The Cyber Risks to Hoarding Data

Reading Time: 4 minutes Companies don’t know what information they’ll need to analyze in order to improve operational functionality, so they’re holding onto everything, just in case. While this may feel like safeguarding to an organization, hoarding data in this way presents new cyber risks to businesses.

Cyber Security

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Companies today are collecting, curating and essentially hoarding ever-growing quantities of data. This includes intimate information about customers. From log files and transaction records to more personal information, records that used to get deleted are now hanging around indefinitely. The need to archive everything seems to have grown alongside the increasing importance of big data. Companies don’t know what information they’ll need to analyze in order to improve operational functionality, so they’re holding onto everything, just in case. While this may feel like safeguarding to an organization, hoarding data in this way presents new cyber risks to businesses.

Valuing data

While traditionally, only certain types of data were seen as “valuable,” the emergence of big data makes everything a potential goldmine of information to help businesses reach their goals, know their customers and improve metrics. This massive bump in data emerged because of new analytic tools and techniques that, “have showed companies that even the most mundane data can have enormous value,” according to Kalev Leetaru from Forbes. This has altered business practices for many companies. Where they used to enforce mandatory selection schedules for data and have rigorous evaluation processes to quality data for archiving, now there’s a shift to keeping it all.

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According to Big Data Framework, “The total amount of data in the world was 4.4 zettabytes in 2013.” By 2020, less than ten years later, that data amount is set to reach 44 zettabytes. This increase will put more data into the world than can actually be analyzed, so what is everyone holding onto?

Maintaining best practices for storage

When data came in smaller chunks, before big data took over, storing this often sensitive information was typically managed by a specialized IT division who took proper care in establishing a secure data warehouse that was closely monitored and heavily audited. Corporate and legal departments were usually involved to ensure data was being handled with the utmost safety. 

As the volume of data grew and grew and opportunities for storage within the cloud became feasible, the level of care put into storage dwindled. The ability for just about anyone to create their own cloud-based archive freed up the responsibility of who managed data storage. Even if the data remained stored in a centralized location, the ease with which one can share information online, across a company, puts security at risk. Without the right training, individual departments and employees don’t understand the severity of selecting one storage option over the other for sensitive data. They also may not comprehend the risks they open up data to based on how they share it with colleagues or third-party contractors. Each time data is shared, risk can increase.

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Managing the risks

When a company captures every possible datapoint, has loose archival procedures and doesn’t protect the flow of data between sources, they’re putting their data at huge risk. The legal implications of a security breach for a company hoarding data can be severe, not to mention the cost in managing the cyber attack as well as launching a campaign to customers to mend a loss of trust. It’s actually difficult to even guess at the overall cost a cyber attack could have on a company who simply has too much data moving around among too many parts.

Strategies for safety

Storing only regulatory-mandated data such as transaction records in way that’s carefully managed and without superfluous information is the best way to stay protected. Should there be any kind of security breach, only storing what’s legally required can minimize legal and monetary risks. It also means your company’s reputation will take a more minor hit.

Another way to help keep data safer, regardless of how much your company is collecting, is to handle data analysis internally. This keeps the data in one place, which lessens risk. Using a third-party vendor to analyze data, sharing information with contractors whose security protocols may be weaker than yours, puts your customer data at risk. If a breach occurs, you’re implicated even if it’s not your company under attack since you shared the data without vetting the safety of where it was going.

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Security as the highest priority

The most important thing to remember when establishing how big data is collected, stored and shared is security. Using the newest analytics software or incorporating AI are great ways to get results from your data, but they shouldn’t be implemented at the expense of the data’s safety. Companies put their data at risk when they prioritize ease of development over rigorous security, says Leetaru, citing that some security teams will uncover huge cyber risks only after activity has taken place. A well-meaning team uses an external cloud account, that hasn’t been vetted, to share sensitive customer data, establishing a process for data intake that’s missing basic security safeguards simply because they don’t know what to look for. Allowing the security team to feature front-and-center with anything touching your data helps keep it safe no matter how much you’re collecting.

Hoarding is high-risk

In the end, today’s trend in big data collection is posting a severe cyber risk for companies hoarding more data than they need for longer than they need it. With so much information available, it is truly hard to know what’s valuable, but with secure practices,  go through java development solutions and a better understanding of what data really is necessary, organizations can keep their customer information safer from cyber attack.