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A clear path to effective information governance.

1. Audit Data Access

Effective management of any data set is impossible without a record of access. Unless one can reliably observe data use, one cannot observe its non-use, misuse, or abuse. Without a record of data usage, one cannot answer critical questions—from the most basic ones, like “who deleted my files, what data does this person or people use, and what data isn’t used?” to more complex questions, “like who owns a data set, which data sets support this business unit, and how can I lock down data without disrupting workflows?”

2. Inventory Permissions and Directory Services Group Objects

Effective management of any data set is also impossible without understanding who has access to it. Access controls lists and groups (in Active Directory, LDAP, etc.) are the fundamental protective control mechanism for all unstructured and semi structured data platforms, yet too often IT cannot easily answer fundamental data protection questions like, “Who has access to a data set?” and “What data sets does a user or group have access to?” Answers to these questions must be accurate and accessible for data protection and management projects to succeed.

3. Prioritize Which Data Should Be Addressed

While all data should be protected, some data needs to be protected much more urgently than other data. Some data sets have well known owners and well defined processes and controls for their protection, but many others are less understood. With an audit trail, data classification technology, and access control information, organizations can identify active and stale data, data that is considered sensitive, confidential, or internal, and data that is accessible to many people. These data sets should be reviewed and addressed quickly to reduce risk.

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4. Remove Global Access Groups from ACLs (like “Everyone”) – especially where sensitive data is located

It is not uncommon for folders on file shares to have access control permissions allowing “Everyone,” or all “domain users” (nearly Everyone) to access the data contained therein. SharePoint has the same problem ( especially with authenticated users). Exchange has these, as well as “Anonymous User” access. This creates a significant security risk; for any data placed in that folder will inherit those “exposed” permissions, and those who place data in these wide-open folders may not be aware of the lax access settings. When sensitive data, like PII, credit card information, intellectual property, or HR information are in these folders, the risks can become very significant. Global access to folders, SharePoint sites, and mailboxes should be removed and replaced with rules that give access to the explicit groups that need it.

5. Identify Data Owners

IT should keep track of data business owners and the folders and SharePoint sites under their responsibility. By involving data owners, IT can expedite a number of the previously identified tasks, including verifying permissions revocation and review, and identifying data for archival. The net effect is a marked increase in the accuracy of data entitlement permissions and, therefore, data protection.

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