SQL Data Discovery and Classification
Data Discovery & Classification introduces a new tool built into SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) for discovering, classifying, labeling & reporting the sensitive data in your databases. Discovering and classifying your most sensitive data (business, financial, healthcare, PII, etc.) can play a pivotal role in your organizational information protection stature. It can serve as infrastructure for:
- Helping meet data privacy standards and regulatory compliance requirements, such as GDPR.
- Controlling access to and hardening the security of databases/columns containing highly sensitive data.
Data Discovery & Classification is supported for SQL Server 2008 and later. For Azure SQL Database, see Azure SQL Database Data Discovery & Classification.
Data Discovery & Classification introduces a set of advanced services, forming a new SQL Information Protection paradigm aimed at protecting the data, not just the database:
- Discovery & recommendations – The classification engine scans your database and identifies columns containing potentially sensitive data. It then provides you an easy way to review and apply the appropriate classification recommendations, as well as to manually classify columns.
- Labeling – Sensitivity classification labels can be persistently tagged on columns.
- Visibility - The database classification state can be viewed in a detailed report that can be printed/exported to be used for compliance & auditing purposes, as well as other needs.
Discovering, classifying & labeling sensitive columns
The following section describes the steps for discovering, classifying, and labeling columns containing sensitive data in your database, as well as viewing the current classification state of your database and exporting reports.
The classification includes two metadata attributes:
- Labels – The main classification attributes, used to define the sensitivity level of the data stored in the column.
- Information Types – Provide additional granularity into the type of data stored in the column.
To classify your SQL Server database:
In SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) connect to the SQL Server.
In the SSMS Object Explorer, right click on the database that you would like to classify and choose Tasks > Classify Data....
The classification engine scans your database for columns containing potentially sensitive data and provides a list of recommended column classifications:
To view the list of recommended column classifications, click on the recommendations notification box at the top or the recommendations panel at the bottom of the window:
Review the list of recommendations:
To accept a recommendation for a specific column, check the checkbox in the left column of the relevant row. You can also mark all recommendations as accepted by checking the checkbox in the recommendations table header.
You can also change the recommended Information Type and Sensitivity Label using the drop down boxes.
To apply the selected recommendations, click on the blue Accept selected recommendations button.
You can also manually classify columns as an alternative, or in addition, to the recommendation-based classification:
Click on Add classification in the top menu of the window.
In the context window that opens, select the schema > table > column that you want to classify, and the information type and sensitivity label. Then click on the blue Add classification button at the bottom of the context window.
To complete your classification and persistently label (tag) the database columns with the new classification metadata, click on Save in the top menu of the window.
To generate a report with a full summary of the database classification state, click on View Report in the top menu of the window.
For Azure SQL Database, see Azure SQL Database Data Discovery & Classification.
Consider protecting your sensitive columns by applying column level security mechanisms: