August 3, 2023 By Katie Schwarzwalder 6 min read

In a recent trend, many organizations are opting to store their sensitive data in the cloud. Others choose to keep their sensitive data on-premises or even across multiple types of environments. As a result, more and more companies are faced with the challenge of costly data breaches and data democratization.

What is data democratization?

In essence, data democratization occurs when everyone within an organization has access to sensitive and business-valuable data. Having access of data expanded to a large group of people has many benefits but also serves as a security concern because it means that there is more room for human error or risk of potential data breaches, since everyone within the company may not be well versed in data security best practices.

Another challenge with data being rapidly moved to the cloud and stored across multiple environments means it is highly likely for enterprises to lose visibility of their sensitive data. The 2023 Cost of a Data Breach report revealed 39% of breached data was stored across multiple types of environments, which was more expensive and difficult to contain than other breaches. This is an issue because enterprises can’t possibly expect to be able to protect all their data when they are not aware of its location. This further creates a data security and compliance problem for companies, which can lead to numerous ramifications, such as costly fines, time-consuming lawsuits, damaged reputation and more.

How can companies protect their data across a hybrid environment?

When companies store their data in multiple environments, it is imperative that they have a comprehensive data security and compliance strategy in place. IBM Security® recommends prioritizing these processes within your data security and compliance plan:

  1. Find and understand where your data is stored.
  2. Monitor and protect your data across the enterprise.
  3. Gain insights and analyze the usage of your data.

1. Find and understand where your data is stored

To protect data, one must first understand where it is located, which is particularly difficult when data lives in different places and is managed by various policies. Failure to understand the whereabouts and usage of sensitive data throughout an organization exposes them to risk. The risks include non-compliance to regulatory requirements and can lead to excessive hoarding of sensitive data when it’s not necessary. It’s both a data security and privacy issue.

IBM Security® Discover and Classify (ISDC) is a data discovery and classification platform that delivers automated, near real-time discovery, network mapping and tracking of sensitive data at the enterprise level, across multi-platform environments. Using techniques that include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP) and network analytics, it generates a master inventory of sensitive data down to the PII or data-element level. The inventory associates disparate data elements with the relevant data object and provides data lineage, business context, transaction history and the location of all copies of every data element.

By analyzing traffic on an autonomous and continuous basis—as well as data repositories connected to the network—IBM Security Discover and Classify can detect all elements on the network that are storing, processing and sharing sensitive data both outside and inside the network. It can “crawl” any repository or database when it is confirmed to or suspected of processing sensitive data, whether it is known or unknown to the enterprise.

In this way, IBM Security Discover and Classify can give a truly holistic view as to how and where sensitive data is being used, whether it is in motion or at rest, structured or unstructured, in the cloud, on-premises or on a mainframe.

Adopting a zero-trust approach to data security and privacy means never assuming anyone or anything is trustworthy. This concept requires continuously verifying whether access to personal data should be granted based on each user’s contextual information. IBM Security can help put zero trust into action with unified data security and privacy workflows, strengthened by contextual insight and connected solutions. By working with IBM Security Discover and Classify, the solution’s continuous discovery, monitoring and cataloging helps round out most of the necessary security capabilities for zero trust.

2. Monitor and protect your data across the enterprise

Now that your organization is aware of where your sensitive and valuable data resides, the next step is to protect your data throughout the entire lifecycle. IBM Security® Guardium® Data Protection empowers security teams to safeguard sensitive data through discovery and classification, data activity monitoring, vulnerability assessments and advanced threat detection. This extends comprehensive data protection across heterogeneous environments, including databases, data warehouses, mainframes, file systems, file shares, cloud and big data platforms both on-premises and in the cloud.

As enterprises adapt to changes in the business and technological landscapes, data sources continue to proliferate over geographical and organizational boundaries. An organization’s data—stored across on-premises and cloud environments—is increasing in volume, variety and velocity. Guardium Data Protection is equipped to scale seamlessly from one data source to tens of thousands without disrupting operations due to the following capabilities:

  • Centralize management of operations, policies and auditing to simplify the aggregation and normalization of multiple data sources for enterprise reporting.
  • Utilize agent and agentless connections to data sources that help reduce the workload on infrastructure teams. Use at-source monitoring for sensitive data with Guardium S-TAP and external S-TAP agents.
  • Monitor less-sensitive data sources with Universal Connector plugins, which offer an agentless architecture that imports native audit logs and normalizes the data to prepare it for reporting and analytics, making it fast and easy to connect to modern, cloud-based data environments.
  • Enforce security policies in near real-time that protect data across the enterprise—for all data access, change control and user activities. Guardium supports deployment on several cloud platforms, including Amazon AWS, Google, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Oracle OCI.
  • Monitor security policies for sensitive data access, privileged user actions, change control, application user activities and security exceptions.

Ensuring protection of your data across multiple environments is the best way to fend off threat actors and potentially save your organization millions of dollars. The Cost of a Data Breach Report found that breach costs were around USD 750,000 more when breached data was stored across multiple environments vs. on-premises only.

IBM Security Guardium Data Protection offers features like data activity and monitoring, near real-time threat response workflows, and automated compliance auditing and reporting, which helps companies implement comprehensive data security across their on-premises and cloud data stores.

3. Gain insights and analyze the usage of your data

Having protection policies in place is one piece of the puzzle, but another is ensuring your organization has access to the necessary tools that will provide insights and analyze your data. IBM Security® Guardium® Insights is a data security platform designed to help clients improve visibility into user activity and behavioral risk, help meet compliance regulations, protect data more efficiently and enhance IT flexibility as organizations embrace new business paradigms like moving IT infrastructure and operations to the cloud.

By keeping your data inside of Guardium Insights, security organizations can streamline architecture, reduce the number of appliances, improve operational efficiencies and allow data security teams to focus on value-add data security activities rather than infrastructure management. Guardium Insights can ingest data from various sources—including Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) sources (such as AWS Aurora and Azure Event Hubs) and from Guardium Data Protection—and store it in the Guardium Insights repository.

To help meet data compliance goals, Guardium Insights provides out-of-the-box policy templates to simplify regulatory compliance. You also have the option to create your own custom policies. This allows administrators to define what data is monitored and how it’s captured to meet the specific security and compliance needs of your organization. You can specify and schedule audit milestones and tasks to help streamline the process of conducting and reporting on a data security audit.

Guardium Insights uses advanced analytics to help data security teams uncover areas of risk, emerging threat patterns and potential application hijacks. The analytics engine within Guardium Insights learns which operations and data interaction patterns are normal for a given organization, then helps identify suspicious behavior, potential fraud or threat-related activities in near-real time. Users can investigate issues by viewing granular data related to IP address, time, activity, confidence scores related to the analytics and more. The results of the analytics are processed through the Guardium Insights risk-scoring engine and tagged with a high-, medium- or low-risk score based on the type of anomaly uncovered.

IBM Security Guardium Insights is a data security and compliance platform designed to help clients locate, classify and take action to help protect sensitive data residing on-premises and in the cloud. Whether you’re looking for a SaaS or software option to help solve your data security and compliance challenges, Guardium Insights has the solution to support your business.


Many companies struggle with siloed security tools, cloud migration and data democratization—all of which add additional complexity to their already demanding data security and compliance workflows. Traditional security platforms also tend to be overwhelmed by data volume, often resulting in slow reporting and limited data retention.

Utilizing one single tool that can help find and protect data across the hybrid cloud is extremely important, especially during a time when data breaches are more prevalent and costly than ever. IBM Security Guardium is the perfect solution to help your enterprise boost operational efficiency, significantly reduce risk and lower costs for your organization.

Learn more about IBM Security Guardium

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Join our webinar, Top 3 Recommendations to Protect Your Data Across the Hybrid Cloud, to hear industry experts further discuss best practices on how to elevate your data security and compliance strategy.

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