Dark data doesn’t just cost organizations money; it also damages their cybersecurity and compliance postures
Server rooms filled with digital files may look neater than the paper file rooms of old, but they’re not necessarily more organized, and “dark data” lurks around every corner. Sixty percent of respondents to a survey by big data software vendor Splunk admitted that more than half of their organizations’ data is dark, and one-third put that figure at over 75%. (Not surprisingly, the majority also said that the phrase “data-driven” amounted to little more than lip service within their enterprises.)
What is dark data?
“Dark data” is an ominous-sounding name for digital data assets – emails, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, even system activity log files – that an organization is not using, has not categorized and, in some cases, may not even know exists.
Why do businesses hold onto dark data? Sometimes, old records must be kept on file for compliance purposes, but many times, it’s simply because there’s a lot of it, it may be quite “dirty,” and the organization doesn’t feel it has the resources to get a handle on it. Respondents to the Splunk survey said that the top three stumbling blocks to dealing with their dark data were volume, skill sets, and resources.
There are significant opportunity costs to storing mountains of dark data. Cloud storage is inexpensive, but it isn’t free. Organizations could also be missing out on valuable, actionable business intelligence locked within these unknown or inaccessible files. They could also be putting their cyber security and compliance postures at risk.
The cyber security & compliance risks of dark data
There are three primary ways in which dark data poses cybersecurity and compliance risks.
Increased attack surface. The more data you store, the more you must secure – both on-premises and in the cloud – and the bigger the potential risk if a breach does occur. This is especially the case with dark data that’s uncategorized or, worse yet, completely unaccounted for and maybe not even secured. You may not think there’s anything “important” contained in those dusty old digital files, but a hacker poking around the forgotten corners of your network might uncover very valuable PII, customer payment information, or confidential business information.
Potential compliance violations. Further to the above, your organization’s dark data stores might be violating data privacy regulations and compliance mandates, such as the GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and the upcoming CCPA without even knowing it – until a breach happens. Then, regulators and angry victims will clamor for an explanation, and your organization may be facing significant sanctions, huge fines, and class-action lawsuits.
Unused security intelligence. In addition to valuable business intelligence, many dark data assets, such as system log files, can contain actionable security intelligence that could be used to develop more accurate cyber risk assessment, threat, and anomaly detection models.
Bringing dark data into the light
Getting dark data under control is a matter of implementing robust data governance so that enterprises fully understand what’s in their existing data stores, as well as what they are continuing to save and collect. Old and unused data that is not subject to compliance holds needs to be disposed of. Data containing PII, PHI, and other sensitive information must be properly secured. Moving forward, companies shouldn’t collect or store data that they don’t need for business or compliance purposes.
With the GDPR in effect, and the CCPA and other state-level data privacy regulations looming on the horizon, enterprises can’t afford not to invest in data governance and shine a light on their dark data.
The cyber security experts at Lazarus Alliance have deep knowledge of the cyber security field, are continually monitoring the latest information security threats, and are committed to protecting organizations of all sizes from security breaches. Our full-service risk assessment services and Continuum GRC RegTech software will help protect your organization from data breaches, ransomware attacks, and other cyber threats.
Lazarus Alliance is proactive cyber security®. Call 1-888-896-7580 to discuss your organization’s cyber security needs and find out how we can help your organization adhere to cyber security regulations, maintain compliance, and secure your systems.