The State of Data Security in 2017: Is Anyone’s Information Safe?

In Data

The moment is here: the swearing in of a new POTUS is, well, nigh. America is about to usher in a new administration at a moment when digital security vulnerabilities are at an all-time high and data is accumulating at record speeds. Few people are sure of the direction in which the new administration will pivot — and even fewer know what that might mean for our data.

Regardless of how you feel about the transition of power, there seems to be a big question mark looming over the security status of our consumer and business data. As we continue to grapple with who’s responsible for protecting the public, data about our online behaviors, finances, personal lives, businesses, and identities sits poorly protected in hundreds (if not thousands) of servers. The universal question we should be asking is: Is our data ever truly safe anymore?
 

3 of the Challenges Around Keeping Data Secure

I don’t need to remind you what a bad year 2016 was for hacks, breaches, and other threats — we saw it all, from personal communications and corporate data to government databases and even internet infrastructure companies. And experts predict these problems will only increase in frequency and methodology; McAfee Labs forecasts attacks in 2017 will come from all directions and leverage both lateral and vertical vectors.

A few weeks ago in my 2017 analytics predictions post I mentioned that data security must become a top priority for businesses, if it isn’t one already. But properly securing corporate and consumer data involves much more than snapping one’s fingers — organizations across all industries face serious challenges around ensuring data is adequately protected. Below are just a few of the obstacles companies bump up against trying to securing their data.

Upgrading Security Is a Burden

The cold, hard truth is that state-of-the-art security measures are simply not a priority for many organizations (or at least a realistic one). A Dell security report revealed 49 percent of decision makers feel more time should be spent securing their data, but 69 percent view data security as a burden on their time and budget. Security enhancements are expensive and time-consuming — plus they’re evolving at such a fast pace that an organization would fall into a perpetual cycle of upgrades trying to keep up. Many businesses also rely on older technologies, in which case securing data would require costly equipment improvements.

Threats Are at an All-Time High

Last year the U.S. saw a record 1,093 data breaches affect companies and government agencies. As breaches become commonplace and the odds of being attacked continue to rise, many organizations are left feeling helpless and hopeless. Even if an organization commits to security upgrades, it’s not as though hackers will put their efforts on hold until those changes get implemented. Plus, hackers are always on the prowl for new vulnerabilities and methods of attack, top-notch security or not. Any business with data (basically every active company) is susceptible to hacking.

Business Leaders Aren’t on the Same Page about Security Needs

Unfortunately, executives don’t always see eye to eye about security enhancements. Tech and IT leaders will almost always place greater value on the necessity and priority of security optimization, because these individuals are on the frontlines of the cybersecurity war. Business leaders less involved in the fight often lack education of the widespread and long-term impacts of data breaches.

Another problem businesses face is executives that recognize the harm of data breaches yet fail to proactively address security vulnerabilities. The report from Dell revealed nearly 3 in 4 decision makers are concerned about malware and threats — but a Deloitte survey of CIOs showed only 10 percent of CIOs consider cybersecurity a top business priority.
 

What Is the State of Data Security in 2017?

We live in a world powered by data, and operating without data is all but impossible. An unfortunate byproduct of all of this data is the temptation for sinister characters to profit by stealing this information. This poses a dilemma for businesses as well as consumers about how best to protect our data from malicious attacks. Luckily, neither the business nor the consumer is completely helpless.

What Businesses Can Do

Cutting-edge security services may not be in the budget, but your company can take numerous other steps to protect your data:

  • Establish security layers for all company devices and systems
  • Monitor internal user access and look for irregularities
  • Encrypt your data
  • Track access patterns for remote systems
  • Educate your employees on best security practices

What Consumers Can Do

As consumers we have virtually no way to stop hackers from accessing data collected about us. We don’t even have control over the personal information we entrust to our healthcare providers, banks, employers, and other organizations. However, we can do our part by being attentive and taking all measures available to protect our data:

  • Monitor accounts for irregular activity
  • Employ multi-step authentications
  • Create unique and complex passwords
  • Make sure to update passwords regularly

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user Christiaan Colen.]

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