Is Your Unstructured Data Protected from Hackers?

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Hackers are looking to a new avenue to steal your data!
The fact that ransomware and hacking incidents have been on the rise in recent years is a topic that is discussed at length.
While these attacks can take on many forms, hackers have recently been turning their attention to users’ unstructured data in the hopes of obtaining valuable information.
 

What is Unstructured Data?

Unstructured data refers to information that does not contain a pre-existing data model or is not organized in a pre-defined manner.  This makes it extremely difficult for a firm’s databases and algorithms to catalogue this type of data as the information needed to encode, store, and organize the information within the databases is not available.
Examples of unstructured data include:

  • Email archives and messages
  • Intellectual property
  • Source code
  • Video and Audio files
  • Word Processing documents
  • Photos
  • Social Media Posts

 

Why Is It A Prime Target for Hackers?

There are a number of reasons why unstructured data is targeted by hackers:
 

1) A Large Amount of Firm Data is Unstructured

It might be surprising to hear but the amount of unstructured data in a given firm is extensive. It’s been estimated that up to 80% of firm data is unstructured due to the constant influx and creation of email messages, documents, photos, video, social media posts, etc.  All of which are unstructured.
As a result, unstructured data is continuously created and reproduced by everyone in the organization on minute-by-minute basis.  The sheer amount of volume of this data means that business owners cannot afford to have it vulnerable to hackers.
 

2) Unstructured Data is Important Data

Most of the important documents we need for work are unstructured.  Email messages, Word documents, and presentations are important pieces of data that we would miss or pay a lot of money to retrieve should it fall into the wrong hands.   Ideally, unstructured data can house the strategy, day-to-day routine, and vital components of your business, all of which is important to note when taking steps to protect your business.
 

3) Unstructured Data Falls Under Compliance Laws

In terms of data security, unstructured data falls under today’s compliance laws and regulations.  Firms need to be able to account for their unstructured data in terms of retention and management in order to comply with the regulatory laws of their business.
 
Scales of Justice
 
 

How Can You Protect Your Unstructured Data?

Protecting your unstructured data should be a priority for firms.  There are many tactics that a firm can implement in order to protect their data.
The first thing a firm should do is conduct an audit of their unstructured data.  What pieces of information in their environment are unstructured?  What pieces cannot afford to be lost?  What gets top priority?  Knowing the type and amount of unstructured data in the environment will allow a firm to know where to allocate resources.
 
it-audit
 
It’s also important to identify those users who have access to the most critical pieces of unstructured data in the firm.  If only 10% of users have access, then the firm can concentrate on implementing more robust security platforms to those users to ensure the data’s protection.
For example, email archives and messages are vital pieces of unstructured data.  Implementing a robust email spam management and antimalware system goes a long way to keep malicious threats at bay.  Software such as Mimecast and Webroot are tools which help to protect data by proactively scanning and searching email inboxes for any incoming or suspicious emails or links.
 

In Conclusion

Unstructured data makes up a large part of a firm’s environment.  The data’s value is exceptionally high resulting in the increased interest and attention of hackers.  Firms need to take steps to protect their unstructured data from these attacks in order to ensure the safety and stability of their business.
 
 
Resources:
Preimesberger, Chris. (2013, August 12).  Unstructured Data Is an Important Untapped Resource: 10 Reasons Why.  eWeek.  Retrieved from https://www.eweek.com/storage/unstructured-data-is-an-important-untapped-resource-10-reasons-why
 
Courtney Rosebush is a Marketing and Sales Coordinator at Triella, a technology consulting firm specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium sized firms. Courtney can be reached at 647.426.1004 x 227. For additional articles, go to www.triella.com/publications.      Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Kaspersky Reseller.
© 2017 by Triella Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction with credit is permitted.
 

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