Warriors of the Storm: The Unfolding Story of Data Security Warriors Versus Modern-Day Vikings

February 4, 2016
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3 min read

You might be wondering how big data security needs could possibly be compared with “Warriors of the Storm,” a novel by Bernard Cornwell that documents the saga of the making of England. Well, bear with me.

Data Security and ‘Warriors of the Storm’

The idea seemed silly at first, but as I considered it, I realized that the visual fit nicely: Imagine an undefended Saxon ship, loaded with treasure, laboring back to port after trading with another country, when suddenly that unguarded ship is set upon by Viking raiders. For most businesses today, the unprepared Saxon trading vessel represents the big data environment: largely defenseless and loaded with treasure.

Cybercriminals are the modern-day Vikings. When they strike, they shake an organization’s confidence, damage the brand, and steal or destroy priceless sensitive data. This is a pretty fair description of the security of today’s big data environments; it’s time to evolve!

Let’s back up and start with the basics. Big data has generated an enormous amount of discussion and debate in the press and the boardroom. At this point, most early adopters agree that big data enables business applications. However, if left unsecured, it also enables breaches (i.e., Viking raids).

But let’s start at the beginning, because many people are still asking: What is big data?

Defining Big Data

According to Forrester Research, “Measured in terms of volume, velocity and variety, big data represents a major disruption in the business intelligence and data management landscape, upending fundamental notions about governance and IT delivery.”

Big data analytics environments are being deployed to help organizations aggregate, process, analyze and derive maximum value from data in real time or for future use to make more informed decisions cost-effectively. When faced with the demands and stresses that big data places on the IT landscape, most traditional solutions can’t cost-effectively scale and adapt to rapidly evolving conditions. That leaves companies scrambling to find affordable technologies that will help them store, process, query and secure data.

The benefits of big data appeal to everyone from CMOs to CTOs. CMOs and other line-of-business leaders are embracing big data analytics as a way to uncover new and never-before-realized customer insights, while CTOs and IT teams are enthusiastic because big data platforms may drive some IT costs down to potentially game-changing levels.

Download the complete e-book: Top tips for securing big data environments

Big Data Is a Big Target

Big data seems to have arrived in a big way. But as the era of big data unfolds, the chance of a big breach grows. This is because big data analytics platforms are fueled by huge volumes of often sensitive information regarding customers, products, partners, patients and others. Those resulting data lakes represent low-hanging fruit (or, in the case of our introductory analogy, slow-moving ships laden with treasure) for cybercriminals to attack because sufficient safeguards usually haven’t been put in place.

Analyst firms have been raising this issue for some time. For example, in a recent report, Gartner asserted, “Compliance requirements and hacking threats combined with increased adoption of big data and cloud … are forcing CISOs to urgently prioritize their security strategy across all silos containing sensitive data.”

Become a Security Warrior

All is not lost! You need not try to defend an unprepared ship that’s at the mercy of the Vikings.

Data security for big data environments can be addressed in a cost-effective, scalable and efficient way that will satisfy all parties — except for attackers. Additionally, by building security into big data environments, you will have the ability to enable the business while reducing costs, risks and deployment pain.

Big data environments should include security to safeguard sensitive data. First, access control ensures that the right user gets access to the right data at the right time. Continuously monitoring user and application access is highly important, especially as individuals change roles or leave the organization. Monitoring data access and usage patterns can alert security teams to potential abuse or security policy violations, such as if an administrator ID is detected altering log files.

Cybercriminals will often leave clues or artifacts about their breach attempts that can be detected through careful monitoring, while capabilities such as blocking, quarantining and alerting can allow you to take action to stop data loss. Organizations can go even further and secure sensitive data using data abstraction techniques such as encryption or masking.

Check out our new e-book to learn more about securing big data environments, “Top Tips for Big Data Security.” With the right expertise and security tools, you can triumph over the Vikings.

Leslie Wiggins
Senior Product Manager, IBM Security

Leslie Wiggins is a Senior Product Manager for IBM's Data Security portfolio within the IBM Security business unit. She is responsible for IBM Security Guard...
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