Big data security practices take many forms. It’s up to you to choose encryption strategies that protect not only your corporation but your consumers as well.
Unfortunately, even if you think you’re doing your due diligence, the odds are high that you’re falling short. Could your biggest security vulnerability lie in operational oversights? Here’s what you should know.
Corporate Blunders in the Modern Data Security Landscape
Encryption is widely known to be an effective security practice. According to some assessments, however, only around 43% of companies use it consistently.
You may be skeptical when confronted with such stats. After all, how can so many enterprises drop the ball in light of massive scandals and hacks, such as those experienced just recently at Best Buy, Delta Airlines and a shamefully long laundry list of other firms? Surely, you think to yourself, corporations should have learned their lessons by now.
In reality, this may be exactly the kind of wishful thinking that gets enterprises into serious trouble. It’s all too easy to overestimate the strength of your security stance instead of actually grounding it in known best practices. In the process, you open yourself up to vulnerabilities that you might not even know existed.
Understanding the Pathology of Poor Security
Insufficient big data security and substandard encryption aren’t the sole causes of hacks and other failures. Instead, they’re symptoms of a broader, chronic disease.
This corporate illness is often a matter of attitude. For example, companies that fail to use encryption aren’t necessarily throwing caution to the wind. Many simply make mistakes based on prevailing misconceptions and myths.
Is your organization suffering from an ill-informed perspective?
If you think that encryption is too expensive or only necessary for meeting compliance regulations regarding financial, governmental, confidential and personal health data, then you’re probably on the wrong track. Believing that encryption is the only form of data security you need is just as dangerous.
While it’s true that encryption isn’t the latest cutting-edge security technique, its longevity persists with good reason. Global organizations like the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, take the time to maintain encryption algorithm standards for block ciphers, hash functions and key management practices because they’re known to be effective against a broad variety of attacks. When combined with practices like data masking, data erasure and backups, encryption is critical to fighting back against ominous unknowns.
The Risks of Bad Data Protection
What does this mean for businesses that use big data? Encryption isn’t merely an academic or moral issue: Not using proper data security standards could limit your ability to operate legally in certain markets even if it doesn’t seem like it would.
In the U.K., for instance, the Data Protection Act doesn’t outright say that companies must encrypt their data. It does, however, demand that they take “technical and organizational measures” to prevent information from being improperly accessed or handled. In the U.S., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, defines encryption as an addressable security standard, or one that you only have to implement after performing a risk assessment. In other words, even if your decision not to use encryption is on a sound legal footing, you still have to document your rationale in detail.
These are just some of the ways regional laws decide the fate of companies that want to implement big data security standards and expand their business operations. Even more so than having a great product or service, your choice of encryption methodologies could determine how far you go in foreign markets.
Devising a Comprehensive Security Approach
Bare legal minimums aside, the ever-present risk of data breaches and hacks makes it imperative to do right by your users and encrypt properly. Using encryption technology isn’t just about ensuring that you password protect server hard drives or stick to standards like HTTPS for your web portals, however. Depending on how your cloud-based services operate, you might need to put in far more work.
Suppose that you partner with a third-party vendor who provides a login service for your public-facing big data application. If the vendor doesn’t employ the proper encryption standards when authenticating users or transmitting their personal data, then everything you’ve built could be at risk. Even though your own servers are secure, the fact that you didn’t verify all of the other components were safe makes you partially to blame for any bad outcome. A court might even find you liable for the ill effects of such negligence.
Or, imagine that your servers use encrypted access protocols and local encrypted storage. If someone in your office can access the servers using a device that connects to the outside world without encryption, then a bad actor may be able to eavesdrop on the communication from there without even having to attack the server. True, the original data may remain secure, but exposing a copy is just as detrimental to your brand as posting your administrator login credentials on a public forum would be.
Like all aspects of information security, encryption demands a complete approach.
You need to assess risks at every level to understand how failures in one area might impact others. Are you using outdated block ciphers? Did you generate private security keys of sufficient length, or could someone brute-force your credentials and gain access?
Encryption technology is vital to your security stance, and it’s not something you should take lightly. Implement a robust strategy that keeps your bases covered unless you’re willing to become the subject of the next news cycle scandal.