Why Modern Cybersecurity Pros Need Data Visualization

The saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” coined by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, posited that visualization is often the fastest route to understanding. Advertisers have lived by this adage for decades, but in the coming years, cybersecurity professionals will need to embrace it as well. As work moves to the cloud and hybrid environments proliferate, cybersecurity professionals will need to embrace data visualization tools to separate the signal from the noise.

Why Data Visualization is Essential in Cybersecurity

Enterprise security has been rocked by the rise of cloud computing and distributed work.

A recent study revealed that 94% of organizations use cloud computing and 69% of enterprises now operate using hybrid cloud environments. Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics discovered that 70% of U.S. workers relied on their homes as offices during the pandemic, and many still do. And these radical shifts have splintered data—now considered the focal point of cybersecurity—across an ever-more-convoluted IT environment.

As a result, cybersecurity teams now face an enormous challenge: They must adapt their strategy to protect a highly fragmented IT architecture or subject their organization to a significant risk of compromise.

But cybersecurity teams are adapting. Using data visualization tools—like those within data security posture management solutions—cybersecurity professionals can generate comprehensive graphs that illustrate where their data is, who is accessing it and its current risk. This approach allows cybersecurity teams to step back from the granular details of each application and take a broader, connected view of the data. From this vantage point, they can understand their data landscape, identify weaknesses and make appropriate adjustments.

The Benefits Data Visualization in Cybersecurity

Some experts estimate that businesses do not use 80% of their data. Along with being an unnecessary expense, unused datastores represent a substantial security risk if they remain floating unnoticed within the organization’s tech stack. They are challenging to track and often comparatively easy to compromise. They also significantly expand the attack surface. And while they’re dangerous for organizations that use traditional IT environments, they pose an even greater threat to businesses that rely on a complex network of cloud applications.

But using data visualization technology, cybersecurity teams can get a graphical representation of their entire data landscape. This comprehensive visualization allows them to spot datastores that go untouched by the rest of the organization, enabling them to eliminate, lockdown or otherwise remediate this vulnerable vector.

Surfacing Sensitive Data

A 2021 study by IBM revealed that PII data is involved in 44% of data breaches—and that this data type costs organizations more than any other.

But as necessary as it is for cybersecurity teams to understand where PII data is and how it is accessed, this essential task is arduous via standard approaches. If a cybersecurity team wanted to surface PII data across their IT environment the traditional route, they would have to go to each of the business’s data stores—one by one—and query them for the sensitive data.

Data visualization technology supplies a much easier path. Using graphical tools, cybersecurity teams can query across all their datastores at once, quickly generating a comprehensive understanding of where sensitive data is located within the IT environment. This approach ensures cybersecurity can maintain real-time awareness of their most important information and take whatever steps they need to protect it from compromise.

Connecting Identities to Data Access

GCP, AWS, Azure and so on—every cloud provider uses a different permissions architecture. This diversity makes it very difficult for security teams to understand the answers to simple questions they might have about data access across the entire IT environment. Determining, for example, the relationship between identities and sensitive data types can require an enormous amount of effort, time and persistence.

This IAM challenge is yet another area where data visualization can lend a hand. New tools can capture all the data store and permission details on a single graph, allowing cybersecurity teams to get quick answers to some of their most crucial IAM questions.

Picturing the Future of Cybersecurity

As IT environments become increasingly complex, cybersecurity teams must find ways of seeing the bigger picture. For many professionals in this industry, data visualization technology provides exactly that: a reliable way of understanding what matters.

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Casen Hunger

Prior to co-founding Symmetry Systems, Casen Hunger focussed on Computer Architecture and Software Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. His academic career launched his passion for understanding and implementing cybersecurity applications. During his Ph.D., he collaborated with the award-winning Spark Research Lab at UT Austin, to extensively study how to build a system stack where users control their data even when they use untrusted applications on untrusted data centers, thereby preserving privacy and the most valuable asset of all – data. The results were compelling enough to drive a brand new approach to data security. Casen utilized this revolutionary application process to develop Symmetry Systems alongside his professor and co-founder, Mohit Tiwari.

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