Tag Archives: Data Privacy

Data Privacy and Data-Centric Security at IAPP

Data-Centric Security

Data Privacy and Data-Centric Security at IAPP

The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) held its Global Privacy Summit in Washington DC March 4-6. The topic of Data-Centric Security was presented by Informatica’s Robert Shields, Product Marketing, Data Security Group.  Here is a quick recap of the conversation in case you missed it.

In an age of the massive data breach, there is agreement between security and privacy professionals that we must redefine privacy policies and controls. What we are doing is just not working effectively. Network, Host and Endpoint Security needs to be strengthened by Data-Centric Security approaches.  The focus needs to be on using data security controls such that they can be enforced no matter where sensitive or confidential data proliferates.

Data-Centric Security does not mean ‘encrypt it all’. That is completely impractical and introduces unnecessary cost and complexities. The approach can be simplified into four categorical steps: 1. Classify it, 2. Find it, 3. Assess its risk, 4. Protect it.

1. Classify it.

The idea behind Data-Centric Security is that based on policy, an enterprise defines its classifications of what is sensitive and confidential then apply controls to that set of data. For example, if the only classified and sensitive data that you store in your enterprise is employee data, than focus on just employee data. No need to boil the ocean in that case.  However, if you have several data domains of sensitive and confidential data, you need to know where it resides and assess its risk to help prioritize your moves.

2. Find it.

Discover where in your enterprise sensitive and classified data reside. This means looking at how data is proliferating from its source to multiple targets – and not just copies made for backup and disaster recovery purposes.

For example, if you have a data warehouse where sensitive and confidential data is being loaded through a transformation process, the data is still considered classified or sensitive, but its shape or form may have changed. You also need to know when data leaves the firewall it becomes available to view on a mobile device, or accessible by a remote team, such as offshore development and support teams.

3.Assess its risk.

Next, you need to be able to assess the data risk based the number of users who may have access to the data and where those users are physically located and based on existing security controls that may already exist. If large volumes of sensitive data is potentially being exposed to a large population in another country, you might want to consider this data more at risk than a few number of records that are encrypted residing in your protected data center. That helps you prioritize where to start implementing controls to maximize the return on your efforts.

4. Protect it.

Once you have a sense of prioritization, you can then apply the appropriate, cost effective controls that aligns with its level of risk.  Place monitoring tools around the sensitive data and detect when usage patterns become unusual. Train on normal user behavior and then initiate an alert to recommend a change to the application of a control.

In a world where policies are defined and enforced based on data privacy regulations and standards, it only makes sense to align the right intelligence and controls to ensure proper enforcement. In reality these four steps are complex and they do require cross-functional teams to come together and agree on a strategy.

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How organizations can prepare for 2015 data privacy legislation

Original article can be found here, scmagazine.com

On Jan. 13 the White House announced President Barack Obama’s proposal  for new data privacy legislation, the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act.  Many states have laws today that require corporations and government agencies to notify consumers in the event of a breach – but it is not enough.  This new proposal aims to improve cybersecurity standards nationwide with the following tactics:

Enable cyber-security information sharing between private and public sectors. 

Government agencies and corporations with a vested interest in protecting our information assets need a streamlined way to communicate and share threat information. This component of the proposed legislation incents organizations that participate in knowledge-sharing with targeted liability protection, as long as they are responsible for how they share, manage and retain privacy data.

Modernize the tools law enforcement has to combat cybercrime.
Existing laws, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, need to be updated to incorporate the latest cyber-crime classifications while giving prosecutors the ability to target insiders with privileged access to sensitive and privacy data.  The proposal also specifically calls out pursuing prosecution when selling privacy data nationally and internationally.

Standardize breach notification policies nationwide.
Many states have some sort of policy that requires notification of customers that their data has been compromised.  Three leading examples include California , Florida’s Information Protection Act (FIPA) and Massachusetts Standards for the Protection of Personal Information of Residents of the Commonwealth.  New Mexico, Alabama and South Dakota have no data breach protection legislation.  Enforcing standardization and simplifying the requirement for companies to notify customers and employees when a breach occurs will ensure consistent protection no matter where you live or transact.

Invest in increasing cyber-security skill sets.
For a number of years, security professionals have reported an ever-increasing skills gap in the cybersecurity profession.  In fact, in a recent Ponemon Institute report, 57 percent of respondents said a data breach incident could have been avoided if the organization had more skilled personnel with data security responsibilities. Increasingly, colleges and universities are adding cybersecurity curriculum and degrees to meet the demand. In support of this need, the proposed legislation mentions that the Department of Energy will provide $25 million in educational grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and two national labs to support a cybersecurity education consortium.

This proposal is clearly comprehensive, but it also raises the critical question: How can organizations prepare themselves for this privacy legislation?

The International Association of Privacy Professionals conducted a study of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforcement actions.  From the report, organizations can infer best practices implied by FTC enforcement and ensure these are covered by their organization’s security architecture, policies and practices:

  • Perform assessments to identify reasonably foreseeable risks to the security, integrity, and confidentiality of personal information collected and stored on the network, online or in paper files.
  • Limited access policies curb unnecessary security risks and minimize the number and type of network access points that an information security team must monitor for potential violations.
  • Limit employee access to (and copying of) personal information, based on employee’s role.
  • Implement and monitor compliance with policies and procedures for rendering information unreadable or otherwise secure in the course of disposal. Securely disposed information must not practicably be read or reconstructed.
  • Restrict third party access to personal information based on business need, for example, by restricting access based on IP address, granting temporary access privileges, or similar procedures.

The Personal Data Notification and Protection Act fills a void at the national level; most states have privacy laws with California pioneering the movement with SB 1386.  However, enforcement at the state AG level has been uneven at best and absent at worse.

In preparing for this national legislation organization need to heed the policies derived from the FTC’s enforcement practices. They can also track the progress of this legislation and look for agencies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology to issue guidance. Furthermore, organizations can encourage employees to take advantage of cybersecurity internship programs at nearby colleges and universities to avoid critical skills shortages.

With online security a clear priority for President Obama’s administration, it’s essential for organizations and consumers to understand upcoming legislation and learn the benefits/risks of sharing data. We’re looking forward to celebrating safeguarding data and enabling trust on Data Privacy Day, held annually on January 28, and hope that these tips will make 2015 your safest year yet.

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Anthem Data Breach – Who’s Next?

Peter KuI hate to break the news but data breaches have become an unfortunate fact of life. These unwanted events are happening too frequently that each time it happens, it feels like the daily weather report. The scary thing about data breaches is that these events will only continue to grow as criminals become more desperate to take advantage of the innocent and data about our personal records, financial account numbers, and identities continues to proliferate across computer systems in every industry from your local retailer, your local DMV, to one of the nation’s largest health insurance providers.

According to the 2014 Cost of Data Breach study from the Ponemon Institute, data breaches will cost companies $201 per stolen record. According to the NY Post, 80 million records were stolen from Anthem this week which will cost employees, customers, and shareholders $16,080,000,000 from this single event. The 80 million records accounted for includes the data they knew about. What about all the data that has proliferated across systems? Data about both current and past customers across decades that was copied onto personal computers, loaded into shared network folders, and sitting there while security experts pray that their network security solutions will prevent the bad guys from finding it and causing even more carnage the this ever growing era of Big Data?

Anthem Data Breach – Who’s Next?

If you are worried as much as I am about what these criminals will do with our personal information,  make it a priority to protect your data assets in your lives both personal and in business.  Learn more about Informatica’s perspectives and video on this matter:

Follow me! @DataisGR8

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Data Security – A Major Concern in 2015

Data Security

Data Security – A Major Concern in 2015

2014 ended with a ton of hype and expectations and some drama if you are a data security professional or business executive responsible for shareholder value.  The recent attacks on Sony Pictures by North Korea during December caught everyone’s attention, not about whether with Sony would release “The Interview” but how vulnerable we as a society are to these criminal acts.

I have to admit, I was one of those who saw the movie and found the film humorous to say the least and can see why a desperate regime like North Korea would not want their leader admitting they love margarita’s and Katy Perry. What concerned me about the whole event was whether these unwanted security breaches were now just a fact of life?  As a disclaimer, I have no affinity over the downfall of the North Korean government however what transpired was fascinating and amazing that companies like Sony continue to struggle to protect sensitive data despite being one of the largest companies in the world.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there were 761 reported data security breaches in 2014 impacting over 83 million breached records across industries and geographies with B2B and B2C retailers leading the pack with 79.2% of all breaches. Most of these breaches originated through the internet via malicious WORMS and viruses purposely designed to identify and rely back sensitive information including credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and social security information used by criminals to wreak havoc and significant financial losses to merchants and financial institutions. According to the 2014 Ponemon Institute Research study:

  • The average cost of cyber-crime per company in the US was $12.7 million this year, according to the Ponemon report, and US companies on average are hit with 122 successful attacks per year.
  • Globally, the average annualized cost for the surveyed organizations was $7.6 million per year, ranging from $0.5 million to $61 million per company. Interestingly, small organizations have a higher per-capita cost than large ones ($1,601 versus $437), the report found.
  • Some industries incur higher costs in a breach than others, too. Energy and utility organizations incur the priciest attacks ($13.18 million), followed closely by financial services ($12.97 million). Healthcare incurs the fewest expenses ($1.38 million), the report says.

Despite all the media attention around these awful events last year, 2015 does not seem like it’s going to get any better. According to CNBC just this morning, Morgan Stanley reported a data security breach where they had fired an employee who it claims stole account data for hundreds of thousands of its wealth management clients. Stolen information for approximately 900 of those clients was posted online for a brief period of time.  With so much to gain from this rich data, businesses across industries have a tough battle ahead of them as criminals are getting more creative and desperate to steal sensitive information for financial gain. According to a Forrester Research, the top 3 breach activities included:

  • Inadvertent misuse by insider (36%)
  • Loss/theft of corporate asset (32%)
  • Phishing (30%)

Given the growth in data volumes fueled by mobile, social, cloud, and electronic payments, the war against data breaches will continue to grow bigger and uglier for firms large and small.  As such, Gartner predicts investments in Information Security Solutions will grow further 8.2 percent in 2015 vs. 2014 reaching $76.9+ billion globally.  Furthermore, by 2018, more than half of organizations will use security services firms that specialize in data protection, security risk management and security infrastructure management to enhance their security postures.

Like any war, you have to know your enemy and what you are defending. In the war against data breaches, this starts with knowing where your sensitive data is before you can effectively defend against any attack. According to the Ponemon Institute, 18% of firms who were surveyed said they knew where their structured sensitive data was located where as the rest were not sure. 66% revealed that if would not be able to effectively know if they were attacked.   Even worse, 47% were NOT confident at having visibility into users accessing sensitive or confidential information and that 48% of those surveyed admitted to a data breach of some kind in the last 12 months.

In closing, the responsibilities of today’s information security professional from Chief Information Security Officers to Security Analysts are challenging and growing each day as criminals become more sophisticated and desperate at getting their hands on one of your most important assets….your data.  As your organizations look to invest in new Information Security solutions, make sure you start with solutions that allow you to identify where your sensitive data is to help plan an effective data security strategy both to defend your perimeter and sensitive data at the source.   How prepared are you?

For more information about Informatica Data Security Solutions:

  • Download the Gartner Data Masking Magic Quadrant Report
  • Click here to learn more about Informatica’s Data Masking Solutions
  • Click here to access Informatica Dynamic Data Masking: Preventing Data Breaches with Benchmark-Proven Performance whitepaper
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Posted in Application ILM, Banking & Capital Markets, Big Data, CIO, Data masking, Data Privacy, Data Security | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The CISO Challenge: Articulating Data Worth and Security Economics

A few years ago the former eBay’s CISO, Dave Cullinane, led a sobering coaching discussion on how to articulate and communicate the value of a security solution and its economics to a CISO’s CxO peers.

Why would I blog about such old news? Because it was a great and timeless idea. And in this age of the ‘Great Data Breach’, where CISOs need all the help they can get, I thought I would share it with y’all.

Dave began by describing how to communicate the impact of an attack from malware such as Aurora, spearfishing, stuxnet, hacktivision, and so on… versus the investment required to prevent the attack.  If you are an online retailer and your web server goes down because of a major denial of service attack, what does that cost the business?  How much revenue is lost every minute that site is offline? Enough to put you out of business? See the figure below that illustrates how to approach this conversation.

If the impact of a breach and the risk of losing business is high and the investment in implementing a solution is relatively low, the investment decision is an obvious one (represented by the yellow area in the upper left corner).

CISO Challenge

However, it isn’t always this easy, is it?  When determining what your company’s brand and reputation worth, how do you develop a compelling case?

Another dimension Dave described is communicating the economics of a solution that could prevent an attack based on the probability that the attack would occur (see next figure below).

CISO Challenge

For example, consider an attack that could influence stock prices?  This is a complex scenario that is probably less likely to occur on a frequent basis and would require a sophisticated multidimensional solution with an integrated security analytics solution to correlate multiple events back to a single source.  This might place the discussion in the middle blue box, or the ‘negotiation zone’. This is where the CISO needs to know what the CxO’s risk tolerances are and articulate value in terms of the ‘coin of the realm’.

Finally, stay on top of what the business is cooking up for new initiatives that could expose or introduce new risks.  For example, is marketing looking to spin up a data warehouse on Amazon Redshift? Anyone on the analytics team tinkering with Hadoop in the cloud? Is development planning to outsource application test and development activities to offshore systems integrators? If you are participating in any of these activities, make sure your CISO isn’t the last to know when a ‘Breach Happens’!

To learn more about ways you can mitigate risk and maintain data privacy compliance, check out the latest Gartner Data Masking Magic Quadrant.

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Informatica is a Leader in the Gartner 2014 Data Masking Magic Quadrant Three Years in a Row

Informatica a Leader in Data Masking

Informatica a Leader in Data Masking

Informatica announced this week its leadership position in Gartner 2014 Magic Quadrant for Data Masking Technology for the third year in a row. For the first time, Informatica was positioned the furthest to the right for Completeness of Vision.

In the report, Gartner cites. “Global-scale scandals around sensitive data losses have highlighted the need for effective data protection, especially from insider attacks. Data masking, which is focused on protecting data from insiders and outsiders, is a must-have technology in enterprises’ and governments’ security portfolios.”

Organizations realize that data protection must be hardened to protect against the inevitable breach; originating from either internal or external threats.  Data masking covers gaps in data protection in production and non-production environments that can be exploited by attackers.

Informatica customers are elevating the importance of data security initiatives in 2015 given the high exposure of recent breaches and the shift from just stealing identities and intellectual property, to politically charged platforms.  This raises the concern that existing security controls are insufficient and a more data-centric security approach is necessary.

Recent enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission in the US and emerging legislation worldwide has clearly indicated that sensitive data access and sharing should be tightly controlled; this is the strength of data masking.

Data Masking de-identifies and/or de-sensitizes private and confidential data by hiding it from those who are unauthorized to access it. Other terms for data masking include data obfuscation, sanitization, scrambling, de-identification, and anonymization.

To learn more, Download the Gartner Magic Quadrant Data Masking Report now. And visit the Informatica website for data masking product information.

About the Magic Quadrant

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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IDC Life Sciences and Ponemon Research Highlights Need for New Security Measures

The Healthcare and Life Sciences industry has demonstrated its ability to take advantage of data to fuel research, explore new ways to cure life threatening diseases, and save lives.  With the adoption of technology innovation especially in the mobile technology segment, this industry will need to find a balance between investments and risk.

ModernMedicine.com published an article in May, 2014 stating how analysts worry that a wide-scale security breach could occur in healthcare and pharmaceuticals industry this year.  The piece calls out that this industry category ranked the lowest in an S&P500 cyber health study because of its high volume of incidents and slow response rates.

In the Ponemon Institute’s research, The State of Data Centric Security, respondents from the Healthcare and Life Sciences stated the data they considered most at risk was customer, consumer and patient record data.  Intellectual Property, Business Intelligence and Classified Data responses ranked a close second.

Data security

In an Informatica webinar with Alan Louie, Research Analyst from IDC Health Insights (@IDCPharmaGuru), we discussed his research on ‘Changing Times in the Life Sciences – Enabled and Empowered by Tech Innovation’.  The megatrends of cloud, mobile, social networks and Big Data analytics are all moving in a positive direction with various phases of adoption.  Mobile technologies tops the list of IT priorities – likely because of the productivity gains that can be achieved by mobile devices and applications. Security/Risk Management technologies listed as the second-highest priority.

When we asked Security Professionals in Life Sciences in the Ponemon Survey, ‘What keeps you up at night?’, the top answer was ‘migrating to new mobile platforms’.  The reason I call this factoid out is that all other industry categories ranked ‘not knowing where sensitive data resides’ as the biggest concern. Why is Life Sciences different from other industries?

Life sciences

One reason could be the intense scrutiny over Intellectual Property protection and HIPPA compliance has already shone a light on where sensitive data reside. Mobile makes it difficult to track and contain a potential breach given that cell phones are the number 1 item left behind in taxi cabs.

With the threat of a major breach on the horizon, and the push to leverage technology such as mobile and cloud, it is evident that the investments in security and risk management need to focus on the data itself – rather than tie it to a specific technology or platform.

Enter Data-Centric Security.  The call to action is to consider applying a new approach to the information security paradigm that emphasizes the security of the data itself rather than the security of networks or applications.   Informatica recently published an eBook ‘Data-Centric Security eBook New Imperatives for a New Age of Data’.  Download it, read it. In an industry with so much at stake, we highlight the need for new security measures such as these. Do you agree?

I encourage your comments and open the dialogue!

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Considering Data Integration? Also Consider Data Security Best Practices

Considering Data Integration? Also Consider Data Security

Consider Data Security Best Practices

It seems you can’t go a week without hearing about some major data breach, many of which make front-page news.  The most recent was from the State of California, that reported a large number of data breaches in that state alone.  “The number of personal records compromised by data breaches in California surged to 18.5 million in 2013, up more than six times from the year before, according to a report published [late October 2014] by the state’s Attorney General.”

California reported a total of 167 data breaches in 2013, which is up 28 percent from the 2012.  Two major data breaches caused most of this uptick, including the Target attack that was reported in December 2013, and the LivingSocial attack that occurred in April 2013.  This year, you can add the Home Depot data breach to that list, as well as the recent breach at the US Post Office.

So, what the heck is going on?  And how does this new impact data integration?  Should we be concerned, as we place more and more data on public clouds, or within big data systems?

Almost all of these breaches were made possible by traditional systems with security technology and security operations that fell far enough behind that outside attackers found a way in.  You can count on many more of these attacks, as enterprises and governments don’t look at security as what it is; an ongoing activity that may require massive and systemic changes to make sure the data is properly protected.

As enterprises and government agencies stand up cloud-based systems, and new big data systems, either inside (private) or outside (public) of the enterprise, there are some emerging best practices around security that those who deploy data integration should understand.  Here are a few that should be on the top of your list:

First, start with Identity and Access Management (IAM) and work your way backward.  These days, most cloud and non-cloud systems are complex distributed systems.  That means IAM is is clearly the best security model and best practice to follow with the emerging use of cloud computing.

The concept is simple; provide a security approach and technology that enables the right individuals to access the right resources, at the right times, for the right reasons.  The concept follows the principle that everything and everyone gets an identity.  This includes humans, servers, APIs, applications, data, etc..  Once that verification occurs, it’s just a matter of defining which identities can access other identities, and creating policies that define the limits of that relationship.

Second, work with your data integration provider to identify solutions that work best with their technology.  Most data integration solutions address security in one way, shape, or form.  Understanding those solutions is important to secure data at rest and in flight.

Finally, splurge on monitoring and governance.  Many of the issues around this growing number of breaches exist with the system managers’ inability to spot and stop attacks.  Creative approaches to monitoring system and network utilization, as well as data access, will allow those in IT to spot most of the attacks and correct the issues before the ‘go nuclear.’  Typically, there are an increasing number of breach attempts that lead up to the complete breach.

The issue and burden of security won’t go away.  Systems will continue to move to public and private clouds, and data will continue to migrate to distributed big data types of environments.  And that means the need data integration and data security will continue to explode.

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Take Action – Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft This Holiday Season

Reduce Your Risk of Identify Theft This Holiday Season

Reduce Your Risk of Identify Theft This Holiday Season

What is our personal information worth? 

With this 2014 holiday season rolling into full swing, Americans will spend more than $600 Billion, a 4.1% increase from last year. According to the Credit Union National Association, a poll showed that 45% of credit and debit card users will think twice about how they shop and pay given the tens of millions of shoppers impacted by breaches. Stealing identities is a lucrative pastime for those with ulterior motives. The Black Market pays between $10-$12 per stolen record. Yet when enriched with health data, the value is as high as $50 per record because it can be used for insurance fraud.

Are the thieves getting smarter or are we getting sloppy?  

With ubiquitous access to technology globally, general acceptance to online shopping, and the digitization of health records, there is more data online with more opportunities to steal our data than ever before.  Unfortunately for shoppers, 2013 was known as ‘the year of the retailer breach’ according to the Verizon’s 2014 data breach report. Unfortunately for patients, Healthcare providers were most noted for the highest percentage of losing protected healthcare data.

So what can we do to be a smarter and safer consumer?

No one wants to bank roll the thieves’ illegal habits. One way would be to regress 20 years, drive to the mall and make our purchases cash in hand or go back to completely paper-based healthcare.   Alternatively, here are a few suggestions to avoid being on the next list of victims:

1. Avoid irresponsible vendors and providers by being an educated consumer

Sites like The Identify Theft Resource Center and the US Department of Health and Human Services expose the latest breaches in retail and healthcare respectively. Look up who you are buying from and receiving care from and make sure they are doing everything they can to protect your data. If they didn’t respond in a timely fashion, tried to hide the breach, or didn’t implement new controls to protect your data, avoid them. Or take your chances.

2. Expect to be hacked, plan for it

Most organizations you trust with your personal information have already experienced a breach. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by the Ponemon Group sponsored by Informatica, 72% of organizations polled experienced a breach within the past 12 months; more than 20% had 2 or more breaches in the same timeframe. When setting passwords, avoid using words or phrases that you publicly share on Facebook.  When answering security questions, most security professionals suggest that you lie!

3. If it really bothers you, be vocal and engage

Many states are invoking legislation to make organizations accountable for notifying individuals when a breach occurs. For example, Florida enacted FIPA – the Florida Information Protection Act – on July 1, 2014 that stipulates that all breaches, large or small, are subject to notification.  For every day that a breach goes undocumented, FIPA stipulates $1,000 per day penalty up to an annual limit of $500,000.

In conclusion, as the holiday shopping season approaches, now is the perfect time for you to ensure that you’re making the best – and most informed – purchasing decisions. You have the ability to take matters into your own hands; keep your data secure this year and every year.

To learn more about Informatica Data Security products, visit our Data Privacy solutions website.

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Scary Times For Data Security

Scary Times For Data Security

Scary Times For Data Security

These are scary times we live in when it comes to data security. And the times are even scarier for today’s retailers, government agencies, financial institutions, and healthcare organizations. The internet has become a battlefield. Criminals are looking to steal trade secrets and personal data for financial gain. Terrorists seek to steal data for political gain. Both are after your Personally Identifiable Information, like your name, account numbers, social security number, date of birth, ID’s and passwords.

How are they accomplishing this?  A new generation of hackers has learned to reverse engineer popular software programs (e.g. Windows, Outlook Java, etc.) in order to find so called “holes”. Once those holes are exploited, the hackers develop “bugs” that infiltrate computer systems, search for sensitive data and return it to the bad guys. These bugs are then sold in the black market to the highest bidder. When successful, these hackers can wreak havoc across the globe.

I recently read a Time Magazine article titled “World War Zero: How Hackers Fight to Steal Your Secrets.” The article discussed a new generation of software companies made up of former hackers. These firms help other software companies by identifying potential security holes, before they can be used in malicious exploits.

This constant battle between good (data and software security firms) and bad (smart, young, programmers looking to make a quick/big buck) is happening every day. Unfortunately, the average consumer (you and I) are the innocent victims of this crazy and costly war. As a consumer in today’s digital and data-centric age, I worry when I see these headlines of ongoing data breaches from the Targets of the world to my local bank down the street. I wonder not “if” but “when” I will become the next victim.  According to the Ponemon institute, the average cost to a company was $3.5 million in US dollars and 15 percent more than what it cost last year.

As a 20 year software industry veteran, I’ve worked with many firms across global financial services industry. As a result, my concerned about data security exceed those of the average consumer. Here are the reasons for this:

  1. Everything is Digital: I remember the days when ATM machines were introduced, eliminating the need to wait in long teller lines. Nowadays, most of what we do with our financial institutions is digital and online whether on our mobile devices to desktop browsers. As such every interaction and transaction is creating sensitive data that gets disbursed across tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of databases and systems in these firms.
  2. The Big Data Phenomenon: I’m not talking about sexy next generation analytic applications that promise to provide the best answer to run your business. What I am talking about is the volume of data that is being generated and collected from the countless number of computer systems (on-premise and in the cloud) that run today’s global financial services industry.
  3. Increase use of Off-Shore and On-Shore Development: Outsourcing technology projects to offshore development firms has be leverage off shore development partners to offset their operational and technology costs. With new technology initiatives.

Now here is the hard part.  Given these trends and heightened threats, do the companies I do business with know where the data resides that they need to protect?  How do they actually protect sensitive data when using it to support new IT projects both in-house or by off-shore development partners?   You’d be amazed what the truth is. 

According to the recent Ponemon Institute study “State of Data Centric Security” that surveyed 1,587 Global IT and IT security practitioners in 16 countries:

  • Only 16 percent of the respondents believe they know where all sensitive structured data is located and a very small percentage (7 percent) know where unstructured data resides.
  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents say not knowing where the organization’s sensitive or confidential data is located keeps them up at night.
  • Only 19 percent say their organizations use centralized access control management and entitlements and 14 percent use file system and access audits.

Even worse, those surveyed said that not knowing where sensitive and confidential information resides is a serious threat and the percentage of respondents who believe it is a high priority in their organizations. Seventy-nine percent of respondents agree it is a significant security risk facing their organizations. But a much smaller percentage (51 percent) believes that securing and/or protecting data is a high priority in their organizations.

I don’t know about you but this is alarming and worrisome to me.  I think I am ready to reach out to my banker and my local retailer and let him know about my concerns and make sure they ask and communicate my concerns to the top of their organization. In today’s globally and socially connected world, news travels fast and given how hard it is to build trustful customer relationships, one would think every business from the local mall to Wall St should be asking if they are doing what they need to identify and protect their number one digital asset – Their data.

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