Advice on how to ensure security of companies’ data

3rd March 2017 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Contributing Editor

Advice on how to ensure security of companies’ data

JESSIE RUDD Data must be protected like any other asset

While the convergence and reinforcement of data will grow in volume and complexity, the way in which companies leverage and secure this information to improve operations and make users safe must be addressed, says business intelligence firm PBT Group technical business analyst Jessie Rudd.

Many companies struggle to ensure suit- able security is applied to data generated and to determine what data will be needed and must be stored, or discarded and deleted.

Best practice is to anonymise the data so that the risk of being identified from the information for customers or employees is reduced, she says.

Data must be distributed across storage systems to ensure that a breach does not provide a holistic view of an individual, which helps to protect sensitive and personal information, she advises.

The level of access protection applied to data is based on how sensitive the data is and, typically, companies should aim to minimise access to data to only those processes and users that are allowed to access the information.

Further, employees using systems that access user information should not be given complete visibility of the data, which should be restricted to the elements required to carry out a function.

Rudd says it is important to remember that protecting data is similar to protecting any other asset from exploitation or risk by ensuring that there are suitable measures in place to protect it. There must also be no single point of failure and multiple levels of security, she adds.

“Ethically, companies should protect users, but users must also be aware of their responsibilities and the risks they are exposed to when they provide information.”

While users will rarely share their information with companies that either have a history of poorly protecting user data or whom are perceived to be lax in protecting data, users also too often readily share information with organisations and individuals that are not reputable or over channels that are not secure.

However, the driver for overcoming these challenges is the potential that big data systems can significantly change the way in which society and commerce functions as a direct result of using the massive volumes of data to support daily business operations and personal activities.

The complexity of data streams and the complexity of data use for all manner of personal or commercial activity will mirror the most complex industrial systems in operations today, says Rudd.

“For example, smart devices can provide businesses with a level of proximity to consumers that may enable them to access detailed information such as their location, applications and interests. This is the proximity that companies can potentially achieve with current devices and with some ingenuity and imagination.”

As a first step on their big data journeys, companies should use the data they have to provide things such as location-based and real-time services, such as in-store promotions or proximity notifications to objects or places of interest.

Over the medium to long term, more connected sensors will be embedded in many everyday objects, which will allow for novel services and capabilities and provide user functionality beyond the limited contextual awareness of current technologies.

“Companies should invest in big data systems to make their business and staff accustomed to the volume and level of detail of information,” concludes Rudd.