When a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) embarks on the journey of selecting a data governance platform to implement across an organisation's IT environment, the decision is critical. The chosen platform must ensure the discovery, classification, and protection of sensitive information, thereby reinforcing the organisation's data security posture. In evaluating options, a CISO should weigh several considerations and look at the specific features of leading platforms such as BigID, Varonis, Spirion, and Microsoft Purview. Among these, BigID often emerges as the superior choice, especially in scenarios where the protection of customer-sensitive information is paramount.

Key Considerations for CISOs

1. Comprehensive Data Discovery and Classification

The ability to uncover and accurately classify every piece of sensitive information across an organisation’s diverse digital landscape is paramount. This process involves scanning various data repositories, cloud storage, and on-premises files to identify sensitive data such as personal identification information (PII), financial details, and health records. The platform should not only recognize these data types across structured and unstructured formats but also tag and classify them according to their sensitivity levels and regulatory requirements. This granularity enables precise control and protection measures to be applied.

2. Scalability and Performance

As organisations evolve, so do their data governance needs. A platform must demonstrate high scalability, capable of adapting to increased data volumes and complexity without degradation in performance. This includes maintaining swift data processing speeds, real-time security monitoring, and efficient data handling capabilities across global operations. The solution should grow with the organisation, accommodating new data sources, emerging technologies, and expanding regulatory landscapes without necessitating a complete system overhaul.

3. Regulatory Compliance Management

When selecting a data governance platform, Australian CISOs must prioritize its capabilities in adhering to the country's stringent data protection laws, notably the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) and the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme. The ideal platform should automate compliance processes, including reporting, audits, and breach notifications, while being adaptable to legislative changes. This capability ensures not only mitigation against compliance risks but also strengthens the organisation's commitment to safeguarding sensitive information in line with Australia's regulatory framework.

4. Integration with Existing Infrastructure

A seamless fit into the existing IT and security infrastructure is crucial for any data governance platform. It should integrate effortlessly with other tools and systems, such as identity and access management (IAM), security information and event management (SIEM) systems, and cloud access security brokers (CASBs). This integration enables a unified security posture and facilitates a holistic approach to data governance, leveraging existing investments in technology and minimizing the learning curve for IT staff.

5. User-Friendly Interface and Automation

The complexity of data governance should be managed behind a user-friendly interface that simplifies tasks for administrators and end-users. Automation plays a vital role here, streamlining operations such as data classification, policy enforcement, and incident response. The platform should offer customizable workflows that can be adapted to the organisation’s specific processes, reducing manual efforts and the potential for human error. An intuitive interface and robust automation capabilities ensure wider adoption across the organisation, fostering a culture of security awareness and compliance.

6. Advanced Security Measures

Beyond the basics, the platform must incorporate advanced security features such as encryption, anonymization, and rights management to protect sensitive data. These measures should be applied dynamically, based on the data’s classification and the context of its use. The ability to enforce policies for data loss prevention (DLP), monitor for abnormal access patterns, and automate responses to potential threats is crucial for a proactive data security stance.

7. Insightful Data Analytics and Reporting

The platform should offer powerful analytics and reporting tools that provide insights into data access patterns, compliance status, and risk exposure. This information is invaluable for making informed decisions, adjusting policies, and identifying areas requiring attention. Customizable dashboards and real-time alerts help CISOs and their teams maintain oversight of the organisation’s data governance posture and respond swiftly to any issues.

In summary, selecting a data governance platform is a multifaceted decision that goes beyond mere technical capabilities. It requires a strategic approach, considering how the platform will serve the organisation’s long-term goals, integrate with existing systems, and evolve alongside the ever-changing data security and compliance landscape. A platform that excels across these considerations will not only enhance an organisation’s security posture but also empower it to leverage its data assets with confidence and integrity.

Comparative Analysis of Data Governance Platforms

BigID: The Precision Expert

BigID shines with its precision in discovering and classifying sensitive customer information across vast and diverse data sources. Leveraging advanced machine learning algorithms, BigID excels at identifying personal and sensitive data, which is paramount for organisations prioritising customer data protection. Its capabilities in providing detailed data insights and risk assessments are notable, making it a strong candidate for entities that handle vast amounts of personal information. However, organisations with a more diversified need for data governance that extends beyond customer information might benefit from considering other options as well.

Varonis: The Security Sentinel

Varonis stands out for its exceptional data security and monitoring capabilities, particularly in managing access and analysing user behaviour to detect and mitigate insider threats. With a strong focus on ensuring that only the right people have access to the right data at all times, Varonis is especially adept at securing structured and unstructured data against breaches. While it offers significant strengths in data protection, companies requiring broader capabilities in data discovery and classification across a wider variety of data types may find additional benefits in the features provided by other platforms.

Spirion: The Protection Specialist

Spirion focuses intently on the protection of sensitive data, offering robust discovery and classification tools designed to secure data across platforms and devices. Its approach to data privacy management, aimed at reducing risks and enhancing compliance with data protection laws, makes Spirion a solid choice for organisations with stringent privacy requirements. Its platform may be particularly appealing to those looking for strong capabilities in safeguarding personal and sensitive information, although entities looking for extensive analytics and insight tools might explore additional or complementary solutions.

Microsoft Purview: The Ecosystem Integrator

For organisations deeply embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem, Microsoft Purview offers seamless integration and a unified approach to data governance across Microsoft 365, Azure, and other services. Its strength lies in the cohesive management of governance and compliance within this ecosystem, making it an attractive option for those heavily invested in Microsoft products. While it provides comprehensive governance capabilities, organisations operating in multi-cloud environments or those using a broad range of non-Microsoft technologies may benefit from the agnostic approach of other platforms.

Balancing Act: Choosing the Right Platform

The choice of a data governance platform is a balancing act, requiring a deep understanding of the organisation's unique data landscape, regulatory environment, and strategic objectives. Each platform presents a distinct set of capabilities and focus areas:

  • BigID excels in detailed data discovery and classification, especially of personal and sensitive customer information.
  • Varonis is distinguished by its robust security and access monitoring features, ideal for protecting against insider threats.
  • Spirion offers focused protection for sensitive data, aligning with strict privacy standards.
  • Microsoft Purview integrates seamlessly within the Microsoft ecosystem, offering a cohesive governance solution for those environments.

For CISOs, the decision hinges not just on the technical merits of these platforms but also on their alignment with the organisation’s data governance strategy and operational realities. It’s about finding the right fit—a platform that not only addresses current needs but is also capable of adapting to future challenges and opportunities in data governance.

Christopher McNaughton

Managing Director, SECMON1

Who is Christopher McNaughton

Christopher began his career with 24 years of service in law enforcement, most of that as a Detective investigating serious crime. In 2007, he transitioned to the corporate world where he specialised in insider risk management, data governance, workplace investigations, digital forensics, and information security. In 2017, Chris formed his own company where he combined his law enforcement experience with years of experience in the corporate world to focus on insider risk management, data governance, workplace investigations and digital forensics.

Who are SECMON1 - Data Security Redefined: Discover, Classify, Protect, Monitor

SECMON1 are specialist data experts. We discover, classify, protect & monitor the use of sensitive data. SECMON1 provide services in sensitive information management, insider risk defence & data leakage prevention, workplace investigations and digital forensics and litigation support