July 10, 2019
Data is Making Your Organization Smarter

As data makes your organization smarter, hackers are getting smarter with your data, too.

There was a time when businesses made “gut” decisions. Organizations moved in the direction that “felt” right based upon what they “thought” made sense. Fast forward to today, and there isn’t a function that doesn’t rely on data to inform business decisions. From human resources teams using data to provide real-time prediction of hiring needs, to leveraging data to positively alter the customer experience and drive greater satisfaction and loyalty. The ability to collect, mine, and parse data in real-time has changed every aspect of today’s business—from the manufacturing floor to the retail floor and beyond.

And that’s a good thing, right? Now companies can gather more information about their customers, store data for longer periods of time, and apply analytics to help drive improvements and growth. Internet of things (IoT), automation, AI and machine learning will only make data collection, analysis and action easier and faster, so what could go wrong?

Actually, that’s a question every business needs to ask itself. Because as data collection, storage and use grows, so does organizational risk. Data helps your business get smarter but that also means it becomes an even higher value target for attackers. That’s why securing data and corporate resources is more important than ever.

In a data-rich world, the impact of a cybersecurity breach can be all the more devastating. Why are attackers even more interested in accessing the systems and resources of data-intensive organizations?

  • Data ransom—Attackers know that your data is vital to your business, and that makes it valuable as well. Attackers see big dollars at the end of the ransomware rainbow, with the payday coming after they gain unauthorized access to data, encrypt or move it, and then have organizations pay to restore their access. That’s one of the reasons ransomware attacks rose 195% in the Q1 2019 (source: Malwarebytes).
  • Identity theft—Stealing personal information is nothing new, but the increasing volume of data makes it that much more attractive. Attackers can use data to access accounts, steal identities, and even steal infrastructure. Why pay for your own infrastructure if you can store data and host applications on someone else’s?
  • Because they can—Some attackers just love proving that they can access your systems, roam around, and steal your data. It’s like a badge of honor among thieves, which, unfortunately, shows an entire community of attackers how easy it is to get past your defenses.

Before, there was so much data that malicious attackers couldn’t possibly get their hands on all of it and have it make sense. Today it’s a different story. Now, even attackers are starting to use machine learning and AI to sift through your data and find the really good stuff with the biggest payday. That’s why databases and data warehouses with your most valuable data have become primary breach targets. With data driving your most important business decisions, even if attackers don’t steal it, they can manipulate and change it with potentially devastating outcomes for the teams relying on data to make decisions.

As attackers get smarter about your data, your security strategy must get smarter as well. A “rear view mirror” approach to protecting your business—when your security partner notifies you of security incidents that took place and what was done to mitigate risk—is no longer good enough.

In an environment where data becomes a competitive differentiator, a lever for growth, and a high value target for attackers, businesses need to move beyond “descriptive” security approaches that tell you what happened in the past, to a predictive and prescriptive approach. How are they different?

Descriptive vs. Predictive & Prescriptive Approaches

Descriptive data tells you what happened: “This is it. This is the audit trail. This is what went down.” While descriptive approaches report it as is, they stop short of identifying trends or patterns that have organizational ramifications. For example, discovering that every Thursday for the last two years a group of attackers from China has come in and sat on your server to monitor all your keyboard strokes.

Predictive analytics use the data in the operations of your company. They base things on it like sales trends and product popularity. Adjustments can be made based on those predictive business analytics. Where it gets interesting is when you can prescribe what’s going to happen based on analytics.

Prescriptive ability gives a company visibility into what it needs to do to protect the business. It will give you a more complete, sustainable approach to securing and protecting your organization against data attacks.

So, you’re ready to implement more predictive and prescriptive approaches to securing your business from data attackers, but you need to also understand where your data resides. That can often be easier said than done for a variety of reasons that include:

  • M&A activity that combined disparate systems
  • Organizational silos and geographically diverse operations
  • Legacy systems that aren’t integrated
  • Proliferation of endpoints
  • Moving workloads to the cloud

Data in the cloud poses, perhaps, the greatest challenge, as organizations accelerate the movement of workloads in order to realize agility and efficiency gains, as well as cost savings. In fact, only a quarter (25%) of IT and IT security practitioners are very confident they know all the cloud services their business is using (Ponemon Institute “2018 Global Cloud Data Security Study”).

Data has never been more vital and yet more vulnerable. Developing a security strategy to protect the increasing volume and velocity of data is a necessity for today’s businesses, but where do you begin?

Start with a partner who has an in-depth understanding of organizational risks and vulnerabilities, as well as the expertise that comes from experience with the most effective policies and technologies to address them.



About the Author
Steve Barone
Steve Barone
CEO & President
Steve Barone is the visionary behind CBI, a cybersecurity solutions company he started in 1991. CBI has become one of the largest and most trusted IT advisory services and network security firms in the nation. Steve has served on global and regional advisory boards for technology companies, including the fourth largest software company in the world, Symantec. As a lifelong Detroit-area native, Steve shows his pride by supporting the Spartans, Lions and Tigers, as well as volunteering with the Detroit Area Rescue Team (DART) – a nonprofit he founded to fill local charity gaps. When time allows, Steve enjoys backpacking or bungee jumping somewhere new in the world.
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