Data Access Governance is critical to any organization's data strategy. It ensures that the right people have access to the right data at the right time, identifies where sensitive data is being stored, and protects that sensitive information from unauthorized access. With effective Data Access Governance, organizations can strategically improve their compliance with regulatory requirements, reduce the risk of data breaches, and ensure that their data is being used for its intended purpose. It involves understanding who has access to what data, why they have access, and how that access is being managed and monitored. By implementing robust Data Access Governance, businesses and organizations can achieve greater control over their data and minimize the risks associated with data misuse and abuse.
What is Data Access Governance?
Data Access Governance is the process of managing and controlling access to data within an organization’s greater data protection strategy. It encompasses defining policies and procedures that govern who can access certain data, when they can access it, and how they can use it. The goal of Data Access Governance is to ensure that sensitive data is protected from unauthorized access, while also ensuring that the correct people have access to the information they need to do their jobs effectively.
ALTR sits at the intersection of Data Access Governance and Data Security, allowing DBAs, Data Engineers, Data Architects, or any day-to-day businesspeople to govern data access easily and without code. Many companies claim to provide solutions for data security but leave you with gaps in your data security pipeline, opening your organization up to breach. ALTR’s Data Access Governance solution puts the keys in your hands to understand what data you have, create policy around who can access what data and at what frequency, and stay on top of regulations and compliance with near real-time query audits.
Key Principles of Data Access Governance
While there are many ways to administer an effective data access governance program, strong data access governance generally revolves around the following five fundamental principles:
As an organization, it's essential to be transparent about what data you're collecting and why you're collecting it. Clarifying what data assets you have and spreading this knowledge across your organization and customers is of utmost importance for your data governance framework. Transparency ensures that all internal and external stakeholders understand the purpose and scope of data collection efforts, fostering trust and compliance within your data governance practices.
Data integrity is paramount in data access governance. It ensures that data remains accurate, consistent, and trustworthy throughout its lifecycle. In governance, integrity involves safeguarding data against unauthorized alterations or tampering. Robust access controls, encryption, and regular data quality checks are essential to maintain data integrity. Data users can trust that the information they access has not been compromised or altered inappropriately.
Accountability is critical in data access governance, as it assigns responsibility for data-related actions and decisions. Every user, whether an individual or a system, should be accountable for their actions regarding data access. This includes tracking who accessed data, what changes were made, and when these actions occurred. Establishing clear roles and responsibilities ensures that individuals are answerable for their data-related activities, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or misuse.
Consistency in data access governance ensures that access policies and practices are uniformly applied across the organization. Access controls, permissions, and policies are consistently enforced regardless of the data source, department, or user. Consistency reduces confusion and the potential for security gaps. Standardized practices simplify management, auditing, and compliance, leading to more effective data governance.
Collaboration is essential for effective data access governance. It encourages cross-functional teamwork among departments, including IT, data stewards, compliance teams, and business units. Collaboration ensures data access policies and decisions align with business objectives and regulatory requirements. It also helps identify and mitigate potential data access risks through collective expertise and knowledge sharing. In a collaborative environment, stakeholders work together to balance data security, compliance, and the organization's need for data access to drive innovation and productivity.
What are Steps of Data Access Governance?
Data Access Governance involves establishing policies and procedures that govern who has access to what data and under what circumstances. The principles of data access governance include:
- Defining the scope of access- Defining the scope of access involves internal standardization of access levels surrounding the data that your organization holds. A successful Data Access Governance strategy must start with seeing the scope of access and ensuring it is clearly defined to all parties. Data classification can help simplify this process tremendously by allowing data owners the visibility to see exactly what data exists that needs to be protected. ALTR lets you classify data for free on Snowflake! Learn how here.
- Establishing roles and responsibilities- Once you understand what data you have and determine which of it is sensitive, you must establish the roles and responsibilities around who is in charge of maintaining that data’s health. Clear and well-defined responsibilities ensure data is never left unmonitored, and greatly reduces the risk of breach.
- Implementing appropriate access controls- After defining what data is sensitive and establishing roles and responsibilities, the next step is implementing the appropriate access controls. This involves creating and defining policy around who is allowed access to what data and at what frequency. ALTR’s point-and-click UI allows data users the full flexibility to set correct access controls simply and scale quickly.
- Continuously monitoring and auditing access- It may feel tempting, once the work has been done to establish rules and create policy, to think that your sensitive data will run by itself. In a study done by Stanford Professor, Jeff Hancock, it was determined that, “85 percent of data breaches are caused by human error,” meaning that your data needs to be continuously monitored to protect against the human errors that may lead to breach. ALTR automates this process – further reducing the risk of human error, by providing real-time alerting capabilities and access to audit logs.
What are the Key Benefits of Data Access Governance?
Both obvious and not, there are numerous benefits to implementing a strong data access governance policy in your organization.
- It helps to ensure that sensitive data is protected from unauthorized access, reducing the risk of data breaches and other security incidents. “In 2022, the number of data compromises in the United States stood at 1802 cases,” Statista reports, this number is up 63% since 2020. Security breaches will only continue to rise as hackers become savvier, and human error remains. Implementing strong data governance with a tool like ALTR that has a proven track record of securing data is critical.
- Data Access Governance can also help to ensure that employees have access to the data they need to do their jobs, while preventing them from accessing data that is not relevant to their roles. This can help to improve productivity and collaboration while minimizing the risk of data misuse or exposure.
- Data Access Governance can help organizations comply with relevant regulations and industry standards, reducing the risk of penalties and legal action. Whether your organization must be PCI compliant, or you fall under an industry data regulation, choosing a data access governance tool that will secure your sensitive data, give your data users transparency and scalability, and offer real-time alerting is a critical priority.
What are the Challenges of Data Access Governance?
While ALTR’s automated, real-time features take the stress out of implementing, scaling, and monitoring a data access governance strategy, some organizations may face challenges when it comes to defining roles for policy management.
- Ensuring all stakeholders are on the same page: Before any policy can be created, data can be governed, or access can be monitored, all stakeholders must be on the same page.
- Determining access levels: Determining which roles or departments should have access to what data, and how much access they should have involves initial legwork of enforcing a hierarchy of status when it comes to data access. Prior to setting the parameters of role-based access or tag-based access, there needs to be clearly defined guidelines and agreement on access levels.
- Setting clear expectations: After the initial leg work is done to ensure a successful data access governance implementation, it’s critical to continue ongoing conversation to minimize the risk of responsibilities slipping through the cracks. We recommend pre-determining who will lead the charge in maintaining good data hygiene.
Once all parties are on the same page prior to initial implementation, ALTR makes creating, enforcing, and monitoring policy simple and effective.
What Industries are Deploying Data Access Governance?
Data Access Governance is a crucial aspect of data safeguarding across all organizations and all industries. Industries such as finance, healthcare, and retail are just a few examples of those who should be implementing Data Access Governance.
- Financial Services – By controlling who has access to what data, financial institutions can prevent data breaches and unauthorized use of customer information. Additionally, implementing data access governance can help financial services organizations meet regulatory requirements such as PCI-DSS and GDPR, while emphasizing protecting their members data. ALTR allows FinServ organizations the ability to quickly classify data, set policy around data, and see real-time audits of their protected information.
“Helping people navigate their financial journeys is the mission of TDECU, a Texas-based credit union with more than 366,000 members and $4.7 billion in assets. TDECU relies on large amounts of data to understand its members, ensure excellence across banking and operations, and improve the member experience.
Leveraging ALTR for automated policy enforcement, in tandem with Snowflake’s integrated security features, aligned with TDECU’s need for transparency, compliance, and control. Tokenization-as-a-service, data masking, thresholding, and integration with enterprise data governance solutions, including Collibra, were a few reasons why TDECU chose ALTR.”
Read more about why financial service organizations are choosing ALTR over others: https://www.altr.com/resource/tdecu-takes-data-driven-approach-supporting-members-financial-journeys
- Healthcare – It is crucial for healthcare companies to take essential measures like data access governance to ensure the privacy and security of their patients' personally identifiable information (PII) data. ALTR enables healthcare institutions to control data access and prevent data breaches and unauthorized use of patient information in real-time. By utilizing Data Access Governance, healthcare companies can easily meet regulatory requirements such as HIPAA and GDPR and ensure their patients information remains secure.
- Retail – Retail corporations are in charge of storing and securing the sensitive information of their customers- from shipping addresses to email addresses and occasionally credit card numbers. In order for retailers to ensure their customer’s PII is secure, they must implement a complete Data Access Governance solution. ALTR’s ability to set masking policies easily and with no-code allows retail corporations the ability to maintain a high level of security and quickly scale policy as needed.
“One of ALTR’s Enterprise customers, a multinational privately owned fast-fashion retail corporation with a direct-to-consumer presence, recognized the need to correctly store and protect the sensitive data entrusted to them. This corporation is responsible for over 60 million customer email addresses, mailing addresses and names.
After discussing the customer’s business goals, ALTR rolled out a two-step plan to accomplish the retailer’s data governance needs, starting with a custom masking policy on customer PII and following that with access controls.”
Read more about how ALTR helps retail organizations secure their sensitive data: https://www.altr.com/resource/case-study-multinational-retailer-secure-customer-pii.
What are the components of a successful Data Access Governance Strategy?
Understanding What Data You Have
Classifying your data is one of the most critical parts of beginning to protect sensitive data. The process of classifying your data allows you to begin to understand what data you have access to and identify what of that data is highly sensitive. Understanding what data is sitting in your database and identifying the columns that exist with sensitive data, puts you in a healthy position to begin setting policy and creating access controls.
Creating Policy Around Who Can Access What Data, at What Frequency
- Locks: Once you have a grasp on what data exists in your database, you can begin setting policy to ensure your data is secure and is protected from breach. ALTR’s Locks allow you to configure roles that are allowed access to data and how they are permitted to consume that data. These locks function on a least privileged access model, ensuring that even if a manual error is made, your data still remains secure. When data is queried for if your database, depending on the lock set and the person running the query, the data can return in no mask, partial mask, or full mask, dependent on the access control set.
- Thresholds: Just because a certain user group should be able to access data, doesn’t always mean that they should have unlimited access to that data. ALTR’s patented rate-limiting capabilities is key to a successful Data Access Governance strategy. Threshold alerting allows you to create policy around how many data values are being queried for and at what frequency or time of day. Thresholds allow the data owner to take the sensitive data combined with the lock and prescribe how that data can be consumed. ALTR’s real-time alerting capabilities can log that a threshold is happening or block the query altogether – giving you real-time access to know what is happening with your data at scale.
Data Usage Heatmaps & Query Audits
Protecting sensitive data – query audits & data usage heatmaps
Once your key protection measures are put into place, continuous monitoring and managing the way data is being used is critical for your Data Access Governance plan. A quick and accurate way to view data access and data usage, will ensure your organization is ahead of the curve on the front of securing sensitive data.
ALTR’s Data Usage Heatmaps show a simple view of the relationship between the roles that access data, and how much of the data is being consumed. The heatmap (shown below) offers drill down capabilities, giving you the flexibility to see activity that makes up the aggregation of data usage. By understanding who is accessing what data and at what frequency, you can baseline normal data usage for your organization and create policy around that.
Data has become the most valuable asset for businesses and organizations. Because of this, it is essential to have proper data security measures in place to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access and misuse. Whether for PCI compliance, GDRP regulations, or the many other reasons people choose to begin securing their data, Data Access Governance is crucial to your organization’s strategy to protect sensitive data.