Guest blog: Firms thinking Big Data, but ignoring security

Security

by | 29 November 2012

Simon Bain, CTO of Simplexo writes for CBR about the security challenges Big data poses.

It goes without saying that 'Big Data' is very much a hot topic at present. In fact, there doesn't seem to go a day when we're not being spoken to, about or at on the subject, and when you consider the possibilities of what Big Data provides it's not hard to see why.

It allows organisations the opportunity to perform sophisticated analysis on massive amounts of data, from sources such as mobile and online transactions, social media traffic and GPS coordinates. For those firms not embracing Big Data, the pressure is on them, as they are missing out on the enormous insights and competitive advantage it can provide.

But while everyone and their dog, is quick to jump on the bandwagon what about the challenges that Big Data proposes? Not so many people are brave enough to voice those and one of the key areas, which does need to be addressed, is that of security.

More data means more transactions, conversations, interactions and data now online, and therefore making the incentives to cyber criminals even more appealing.

With this in mind, I decided to conduct a survey to see how seriously organisations are taking the threat of cyber security in relation to Big Data. It was nothing too scientific: a quick internet search of the terms 'Big Data' and 'security' brought up 53,600,000 results in 0.31 seconds. On the surface this seemed a positive start, and in fact it was rather reassuring to see so many companies taking the security threats associated with Big Data so seriously. But as I dug a little deeper, my positivity started to drain.

First and foremost, it's important to recognise that the majority of organisations handle web security rather well through DNS traps, firewalls and other various defenses. However, the key component these will manage is the external threat. What about the internal one?

Companies consider the external threat as the first line for protection and the majority share of an IT budget is often deployed there, as senior decision makers often see this as the main route of security threats. The internal security though is often featured lower down the list when it comes to budgetary priorities. For one reason, IT departments are often hesitant in implementing new, stricter authentication solutions, which require user training, incurring both monetary and time costs.

This approach to security is incredibly dated and needs to be addressed. It's clear that Big Data is here to stay and therefore security along with accessibility should be at the forefront of all new projects and technologies.

The focus needs to be on the current bout of attacks and seeing how these can be prevented or at the very least made harder to execute, however, this cannot happen until owners of data start taking the threats and risk seriously.

The landscape for cyber criminals has never been more appealing. It's not just the one-off data breaches or hacker attacks stories that hit the headlines, but those with far-reaching consequences that can mean reputational damage, legal liability and even financial ruin. Cyber resilience and preparedness strategies are crucial for Big Data and in order to ensure we are prepared to meet the threats posed by cyber criminals we need to be more honest about data breaches. From this we can learn from one-another's experiences.

 

Simon Bain, CTO of Simplexo

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