Why Collaboration and Controls are Central to Data Risk Management

We operate in a world of risks. Whenever we get behind the wheel of a car, flip a light switch in our home, or enjoy an alcoholic beverage, we are accepting an inherent level of risk associated with each activity. But this doesn’t stop us from doing them.

Similarly, cloud data management and use comes with its own set of risks. By understanding and mitigating them – just as we do with cars, electricity, and alcohol – we’re able to harness the power of data safely and effectively while preventing potentially harmful breaches or misuse.

I recently spoke on this subject at the Evanta CDAO Executive Summit in Minneapolis. In this blog, I’ll recap the details of this session. We’ll examine the dual risks of data usage — misuse and underuse — and explore why robust security controls and streamlined collaboration are crucial to successfully leveraging data while mitigating risk.

The Dual Risks of Modern Data Use

Misusing data is likely to have repercussions, from security breaches, to legal and financial impacts, to loss of customer trust. That said, failing to utilize data effectively often means missing out on crucial opportunities for growth and innovation. Navigating modern data use requires a keen understanding of these dual risks, and how to strike a safe and workable balance between them.

Data Misuse and Mismanagement

Data misuse comes in many forms, including data leaks, data breaches, and unauthorized access – all of which put your organization and data subjects at risk. Misuse often stems from poor data management practices, where data is either incorrectly handled or inadequately protected.

Misuse also stems from missteps in how you build, maintain, and upgrade your data ecosystem. If you fail to integrate tools that catalog, validate, monitor, and control access to data, you leave gaps in your ecosystem that are easily exploited by bad actors or exposed to users. This blocks advancements in your team’s technology stack and decision-making processes, and holds back not just individual companies, but entire industries.

Missed Opportunities from Underutilization

Underusing data poses just as significant of a risk to your organization as misusing it. If you fail to leverage your data’s full potential, you’ll likely find that you’re trailing behind more data-savvy competitors.

The risk of doing nothing is massive. In one survey, 89% of organizations reported missing business opportunities due to inaccessibility or a lack of visibility into data. Imagine choosing not to accept the risk that comes with using electricity – you’d quite literally be left in the dark. Similarly, either dismissing or being blocked from the strategic use of data will leave your business in the dark, unable to compete with your peers in a rapidly advancing world.

Data Risk Management Requirements

To strike the right balance between misuse and underutilization, you need to effectively manage the risks to your data. Impactful data risk management involves a suite of important strategies:

  • Risk Assessment & Analysis: The foundation of sound risk management is a thorough and ongoing assessment of potential threats. By identifying and understanding these threats, you’re able to create and maintain effective defense strategies. Continuous analysis is crucial to uncover and address vulnerabilities that could undermine data security.
  • Mitigation Strategies and Control Systems: Once risks are identified, the next step is to implement robust control systems. These systems are akin to the safeguards we rely on every day, like insulation that prevents electrical fires, or seatbelts and airbags that protect us in car accidents. Effective mitigation strategies require data governance policies and procedures that manage risks proactively rather than reactively.
  • Monitoring and Review: Constant data monitoring and regular risk management reviews are essential to ensuring your processes remain effective against new and evolving threats. This ongoing vigilance helps you adapt your risk management in response to internal requirements and external shifts in the data security landscape, maintaining a posture that is both defensive and agile.
  • Incident Response and Recovery: Proactive preparation for potential data breaches or security incidents is a critical component of risk management. You need a clearly defined data breach response plan that outlines the necessary steps to quickly reduce impact in the event of a breach. Recovery plans are equally important, as they provide a roadmap for restoring normal operations and mitigating any damage that may have occurred.

These risk management components are not merely operational necessities; they are strategic imperatives that enable you to leverage data safely and effectively.

Managing Risk with Dynamic Data Controls

To manage and mitigate risks to your data, you need to be able to control who is able to access it. Dynamic access control and governance policies are essential for managing secure access, while protecting against data breaches, unauthorized access, and compliance failures.

Implementing Dynamic Access Controls

To manage the complexity of modern data ecosystems, you need an access control framework that scales alongside your data sources, platforms, and users. If you rely solely on outdated static controls – such as RBAC (role-based access control) – your teams will be quickly overwhelmed by role bloat and policy overload.

[Read More] Now is the Time for Risk-Aware Data Security & Access Controls

More dynamic access control models, such as attribute-based access control (ABAC) and purpose-based access control (PBAC), enable your team to create and maintain context-aware controls on your data and users. By accounting for a wider range of contextual information – instead of just user roles – these controls are inherently more adaptable to changing risks, regulations, etc.

Governance That Keeps Pace with Innovation

“Data governance” has become a bit of a loaded term –  anyone you talk to might have a slightly different idea of what it means. Ultimately, modern data governance is centered around your team’s ability to control data in accordance with both evolving threats and compliance laws and regulations.

[Read More] Cloud Data Governance 101

Moving away from rigid, traditional governance models towards more agile, responsive practices allows your team to respond more quickly to emerging threats and opportunities for innovation. By automating compliance monitoring and enforcement, you ensure that governance practices are consistently applied across your data ecosystem, minimizing the risk of human error and enhancing overall security. Integrating these controls into your governance structure ensures a balance between data security and utility, fostering an environment where data-driven innovation thrives without compromising on security.

Risk Management as a Collaborative Exercise

Risk management is not a task to be shouldered by the security team alone; it is a collaborative effort that involves participation from all relevant stakeholders within your organization. Taking a communal approach to managing and mitigating risk not only enhances your strategic effectiveness, but also embeds a culture of security. Collaborative risk management includes:

  1. Federating Access & Controls: By involving a broad range of stakeholders – including IT, legal, governance, and operations – in the development and application of plain language policies, you ensure that controls are comprehensive, practical, and visible across the organization. Each of these groups leverages their unique knowledge of their data, relevant risks, and required use cases to inform how you build governance and access controls to account for risks and users’ needs.
  2. Building a Cross-Functional Coalition of Data Stewards: Holistic risk management requires diverse perspectives, especially in the regular risk assessment process. Risk should be examined from all possible angles, whether it be on the technological, regulatory, or user front. By engaging a cross-functional team, you minimize any gaps in risk awareness and proactive protection.
  3. Cultivating a Risk-Aware Culture: Conducting regular training and awareness programs for data stewards, governors, and users ensures that every employee understands their role in protecting the organization’s data. This helps foster a risk-aware culture where security becomes a part of everyday decision-making, not a burden on a specific team.

Embracing collaborative risk management not only improves the effectiveness of data security, but also makes sure these measures are resilient, adaptable, and aligned with your organization’s overarching goals. By involving stakeholders across the board, you’ll build a unified front against the many risks to your data.

Using Data Security Platforms for Modern Risk Management

At this point, you might be thinking that modern risk management is easier said than done. How can you create and maintain dynamic control frameworks that are easily accessible to all of your stakeholders?

Enter the modern data security platform. These platforms, like Immuta, combine a suite of risk management capabilities into a single unified, adaptable, and scalable solution. By centralizing access control and governance, data security platforms enhance oversight and streamline compliance, ensuring that security policies are easy to establish and consistently enforce.

Key risk management  benefits of data security platforms include:

  • Automated, Centralized Controls: Setting controls once and automatically applying them at query time makes governance more efficient and reduces the risk of human error.
  • Monitoring and Threat Detection: Continuous security monitoring provides an always-on view of your data, users, and activity, helping to identify and mitigate potential threats before they have the chance to escalate.
  • Accessibility to All: With plain-language policies and easy-to-understand controls, these platforms strengthen security-conscious organizational cultures, reinforcing the importance of data protection in everyday operations.

By integrating advanced data security platforms, you provide the foundation for a holistic approach to risk management, enhancing your team’s ability to harness the power of data while securing it against potential threats. Once in place, these dynamic control systems allow you to overcome unnecessary risk and accept mitigated risk. By de-risking your data, you enable your organization to make timely, informed decisions that drive business objectives and put you ahead of the competition.

To explore de-risking your collaborative data use, check out our De-Risk Your Data Sharing content bundle. If you’d like to learn more about integrating data security platforms into your risk management practices, request a demo from our team.

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