Updated July 29, 2023

Data-centric security involves technologies, processes, and policies whose focus is on the location of the data, its collection, storage, and visibility. In other words, data-centric security seeks to protect data throughout its lifecycle rather than conventional approaches which entail securing networks, servers, and applications. Conventional approaches were not designed to accommodate extended enterprises and for this reason, can pose significant risks. The use of data-centric security allows data to be protected regardless of the access attempt or who it is shared with, allowing for data to remain protected in dynamic business environments.

The concept of data-centric security is based on five key elements: identifying, understanding, controlling, protecting, and auditing. These aspects enhance the ability of an organization to secure its business-critical data, defend against data loss, and evaluate data in order to detect any deviation that might indicate malicious intent.

Why Data-Centric Security?

The increasing amount of data being used for day-to-day operations in various locations by organizations has led to the need for a new approach to securing it. The importance of organizations adopting data-centric security can be summarized in three main reasons:

#1 – Network server and application security is insufficient

Business applications and network servers have inherent security vulnerabilities; even the most secure network is subjected to internal risks. Employees with access to company computers and databases may unknowingly share confidential data or access credentials with other employees when it is not directly related to their job duties or external parties that do not have authorized access, expanding the risk of data spill. This becomes increasingly common when network perimeters are hard to define in a hybrid work environment where employees work remotely or in the cloud. Direct protection of data is needed to create more barriers that repel unauthorized data distribution.

Data-centric security protects data from all kinds of threats, such as attackers who want to steal and leak confidential information, or employees who make mistakes and share sensitive information with unauthorized parties.

#2 – Data-centric security lets you have granular control over what and when users can access resources

Data-centric security is an important approach for dynamic data protection as it allows fine-grained access controls which result in more flexibility in how you manage your systems and networks than traditional access controls. Through implementing least privilege access, the subject is given only the privileges needed for it to complete its task. This means that an administrator is able to allow access to sensitive information by giving a user access to their own files on the server—without necessarily giving them full access to everything else on that server.

This framework is crucial in scenarios where not every subject should have access to function-wide data within their department. For example, a user in the HR department in Europe may only need to view employee details in his local region that aligns with his job function, however, shouldnt have access to other regions that do not pertain to his role as a European HR manager.

#3 – Can be layered on top of existing systems

Data-centric security can be layered on top of existing systems so that large-scale changes are not necessary. Companies may already have strong authentication and encryption policies, but as time goes on, these policies need to evolve with the security landscape. By adding data-centric security layers to an organization’s existing infrastructure, you can ensure that your company’s data is protected from cyber threats while also freeing up resources for other purposes.

Data-centric security is also easier to implement gradually than traditional cybersecurity solutions because it does not require large-scale changes in order to function. Instead of making drastic changes like migrating systems or replacing software programs, data-centric security can simply be added onto existing infrastructure without excessive disruption to normal operations.

Benefits of Data-Centric Security

Data-centric security involves investigating and protecting data at rest, in transit, and in use. This form of security is a better approach to managing systems that focuses on safeguarding core data assets. It helps organizations:

  • Set up trust models based on specific data elements, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach, reducing the workload of IT departments, but also giving more control over what users have access to.
  • Easier management of multiple identities and user roles while providing granular access control over sensitive data resources.
  • Protect sensitive details even when they are attacked by hackers (their servers and computer systems), greatly reducing the risks that accompany the loss of business information to an unauthorized hand.

The Future of Data-Centric Security

With today’s rise in hybrid work environments, cloud computing, and complex trust models, organizations need a data-centric approach that allows for the implementation of a single, unified identity model that can be used throughout the enterprise.

Data-centric security is quickly replacing other traditional forms of security approaches when it comes to sensitive data protection. It represents a new and progressive generation of data protection techniques that brings database security to a whole new level. Its innovative approach will be instrumental in improving data protection through fine-grained policy approaches that focus on data security based on dynamic and scalable authorization.

Interested to know more? Read our white paper on “What Data-Centric Security Will Look Like Over the Next 5 Years.

To learn about how data-centric security can work in tandem with zero trust, read our solution page on Zero Trust Data Security.