Unstructured Data Assessment and Risk, 6 Questions to Answer

November 15, 2019

Whether across File Shares, SharePoint, or Public Folders, most firms lack visibility of their unstructured data environments, regardless of their business size or vertical. Being in the dark with your unstructured data leads to a host of strategic and tactical issues — the inability to prioritize risk based on the exposure of sensitive data, for one. Security issues, specifically those centered around sensitive data, expose your firm to financial and reputational risk. The lack of appropriate access controls for unstructured data is also a potential audit point. Plus, you’ll be unable to implement any automation or true governance workflow for ongoing management needs. The list goes on.

The silver lining is that the assessment of file shares in your unstructured environment will provide the needed visibility into the risks associated with your data.

There are six key questions you must answer at this point:

  1. What data exists within the file shares? Identify where the data is and in what format(s). Understand current classifications of PII.
  2. How is the data structured? Determine the structure and where permissions should be managed.
  3. Who has access to this data? Know your permissions and determine any instances of open access​, excessive access, ​non-standard and inappropriate access​.
  4. Where is access non-secure or non-standard? Locate and detail folders with security issues based on risk appetite and priority.
  5. Is the data stale or active? Classify data to inform programmatic archival or deletion of stale, inactive data.
  6. Who owns the data? Understand ownership, which will help you develop a permissions model to support security and compliance objectives, then report to prove compliance with relevant policies.

The assessment phase (encapsulated in these 6 questions) is only step one — laying the foundation and defining workstreams for your unique data governance project across File Shares, SharePoint, Public Folders and any other platform you use to store unstructured data. ​

How many of these key questions are you able to answer about your data?

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