'Dark data' still big security threat - new report

'Dark data' still big security threat - new report
Published: 18 June 2019 - 8:58 p.m.
By: CommsMEA staff writer
Businesses across the UAE continue to house ‘dark data’ within their organisations, creating a honeypot for cybercriminals, finds research from Veritas Technologies.

The Value of Data study, conducted by Vanson Bourne for Veritas, surveyed 1,500 IT decision makers and data managers across 15 countries, including 100 senior professionals from the UAE. It reveals that on average, over half (57%) of all data within organisations remains unclassified or untagged, indicating that businesses have limited or no visibility over vast volumes of potentially business-critical data, creating a ripe target for hackers.

Classifying data enables organisations to quickly scan and tag data to ensure that sensitive or risky information is properly managed and protected, regardless of where that data lives. This broad visibility into data helps companies comply with ever-increasing and stringent data protection regulations that require discrete retention policies be implemented and enforced across an organisation’s entire data estate.

Public cloud and mobile environments represent the weakest links in data security, with the majority of data across these environments most likely to be left unclassified and potentially unprotected. Just 2% of companies in the UAE claim to have classified all their data in the p7% have classified all of the data that sits on mobile devices. In addition, an overwhelming majority (83%) of UAE companies admit they have classified less than half of their public cloud data – the highest of all countries, followed by China at 81% and Singapore at 67%, while 61% of UAE businesses have classified less than half of the data that sits on mobile devices.

Veritas’ previous 2018 UAE Databerg Report revealed that an alarming 50% of organiszations in the UAE believe that their cloud service providers should share responsibility for managing data in the cloud, although cloud provider contracts usually place data management responsibility on businesses. Just 23% of UAE businesses stated that it is their responsibility to manage the data on their cloud.

“As workforces become more mobile and the barriers between work and personal life break down, company data has become dispersed across numerous environments,” said Jyothi Swaroop, vice president of Product & Solutions at Veritas.

“When data is fragmented across an organisation and has not been properly tagged, it is more likely to go ‘dark’, threatening the company’s reputation and market share if it falls foul of data protection regulations such as GDPR. So it’s vital that organisations take full responsibility for ensuring their data is effectively managed and protected.”

The dark age of data

Organizations consider strengthening data security (65%), improving data visibility and control (42%) and ensuring effective back up and recovery of data (48%) among their top key drivers for day-to-day data management. Yet the majority of respondents admit that their organisation still needs to make improvements in all of these areas.

“A company’s dark data reservoir may be out of sight and out of mind for many organisations, but it’s an enticing target for cybercriminals and ransomware attacks. The more organisations know about the data they hold, the better they will be at judging its value or risk,” added Swaroop.

“But with the average company holding billions of data files, manually classifying and tagging data is beyond human capability. Businesses must implement data management tools with algorithms, machine learning, policies and processes that can help manage, protect and gain valuable insights from their data, regardless of where it sits in their organisation.”

Johnny Karam, regional vice president at Veritas Technologies, added: “The time has come for data management to be accorded the importance it warrants at boardroom level. While we have seen an encouraging decrease in the levels of redundant, obsolete and trivial data in the UAE in recent years, a startling 83% of companies indicate that they have classified less than half of their public cloud data. It not only makes business sense to prioritise an intelligent data management and IT infrastructure, but this will also help businesses achieve greater operational efficiency in the long-term.”

A total of 1,500 IT decision makers and data managers were interviewed in October and November across the US, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, the UAE, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

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