Data Exposure

Data exposure happens when sensitive information from an organization gets exposed to unauthorized parties.

Data exposures often indicate missing proper security controls or processes. Such can be poorly implemented encryption mechanisms, inadequate access control (or fine-grained access control) to data assets or configuration issues.

Data exposure may include sensitive data, such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Examples of PII are person names, addresses, and credit card data. Another type of sensitive data that may be exposed is financial or business data.

Preventing Data Exposures

Some of the common and effective ways to lower the risk of data exposure are:

  • Knowing where your sensitive data is and prioritize resources to protect it.
  • Verify what users and groups have access to which data. If they no longer need this access, revoke it. Access revoke is usually easier said than done but can be effectively done by analyzing permissions vs. activity (i.e., what data users have access to but are not using).
  • Appropriate security policies to specify what workflow is needed to access different types of data.
  • Proper monitoring and auditing of data access.
  • Implementation of fine-grained access control.

For example, in a Snowflake data cloud, having an effective role management strategy, implementing row-level security, and column-level security is a good start. Another example is data lakes, where some standard controls are access management policies that are clearly defined and logging and monitoring data access.

Data exposures can cause significant implications such as security, compliance, and legal risks. With the growing amount of data protection acts and regulations, legal risks are on the rise. Moreover, companies that have faced data exposures may lose trust, which may be severe and hard to fix.

Data Exposure vs. Data Breach

Data exposure refers to data exposed to unauthorized parties, while a data breach defines an event where attackers actively compromise data. In addition, a data exposure may describe an internal exposure within an organization, while a data breach is an external entity accessing the data.

 

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