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Data Security: A Radical New Approach

During the 1970s, muggings were so common in New York City that many citizens carried “mugger money” in a nod to the inevitability of street crime.

Though NYC has cleaned up considerably since then, that same concept is being applied to securing online databases from unauthorized access. It’s called, “data object security,” and it could be the future of data security.

Data object security, like mugger money, assumes that the worst-case-scenario is going to happen, so why not be prepared when it does? In this case, that means systems themselves are kept relatively open, while individual bits of data are secured and governed by very specific rules and permissions.

How can data be protected using this system? It’s all about permissions; getting access to the system wouldn’t be all that useful if you still couldn’t access individual files.

In a recent article in the National Journal titled, Your Data Isn’t Safe — Now What?, by Brian Fung former AOL privacy chief Jules Polonetsky, compares data object security to the HIPPA regulations used in the United States to protect medical information. He says:

In HIPAA, we’ve got a process. It’s been laid out, and it may or may not be perfect, but it says you must follow these rules and de-identify health data.

So far, data object security is still pretty theoretical but it’s an idea that could have some very practical applications. As Polontesky says:

Data-object security gives you finer-grain security, but it also encapsulates the rules of, ‘How can I share this data, and with whom, and how long do I keep it?’ and you start to embed the stewardship of the data as descriptors on the data itselfThat’s the key to enabling data democratization — where the right person can get the right data when they need it.

Another example of this concept can be found in the myriad of rules that govern the (not-terribly-glamorous-but-very-important) field of records management. Advanced record management systems allow for incredibly detailed permissions and can track exactly who has accessed specific files.

Though all this protection sounds like a lot of work, it’s really become more important than ever. You don’t need to be a security expert to know that malicious hacking and malware attacks are on the rise.

In this climate, radical solutions like data-object security may be the best hope for keeping secured databases intact.

How do you keep your databases secure? Share your tips and tricks in the comments section below.