi-structured environments allowing enterprise organizations to solve their data security posture challenges within one solution. Click here to learn more

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