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August 1, 2023

What to Look for in a Sensitive Data Discovery Tool

Selecting the right sensitive data discovery tool for your organization can be challenging. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that you will only get a feel for how effective your choice is after purchasing and implementing it. However, there are things you can do to help maximize your return on investment before you buy by focusing your attention on the right candidates. By selecting your finalists based on their ability to execute on the best practices for sensitive data discovery, you can significantly increase the odds that your final choice is a good fit for your needs.

Best Practices for Sensitive Data Discovery

Of course, you can’t effectively select for the best practices in sensitive data discovery without a deep understanding of what they are and how they impact your business. While any number of approaches could be considered “best practices,” here are four that we believe are the most impactful when implementing a new sensitive data discovery system.

Maximize Automation

While more automation is almost always good, when it comes to sensitive data discovery, there’s a big difference between increasing automation and maximizing automation. In an ideal world, your data team would configure the rules for detecting personally identifiable information once and then spend their time on higher-value activities like monitoring and reporting. But there’s more to automation than just data types. Is the reporting automated? Does the system work well with the system that handles “right to be forgotten” requests? Any human-driven process is likely to fail when scaled up to millions or billions of data points. Success in this area means finding a solution that maximizes automation and minimizes the burden on your team.

Merge Classification and Discovery

Data must be classified before its insights can be unlocked. Despite its similarities to data discovery, data classification is sometimes handled by a different department with different tools. A potential downside of that approach is that a key stakeholder gets a report from each department and asks why the numbers don’t match. As a result, your team is forced to spend time reconciling the different tools’ output—which is not a great place to expend resources. An easy way to fix this problem is to use a single tool to perform both processes. If that’s not a viable approach, ensuring the tools are integrated to produce the same results can be a great way to ensure that your company has a unified and consistent view of its data.

Develop a Multi-Channel Approach

One trap that companies sometimes fall into is believing that the discovery process is over once data from outside the company is identified and appropriately secured on the company network. This approach neglects one of the biggest sources of risk when it comes to data: your employees. Are you monitoring your employee endpoints like laptops, desktops etc. for personally identifiable information? If so, are you able to manually or automatically remedy the situation? You won’t always be able to stop employees from making risky moves with data. However, with a multi-channel approach to sensitive data discovery, you can monitor the situation and develop procedures to limit the damage.

Create Regular Risk Assessments

Identifying your sensitive data is only the first step in the process. To understand your company’s overall risk, you must deeply understand the relative risk that each piece of sensitive information holds. For example, data moved across borders holds significantly more risk than that in long-term cold storage. Databases that hold customer information inherently have more risk than those holding only corporate information. To meaningfully prioritize your efforts in securing data and optimizing your processes, you need regular risk assessments. At scale, this can be difficult to do on your own—so your sensitive data discovery software either needs to do it for you or have a robust integration with a program that can.

Choosing the Right Sensitive Data Discovery Software

While there are many possible ways to select sensitive data discovery tool , the best practices we’ve covered offer a good starting place for most businesses. Remember that the features that one software package has vs. another is not necessarily as important as how those features support your business objectives. Maximizing automation, merging discovery and classification, developing a multi-channel approach, and creating regular risk assessments all have relatively little to do with the actual mechanics of data discovery—but they can all make a huge difference when building a healthy, secure company. There are a lot of different sensitive data discovery solutions that can solve your immediate problem. However, they may not do it in a way that holistically improves your business.

Another important point is that data discovery is the first step in the data lifecycle that runs all the way to retirement. You could use a different tool for each stage of the process, but the end result would be a system with multiple independent parts that may or may not work well together. Ideally, you would be able to handle data throughout the lifecycle in one application. That’s where Mage comes in.

How Mage Helps with Sensitive Data Discovery

Mage’s approach to data security begins with robust data discovery through its patented Mage Sensitive Data Discovery tool, which is powered by artificial intelligence and natural language processing. It can identify more than 80 data types right out-of-the-box and can be configured for as many custom data types as you need.

But that’s only the start of the process. Mage’s Data Masking solutions provide powerful static and dynamic masking options to keep data safe during the middle of its lifecycle, and Data Minimization tool helps companies handle data access and erasure requests and create robust data retention rules. Having an integrated platform that handles all aspects of data security and privacy can save you money and be far simpler to operate than having different platforms for different operations. We believe that it shouldn’t matter if you’re a small business or enterprise—your data solutions should just work. To learn more about how Mage can help you with sensitive data discovery, schedule a demo today.