In the digital age, data has become the lifeblood of organisations, driving decision-making, innovation, and growth. However, poor data governance strategies can create a precarious situation, akin to a house of cards, where sensitive data is left vulnerable to potential breaches and misuse. Organisations must acknowledge the critical need for visibility and protection of their sensitive data. With data holdings doubling every three years, the risks associated with poor data governance can escalate rapidly. To mitigate these risks and ensure robust data security, it is essential to discover, classify, and protect sensitive information. In this article, we will explore the significant reduction in risk achieved through good data governance, emphasising the importance of being breach-ready in a world where data breaches are an unfortunate reality. Additionally, we will touch upon the Australian privacy legislation and the strict stance taken by regulators against organisations with inadequate data governance practices.

The House of Cards: Unravelling the Dangers of Poor Data Governance

Data breaches and security incidents have become commonplace, with organisations of all sizes experiencing cyberattacks and data theft. The foundation of this mounting problem lies in poor data governance strategies. When sensitive data is mishandled, mismanaged, or overlooked, it creates a precarious house of cards that can come crashing down at any moment. The consequences of such breaches can be disastrous, ranging from reputational damage to financial losses and legal liabilities.

Visibility of Sensitive Data: A Foundational Requirement

The first step towards robust data governance is achieving visibility of sensitive data. Organisations need to know what data they possess, where it is stored, who has access to it, and how it is being used. Without this fundamental understanding, they cannot effectively protect their sensitive information from unauthorised access.

Data Holdings Doubling: The Escalating Risk

Data is proliferating at an exponential rate, doubling every three years, thanks to the proliferation of connected devices, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT). With such vast data stores, organisations must grapple with not only the volume but also the complexity of data. As data grows, so does the risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.

Discover, Classify, and Protect: A Proactive Approach

To prevent the house of cards from collapsing, organisations must adopt a proactive approach to data governance. This entails discovering all data assets, classifying them based on sensitivity and regulatory requirements, and implementing robust protective measures.


Organisations should employ advanced data discovery tools that can scan and locate sensitive information across diverse data sources, including databases, file systems, emails, and cloud storage. This ensures a comprehensive understanding of data repositories, reducing the likelihood of overlooking sensitive information.


Once data is discovered, organisations must categorise it based on sensitivity levels. Not all data requires the same level of protection, and classification allows for prioritisation and appropriate security measures. Automated data classification tools can significantly streamline this process.


Armed with knowledge of sensitive data and its classification, organisations must implement suitable protection measures. This includes encryption, access controls, data loss prevention (DLP) solutions, and employee training on handling sensitive data securely.

The Significance of Good Data Governance: A Stronger Defence

Good data governance not only safeguards sensitive data but also fortifies an organisation's overall cybersecurity posture. It instils a culture of data responsibility and accountability throughout the organisation, making data security everyone's concern. As a result, the risk of data breaches and subsequent damages is significantly reduced.

Being Breach Ready: Preparing for the Inevitable

In the digital landscape, it is not a matter of if a data breach will occur, but when. Being breach-ready is an imperative aspect of modern business practices. Organisations must adopt an approach that prioritises detection and response, rather than relying solely on prevention. Cybersecurity incident response plans should be developed, tested, and regularly updated to ensure a swift and effective response in case of a breach.

Australian Privacy Legislation: Protecting the Data Down Under

In Australia, data governance has gained heightened significance due to the stringent privacy laws and regulations in place. The Privacy Act 1988, which includes the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs), governs how organisations handle personal information. Non-compliance with these laws can result in severe penalties, including significant fines.

Regulators' Stance: No Tolerance for Poor Data Governance

Regulators in Australia take a stern view of organisations with poor data governance practices. They expect organisations to take data protection seriously and hold them accountable for any mishandling of sensitive information. Companies must proactively demonstrate compliance with data protection laws to avoid regulatory scrutiny and potential sanctions.

In Summary

In conclusion, poor data governance strategies leave sensitive data exposed, resembling a fragile house of cards. Organisations must prioritise visibility of their data, understanding its growth trajectory and taking proactive measures to protect sensitive information. By discovering, classifying, and safeguarding data, organisations can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches and security incidents. Preparing for data breaches and complying with Australian privacy legislation are non-negotiable aspects of modern business practices. Through robust data governance practices, organisations can build a strong defence against cyber threats, protect their reputation, and maintain the trust of their stakeholders in this data-driven world.

Christopher McNaughton

Strategic Advisor, ShadowSight

Who is Christopher McNaughton

Chris is a proficient problem solver with a strategic aptitude for anticipating and addressing potential business issues, particularly in areas such as Insider Threat, Data Governance, Digital Forensics, Workplace Investigations, and Cyber Security. He thrives on turning intricate challenges into opportunities for increased efficiency, offering pragmatic solutions derived from a practical and realistic approach.

Starting his career as a law enforcement Detective, Chris transitioned to multinational organisations where he specialised and excelled in Cyber Security, proving his authority in the field. Even under demanding circumstances, his commitment to delivering exceptional results remains unwavering, underpinned by his extraordinary ability to understand both cyber and business problems swiftly, along with a deep emphasis on active listening.

What is ShadowSight

ShadowSight is an innovative insider risk staff monitoring tool that proactively guards your business against internal threats and safeguards vital data from unauthorised access and malicious activities. We offer a seamless integration with your current systems, boosting regulatory compliance while providing unparalleled visibility into non-compliant activities to reinforce a secure digital environment. By prioritising actionable intelligence, ShadowSight not only mitigates insider threats but also fosters a culture of proactive risk management, significantly simplifying your compliance process without the overwhelming burden of false positives.