In our last post on this topic we covered the technologies that encompass the Create and Store stages of the Data Security Lifecycle. Today we’ll detail out the tools for Use and Share.


As a reminder, since we’ll be delving into each technology in more detail down the road, these posts will just give a high-level overview. There are also technologies used for data security, such as data-in-motion encryption and enterprise kay management, that fall outside the lifecycle and will be covered separately.


Activity Monitoring and Enforcement: Probably one of the most underutilized tools in the security arsenal. Application Activity Monitoring and Enforcement is more than simply collecting audit logs, although it can include that, but uses more advanced techniques to capture all user activity within the application or database context.

  1. Database Activity Monitoring: Monitoring all database activity, including all SQL activity. Can be performed through network sniffing of database traffic, agents installed on the server, or via external monitoring, typically of transaction logs. Many tools combine monitoring techniques, and network-only monitoring is not recommended. DAM tools are managed externally to the database to provide separation of duties from database administrators (DBAs). All DBA activity can be monitored without interfering with their ability to perform job functions. Tools can alert on policy violations, and some tools can block certain activity.
  2. Application Activity Monitoring: Similar to Database Activity Monitoring, but at the application level. Third-party tools that can integrate with a number of application environments, such as standard web application platforms, SAP, and Oracle, and monitor user activity at the application level. As with DAM, tools can use network monitoring or local agents, and can alert and sometimes block on policy violations. Many Application Activity Monitoring tools are additional products or features from Database Activity Monitoring vendors.
  3. Endpoint Activity Monitoring: Watching all user activity on a workstation or server. Includes monitoring of network activity, storage/file system activity, and system interactions like cut and paste, mouse clicks, application launches, etc. Provides deeper monitoring than endpoint DLP/CMF tools that focus only on content that matches policies. Capable of blocking activity- such as launching a P2P application or pasting content from a protected directory into an instant message. Extremely useful for auditing administrator activity on servers. Will eventually integrate with endpoint DLP/CMF.
  4. File Activity Monitoring: Monitoring access and use of files in enterprise storage, such as file servers, SAN, and NAS. Gives an enterprise the ability to audit all file access and generate reports (which can sometimes aid compliance reporting). Capable of independently monitoring even administrator access and can alert on policy violations.
  5. Portable Device Control: Tools to restrict access to portable storage such as USB drives and DVD burners. Also capable of allowing access but auditing file transfers and sending that information to a central management server. Some tools integrate with encryption to provide dynamic encryption of content passed to portable storage. Will eventually be integrated into endpoint DLP/CMF tools that can make more granular decisions based on the content, rather than blanket policies that apply to all data. Some DLP/CMF tools already include this capability.
  6. Endpoint DLP: Endpoint data loss prevention/content monitoring and filtering tools that monitor and restrict usage of data through content analysis and centrally administered policies. While current capabilities vary highly among products, tools should be able to monitor what content is being accessed by an endpoint, any file storage or network transmission of that content, and any transfer of that content between applications (cut/paste). For performance reasons endpoint DLP is currently limited to a subset of enforcement policies (compared to gateway products) and endpoint-only products should be used in conjunction with network protection in most cases.

Rights Management: Rights are assigned and implemented in the Create and Store phases, while policies are enforced in the Use phase. Rights are managed by labels, metadata, and tagging- as opposed to more complex logic enforced by logical controls.

  1. Label Security: Access to database objects (table, column, row) is enforced based on the user/group and the label. For example, in a healthcare environment employees without manager access can be restricted from seeing the records of famous patients that are labeled as sensitive.
  2. Enterprise DRM: Discussed more extensively in Part 1, Enterprise DRM enforces complex use rights based on policies assigned during creation. During the Use phase, EDRM limits the actions a user can perform with a given piece of content (typically a file). For example, the user may be able to add, edit, and delete parts of the document but not cut and paste to another document. A user might be allowed to view the document, but not print it, email it, or store it on a portable device.

Logical Controls: Logical controls expand the brute-force restrictions of access controls or EDRM that are based completely on who you are and what you are accessing. Logical controls are implemented in applications and databases and add business logic and context to data usage and protection. While we expect to see logical controls for unstructured content there are currently no technology implementations.

  1. Object (Row) Level Security: Creating a rule-set restricting use of a database object based on multiple criteria. For example, limiting a sales executive to only updating account information for accounts assigned to his territory. While you can always do this through queries, triggers, and stored procedures, some database management systems offer it as an enforcement feature applied to the database object, outside of having to manually add it to every query. Today most DBMSs offer this only for rows, but the feature is expected to expand to other database objects.
  2. Structural Controls: Taking advantage of database design features to enforce security logic. For example, using the database schema to limit integrity attacks or restricting connection pooling to improve auditability.
  3. Application Logic: Enforcing security logic in the application through design, programming, or external enforcement. Today needs to be implemented by the application itself, but over time certain types of logic may be enforced through external services or tools.

Application Security: Effective data security is impossible without effective application security. The most secure database in the world is wide open if the application accessing it is compromised. Application security is beyond the scope of the Data Security Lifecycle, but is well covered by other sources and will be the focus of future research.


Content Monitoring and Protection/Data Loss Prevention: In this phase, CMP/DLP products monitor communications and enforce policies based on content analysis and how the data is being exchanged.

  1. Database Activity Monitoring (With DLP Features): DAM tools that monitor database traffic and generate alerts based on content (as opposed to location-based) policies. While all DAM tools can monitor access to a credit card field, one with DLP features performs content analysis on query results using regular expressions or some other analysis technique as the data moves in and out of the database.
  2. Network and Endpoint DLP/CMF/CMP: In the Share phase, we use CMP to monitor communications traffic and other sources of data exchange (e.g., portable storage) and enforce protection policies based on deep content analysis. For performance, coverage, and management reasons I recommend a combination of network and endpoint tools running off unified central policies.

Encryption: Before digging into the encryption options during the Share phase, it’s important to emphasize that encryption is only necessary if the data is not otherwise encrypted. For example, if a file is protected by EDRM (which uses encryption) there’s no reason to re-encrypt the file before emailing it. Realistically you may encounter cases where you encrypt content multiple times (e.g., an encrypted file uploaded via SFTP) because of simple logistics.

  1. Network Encryption: As data moves between applications and databases, the network connections should be encrypted using a standard network-layer protocol. For larger systems where this could affect performance, hardware acceleration is recommended. Even legacy systems can be encrypted using Hardware Accelerated Link Encryption, which is a fancy way of describing a hardware VPN appliance placed in front of the server.
  2. Application Level Encryption: Highly sensitive data collected by an application is encrypted within the application before it’s even sent to the database or other systems. Most organizations should use standard code libraries or third-party encryption tools rather than trying to program the encryption implementations themselves. Since it’s highly likely you’ll need to decrypt that data outside of the application, Enterprise Key Management or a third-party encryption tool will be needed to manage integration and distribution issues.
  3. Email Encryption: Email can be encrypted in three layers- link encryption for the communications between email servers, or servers and clients, encrypting the email contents via PGP, S/MIME or other email encryption protocol, or just encrypting any sensitive portions of the email as separate attachments.
  4. File Encryption: Encrypting files for exchange, as opposed to local protection. May require a separate tool from what you use for storage or email encryption.
  5. Network Encryption: Unstructured content exchanged over network communications, such as HTTP, FTP, IM, and P2P networks should be encrypted. This is an option for nearly every major protocol.

Logical Controls: In the Share phase, logical controls enforce data exchange within applications. For example, logical controls within an application could restrict the exchange of patient records between insurance reps to only those active on a particular account. Since the logical controls in this phase are identical to those in the Use Phase, they won’t be described again.

Application Security: As mentioned above, application security is absolutely critical to properly secure data. In the Share Phase, application controls restrict how data moves within an application. For example, in a financial application the security controls might redact the credit card number of an account sent to a call center representative for a customer service case. As the point of interaction, applications better understand the business context and when designed properly are effective at enforcing security boundaries as data moves among users and in and out to other applications.

As always this is just the first pass and questions and comments are appreciated.