Managing the risks of data sprawl

A formalized risk framework can help agencies gain control of their entire information lifecycle.

Shutterstock image: filing cabinets.
 

For two decades, the security of federal information systems has been a mainstay on the Government Accountability Office's biennial governmentwide risk evaluation report -- the High-Risk List.

As more and more information is moved to the cloud and corresponding attack vectors open for cybercriminals, the majority of agency security concerns have understandably revolved around the prevention and detection of threats, both internal and external. However, while these threats are very real and not to be taken lightly, they do not wholly encompass the government's exposure to information-related risk.

As it currently stands, agencies have another significant gap in the security ecosystem -- the data itself.

More specifically, the problem is that too many agencies lack an enterprise-wide view of all of their information assets. Without a comprehensive understanding of agency-owned information, it is impossible to completely secure it against a multitude of cyberattacks, insider threats, general misuse, obscurity or a wide variety of other risks. After all, how are agencies supposed to be able to secure information if they don't even know what they have?

So how can agencies address the problem of unseen, non-governed information? The answer is by implementing a formalized risk framework that incorporates a blend of elements, from risk management, to automated retention, compliance and disposition. By doing so, agencies will gain control of their entire information lifecycle, from creation and identification to operationalization.

To establish an information framework, agencies must first be aware of the requirements and rules that govern the information they store. This will give them a high-level outline of their framework that will serve as the basis for improving their overall control of information.

However, with the vast web of rules and regulations that govern federal information management, it is very often easier said than done. That does not mean that agencies are without recourse. With the rapid development of technology and spread of automation, agencies can easily communicate their retention schedules and future changes to their schedules, keeping policy directly tied to content at an operational level. This will ensure that all subsequent steps maintain compliance with established retention policies.

The next, and perhaps most vital, step is to identify agency-owned information assets. This entails investigating and indexing both structured and unstructured data sources in order to identify stored records, and then designating assigned repositories for individual information assets. Without visibility into what information is stored, where it's stored, and in what format, agencies lack the knowledge they need to make optimized decisions related to compliance concerns, risk management and resource redundancy.

To address these problems, one of the most effective solutions is for agencies to build a data map. A data map is a database inventory of what systems, applications and repositories an agency has, where they are, and who is responsible for managing them. With a data map, agencies will be able to track systems and the records contained within, determine whether systems contain sensitive information, gain insight into how information assets are being used, apply advanced data analytics and keep information stores updated. The end goal for this step is to establish an ideal "should be" scenario at a macro level, before moving into the operational phase.

Following this phase, agencies will be ready to progress on to operationalizing policy and managing the granular realities of their data in a continuous fashion. At this point, agencies have already laid the necessary foundation for effective information governance. The challenge before them is now keeping that foundation applicable and up-to-date with a dynamic enterprise by consistently and regularly managing information, while evolving retention schedules and compliance mandates. By publishing and making that information available, either to staff or stakeholders via online portals and reports, or publishing directly to content repositories, agencies will have the solid metrics and data they need to prove compliance with government directives, citizen FOIA requests and everything in between.

After completing these steps, agencies will have taken monumental steps forward in managing their overall information risk profile. As the volume of collected data continues to grow exponentially, the threat of information obsolescence attributable to data sprawl remains one of the forefront risks for federal agencies.

Every agency needs to take immediate and proactive steps to manage the continual and rising growth of their data inventory. By keeping their information assets continuously managed and updated, they will not only be addressing the risks of unidentified and unutilized information assets, but will also be in a better position to manage internal and external threats to information security. Ultimately, properly managing agency information risk starts with properly managing agency information.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.