Data Classification: Optimizing Data Security

November 14, 2023

In today's hyper-connected digital era, data is an organization's most invaluable asset. But with the rising complexities of the digital landscape, how do organizations ensure that this treasured asset remains protected? The answer lies not just in the myriad of security tools and platforms, but more fundamentally, in understanding and classifying the very data we're trying to protect. This brings us to an often overlooked yet pivotal facet of data security: data classification.



The Cornerstone of Cybersecurity

At its core, data classification is the process of organizing and categorizing data into distinct types or classes based on its content, source and importance to the organization. Why is this critical? Just as you wouldn’t place every item in your home under the same lock and key, not all data warrants the same level of security.


Data classification enables organizations to assign a value to their data. This ensures that high-value assets receive stringent protective measures, while less critical data isn’t overburdened with unnecessary security layers. This not only maximizes security efficacy, but also ensures resource optimization.



Pioneering Together

When it comes to implementing effective data classification, platforms and expertise matter. Varonis, with its state-of-the-art data security platform, offers a comprehensive solution for data discovery, classification, and monitoring. Tools, products and platforms are only as effective as their implementation. This is where Optiv steps in, leveraging years of cybersecurity expertise to tailor Varonis' capabilities and ensuring a data-centric security strategy built for each organization's unique needs. I will explore how we achieve this in the following stages.



Stages of Effective Data Classification


  1. Data Identification and Discovery
    Before you can classify, you must discover. With the sprawling digital infrastructures and the cloud revolution, data exists across diverse environments. Platforms like Varonis excel here, delving deep into both structured and unstructured data sources to identify and map data assets. Optiv, understanding the intricacies of diverse business structures, aids in guiding this discovery phase to ensure that all data, irrespective of its location, is brought to light.

  3. Data Categorization
    Once identified, data is categorized or classified based on various parameters such as:


    • Sensitivity (public, confidential, strictly confidential, etc.)
    • Regulatory applicability (GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, etc.)
    • Business function (HR, finance, operations, etc.)
    • Intellectual property (or something similar)


    This step determines the access levels and security protocols associated with each data category.


  5. Data Labeling and Handling
    After categorization, data assets are labeled to ensure that anyone accessing the data is immediately aware of its classification. Labeling can be manual, automated or a combination of both. Platforms like Varonis ensure this labeling is both accurate and consistent, playing a vital role for DLP strategies.


    With labeling comes the establishment of handling protocols. These dictate how each data category is accessed, stored, transmitted and eventually retired. Optiv, with its holistic understanding of the data lifecycle, ensures that these protocols are not only robust, but also aligned with industry best practices.

  7. Data Monitoring and Auditing
    The digital landscape is dynamic. Data that is classified as public today might become confidential tomorrow. Continuous monitoring ensures that data classification remains up to date. With its robust analytical capabilities, Varonis offers real-time monitoring—sending alerts for any discrepancies or unauthorized access attempts.


    But monitoring is not enough. Regular checkups, facilitated by certified Optiv consultants can ensure that classification protocols are adhered to and remain effective in the face of evolving cyber threats.


    For more information about data-centric cybersecurity, please read my blog post, “All Roads Lead to Data.



The Varonis Advantage

While many platforms offer data classification, Varonis stands a cut above the rest. Here's why:


  • Automated Classification: Varonis employs machine learning and rule-based algorithms to classify data—reducing human error and ensuring consistent classification across large datasets.
  • Granular Visibility: From who accessed the data to when and how, Varonis offers detailed visibility into data interactions—facilitating effective monitoring and breach detection.
  • Integration Capabilities: Varonis seamlessly integrates with other data security platforms, ensuring that data classification is a unified part of a broader security strategy.
  • Autonomous Remediation: Once data discovery and classification are complete, Varonis makes all the difference by including remediation at the data level itself. This reduces an organization’s blast radius and tightens security controls to least privilege.



Making Data Classification Matter

While Varonis offers a complete data security platform, Optiv ensures that the platform is implemented to its fullest potential. From understanding the unique challenges and requirements of an organization to devising tailored strategies that leverage Varonis' capabilities, Optiv is a guiding force in the realm of data classification.


Optiv's emphasis on a holistic, data-centric security approach means that data classification is integrated into broader cybersecurity strategies and processes, ensuring that classified data is effectively protected across its lifecycle.



Data Classification in an Evolving Digital World

As cybersecurity threats evolve and organizations continue their digital transformations, the importance of data classification will only grow. But with platforms like Varonis and the expertise of Optiv, organizations are equipped to face these challenges head-on.


While the vast digital universe brings complexities it also brings solutions. Proper data classification stands as a beacon—guiding organizations towards not just effective, but also efficient data security. Remember, in the world of data, knowledge isn't just power, it’s protection. Optiv and Varonis are here to guide you on this journey. Let us help you turn your data from an enigma into an asset. Because, in the end, data is what organizations have the most of and should know the most about.


Looking to elevate your data security posture? Get in touch with Optiv today and discover how, with Varonis, we can redefine your data security landscape.

Jeremy Bieber
Partner Architect for Varonis | Optiv
Jeremy is Optiv's Partner Architect for Varonis, specializing in understanding unstructured data, data governance/compliance and data protection.

With over 22 years of experience, Jeremy began professionally working with technology during the late 1990s at Electronic Data Systems and later at Hewlett-Packard. In 2016 he joined Varonis, consulting with clients and implementing the Varonis Data Security Platform to ensure client achievement of least-privileged access models and proactive threat detection, locating and ensuring sensitive-data compliance on-premise and in the cloud.

Over the course of his career, Jeremy has achieved a range of industry certifications including over a dozen Microsoft certifications, certifications from VMware, Hewlett-Packard, Smarsh and Varonis. He can pull from his lengthy experience including system administration, architecture, engineering and consulting to provide a seasoned focus on data security.

At Optiv, he uses this real-world experience to relate how the Varonis Data Security Platform will enhance the overall security goals for our clients, reduce risk, detect abnormal behavior and ensure compliance.

Optiv Security: Secure greatness.®

Optiv is the cyber advisory and solutions leader, delivering strategic and technical expertise to nearly 6,000 companies across every major industry. We partner with organizations to advise, deploy and operate complete cybersecurity programs from strategy and managed security services to risk, integration and technology solutions. With clients at the center of our unmatched ecosystem of people, products, partners and programs, we accelerate business progress like no other company can. At Optiv, we manage cyber risk so you can secure your full potential. For more information, visit