Businesses facing a perfect storm when it comes to data storage


Businesses facing a perfect storm when it comes to data storage

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Category IT Security
Article date 14 March 2012
Businesses facing a perfect storm when it comes to data storage
Firms are having to deal with something of a “perfect storm” at present because they are holding more data than ever before and as result facing more threats.

This is according to Malcolm Marshall, head of UK information security practice at KPMG. He believes that too much information is being held on computer systems by companies at present.

In the main this is because companies are chasing so much business that they are trying to hoard data such as customer information bases for future usage.

Some firms have also been found to be collecting data through questionable practices. Social networks Twitter, Path and Foursquare were all recently accused to taking people’s contact lists from Apple iPhones.

“Big data” is a world being banded about liberally at present. In effect it means that massive amounts of data can be shifted through quickly so that specific campaigns can be targetted to selected groups of customers.

However, all this new data represents a wealth of hacking opportunities to cyber criminals. Indeed, as technology advances hackers become more and more sophisticated and protecting mass levels of data is headache which firms are struggling to alleviate.

According to Ernst & Young, cybercrime costs UK businesses somewhere in the region of £26 billion last year and £17 billion of that was related to intellectual property being stolen.

For some bigger firms the cost of a single security breach can range from £300,000 and £700,000. This includes the cost of notifying their clients that data has been taken plus the financial outlay needed to ensure the problem never happens again.

The Financial Times reports that Sony lost somewhere in region of £174 million when its network was hacked last year and 100 million customers had their date taken.

Canadian telecoms giant Nortel had its systems breached several times over the course of a decade and appears to have been powerless to do anything serious about it. Google and the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Authority (SOCA), have been the victims of similar breaches.

“In the past, enterprises have thought that their data are safe, but last year there was plenty of proof that it is not,” Eugene Kaspersky, chief executive of IT security firm Kaspersky Labs, told FT.com.

Using cloud-based services allows firms to remove the data off their own servers and onto systems operated by third party companies, but that in itself can cause a host of problems.

While a correct cloud set up can undoubtedly provide a higher level of security than most companies can achieve by using their own data centres, but the firm is no longer in control of the data and would left helpless if the cloud provider was subjected to an attack.

Using devices such a smartphones and tablets to transfer data also makes firms are vulnerable to a breach. This is because they are in effect a small computer and can be infected with the same malware and spyware which a traditional PC can.

According to a recent study conducted by McAfee, the number of attacks made on smartphones has shot up by more than 400 per cent in the past 12 months.

Indeed, Mr Kaspersky says no data is safe at present unless it is fully disconnected from the internet but for many firms that would defeat the object of even being in business in the first place.

“Companies need to adopt military-standard protection for sensitive information. It needs to be on an internal system disconnected from the internet, with no USB keys connected to it, no extra applications, no Skype and no chat services,” he said.

“Employees would probably not be happy with that system. But I have no other idea how to protect information.”

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