Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Harry Trott, Mamoon Yunus

Related Topics: Agile Computing, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo

Agile Computing: Article

Ten Things IT Should Be Doing to Manage Unstructured Data – But Isn’t

‘To do’ list reduces the risk of unstructured data loss

When it comes to protecting unstructured data, such as spreadsheets, documents, images and other data on file servers, most organizations acknowledge that their existing processes and risk profiles are less than ideal. Unfortunately, IT personnel - rather than data owners - are typically the ones making many of the decisions about permissions, acceptable use, and acceptable access review. And because IT personnel aren't equipped with adequate business context around the growing volumes of unstructured data, they can only make a best effort guess as to how to manage and protect each data set.

Until organizations shift the decision making responsibility to business data owners, IT carries the burden of enforcing rules for who can access what on shared file systems, and for keeping those structures current through data growth and user role changes. IT needs to determine who can access unstructured data, who should and is accessing it, and what is likely to be sensitive.

To help streamline this process, here are 10 must-do actions for IT teams to carry out as part of a daily data management routine to maximize unstructured data protection:

1. Identify data owners
IT should keep a current list of data business owners and the folders and SharePoint sites that are their responsibility. By having this list the ready, 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.

2. Remove global group access control lists (ACLs) like ‘Everyone'
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. 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. Global access to folders should be removed and replaced with rules that give access to explicit groups that need it.

3. Perform data entitlement (ACL) reviews
Every file and folder on a Windows or Unix file system has access controls assigned to it that determine which users can access the data and how, i.e., read, write, execute, and list. These controls need to be reviewed on a regular basis and the settings documented so that they can be verified as accurate by data business owners and security policy auditors.

4. Revoke unused and unwarranted permissions
Users with access to data that is not material to their jobs constitute a security risk for organizations. Most users only need access to a small fraction of the data that resides on file servers. It is important to review and then remove or revoke permissions that are unused.

5. Audit permissions changes
Access Control Lists are the fundamental preventive control mechanism that's in place to protect data from loss, tampering, and exposure. IT requires the ability to capture and report on access control changes to data, especially for highly sensitive folders. If access is incorrectly assigned or changed to a more permissive state without a good business reason, IT and the data business owner must be alerted quickly and be able to remediate the situation.

6. Audit group membership changes
Directory Groups are the primary entities on access control lists (Active Directory, LDAP, NIS, etc.) with membership granting access to unstructured data as well as many applications, VPN gateways, etc. Users are added to existing and newly created groups on a daily basis. Without an audit trail of who is being added and removed from these groups, enforcing access control processes is impossible. Ideally group membership should be authorized and reviewed by the owner of the data or resource to which the group provides access.

7. Audit data access
Effective management of any data set is impossible without an access record. Unless you can reliably observe data use you cannot observe its misuse, abuse, or non-use. Even if IT could ask its organization's users if they used each data set, the end users would not be able to answer accurately - the scope of a typical user's access activity is far beyond what humans can recall. Without a record of data usage, you cannot determine the proper organizational owner for a data set, and neither the unfound owner nor IT can make informed decisions about protecting it, archiving it, or deleting it.

8. Prioritize data
While all data should be protected, some data needs to be protected much more urgently than others. Using data owners, data access patterns, and data classification technology, data that is considered sensitive, confidential, or internal should be tagged accordingly, and protected and reviewed frequently.

9. Align security groups to data
Whenever someone is placed in a group, they get file system access to all folders that list the group on its ACL. Unfortunately, organizations have completely lost track of what data folders contain which Active Directory, LDAP, SharePoint or NIS groups. This uncertainty undermines any access control review project, and any role-based access control (RBAC) initiative. In role-based access control methodology, each role has a list of associated groups into which the user is placed when they are assigned that role. It is impossible to align the role with the right data if the organization cannot verify what data a group provides access to.

10. Lock down, delete, or archive stale, unused data
Not all of the data contained on shared file servers and network attached storage devices is in active use. By archiving stale or unused data to offline storage, or deleting it, IT makes the job of managing the remainder simpler and easier, while freeing up expensive resources.

The principal of least privilege is a well-accepted guideline for managing access controls - only those who have an organizational need to access information should be able to do so. However, for most organizations, a least-privilege model is not feasible, because data is generated far too quickly and personnel change rapidly. Even in small organizations the growing data set and pace of organizational changes exceed the IT department's ability to keep up with access control lists and group memberships. By automating and conducting the 10 management tasks outlined above frequently, organizations will gain the visibility and auditing required that determines who can access the unstructured data, who is accessing it and who should have access. This detailed data access behavior will benefit organizations in a plethora of ways, most significantly securing their data, ensuring compliance demands are met, and freeing up expensive storage resources.

More Stories By Wendy Yale

Wendy Yale leads marketing and brand development for Varonis’ global growth efforts. She is a veteran brand strategist with 16 years of marketing experience. Prior to Varonis, Wendy successfully managed the global integrated marketing communications team at Symantec. She joined Symantec from VERITAS, where she led the interactive media marketing team. Beginning her career as a freelance producer and writer, she has developed projects for organizations such as the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Film and Video Magazine, Aloha Airlines, the International Teleproduction Society and Unitel Video. Wendy has held senior posts at DMEC and ReplayTV, and holds a B.A. degree in Geography from Cal State Northridge. You can contact Wendy at [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo taking place Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 21st International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is ...
With Cloud Foundry you can easily deploy and use apps utilizing websocket technology, but not everybody realizes that scaling them out is not that trivial. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Roman Swoszowski, CTO and VP, Cloud Foundry Services, at Grape Up, will show you an example of how to deal with this issue. He will demonstrate a cloud-native Spring Boot app running in Cloud Foundry and communicating with clients over websocket protocol that can be easily scaled horizontally and coordinate...
Most companies are adopting or evaluating container technology - Docker in particular - to speed up application deployment, drive down cost, ease management and make application delivery more flexible overall. As with most new architectures, this dream takes a lot of work to become a reality. Even when you do get your application componentized enough and packaged properly, there are still challenges for DevOps teams to making the shift to continuous delivery and achieving that reduction in cost ...
There are several reasons why businesses migrate their operations to the cloud. Scalability and price are among the most important factors determining this transition. Unlike legacy systems, cloud based businesses can scale on demand. The database and applications in the cloud are not rendered simply from one server located in your headquarters, but is instead distributed across several servers across the world. Such CDNs also bring about greater control in times of uncertainty. A database hack ...
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, CTO of Embotics, discussed how automation can provide the dynamic management required to cost-effectively deliver microservices and container solutions at scale. He also discussed how flexible automation is the key to effectively bridging and seamlessly coordinating both IT and developer needs for component orchestration across disparate clouds – an increasingly important requirement at today’s multi-cloud enterprise.
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
API Security is complex! Vendors like Forum Systems, IBM, CA and Axway have invested almost 2 decades of engineering effort and significant capital in building API Security stacks to lockdown APIs. The API Security stack diagram shown below is a building block for rapidly locking down APIs. The four fundamental pillars of API Security - SSL, Identity, Content Validation and deployment architecture - are discussed in detail below.
IT organizations are moving to the cloud in hopes to approve efficiency, increase agility and save money. Migrating workloads might seem like a simple task, but what many businesses don’t realize is that application migration criteria differs across organizations, making it difficult for architects to arrive at an accurate TCO number. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Joe Kinsella, CTO of CloudHealth Technologies, will offer a systematic approach to understanding the TCO of a cloud application...
API Security has finally entered our security zeitgeist. OWASP Top 10 2017 - RC1 recognized API Security as a first class citizen by adding it as number 10, or A-10 on its list of web application vulnerabilities. We believe this is just the start. The attack surface area offered by API is orders or magnitude larger than any other attack surface area. Consider the fact the APIs expose cloud services, internal databases, application and even legacy mainframes over the internet. What could go wrong...
Cloud adoption is often driven by a desire to increase efficiency, boost agility and save money. All too often, however, the reality involves unpredictable cost spikes and lack of oversight due to resource limitations. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Joe Kinsella, CTO and Founder of CloudHealth Technologies, tackled the question: “How do you build a fully optimized cloud?” He will examine: Why TCO is critical to achieving cloud success – and why attendees should be thinking holistically ab...
Web services have taken the development world by storm, especially in recent years as they've become more and more widely adopted. There are naturally many reasons for this, but first, let's understand what exactly a web service is. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines "web of services" as "message-based design frequently found on the Web and in enterprise software". Basically, a web service is a method of sending a message between two devices through a network. In practical terms, this ...
Docker is on a roll. In the last few years, this container management service has become immensely popular in development, especially given the great fit with agile-based projects and continuous delivery. In this article, I want to take a brief look at how you can use Docker to accelerate and streamline the software development lifecycle (SDLC) process.
The goal of Continuous Testing is to shift testing left to find defects earlier and release software faster. This can be achieved by integrating a set of open source functional and performance testing tools in the early stages of your software delivery lifecycle. There is one process that binds all application delivery stages together into one well-orchestrated machine: Continuous Testing. Continuous Testing is the conveyer belt between the Software Factory and production stages. Artifacts are m...
We define Hybrid IT as a management approach in which organizations create a workload-centric and value-driven integrated technology stack that may include legacy infrastructure, web-scale architectures, private cloud implementations along with public cloud platforms ranging from Infrastructure-as-a-Service to Software-as-a-Service.
In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Kelly Looney, director of DevOps consulting for Skytap, showed how an incremental approach to introducing containers into complex, distributed applications results in modernization with less risk and more reward. He also shared the story of how Skytap used Docker to get out of the business of managing infrastructure, and into the business of delivering innovation and business value. Attendees learned how up-front planning allows for a clean sep...
In IT, we sometimes coin terms for things before we know exactly what they are and how they’ll be used. The resulting terms may capture a common set of aspirations and goals – as “cloud” did broadly for on-demand, self-service, and flexible computing. But such a term can also lump together diverse and even competing practices, technologies, and priorities to the point where important distinctions are glossed over and lost.
Enterprise architects are increasingly adopting multi-cloud strategies as they seek to utilize existing data center assets, leverage the advantages of cloud computing and avoid cloud vendor lock-in. This requires a globally aware traffic management strategy that can monitor infrastructure health across data centers and end-user experience globally, while responding to control changes and system specification at the speed of today’s DevOps teams. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Josh Gray, Chie...
"At the keynote this morning we spoke about the value proposition of Nutanix, of having a DevOps culture and a mindset, and the business outcomes of achieving agility and scale, which everybody here is trying to accomplish," noted Mark Lavi, DevOps Solution Architect at Nutanix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
We have already established the importance of APIs in today’s digital world (read about it here). With APIs playing such an important role in keeping us connected, it’s necessary to maintain the API’s performance as well as availability. There are multiple aspects to consider when monitoring APIs, from integration to performance issues, therefore a general monitoring strategy that only accounts for up-time is not ideal.
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Mike Johnston, an infrastructure engineer at Supergiant.io, discussed how to use Kubernetes to set up a SaaS infrastructure for your business. Mike Johnston is an infrastructure engineer at Supergiant.io with over 12 years of experience designing, deploying, and maintaining server and workstation infrastructure at all scales. He has experience with brick and mortar data centers as well as cloud providers like Digital Ocean, Amazon Web Services, and Rackspace. H...