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Seven Ways DSPM Helps CISOs Buy Down Cyber Risk

Have you heard someone indicate they buy down risk? In today’s digital economy, cyber risk is a top concern of everyone from the Board and CEO to the CFO and ultimately the CISO. A single data breach can have devastating consequences, leading to loss of IP, loss of customers, share price valuation, regulatory fines, and reputational damage. The expected consequences of cyber risk during a year can be quantified and modeled by estimating the potential financial impact from a breach, as well as the frequency or probability of such events occurring during a year. Expected losses can be reduced by decreasing either the potential impact or the frequency of occurrence of loss events. Ideally both.

This is where the concept of “buying down risk” comes into play. By comparing this annualized loss expectancy to the budgeted annual cost of safeguarding against those risks, organizations can determine whether greater investment could reduce the point where further investment is not economically worth it.

So by investing in robust security controls and measures to this point, you can effectively buy down the  cyber risk, because it is cheaper to implement the controls than incur the loss associated.

Enter data security posture management (DSPM) tools like Symmetry, a powerful solution that helps you buy down risk. In this blog, I outline seven ways you can use DSPM to buy down cyber risk, by either effectively shrinking the data blast radius (extent of exposed data in a breach) or the attack surface (vulnerability points that can be used to access the data).

DSPM Helps You Reduce the Data Blast Radius

In the event of a security incident, the data blast radius refers to the extent of sensitive data exposure. A larger data blast radius means more data is at risk, and the consequences can be more severe. DSPM solutions offer several key capabilities to help you minimize the potential impact of a data breach, effectively buying down the risk of a potential high-impact event:

Discover and Remove Sensitive Data from Non-Production Environments

The inadvertent copying or replication of sensitive data to non-production environments, such as development, testing, or staging environments is unfortunately still common. DSPM tools can scan these environments, identify sensitive data using advanced data discovery techniques, and provide detailed reports on the types and locations of this data. Sensitive data can be removed or masked.

Delete or Archive Redundant or Obsolete Data

Over time, vast amounts of obsolete or outdated data accumulates – no longer needed for business operations or regulatory purposes. This can also include duplicate data stored in multiple different data stores. This data can also be a liability if it contains sensitive information and is not properly secured. DSPM solutions can help you identify and safely delete or archive this obsolete data by analyzing similarity to other datasets, the age of the data, usage patterns, and comparing to retention policies. This process can involve securely purging or anonymizing the data from various storage locations, including databases, file servers, and cloud storage. By reducing the overall data footprint and associated risks, you can focus your security efforts on protecting the most critical and relevant data assets.

Implement Granular Access Controls

Leading DSPM solutions like Symmetry go a step further and analyze entitlements, and permissions from the data out. This allows you to tightly control who can access and view specific types of sensitive data. Role-based (RBAC) and attribute based (ABAC) access controls can be verified. Users access privileges are verified against job functions, and other attributes like geo-location and need-to-know requirements. Dynamic data masking, tokenization, and Bring-Your-Own-Key encryption can be further used to dynamically secure sensitive information, ensuring that only those with proper permissions can view the complete data set, even with admin privileges. By implementing these granular access controls and data security techniques, you can significantly reduce the volume of data exposed due to unauthorized access or insider threats.

DSPM Helps You Shrink the Data Attack Surface

While minimizing the impact of a breach proactively is crucial to cyber risk buy down, it’s equally important to reduce the frequency of security incidents occurring. This is where you can buy down risk by investing in controls that shrink the attack surface and protect access to sensitive data:

Rightsize Least Privilege

Least Privilege is a crucial security principle. This is particularly true in data security, as it reduces the attack surface and potential impact of a data breach. DSPM tools can help you rightsize least privilege and need-to-know access principles, ensuring that users only have access to the sensitive data necessary for their job functions. This can include automating the detection and removal of unused data access privileges, limiting data access based on user roles and data classifications, and enforcing strict need-to-know policies. By minimizing the number of users with access to sensitive data, you can significantly reduce the risk of data exposure and simplify your data protection efforts.

Assess Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Hygiene

DSPM solutions can verify the implementation of MFA per user, adding an extra layer of security for accessing sensitive data. By requiring multiple forms of authentication, such as a password and a one-time code, you reduce the risk of unauthorized access through compromised credentials. Implementation of MFA is non-negotiable for various access scenarios, including remote access, privileged account access, and access to high-risk data repositories. This additional authentication layer makes it much harder for attackers to gain access, even if they manage to obtain valid usernames and passwords.

Monitor and Alert on Unusual Access Patterns

With continuous monitoring for unusual data access patterns or “Data Detection and Response”, DSPM platforms can detect potential threats early and trigger alerts or automated response actions to contain them before they escalate. For example, they can detect multiple failed login attempts, data access from unfamiliar IP addresses or locations, or anomalous user behavior that could indicate a compromise or insider threat. By providing real-time alerts and automated response capabilities, such as blocking suspicious activities or initiating incident response workflows, DSPM solutions help you quickly address and contain these potential security events before they lead to a data breach.

Automate User Access Reviews and Revocations

DSPM tools automates review and subsequent revocation of user access to sensitive data. As a result, access privileges are regularly reviewed and removed when no longer necessary. This can include scheduled access reviews based on predefined policies, as well as automatic revocation of access upon employee termination or role changes. By automating these processes, you can prevent former employees or users with changed roles from retaining unauthorized access, reducing the risk of insider threats and data exposure.

DSPM – A Holistic Approach to Cyber Risk Buydown

Effective data security requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses both the potential impact and frequency of security incidents.  By leveraging DSPM’s data discovery, classification, and protection features, you are investing in controls that minimize the amount of sensitive data exposed in the event of a breach, reducing the potential impact and quantified risk. Simultaneously, by implementing robust access controls, monitoring, and automation through DSPM, you are buying down the risk associated with the frequency of security incidents occurring.

Quantifying and managing cyber risk is a critical aspect of a CISO’s role, and DSPM solutions provide a powerful toolkit for achieving this goal. By partnering with a trusted DSPM provider like Symmetry, you can gain visibility into your organization’s data risk posture, prioritize areas for investment, and continuously monitor the effectiveness of your security controls. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Your customers, employees, and stakeholders will thank you for prioritizing data security and reducing the risks associated with cyber threats.

Symmetry Systems

Symmetry Systems

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