How to keep your stuff safe

Why is Big Data security so difficult?

Rick Delgado
© Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov

With data breaches hitting the news every other day, how can developers keep information secure? In this article, Rick Delgado explores how companies can improve their security practices and save everyone a whole lot of trouble in the meantime.

More and more data is collected and stored today than ever before making big data a solution to just about every industry’s needs. Customers and clients want solutions and options catered perfectly to their needs before they even know they need it. Silos of data store personal information that allows companies and businesses to personalize interactions and shopping experiences for every individual. But with this great reaping of data comes the difficulty of protecting that personal information. Just as companies are becoming smarter and innovating their collection and analysis of big data, hackers are also becoming smarter and innovating their attacks on sensitive and expensive information attacking computer servers easily.

From Target to Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase, big named companies have been hit by hackers, but that doesn’t mean smaller companies that also hold your personal information aren’t susceptible. In fact, they are sometimes more prey as they don’t often have the budget to invest in top notch integrated security solutions. These silos of data that companies store are a goldmine for cybercriminals. Data breaches on companies that collect and store big data are becoming more common and aren’t going away anytime soon.

But protecting big data isn’t just a matter of throwing up firewalls and using good passwords. Big data comes from a variety of sources such as mobile devices, emails, cloud applications and servers. The more complex and varied the data sets are, the harder it is to protect. A more diverse data collection requires more work to protect it.

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For some companies, security spending is still alarmingly low. According to experts, about 10 percent of an IT budget should be spent on security, but at the moment, the average is under 9 percent. Securing big data can be difficult when execs aren’t interested or understand the importance for providing the necessary funds to invest in big data security.

On top of this, there has been a large gap in the big data skills needed in IT personnel. Many problems in big data security can be solved with limited resources as long as the right people are on it. But many of the open IT security jobs have gone unfilled due to lack of interest and even a lack of applicants, especially in the female field causing too few data experts on staff, causing a higher challenge in addressing security deficiencies. After a lack of available data experts, there is also a large deficit in the knowledge of other employees. Some companies don’t regulate access controls within their organization and others are practicing poor computer and information security techniques as is. Training your existing employees will only help IT security experts that you already have in-house or will hire.

Another big roadblock to data security is the anonymity issues. Many consumers and customers are wary of businesses and companies having access to such personal parts of their lives like behaviors, birth dates, motivations and even who their kids are. Many companies are able to resolve these concerns with policies that mask data and aggregate data sets, although these methods aren’t always the most effective. The right equipment handled by the right personnel is needed to put data sets back together in order to re-identify customers.

SEE MORE: Good coding practices mean good data security

Similarly to this, there is a huge gap in designed security. Some systems aren’t effective on their own, while others can’t keep up with the changing pace of data mining tactics. Many big data platforms aren’t designed to also address security issues. Because of this, most platforms lack encryption, compliance, risk management, policy enabling, and other security features. This requires organizations and companies to have the right teams to build those security features into the platforms themselves.

Unfortunately, there are even more security challenges out there and they are changing each day, making a need for versatility and quick response a must with IT departments. Any company that works with or handles big data will face these challenges on a daily basis requiring a much-needed push for big data security. But every problem has a solution and knowing just what your weaknesses is the first step in having better big data security.


Rick Delgado
Rick Delgado is a freelance technology writer and commentator. Connect with him on Twitter @ricknotdelgaldo.

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