Why Big Data Security is a Must (Even Before Big Data Use Cases)

Feb 03, 2016 • Business, Data
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The allure of using big data is undeniable for the business world. That’s why we’ve seen so many companies adopt big data solutions and platforms in recent years. Big data analytics provides unprecedented capabilities and insights as organizations spend more effort collecting valuable information about everything from customers to logistical concerns. This has opened up a noticeable dilemma, though. With the increasing use of sensitive data has come the increase of data breaches at businesses all over the world. The cost of those data breaches is on the rise as well. One study from IBM and the Ponemon Institute shows that the average cost of a data breach is now $3.79 million, a 23 percent increase over two years. While it’s true that there are many use cases for big data that organizations can take advantage of, big data security needs to come first.

Businesses need to take a special concern in big data security considering how vital data has become to normal operations. An anonymous survey from HP Security Voltage found that 70 percent of respondents said their business uses at least one form of sensitive data, from personal identity information to protected health information. Cyber attackers see that data as particularly appealing, choosing to target it with renewed emphasis. It’s easy to say that businesses simply need to do a better job protecting it, but that is far easier said than done. Effectively utilizing big data requires having a suitable big data platform on hand, but many such platforms have insufficient security features that can withstand the attacks from hackers today.

Take Hadoop as just one example. There are plenty of to deal with, in part because of the very nature of big data. With characteristics such as high volume, variety, and velocity, making sure all that big data is properly protected becomes a challenging task. In distributed environments, it becomes difficult to establish access controls. In Hadoop’s case, scaling could be considered one of its advantages, but all too often the most common data protection programs are difficult to scale. This all compounds into enormous security issues surrounding big data and should be addressed by organizations quickly.

One of the most concerning aspects of this issue, however, is that many businesses are in a rush to seize big data and use it to find success. As a result, they all too often neglect the need for big data security. Security teams are cast to the side and rarely consulted when implementing these new solutions. For obvious reasons, this is a disastrous strategy to adopt. Data breaches aren’t just costly in the sense of the amount of money lost, but the damage to an organization’s reputation is difficult to measure. It takes months and sometimes years for businesses to fully recover, and even then it will take considerable time to regain consumers’ trust. Big data is a continuous responsibility, and if security teams aren’t involved in nearly every step of implementation, businesses are risking a lot beyond the dollars and cents.

Luckily, many organizations are waking up to the importance of promoting big data security. With the rise in data breaches, businesses are figuring out where the gaps are in their protection. They’re also examining the big data platforms they use to better secure the sensitive data involved. Returning to the Hadoop example, many companies are taking the necessary steps to protect big data in Hadoop. That includes taking an inventory on the data stored in a Hadoop environment, performing threat modeling for the most sensitive data, and adopting encryption for data-at-rest. This won’t guarantee that the data will be protected against every threat, but it definitely increases the chances of fighting back against cyber attackers. Taking away the easy targets is a crucial step in providing protection.

It’s important to understand that there’s no easy fix to improving big data security. Big data is complex, so protecting it is not an easy matter. But just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean it’s something companies should overlook. In combination with other vital security measures, big data security needs to be a priority before organizations start to use vast amounts of data. Failing to do so is almost like inviting disaster. | Images Via Shutterstock

Alex Espenson

Alex Espenson is a technology writer with a passion for home automation, tech security, and wearable smart devices.

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