Identifying Data Roles & Responsibilities

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Many people within the organization handle data.  However, an organization often assigns specific roles to some people. Each of these roles has specific responsibilities. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 exam, you should have a good understanding of data security and privacy practices. This includes identifying data roles and responsibilities.

For example, can you answer this practice test question?

Q. Your organization has decided to implement a more aggressive training and continuing education program using role-based training. Management wants to ensure that each role gets the necessary training based on the role. Which of the following BEST describes the responsibilities of data owners and indicates what training they need?

A. Ensuring data is backed up in accordance with the data policy

B. Ensuring data is classified and labeled correctly

C. Complying with laws related to privacy

D. Understanding common threats, such as malware and phishing attacks

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

Data Sensitivity 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, proprietary, 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 metadata, such as 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 proprietary data much more than data publicly available on its web site, and needs to protect it. However, if employees have access to the R&D data and it’s not classified or labeled, they might not realize its value and might not protect it.

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For example, a web content author might write an article for the company’s web site touting its achievements. If the R&D data isn’t classified and labeled, the author might include some of this R&D data in the article, inadvertently giving the company’s competitors free access to proprietary data. Although the R&D employees will easily recognize the data’s value, it’s not safe to assume that everyone does. In contrast, if the data is labeled, 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 personnel easily identify the value of the data on the backups.

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Data Retention Policies

A data retention policy identifies how long data is retained, and sometimes specifies where it is stored. This reduces the amount of resources, such as hard drive space or backup tapes, required to retain the data. Retention policies also help reduce legal liabilities. For example, imagine if a retention policy states that the company will only keep email for one year. A court order requiring all email from the company can only expect to receive email from the last year.

On the other hand, if the organization doesn’t have a retention policy, it might need to provide email from the past 10 years or longer in response to a court order. This can require an extensive amount of work by administrators to recover archives or search for specific emails. Additionally, investigations can uncover other embarrassing evidence from previous years. The retention policy helps avoid these problems.

Some laws mandate the retention of data for specific time frames, such as three years or longer. For example, laws mandate the retention of all White House emails indefinitely. If a law applies to an organization, the retention policy reflects the same requirements.
Identifying Data Roles & Responsibilities

Data Roles and Responsibilities

Many people within the organization handle data. However, an organization often assigns specific roles to some people. Each of these roles has specific responsibilities as outlined in the following list:

  • Owner. The data owner is the individual with overall responsibility for the data. It is often a high-level position such as the chief executive officer (CEO) or a department head. The data owner is responsible for identifying the classification of the data, ensuring the data is labeled to match the classification, and ensuring security controls are implemented to protect the data.
  • Steward/custodian. A data steward or data custodian handles the routine tasks to protect data. For example, a data custodian would ensure data is backed up in accordance with a backup policy. The custodian would also ensure that backup tapes are properly labeled to match the classification of the data and stored in a location that provides adequate protection for the classification of the data. Data owners typically delegate tasks to the data custodian.
  • Privacy officer. A privacy officer is an executive position within an organization. This person is primarily responsible for ensuring that the organization is complying with relevant laws. For example, if the organization handles any PHI, the privacy officer ensures the organization complies with HIPAA. If SOX applies to the organization, the privacy officer ensures that the organization is complying with SOX.

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Q. Your organization has decided to implement a more aggressive training and continuing education program using role-based training. Management wants to ensure that each role gets the necessary training based on the role. Which of the following BEST describes the responsibilities of data owners and indicates what training they need?

A. Ensuring data is backed up in accordance with the data policy

B. Ensuring data is classified and labeled correctly

C. Complying with laws related to privacy

D. Understanding common threats, such as malware and phishing attacks

Answer  is B. Owners are responsible for identifying the proper classification of data, ensuring it is labeled correctly, and ensuring security controls are implemented to protect the data.

A data steward is responsible for routine daily tasks such as backing up data.

A privacy officer is responsible for ensuring the organization is complying with relevant laws.

End users need to be trained on common threats, such as malware and phishing attacks.

See Chapter 11 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide for more information on protecting data.

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