Published on in Cyber Security

In this second of our series of posts focussing on Security, Sian John of our partner Symantec investigates a perhaps unexpected source for data threat – the marketing department…

Symantec logoChatting with my colleagues at Fujitsu recently, I was asked for my point of view on the biggest threat to securing Big Data.

I could have listed a whole range of issues like unsecured end points or transferring data outside of the business. These are valid threats but to my mind the biggest threat is Marketing.

As soon as I said this I immediately got the attention of the marketer in the room. That wasn’t my original intention but it makes the point clearly enough.

While many organisations concentrate on IT systems to cope with Big Data security, it is actually Marketing that ‘owns’ many of the data sets within businesses today.

What’s more, they are the people asking IT to build the systems to store these data sets or, perhaps even more worryingly, going ahead and buying a cloud-based storage service for customer data.

Big Data is a business trend not an IT trend. It’s the business that wants to gather all the unstructured data and then try to make sense of it. The loyalty card is the perfect example and more often than not these schemes are led by a Marketing drive to better understand customer needs.

This is admirable and I would encourage businesses to make use of Big Data to its maximum potential. But, as with most business trends, the organisation is likely to speed off and get on with it while IT is left to spot the risks before everyone suddenly has to play catch-up.

I was given a great example of the power of Big Data the other day. I was asked what people bought before a hurricane? I expected the answer to be candles, torches or water. What the manipulation of big data showed, however, was that people buy Pop Tarts. To be more specific, they buy strawberry Pop Tarts. Now retailers know exactly what to hold in stock.

In my view, it is retail that is the leading sector when it comes to securing Big Data. Retailers recognise the value and sensitivity of the data that they are holding. In other sectors businesses may not even realise that they are ‘doing Big Data’. They have lots of unstructured data and, with little attention paid to security, in the wrong hands it could undermine competitive advantage and customer privacy.

So marketers, ask yourself, ‘Am I using Big Data and could this effect confidentiality?’ If the answer is yes, please get IT involved early.

Sian John is Security Strategist at Symantec and all opinions are her own.  Symantec are strategic partner to Fujitsu for Secure Thinking.

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