Data Labeling and Handling

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Data policies assist in the protection of data and help prevent data leakage. If you’re planning to take the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of the different elements that may be contained in a data policy such as data labeling and handling. Other elements includes information classifications and privacy policies.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. Security personnel recently released an online training module advising employees not to share personal information on any social media web sites that they visit. What is this advice MOST likely trying to prevent?

A. Spending time on non-work-related sites

B. Phishing attack

C. Cognitive password attacks

D.Rainbow table attack

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

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Information Classification

As a best practice, organizations take the time to identify, classify, and label data they use. Data classifications ensure that users understand the value of data, and the classifications help protect sensitive data. Classifications can apply to hard data (printouts) and soft data (files).

As an example, the U.S. government uses classifications such as Top Secret, Secret, Confidential, and Unclassified to identify the sensitivity of data. Private companies often use terms such as Proprietary, Private, Classified, or Public. Some companies simply use the terms high, medium, and low to describe the value of the data (as in high value, medium value, and low value).

The labels and classifications an organization uses are not as important as the fact that it uses labels and classifications. Organizations take time to analyze their data, classify it, and provide training to users to ensure the users recognize the value of the data. They also include these classifications within a data policy.

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Data Labeling and Handling

Data labeling ensures that users know what data they are handling and processing. For example, if an organization classified data as confidential, private, sensitive, and public, it would also use labeling to identify the data. These labels can be printed labels for media such as backup tapes. It’s also possible to label files using file properties, headers, footers, and watermarks.

Consider a company that spends millions of dollars on research and development (R&D) trying to develop or improve products. The company values this data much more than data publicly available on its web site, and it needs to protect it. However, if employees have access to the R&D data and it’s not classified or labeled, they may not realize its value and may not protect it.

Data Labeling and Handling

For example, a web content author may write an article for the company’s web site touting its achievements. If the R&D data isn’t classified and labeled, the author may include some of this R&D data in the article, inadvertently giving the company’s competitors free access to valuable data. Although the R&D employees will easily recognize the data’s value, it’s not safe to assume that everyone does. On the other hand, if the data includes confidential or proprietary labels, anyone would recognize its value and take appropriate steps to protect it.

It’s important to protect backups with the same level of protection as the original data. Labels on backup media help administrators easily identify the value of the data on the backups.

Remember this

Data classifications and data labeling help ensure personnel apply the proper security controls to protect information.

Privacy Policy

It’s almost a business requirement today for a company to have a web site. Customers expect a web site and often look for it to get additional information about a company. When it doesn’t exist, customers often go elsewhere. However, web sites have additional requirements such as a privacy policy.

A privacy policy identifies how a web site collects, uses, and discloses information about visitors. For example, web forms collect email addresses and other information from users. The privacy policy indicates whether the company uses this information internally only or if it sells or shares it with other entities.

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Many states, such as California, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania, have specific laws requiring privacy policies. For example, a California law requires web sites to post a privacy policy in plain view on the site. This law applies to any web site that collects information about California residents, regardless of where the web site is located.

You can usually find a link to a privacy policy on the site’s main page. For example, if you go to Google.com, you’ll find a link labeled “Privacy,” and by clicking on it, you’ll see its privacy policy.


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Q. Security personnel recently released an online training module advising employees not to share personal information on any social media web sites that they visit. What is this advice MOST likely trying to prevent?

A. Spending time on non-work-related sites

B. Phishing attack

C. Cognitive password attacks

D.Rainbow table attack

Answer is C. A cognitive password attack utilizes information that a person would know, such as the name of their first pet or their favorite color.

If this information is available on Facebook or another social media site, attackers can use it to change the user’s password. This advice has nothing to do with employees visiting the sites, only with what they post.

Although attackers may use this information in a phishing attack, they can also launch phishing attacks without this information.

A rainbow table attack is a password attack, but it uses a database of precalculated hashes.

See Chapter 11 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information data policies.

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