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Protecting Unstructured Sensitive Data: Best Practices and Strategies

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In this era of rapid digitalization, organizations are experiencing an unparalleled surge in data accumulation. According to Gartner, an astounding 80 – 90% of all new enterprise data is classified as unstructured, growing at a staggering rate three times faster than structured data. Unlike structured data, which is easier to organize and secure, unstructured data presents significant challenges due to its inherent complexity. Unstructured data encompasses a wide range of information, including emails, documents, presentations, and multimedia files, lacking a predefined data model or organization. The protection of sensitive unstructured data is of utmost importance for organizations to uphold the privacy, integrity, and compliance of their valuable information assets.

Understanding Unstructured Sensitive Data

Unstructured sensitive data refers to any type of sensitive information that does not have a predefined format or structure. Unlike structured data, which is organized and stored in databases or spreadsheets, unstructured data lacks a specific schema and is typically found in free-form text documents, emails, audio files, images, videos, social media posts, and more.

Sensitive data can include personally identifiable information (PII) such as names, addresses, social security numbers, financial details, medical records, or any other information that, if exposed, could result in privacy breaches, identity theft, or other risks.

Unstructured sensitive data poses challenges for organizations regarding its management, protection, and analysis. Since it lacks a predefined structure, it requires special techniques and tools to identify, classify, and secure.

Risks Associated with Unstructured Sensitive Data

While unstructured data provides flexibility and allows for more creativity, it also introduces various risks and challenges for organizations. Some of the key risks associated with unstructured data include:

  1. Data Breaches: Unstructured data is highly susceptible to unauthorized access and data breaches, as it may exist in multiple locations and be easily overlooked in security protocols.
  2. Data Leakage: Employees may unintentionally or maliciously leak sensitive information stored in unstructured formats, posing significant risks to the organization’s reputation and compliance.
  3. Regulatory Compliance: Unstructured data often contains sensitive customer information, competitive intelligence, and other critical assets. Failure to comply with data protection regulations can result in severe legal and financial consequences.

Effective Strategies for Protecting Unstructured Sensitive Data

To mitigate the risks associated with unstructured data, organizations should implement effective strategies and best practices. Here are some key strategies to consider:

  1. Data Classification: Start by classifying your unstructured data based on its sensitivity level. Assign appropriate labels, metadata tags, or access controls to ensure that sensitive data receives an extra layer of protection.
  2. Access Controls and Permissions: Implement strong access controls and permissions for accessing and modifying unstructured data. Limit access to authorized individuals only and regularly review and update user privileges based on the principle of least privilege.
  3. Data Encryption: Encrypting sensitive unstructured data at rest and in transit is crucial to protect it from unauthorized access. Utilize industry-standard encryption algorithms and key management practices to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the data.
  4. Employee Awareness and Training: Educate employees about the importance of protecting unstructured sensitive data and provide them with training on data handling best practices. Foster a culture of security awareness and ensure that employees understand their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding sensitive information.
  5. Continuous Monitoring and Auditing: Implement monitoring and auditing mechanisms to detect any anomalous behavior or unauthorized access to unstructured data. Regularly review access logs and implement real-time alerting to promptly respond to potential security incidents.

Secure Unstructured Sensitive Data with Qohash

Unstructured data holds tremendous value for organizations, but it also presents significant risks if not adequately protected. Qohash was developed to specifically address the unstructured data blindspot, providing you with 24/7 tracking of sensitive data at rest. By understanding the nature of unstructured data, identifying the associated risks, and implementing effective protection strategies, organizations can safeguard their sensitive information, maintain regulatory compliance, and mitigate the potential negative impact of security breaches. Prioritizing the protection of unstructured sensitive data is essential for building trust with customers, employees, and stakeholders while ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of the organization.

Get in touch with us and request a demo to see how Qohash helps organizations safeguard their unstructured sensitive data. 

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