Database Security – Steps to Perform Data Security Risk Analysis


There is much mandatory compliance like GDPR stating that the security risk assessments should be a regular part of the enterprise IT security management strategy. In reality, for many organizations, these mandates are made so vaguely, and the users do not have a clear understanding of what these mean in terms of risk assessment. Many standard terms as a part of GDPR are often so confusing when we read “risk-based approach” to protect customers’ data but do not understand what it might mean in a real-time scenario.

With such confusion on air, the enterprise IT teams, even when they know regular risk assessments are critical in information security,  don’t fully know how to approach those in terms of guaranteeing compliance. It is best not to think of risk assessment as a compliance step but more as a fundamental part of ensuring data security. Risk assessment, when done the right way, will help you to understand the status of your most sensitive data, who can access this information, and what changes help you understand where your sensitive data is, who has access to it, and what changes are made to it from time to time.

Fundamental steps in data security risk assessment

An ideal security risk assessment for your enterprise data can be done in these three steps:

  • First, identify the potential risks for your critical and sensitive data.
  • Identify your data as a whole, and reorganize it based on the risks associated with each type of data.
  • Take necessary steps to mitigate the risks.

These steps are interconnected in many ways butlet us look into these to try and tackle them more easily.

Step #1

Identifying risks to the data and related systems

The whole idea of “risk” is very tricky to define exactly. It may depend on the system’s criticality as a whole or the nature of the data involved in it. Many other factors go into analyzing the risk, as the possible threats you have, your system’s vulnerability, and how important the data you find to be at risk.

Identifying the threats

A threat can be anything that may cause damage to your organization, from a server failure to even an earthquake or so. You need to go through the possible threats and categorize them as those from within, human errors, outside threats, accidental errors, and so on.

Assess possible vulnerabilities

Next, it is important to identify how vulnerable your enterprise systems to the threats you have outlined in the previous step. Vulnerabilities are the weaknesses that a possible threat can leverage to breach your data security.  You can identify the vulnerabilities by auditing the systems.  Check how frequently you patch and update the systems and software company-wide. Whether your servers are accessible to outsiders? How frequently you change passwords? All these key questions to be addressed and answered during your vulnerability audits.

There are many remote database monitoring and auditing services providing various types of data security administration services to enterprises of all kinds and sizes. However, not all of them are the same, and such services may sometimes not be technologically advanced or reliable. When you are looking for a consultant to offer remote administration services, it is important to check the provider’s reliability and credibility. Remote DBA is one of the front-line services offering the most advanced and trustable remote DBA services for a while now for remote database administration-related services.

Step #2

Organize your data based on the risks

One of the most critical parts of IT risk assessment is understanding where your sensitive data resides and which files and folders have the most crucial info. For example, a file that contains the name of customers is counted as personally identifiable information. Still, on its own, it is not providing any worthy data to a possible attacker. But if the same file also contains the address of the customers and their credit card details, then the potential risk of that file being breached increases dramatically.

By using any third-party solutions for discovery and classification like discovery and classification Lepide or discovery and classification functionality of the File Server Resource Manager, users can easily explore and classify unstructured data to identify its location, and folder files are the most critical.

For all the assets you find valuable, you may gather information to store, handle, and secure it to provide a better picture in terms of the risks involved and what policies are out there to secure them. You may order such assets from the most to least critical based on the costs associated with losing the same.

Step #3

Take initiatives to mitigate the risks

After you identify which all data is a major risk and what risks are involved, you have to look at what controls are there to plug up the vulnerabilities. You can look for control measures both physically and virtually, from the implementation of firewalls to auditing solutions.

Once on having all the related information, you will be better positioned to assess the impact and likelihood of the potential security threats on your organization. This may be an estimation, but it can be informed in light of all the work you have done previously.

With your assessment of the likelihood of the threats related to your enterprise databases, you can suggest the needed controls to be put in place. By documenting the steps and the desired results of your data security audits and results of risk assessments, you can effectively delineate what each department and processes need to follow to mitigate any possible threats. Prioritize implementing these measures based on their criticality, and you can see the clear roadmap for better IT security management and ensuring compliance.

A security audit is necessary to assess your data-related risks. It may be difficult for small enterprises to have an internal auditing system with needed experts to perform the above steps. So, it is advisable to get third-party assistance for database auditing and take the necessary steps to understand the data risks and provide suggestions in terms of data risk mitigation.