Use big data to fight cybercrime

While organizations don't always need to understand how an attack works from an in-depth technical perspective, they do need to understand how the attacks get past their defenses. A successful CISO will arm himself with analytics and learn from others' mistakes.

Global cybercrime continues to increase at a rapid pace, and effective Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) need to get better at anticipating criminal behavior in order to provide effective, and efficient, risk management. As both information risks and cyber security threats increase, organizations need to move away from reacting to incidents and toward predicting and preventing them.

While organizations don’t always need to understand how the attack works from an in-depth technical perspective, they do need to understand how the attacks get past their defenses. Armed with intelligence and analytics, a successful CISO will learn from others’ mistakes and raise awareness within the organization to ensure it doesn’t happen on their watch.

Big Data + information security = huge opportunities

The massive volume of data that businesses are collecting, including financial transactions, location-based data and customer interactions, is growing exponentially. Problems addressed by big data analytics are those for which insights and answers arise from analysis of vast, complex or disparate data sources. Executives tasked with managing company data must find the delicate balance between everyday data management tasks and effectively leveraging data through both analytics and analysis.

In a recent webinar, I discussed the combination of big data and information security – the challenges and opportunities. This is an important topic today as big data analytics is enabling organizations to process and analyze huge volumes of disparate and complex data - providing a step change from standard reporting and monitoring toward correlating and probing for insight into threats, risks and incidents. This insight can lead to increased information security, greater organizational agility, better cyber resilience and decreased business impact. This capability is critical as the practice of reacting to incidents is replaced with the need to predict, understand and respond to complex events.

Research suggests that companies capturing and using big data and business analytics to guide their decision-making are more productive and have higher returns on equity than competitors that do not. In fact, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, the impacts of big data commercially have the potential to generate significant productivity growth for the healthcare and public sectors, and have the ability to increase operating margins for retailers along with creating a very healthy uptick in employment prospects for analytical talent positions. 

Big data is a challenge that stretches the limits of the enterprise, and as it continues to become a game-changer for businesses, the security risks have become even larger. From structured and unstructured data inside the network of enterprise PCs and servers to smartphones, laptops and storage devices that introduce new data management challenges, businesses can be easily overwhelmed by the risks posed by big data. Unfortunately, while many organizations are using “Big Data” analytics to support their core business, few have realized the potential benefits for information security.

A game-changer for businesses

The promise of actionable insight from data isn’t new – business intelligence and other analysis capabilities have long been present in many organizations. What is new is the rate at which data is growing, the way the data is changing and the demands being placed upon it. With the capability to properly analyze threats, risks and incidents from a wide array of data sources, the insight from big data analytics helps executives and boards better manage the risk/reward balance in cyberspace.

As big data continues to be a game-changer for businesses, the security risks become even greater. Users are becoming alarmed about how much data is being collected, with whom the data is being shared and how it is being used. There is a clear need for better engagement among key stakeholders and joined-up thinking throughout organizations, from the Chief Marketing Officer’s office to the IT department, with the adoption of clear guidelines and best practice on the usage, storage and transfer of data both inside and outside the business.

Legal and regulatory issues

The law-making process is slow compared to technology’s speed of change. This lag often means that new technical solutions remain unregulated or are constrained by outdated legislation. While big data has not been in existence long enough for its implications to be well understood and addressed by laws and regulations, organizations must ensure that their use of big data analytics complies with existing legislation and regulations, while keeping an eye to the future.