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Plutora Blog - DevOps, IT Governance, Software Development, Value Stream Management

The Data Lake Security Checklist: IT Leader Essentials

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The 21st century reaps the benefits of technical advancements in computational processing power (GPUs), rise of IoT (internet of things), and more. These advancements are among the reasons for the exponential increase in data generation (Big Data era). 

To effectively store and analyze such massive and varied forms of data, organizations have quickly adapted to data storage repositories such as data lakes and cloud computing technologies. However, these advancements come at a price—mainly, data security. 

This post will discuss the current threats in data lake security systems and give you a checklist to ensure its safety. 

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Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • authorization, authentication, and access control;
  • platform hardening;
  • data lineage;
  • host-based security;
  • RBAC and IAM solutions;
  • data encryption; and
  • network perimeter.

To keep up with the ever-growing demands of the market, organizations must ensure consistent scalability and development of new applications/software, improved features, and better tools. 

Most current organizations are data-centric, and their application or software development pipelines rely strongly on data. Thus, at the core of developing and maintaining a successful business is ensuring that their data lake is secure and functional at all times. Moreover, due to the many (varied) sources of data that flow into a data lake, numerous security policies and measures must be taken into account. 

Data Lake Security Checklist

The following data lake security checklist will help you gain insight into the different threats and data lake security issues that you must address. 

Access Control, Authorization, and Authentication 

Needless to say, a simple yet effective data security policy is to guard the doors and limit access to authorized persons. 

More often than not, by default, many employees within an organization are granted access to cloud platforms and data lakes. Moreover, each authorized individual might have multiple devices—not just computers, but also iPads, tablets, and phones—connected to the cloud. However, because most data sits on the cloud (via the internet), this may introduce unnecessary loopholes and vulnerabilities into the system. 

For these reasons, having a well-guarded access control system is crucial. 

It’s important to note that access control is nothing without its two key components—namely, authentication and authorization. The former ensures that the person trying to access data is not a fraud. The latter is as important and confirms the identity of the person when they try to access the system. 

It’s important to implement access control protocols into your data lake security because it helps you identify (and verify) “who” has access as well as restricts access to limited people.  

Platform Hardening

In general, a smart strategy to mitigate risks concerning data security is to minimize the potential “attack surface.” This essentially means to remove unnecessary cloud tools, ports, applications, and services connected to the data lake. 

It also entails further restricting access to the data lake and configuring access controls for resource access and allocation. Moreover, if your data lake sits on the cloud, make sure to create only one cloud account for application/software deployments. 

Finally, make sure to incorporate security standards and guidelines enlisted by the Computer Information Security (CIS) Center for Internet Security and other standardized data security boards.  

Data Lineage

Data lakes allow and store data originating from varied sources. This is most definitely an advantage. However, it can also quickly turn into a security threat if one doesn’t keep an account of where the data is originating, how and who is using it, its movement in the data lake, and so on.  

Data lineage is the process of tracking the whereabouts of the data within a data lake. Why is it important to keep a record of data in this manner? Data lineage creates a map of the data, enabling one to know when, by whom, and where the data is moving/accessed. This helps track the data flow and identify any risks or gaps within the data lake. 

Host-Based Security

Implementing a multilayered security strategy is an effective way to minimize data vulnerabilities and attacks. Host-based security entails securing the host through intrusion detection algorithms, audit trails, log management, and so on.  

Intrusion detection algorithms applied at the host level identify anomalous activities or access requests and notify the relevant authorities. These anomalous activities may be internal (coming from within the organization network) or coming from an external attacker.  

Intrusion detection algorithms can work hand in hand with data lineage or log management systems. Collecting and managing logs can become exhaustive on resources (storage). Therefore, having an intrusion detection system can help detect anomalies without taking up resources. 

With that being said, it’s important to note that log management and intrusion detection algorithms are both crucial and act as data protective layers.  

Implement Role-Based Access Control and Identity Access Management Solutions

A data lake has several moving components and connections to various cloud platforms and tools. Not all employees require access to all resources since it can lead to data leakage or cause vulnerabilities.  

An effective approach to grant access and keep track of resource controls is to implement an IAM system. This system keeps track of an employee’s digital identity, i.e., his/her credentials (username, password, questions), etc. This identity serves as an authentication factor that’s used when any applications, tools, or databases are accessed.  

Similar to IAM, RBAC systems keep track of employees’ job roles to grant access to resources or applications. This is helpful in large organizations that have multiple departments and varied job roles. RBAC also requires user authentication, as well as role-based authentication and permission.  

Data Encryption

Encryption is a fundamental data security policy that provides data protection against malicious attackers. If your organization’s data sits on the cloud, you must follow the encryption guidelines recommended (and, in most cases, provided) by your service provider. On-prem data lakes must be secured with data encryption policies as dictated by standard security organizations.  

Encryption can be done at all levels of data storage systems, such as files, tools, applications, and databases. Encryption, RBAC, and IAM systems in combination can produce a resilient and robust data protection layer. 

Network Perimeter

As the name suggests, perimeter security entails enveloping the organization’s network with strong security protocols to prevent cyber threats and restrict hackers. Several security measures exist, including firewalls, intrusion detection algorithms, border routers, and so on.  

Firewalls act as sieves, allowing only certain traffic to flow into the organization’s network. This is a simple yet fundamental practice, as it restricts the flow of traffic that might potentially harm the network.  

As discussed earlier, intrusion detection (and prevention) algorithms are an efficient way of identifying and restricting anomalous events. They make use of advanced machine learning algorithms to identify threat profiles or activities.  

Data Lake Security Checklist

To summarize, here’s a checklist to remember while securing your organization’s data lake: 

  • access control, authorization, and authentication
  • platform hardening
  • data lineage
  • host-based security
  • implement role-based access control (RBAC) and identity access management (IAM) solutions
  • data encryption
  • network perimeter

Conclusion

Securing your organization’s data is key to building a strong development and deployment pipeline that, in turn, is crucial in ensuring business growth. 

In the era of cyberthreats and cyber theft, implementing the right measures and security policies is your best bet on data protection. 

Plutora uses industry best practices to protect the privacy of customers’ personal data. This includes following the GDPR and other applicable legislation in the country of residence. They provide several data security policies including data encryption, access control, and auditing, and also take care of disaster recovery. Make sure to check out their data security platform

With this, we come to the end of this post. I hope you now have a perspective on why data lake security is essential and how to ensure its security. Stay tuned for more informative blogs.

Zulaikha Greer

Zulaikha is a tech enthusiast with expertise in various domains such as data science, ML, and statistics. She enjoys researching cognitive science, marketing, and design. She's a cat lover by nature who loves to read—you can often find her with a book, enjoying Beethoven's, Mozart's, or Vivaldi's legendary pieces.