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Data Classification

 

Data Classification is the conscious decision to assign a level of sensitivity to data as it is being created, amended, enhanced, stored, or transmitted. The classification of the data should then determine the extent to which the data needs to be controlled / secured and is also indicative of its value in terms of Business Assets.

The classification of data and documents is essential if you are to differentiate between that which is a little (if any) value, and that which is highly sensitive and confidential. When data is stored, whether received, created or amended, it should always be classified into an appropriate sensitivity level. For many organisations, a simple 5 scale grade will suffice as follows :-

Document / Data Classification

Description

Top Secret

Highly sensitive internal documents e.g. pending mergers or acquisitions; investment strategies; plans or designs; that could seriously damage the organisation if such information were lost or made public. Information classified as Top Secret has very restricted distribution and must be protected at all times. Security at this level is the highest possible.

Highly Confidential

Information that, if made public or even shared around the organisation, could seriously impede the organisation's operations and is considered critical to its ongoing operations. Information would include accounting information, business plans, sensitive customer information of bank's, solicitors and accountants etc., patient's medical records and similar highly sensitive data. Such information should not be copied or removed from the organisation's operational control without specific authority. Security at this level should be very high.

Proprietary

Information of a proprietary nature; procedures, operational work routines, project plans, designs and specifications that define the way in which the organisation operates. Such information is normally for proprietary use to authorised personnel only. Security at this level is high.

Internal Use only

Information not approved for general circulation outside the organisation where its loss would inconvenience the organisation or management but where disclosure is unlikely to result in financial loss or serious damage to credibility. Examples would include, internal memos, minutes of meetings, internal project reports. Security at this level is controlled but normal.

Public Documents

Information in the public domain; annual reports, press statements etc.; which has been approved for public use. Security at this level is minimal.


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