When thinking about important business assets you probably think of tangible items like property, vehicles, computers, etc., but for many organizations, it’s the intangible digital assets that are a top priority. Having a clear data strategy is absolutely critical to business success because data holds significant value and delivers valuable insights about customers and business processes.

However, data only holds value if it is consumable. Your data needs to be easily shared with internal staff, customers, joint venture participants, and partners while adhering to the mandated business rules and privacy regulations. Still, the key is to make data accessible without jeopardizing its integrity and confidentiality. Despite data’s obvious benefits, many organizations fail to use their data because it is not properly protected, and could potentially lead to a data breach.

Is Your Data an Asset or a Liability?

Sensitive data assets must be protected against unauthorized access or they become an underlying liability. Exposing data systems to new types of cloud services, new mobile or remote users, and new business intelligence (BI) tools without taking adequate security precautions can lead to information leakage, fraud risks, privacy breaches, intellectual property exposure and regulatory compliance violations.

When data is properly secured, it is a powerful business asset by enabling the right balance between protecting data, but opening up access for legitimate purposes. Users can access the data through new types of channels and services to securely consume information assets. The data can then be used to implement more efficient business processes to increase productivity. It can also be used to derive analytical insights about customers to gain a competitive advantage.

Let’s look at an example from the insurance industry. By analyzing data from a multitude of sources, analytical insights can provide insurers with data that is specifically tailored around each policyholder, including life expectancy, possibility to renew, likelihood to file a claim, and more. All of these are valuable pieces of information to help design the right products for each policyholder, helping to ensure customer satisfaction.

So how should businesses go about protecting their most critical business assets? There are multiple tools for securing data assets, including encryption, tokenization, activity monitoring, privileged account management, and so on. But your security toolbox is not complete without dynamic authorization capabilities.

Protecting Your Data with Dynamic Authorization

All businesses lock up their facilities and only employees and select individuals have access to office buildings, lab environments and server rooms.  Now it’s time to do the same with data. Dynamic authorization secures data by filtering and masking data according to organizational policies using rich Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC) policies. These policies consider who the user is, what data the user is requesting, when and how it is done, and in what context.

Through dynamic authorization, every single database query made by any users within the organization is controlled. Queries that would return data sets which violate policies are altered dynamically to filter out, redact or mask sensitive information. Data never leaves the database unless the user has adequate authorization.

We can look to the banking industry to illustrate the impact of policy-controlled data access filtering and data masking. The customer relationship management (CRM) database holds vital information about customers and their behaviors. A corporate policy mandates that only the marketing department can view data about customers, but the policy also states that customer Social Security numbers are considered sensitive and must be hidden. However, the marketing department wants access to customers’ spending habits, borrowing habits, yearly income, etc. which can be used to create more attractive and personalized product and service offerings. With dynamic authorization and data masking applied to the Social Security field, marketing can now only see customer information important for marketing initiatives, not the Social Security numbers.

Dynamic authorization can address the most complex data access challenges for privacy, intellectual property (IP), and secure sharing at the database layer – to secure data at the source. It also extends the power of ABAC to protect data in databases all the way down to individual table cells, ensuring users only have access to the data they need and nothing more.