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Big Data Keeps Growing, and So Does Its Security Concerns

In a world of convoluted technology, confusing terms, and acronyms and initialisms, it’s nice when something is simply and accurately named. Like big data: a big and ever-growing collection of structured, unstructured and multistructured data that provides an organization with opportunities for analysis and discovery. It makes perfect sense.

It also makes perfect sense that big data is accompanied by big security concerns. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, and more and more data becomes available to companies, those security concerns are only going to increase.

Big Opportunities and Big Downfalls

Companies now have access to an unprecedented amount of information on customers, clients, app users, website visitors and social media followers, and the benefits of this information are immense for organizations of all sizes. Businesses are now able to leverage intelligence coming from sales, marketing, transactional data, customer data, social data and external data sources to shape actions, decisions and predictions.

There are potential downfalls to this breadth of information, however, and with the amount of sensitive data forthcoming from our billions of digital devices, the biggest potential downfall is data security. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, in 2016 in the United States alone the number of data breaches hit an all-time high with 1,093 – a 40% increase from 2015’s 780 intrusions. The business sector topped the list of data breach targets with 494 reported breaches, followed by the healthcare industry with 377.

Appropriately Sized Security Measures

Data security best practices, namely access control, threat filtering, activity monitoring and alerting still very much apply to big data environments, especially considering that big data is subject to all of the same compliance mandates as traditional databases and need the same level of protection against data breaches.

Securing big data comes with a unique set of issues due to the size and complexity of the data sets involved, otherwise known as the three V’s of big data – volume, variety and velocity. Big data security solutions need to be able to handle enormous data volumes while also handling a wide variety of data from multiple sources with different access permissions. This means big data security solutions need to be incredibly scalable while also boasting robust auditing capabilities in order to deal with classification and policy setting challenges. Big data also comes in at incredible speeds, requiring efficient data parsing, collection throughput, automation, and real-time visibility of policy violations as well as other security-related events.

Big data environments are also weighed down with multiplicities that make security concerns more complex. They have multiple points of entry to guard, multiple technologies for data storage and data retrieval, multiple instances of core building blocks, and multiple data stores. This requires security tools and staff that are capable of handling diverse security issues as well as security solutions with centralized administration capabilities for consistent policies and practices.

Furthermore, organizations need to prioritize security amongst the data scientists and developers working within the company. Data scientists are so busy looking for actionable insights in the data that they may not be overly concerned with security measures, while developers often have access privileges that can turn them into security risks. Within the organization there needs to be a systemic understanding of the importance of big data security.

Big Data Security Solution Must-haves

Big data security solutions have to be able to overcome complexity, scalability, speed and diversity issues in order to provide the level of protection required to prevent data breaches of organization-shattering proportions. When choosing big data security solutions, organizations should look for solutions that:

  • Allow for continuous monitoring as well as auditing of all access to sensitive data
  • Provide real-time alerts and responses to unauthorized activities and attacks
  • Offer accelerated incident response
  • Maintain baselines of normal usage in order to flag deviations and uncover unauthorized access or fraudulent activities
  • Help stop advanced cyberattacks by integrating with premier anti-malware solutions
  • Automate reporting as well as compliance activities

For as concisely named as big data is, ‘data breach’ doesn’t quite offer the same accuracy, especially where big data may be concerned. However, deplorable data breach of staggering size just isn’t as easy to say, so we’ll all have to continue addressing them by data breaches and focus on preventing them with robust big data security solutions.

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