Data warehouse security is essential for enterprises that gather all of their critical data in a single location. Unauthorized entry into data warehouses can result in significant and devastating business consequences, which range from stolen customer information to the exposure of high-level business intelligence or intellectual property.

In this article, discover data warehouse security best practices that can help organizations keep information, software and organizations safe. 

What is data warehouse security?

Data warehouses extract data from a variety of sources, and consist of numerous moving components. Security issues crop up every time that data moves from one location to another location. Data warehouse security requires proactively protecting information so that it remains available to authorized personnel, but no one else. 

Data warehouse security best practices include

  1. Zero-trust style access controls, enabling users of the warehouse to access needed data and not more than that. 
  2. Ensuring the security of the networks on which the data exists.
  3. Carefully shifting data to correct locations and considering the security implications involved in data movement.

Data warehouse security challenges

Data warehouses function as operations of immense scope and scale, and, as noted previously, consist of several moving parts. In turn, this presents operational challenges when securing information. In thinking about data warehouse security, managers should consider: 

  • How to balance the need to secure data and the need to offer unrestricted access to users of certain data within the warehouse. Such data may be used for analytics, business intelligence or data mining purposes. 
  • The best means of classifying users in arranging access to the data. For example, should your organization leverage a hierarchical approach, or pursue a role-based access approach?
  • How to secure the network. Organizations must consider data encryption and making investments in highly secure networking hardware.
  • Warehouse managers also need to consider how the necessary security features affect the performance of the data warehouse.
  • Further, managers must think about how to securely extract data from source transactional systems for warehouse use.

Data warehouse security best practices continued…

Encrypting data. Organizations should encrypt data stored in transactional databases. In addition, encryption within the data warehouse should receive consideration. Experts recommend FIP 140-2 certified software for data encryption, as FIPS 140-2 is a government computer security standard for cryptographic modules. In turn, this ensures the highest degree of security possible. 

However, encryption can reduce the performance of the data warehouse. In some cases, organizations may wish to weigh such performance degradations against the possibility of a cyber attack. Nonetheless, on account of cyber criminals’ sophistication, using encryption within the data warehouse is likely the best approach. 

Classification of data. One effective warehouse security strategy consists of appropriately classifying the data stored within the data warehouse. If your organization stores data with minimal sensitivity, there may be limited use in applying security measures for that data. 

Role-based control. Role-based user access control is a much lauded cyber security measure due to the fact that it restricts access based on principles of “need to know” and “least privilege”. These principles ensure that users of the warehouse only receive access to data necessary for job performance purposes. 

Arguably, insider threats can be just as harmful to organizations as external threats. A disgruntled employee might access or download sensitive data in order to share it with a competitor in exchange for financial gain.

Instating permissions according to defined roles represents an option within both conventional data warehouses and cloud-based data warehousing services. When instating role-based permissions, ensure that they align with previously defined data classifications. This will enable all warehouse users to obtain access to necessary data without undue risks to data security.

Secure moving data. Any data warehouse consists of continually in-motion elements. Organizations commonly feed real-time data to warehouses in order to help with up-to-date reporting and analyses. 

If your organization continually shuttles data between locations, always use SSL or TSL protocols. The use of cloud-based data warehouses mean that virtual private networks can provide strong security, as they isolate the communication between on-premises databases and the cloud-based data warehouse. 

Partitioning data. Organizations can partition data by dividing it into separate tables. This improves data warehouse security. Dividing tables into sensitive and non-sensitive elements enables security optimization for the information of heightened sensitivity. 

Securing the data warehouse

The aforementioned strategies can assist with the security of a data warehouse. At the same time, organizations must select security measures that are cost-conscious. Few organizations derive benefit from implementing data security that costs $100 million when the estimated losses from a data compromise are $5 million. 

When building data security, organizations should account for the impact of each security measure on data warehouse performance. The overarching goal of data warehouse security consists of leveraging cost-efficient mechanisms to protect different categories of data in accordance with the degree of protection required of them. 

In conclusion

Data warehouse security best practices can help organizations ensure the continued safety of data. Because data warehouses continuously extract information from assorted locations across a given location, the implementation of sensible, effective, and cost-optimized security controls for data protection is a must.

Securing a data warehouse requires using a multiplicity of methods to protect assets. These include intelligent user access controls, proper categorization of information, highly secure encryption techniques -like FIPS 140-2- and accounting for the security of all of the moving parts. 

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