This may not sound comforting, but it has to be said: your organization will be the target of future cyber attacks. That’s if the company hasn’t already been hacked, which it likely has. Research has shown that cyber attacks in the United States are now numbering in the millions, with the average company being attacked nearly 17,000 times every year. These are frightening statistics that keep business leaders worrying over how to protect valuable company data from those who intend on stealing or destroying it. While companies continue to gather large amounts of data to improve their operations, big data may also be used to improve security. With the added benefit of increased threat assessment, big data may prove to be strong protection against future attacks and security breaches.
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Judging from the statistics, trying to prevent thousands of attacks each year seems like a daunting challenge. While it’s true that some attacks can be extremely damaging to businesses, others are relatively harmless and may only serve as a temporary annoyance or cause a minor disruption. For that reason, big data can be of particular use in identifying only the most serious of threats–the ones that could cause a company to suffer significant downtime or those that may steal the information of most value. This use of big data is particularly helpful for businesses that lack the resources of large corporations. With big data’s threat assessment capabilities, smaller companies can prioritize how to deal with the most serious threats by allocating the right resources to where they need to be. All companies will need to collect this vital big data from numerous internal groups, from the IT department to the legal team to human resources. Only with data from all these different sources can a complete picture be formed and the proper protections installed to increase IT and computer security in an organization.
This approach to improving security should take a threat-centric view. With big data as the fuel, so to speak, for monitoring security systems, the systems can not only identify the types of threats that are attacking the business, but they can single out specific threats that need immediate attention along with the apparent actors behind the threats. With this information in hand, businesses can act appropriately to the threats. Indeed, one of the advantages to using big data from multiple sources is the ability to render that information in real time, giving organizations the intelligence they need to act quickly before an attack gets out of control.
While dealing with a current attack can be made more effective with the use of big data, the simple fact that an attack is happening may represent a failure of other security measures. In cases such as this, big data can once again be utilized to predict when future attacks may arise, helping companies stop them before they turn serious. With the combination of machine learning and other security tools, big data can look at past trends to make more accurate predictions for the future. But these predictions can go far beyond simply detecting where vulnerabilities may be or what attacks to be on the lookout for; they can also analyze multiple threat scenarios and help businesses prepare a plan of action determined to be the best response for each one. This level of threat assessment can also be enhanced through the visualization of big data, which only helps data experts analyze and plan for the future. It’s important to note that the accuracy of these visualizations largely depends on the amount of data being gathered and the algorithms involved.
This same level of scrutiny should be applied to third parties as well. In the wake of the massive security breach suffered by Target, more companies are looking closely at the security measures used by third parties to make sure attackers can’t access organizations through them. So the same methods of using big data for proper threat assessment should not only be utilized by businesses internally, but it should be used for outside companies that work closely with original organization. This usually requires the sharing of data, which third parties should agree to anyway to maintain a genuine working relationship.
Big data has a big role to play in helping businesses with threat assessment. Security is a bigger priority than ever before, and companies need every tool in their arsenal to protect their infrastructure. While big data can be extremely useful, companies shouldn’t ignore other security features like firewalls and antivirus software. With all of these tools working together, businesses will be more prepared to deal with the threats that are out there.
Rick Delgado is an independent writer and tech commentator with interest in the latest enterprise tech trends, data centers and security. He has contributed to Wired, Virtual-Strategy Magazine, DataCenterKnowledge, ITProPortal, and many other publications.
(Image Credit: Cory Doctorow)