Big data is a wild river that’s growing wider and stronger by the minute. Companies are trying to navigate this river, but some forget to take the necessary safety measures.
As we delve deeper into massive amounts of data, we cannot ignore the need to address big data privacy concerns.
There is sensitive information on the line and serious consequences if it falls into the wrong hands. So, let’s consider these risks and discuss how to mitigate them and ensure big data is used responsibly and ethically.
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Understanding Big Data
Big data describes large and complex sets of data generated from a wide range of sources, including social media platforms, IoT devices, and digital transactions. These datasets are typically characterized by their sheer volume, complexity, and speed of generation.
To effectively manage and analyze this vast amount of data, companies need to understand the Five Vs:
- Volume: the size of the data.
- Velocity: the speed at which big data is generated, distributed, and collected.
- Variety: the different types of data.
- Veracity: the accuracy and consistency of data.
- Value: insights and benefits that can be derived from this data.
It’s generally believed that big data can’t be managed by traditional data processing tools. But fear not because there are plenty of cutting-edge technologies and tools available, including:
- Hadoop: an open-source framework for storing and processing big data across distributed computing clusters.
- Spark: a data processing engine that can process large-scale data in real time.
- NoSQL databases: a horizontally scalable solution designed for handling large and unstructured datasets.
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence: used to uncover valuable insights that would be difficult to identify using traditional analytics methods.
Read also: Big Data Implementation: Roadmap
Big Data Security: The Need for Robust Protection
Cybercriminals are always on the prowl, looking for vulnerabilities in systems and networks to exploit. Without adequate protection, flaws in big data analytics security can have severe consequences for organizations and individuals.
The consequences of inadequate data security measures are dire, ranging from data breaches and leaks to the loss of customer trust and reputation. For example, in the event of a data breach, attackers can gain access to sensitive information, like personally identifiable information and financial data. This can result in financial harm, not only to the organization but also to its customers.
After a breach has been publicized, it’s often associated with the loss of customer trust and reputation. This, in turn, can have long-lasting effects, making it difficult for the company to recover and regain customer loyalty.
You also need to account for legal and financial ramifications; for instance, there are hefty fines and legal penalties for failing to comply with data privacy regulations.
Security Issues and Challenges in Big Data
With every byte of information comes the potential for a number of security issues and challenges:
Data Privacy and Confidentiality
Privacy issues with big data seem to be some of the biggest concerns, as vast amounts of big data include personal and sensitive information. Financial records, medical information, and personal identifiers can all be exploited for financial gain, identity theft, or other malicious purposes.
Regulators have recognized the risks and implemented data protection laws and regulations, including HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act), EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards), CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), etc.
Data Storage and Management
There are various security threats at different stages of the data lifecycle. And so, another set of challenges, this time regarding data security management, is securing data at rest (i.e., stored), in transit, and in use. If not addressed, the organization will be vulnerable to data corruption (the loss or alteration of data due to hardware failure, software bugs, or human error).
Access Control and Authentication
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to control who has access to what data. And organizations often make the mistake of not defining access control policies and poorly managing user access rights. As a result, employees may inadvertently share sensitive data with unauthorized users.
The implementation of authentication mechanisms could also be more robust, especially when it comes to passwords. Unfortunately, not everyone has the resources for biometric authentication, and some even neglect multi-factor authentication.
Data Provenance and Lineage
Similarly to data access, it can be difficult to keep track of where data comes from and how it has been modified over time.
Considering the lack of visibility into the origin, history, and transformation of an organization’s data, it’s hard to vouch for its quality. For one, it has a detrimental effect on productivity. But there might also be regulatory and stakeholder pressures, as organizations must demonstrate the accountability and transparency of their data management practices.
Advanced Persistent Threats and Sophisticated Cyberattacks
Traditional security measures like firewalls and antivirus software are no longer enough to detect and prevent APTs and sophisticated attacks. These attacks are carried out by highly skilled and well-funded hackers and involve advanced techniques. And it doesn’t come as a surprise that detecting and mitigating them is difficult.
There are also concerns regarding cyber resilience. Even if attackers manage to penetrate the system, there must be a plan in place for responding to and recovering from the event. But what if the organization doesn’t have backup and disaster recovery procedures? Well, the problems will likely be magnified.
Strategies and Best Practices for Addressing Big Data Security Challenges
To combat these concerns, organizations must have a comprehensive approach encompassing a range of tools and techniques:
- Data encryption and tokenization. Encryption refers to transforming plain text data into a code that is unreadable without a key or password, while tokenization replaces sensitive data with non-sensitive placeholders or tokens. Both reduce the risk of unauthorized access.
- Secure data storage solutions. This includes using secure cloud storage and ensuring that physical storage devices are properly secured and regularly backed up.
- Identity and access management systems. IAMs allow organizations to control user access to sensitive data, which limits their exposure to potential threats.
- Data anonymization and pseudonymization. Anonymization means removing any personal identifying information from the data, and pseudonymization substitutes that information with a fake name or alias.
- Security information and event management tools. In addition to other techniques, SIEM tools help monitor and analyze security-related data, detect anomalies, and respond to potential security threats.
- Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments. Any combination of data security measures should be kept up-to-date and effective. Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments will pinpoint any potential weaknesses and offer suggestions for improving security measures.
There’s no single solution that can guarantee complete protection; even a combination of techniques will not ensure 100% security. Still, you need a comprehensive framework rather than stand-alone tools. Each of these strategies complements the others, and together, they make your defenses much stronger against potential breaches and data theft.
Real-World Examples of Big Data Security Challenges
In June 2022, Nelnet Servicing, a student loan servicer, experienced a data breach that resulted in the confidential information of more than 2.5 million users being leaked. The investigation revealed that a vulnerability in their system allowed an unknown third party to access users’ personal information. The information contained names, home and email addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers.
Nelnet Servicing claims to have immediately notified the US Department of Education and law enforcement. Nevertheless, later on, a legal firm filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of impacted individuals nationwide. It’s still pending and seeks damages, equitable relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs. Plaintiffs allege that it was a result of negligence on the company’s part and that the delay in notifying customers was unreasonable.
Another high-profile case was the Australian telecommunication company Optus. In August of the same year, the business suffered a breach, and it exposed the personal details of 11 million customers. This leak was gibber in its scope: names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email and home addresses, driver’s license and/or passport numbers, and Medicare ID numbers. Customers reported that they were contacted by the hacker and threatened with the sale of their data to other malicious parties.
Future Outlook: Emerging Technologies and Trends in Big Data Security
As the field of big data security continues to evolve, new technologies and trends are emerging that will play a significant role in shaping its future. One such trend is the increasing role of AI and ML. These technologies can automate certain security tasks, including monitoring, threat detection, and response, thus reducing the workload on human security analysts, and improving the speed and efficiency of security operations.
Another trend to keep an eye on is the impact of quantum computing on data encryption. Current encryption techniques rely on complex mathematical calculations, and this could take traditional computers thousands of years to solve. In contrast, quantum computers may be able to crack these codes in a matter of seconds. So, researchers are exploring new encryption techniques that can withstand quantum computing attacks.
Privacy-preserving data processing techniques, such as differential privacy, federated learning, homomorphic encryption, secure multi-party computation, and secure enclaves, are also on the rise. These measures aim to protect PII privacy while still allowing organizations to collaborate and derive insights from data.
Big data is a vital component of the digital economy, and it’s already at the core of many industries, including finance, healthcare, and e-commerce. And considering the loss or compromise of sensitive data can have severe consequences, its security must be a top priority.
Organizations must invest in robust security measures and implement best practices. And it doesn’t only include technology. Ultimately, it’s up to individuals to use the systems and data in a responsible and ethical way.
Intetics can be your best partner in your fight against cyber threats. With the help of Intetics engineers you can protect yourself from malware, viruses, ransomware, worms, spyware, and prevent DDoS and phishing attacks. Let’s talk!
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