4 Steps to Improve Security Posture in Your Data Stack

As organizations look to migrate and optimize their data resources, cloud data platforms are continuing to evolve. But while these platforms offer enhanced storage, compute, and analysis capabilities for the modern data stack, they may also broaden the attack surface of data ecosystems. More platforms–combined with more users and more data–can mean more risk of attackers accessing sensitive data.

This might be why more than half of the respondents (57%) to the 2023 State of Data Engineering Survey believe that their organization should be prioritizing data security. Accessibility and ease-of-use are crucial for data platforms, but they mean very little to the safety of sensitive data. Only by striking a balance between holistic security and accessibility can organizations securely maximize the value of their data.

This is why creating and maintaining a consistent security posture is essential to modern data use. In this blog, we’ll define security posture and walk through four steps you can take to implement and improve it for your organization.

What is Security Posture?

Security posture is defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as:

“The security status of an enterprise’s networks, information, and systems based on information security resources (e.g., people, hardware, software, policies) and capabilities in place to manage the defense of the enterprise and to react as the situation changes.”

This concept broadly encompasses an organization’s approach to securing its resources. It involves both awareness and ability from data teams: awareness of your data resources, controls, and processes; and the ability to protect against, monitor for, detect, and respond to potential threats. Awareness gives you a complete understanding of your data stack. Once this information is known, actions can be taken to ensure that data assets are properly secured.

It’s important to note that assessing and creating a security posture is not a “one-and-done” task. In order to be effective, an organization’s security posture must be consistently managed and maintained. If new data platforms or resources are added to the data ecosystem, the posture should be reassessed accordingly. This is why data security posture management has become increasingly relevant in recent years. By maintaining an understanding of your security posture and how effectively it is protecting your organization’s data, you can make adjustments and react to security events as quickly as possible.

4 Steps to Improve Security Posture

Understanding the continuous nature of security posture management, there are steps your team can take now to keep standards up to date and maintain consistent security.

Identify Decision Makers

Before taking any steps towards adjusting your security posture, it’s important to determine which members of your organization must be part of the process. Starting with leadership, those who are the most actively involved with data security need to be driving these discussions. This most frequently includes executives like the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Chief Data Officer (CDO), and Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Other decision makers likely include members of IT, legal teams, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) teams, and financial leadership.

While not every one of these team members needs to be included in the entire security posture improvement process, it is important that they are consulted for their subject matter expertise when considering risk appetite.

Determine Risk Appetite

Once these decision makers are identified, the next step towards improving security posture is to assess (or reassess) your organization’s risk appetite. Risk appetite is the collective amount of risk that a company deems acceptable in its pursuit of achieving value. This concept recognizes that risk aversion can become as detrimental to progress as risk itself–if it is achieved through overly restrictive means.

To determine risk appetite, an organization’s leadership team must account for a range of internal and external factors, including short- and long-term company objectives, financial stability, platform and tool maturity, competition, market maturity, and the attitudes of important stakeholders. Only by considering these factors in a holistic manner can teams make a well-informed decision about the level and types of risk they’re willing to accept.

[Further Reading]: How to Design and Implement a Governance, Risk, and Compliance Framework for Enterprise Data Analytics

Establish Security Benchmarks

After decision makers have been consulted and risk appetite is determined, teams can begin planning concrete steps towards security posture improvement. It’s important to recognize that this process is not something that can be done in an afternoon. After a thorough risk assessment, areas of improvement and maintenance will be readily apparent to data teams. Once improvement objectives are established, teams can determine the necessary timelines, stakeholders, and benchmarks to measure their progress towards desired enhancements.

Establishing security benchmarks also helps maintain consistency and responsibility for security posture maintenance. Regular tests and check-ups ensure that the process doesn’t end with risk appetite refinement, but instead continues to evolve as time goes on. This gives organizations greater flexibility, which is key to managing data in a landscape that is constantly in flux.

Implement Continuous Monitoring and Detection

In the pursuit of reaching benchmarks and improving data security, teams can implement tools that continuously monitor their data resources and detect anomalous behaviors. Continuous data monitoring enables tracking and ready-made analysis of all user activity in data sets. This is a powerful capability for security posture management, as it lets teams oversee user activity and supplies them with audit reports to prove compliance.

Supplementing monitoring with detection further strengthens security posture management efforts. Data breach detection tools supervise data ecosystems and provide timely insights into any risky behavior that may signal a breach. With a proactive breach detection and monitoring network that continuously assesses behavior and sends incident alerts, teams can maintain a consistent view of their levels of risk, and respond quickly and effectively to any security incidents.

How Data Security Platforms Improve Security Posture

Improving your organization’s security posture for both short-term and long-term success starts with four steps: identifying decision makers, determining risk appetite, establishing security benchmarks, and enabling continuous monitoring and detection capabilities. Since security posture management is an ongoing process rather than a one-time adjustment, it’s important that these steps are geared towards repeatability and can scale with your data resources.

This is where platforms with automated and dynamic security capabilities are key to improving security posture in the modern data stack. The Immuta Data Security Platform provides data teams with the ability to discover, secure, and detect their data in order to keep sensitive resources safe from the risk of leaks or breaches. By discovering and tagging sensitive data as it enters a data ecosystem, maintaining continuous monitoring and breach detection, and enabling consistent implementation of data access control and security policies, Immuta makes security posture improvements and management simple and scalable for today’s data-driven organizations.

Want to learn more about how the Immuta Data Security Platform can help your team improve your security posture? Schedule a live demo with one of our data security experts today.

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