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One Easy Step to Preventing a 'Wikileak'

Want to know how to protect sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands in one easy step? Simple: label it.

Want to know how to protect sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands in one easy step? Simple: label it.

Tim Upton, founder and CEO of Titus Labs says interest in his company's message and document classification software has peaked recently, in light Wikileaks' broad publication of U.S. State Department cables and the Nov. 4 government mandate on unclassified information, Executive Order 13556 "Controlled Unclassified Information." And in terms of sensitive data protection, Upton says, financial services face similar issues as any government agency.

So what's the first step to protecting data? Know what it is, Upton says.

"You can't protect it if you don't know what it is," he emphasizes.

Whether it's email correspondence, a document or information on a file sharing and collaboration platform like Microsoft SharePoint, if you don't know what's in it, you might not understand the implications of what happens when the data is distributed. Often enough, Upton adds, data breaches and leaks don't happen because of a whistleblower or an internal source maliciously disseminating sensitive information to an organization like Wikileaks. They happen because, somewhere along the email chain, an employee doesn't see or doesn't understand the sensitive nature of what they've got before they share it with other employees or people outside of the organization.

"You need to have some way of identifying," Upton says. "The key to that is adding a little bit of metadata - tags, labels – around each piece of unstructured data. From there everything gets a lot easier."

Add that metadata to documents and correspondence, and suddenly employees understand the sensitivity of what they're sharing. Consequently, at the organization level, the extra labeling helps identify when to store, archive and destroy data.

"It’s pretty fundamental when you look right down at it," Upton says.

Of course, Upton says, this type of protection takes care of a most of the smaller leaks, the inadvertent dissemination of sensitive information. But if you can do that, he believes, then you can focus on protecting against the larger, outside threats, at the scale of a Wikileaks-type data dump.

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