Using Varonis: Involving Data Owners – Part II


(This is one entry in a series of posts about the Varonis Operational Plan – a clear path to data governance.  You can find the whole series here.)

If your doctor said “Your blood pressure is 120/95” would that mean anything to you?  Even if you could interpret that data as symptomatic of stage 1 high blood pressure, would it be actionable?  A helpful doctor would not only help you understand your vital stats, she’d also empower you to make informed decisions about your health.

Likewise, not only should we deliver targeted reports to data owners, we should ensure that the information is actionable and provokes intelligent, data-driven decisions.

The next step in the Operational Plan is to help owners make informed decisions about who should have access to their data, and make sure they’re decisions can be executed without bogging anyone down in paperwork. With DataPrivilege we can do exactly that.

Entitlement Reviews

One of the first actions data owners can take is to re-certify access to their data through an attestation, or entitlement review. At a high level, the owner will review the list of users who have access, and users who probably shouldn’t have access to their data, make any appropriate changes, and then commit those changes to file systems or directory services. What has typically been a very manual and time-intensive (for IT) task can be completely automated with DataPrivilege, the internal web-based interface into the Varonis Metadata Framework.

Once configured, DataPrivilege Entitlement Reviews offer automatic, web-based forms delivered on a regular basis that show data owners exactly who has access to their data, highlighting any users that DatAdvantage recommends for removal based on its automated analysis. These recommendations show owners those users who have likely moved on to other roles, left the company, or were added by mistake.  Varonis’ recommendation engine is like the doctor withextremely trustworthy advice on how to immediately improve your health.

These entitlement reviews can be set up for data sets—reviewing the users with access to a specific folder or share—and/or for security groups or mail-enabled distribution lists. This means an organization is able to effectively shift the burden for access reviews for all data to its rightful owner, as well as leverage the same system for application and other group reviews.

Authorization Workflow

While entitlement reviews are key to correcting and maintaining access controls, it’s also important to involve owners at the “point of sale,” when access is initially requested by a user. Traditionally, access control approval has often come from the manager of the requesting user, a group owner that may or may not be aware of what data that group grants access to, or IT rather than the actual Data Owner. This is a problem, since that’s not usually the person who has the best context to make good access control decisions.  To continue our metaphor—it’s like allowing the pharmacy decide which medicine we should take.

DataPrivilege changes this model by offering an authorization workflow that puts decisions into the hands of owners and their designated delegates. A big part of operationalizing DataPrivilege is transitioning this approval process from IT to the end users and owners themselves. It can mean significant operational resource gains for IT as well as a higher level of service and data protection.

Self-Service Portal

The last thing I want to mention about DataPrivilege is the Self-Service Portal, which allows Data Owners to get information and make decisions on-demand. The DataPrivilege portal lets owners see—at any time—information about their data, including permissions, log information and statistics.

We’ve found that many of our customers have seen impressive results once they deploy the portal to their users. If you give owners information about their assets and the ability to make decisions, they tend to use it. The Self-Service Portal is another way IT can shift the management burden to owners themselves.

Empowering owners to implement policy is a great first step, but Data Privilege also offers the ability to automate a lot of this work. The next step in the Varonis Operational Plan involves setting up and deploying automatic rules. Stay tuned!

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