Lurking within the complex framework of every organization’s IT infrastructure is an often overlooked yet potentially dangerous risk – dark data. This term refers to the vast accumulation of unstructured, sensitive, and often overlooked data that companies collect and store over time. Its prevalence in modern organizations is alarmingly high, and managing it poses a significant challenge.

The security risks associated with dark data are immense, as this data can be exploited by cybercriminals if left unprotected. In our digital age, understanding the nature of dark data and implementing effective cybersecurity measures like data security fabric to safeguard it is as crucial as DDoS mitigation.

This article aims to shed light on the dark data problem and provide practical ways to secure your organization’s data so that you and your client’s information stays safe and uncompromised.

1. The Dark Data Problem

Dark data, a term that might sound ominous to the uninitiated, is an emerging issue in the realm of cybersecurity. In essence, dark data refers to the unstructured, unclassified, and often unused data that organizations generate and accumulate over time.

This digital detritus can range from old emails and unused documents to hidden metadata and transaction logs. While it may seem harmless on the surface, the true menace of dark data lies in its obscurity and lack of governance.

Just as neglected areas of a storeroom may contain overlooked items, these untapped regions of digital storage can house a range of vulnerabilities and risks. Without proper management and oversight, dark data can become a harmful haven for sensitive information, ripe for exploitation by cybercriminals.

The prevalence of dark data in modern organizations is not a matter of if but rather a question of to what extent. The IDC forecasts that global data will surge from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 zettabytes by 2025, with 90 percent likely to be unstructured or classified as dark data. With the rise of remote work, the volume of dark data is only expected to grow.

This increase in data, coupled with the advent of more complex technology systems, contributes to a larger surface area for potential breaches. Furthermore, the sheer volume of data makes it increasingly difficult for organizations to sift through and manage, amplifying the risk.

As we progress in managing data security, it’s vital for organizations to identify and tackle the hidden dangers of dark data. And utilizing up-to-date cybersecurity tools and solutions is key for efficient risk management.

2. Dark Data Security Best Practices

An organization’s ability to protect its dark data is critical for maintaining operational security. As we continue to generate and store vast amounts of data, the risk of it becoming ‘dark’ – unmanaged and unsecured – increases. Here are some best practices to help manage the security risks associated with dark data:

a. Locate Your Data:

The first step in managing dark data is locating it. This can be achieved by building a comprehensive data inventory. This process not only aids in understanding what data is held but also where potential vulnerabilities may lie.

b. Classify Your Data:

Once you’ve located the data, it should be classified accurately. This allows for a better understanding of the data and helps identify what needs to be protected and prioritized.

c. Maintain Regular Data Hygiene:

Regular data hygiene is critical to managing dark data. This involves deleting sensitive personal data that is no longer necessary and minimizing the amount of data collected.

Code-level controls should be designed to support data retention periods to limit the spread of sensitive data throughout the environment.

d. Adopt a Proactive Mindset:

In your cybersecurity strategy, think like an adversary. Use offensive testing method to identify potential breaches and vulnerabilities. This proactive approach aids in uncovering and addressing vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.

Balance Technology with People and Processes: While data loss prevention (DLP) tools can help prevent accidents, they should not be seen as the only solution for data security. Balancing technology with well-documented processes and workflows managed by people with real expertise is essential. This combination ensures a more holistic and practical approach to dark data security.

By adopting these best practices, organizations can better manage the security risks associated with dark data, ensuring a safer digital environment for all stakeholders.

3. Securing All of Your Organization’s Data

Securing an organization’s data, including dark data, is a crucial responsibility that demands ongoing vigilance. A data security fabric emerges as an effective solution to this problem, providing the necessary visibility and control over an organization’s data.

This comprehensive approach to data security allows for the identification and analysis of dark data, thus enabling organizations to guard against potential breaches.

The fabric’s design is inherently flexible and scalable, capable of adapting to data landscape changes and evolving threats beyond traditional perimeter-based defenses. Some advantages of using a data security fabric include:

Streamlined Data Management: Data security fabric centralizes all data, providing a unified viewpoint across the entire organizational ecosystem.

Enhanced Risk Prioritization: This solution assists in identifying and ranking data-related threats, allowing for more strategic deployment of security resources.

Rapid Onboarding and Integration: Data security fabric offers accelerated onboarding periods and flawless assimilation with pre-existing IT and security infrastructure.

Cost-effective Solution: This security solution aids in minimizing tool proliferation and enhancing operational effectiveness, thereby managing the overall expenses associated with data protection.

Compliance Assurance: This framework can automatically detect and report any breaches of compliance or security rules, maintaining constant observance of regulatory norms.

While the dark data problem might remain a persistent threat, organizations are not defenseless. By implementing best practices for dark data security and leveraging solutions like data security fabric, companies can maintain visibility and control over their data.

This approach not only mitigates risks but also streamlines data management, enhances risk prioritization, and ensures regulatory compliance. As we navigate the intricacies of protecting our digital information, being proactive in securing all data – visible and dark – is a necessity, not an option.