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Four safe data practices to mitigate security threats

Wee Tee Lim
Wee Tee Lim1/30/2023 10:10 AM GMT+08  • 7 min read
Four safe data practices to mitigate security threats
Bad actors do not discriminate and an overlooked vulnerability could turn out to be a costly misstep for the business. Photo: Unsplash
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A cyber attack could cripple your organisation for years in just eighteen minutes.

Within the same timeframe as a food delivery order, a sophisticated bad threat actor can access your organisation’s networks, access sensitive, personal or proprietary data, and use them for profit. The financial losses from cyberattacks can be significant, with organisations potentially taking months to years to fully recover. The motive behind these attacks is clear: to access sensitive, personal or proprietary data generated and stored anywhere and everywhere.

Today’s businesses are grappling with how to properly store, manage, control, govern and secure their data, an unintended consequence of our always-on connectivity and proliferation of digital devices. As our digital landscape continues to evolve in both size and complexity, so will the data that we generate - and threats to the security of our data.

A recent report by Check Point Software Technologies on 2022 cyber attack trends found that the overall volume of cyberattacks worldwide increased by 38%, with the Asia Pacific (Apac) region experiencing the second highest volume of attacks. Organisations in markets like Taiwan and Singapore saw significant increases, with organisations in Taiwan registering an average of 3,118 attacks per week.

The report noted that the increase was driven by smaller, more agile hacker and ransomware gangs that focused on exploiting collaboration tools used in work-from-home environments such as Slack, Teams, OneDrive, and Google Drive, and targeted education institutions that had to rapidly digitalise during the Covdi-19 pandemic. In addition, the healthcare sector saw the largest increase in cyberattacks in 2022, as healthcare organisations are perceived to be short on cybersecurity resources and ill-equipped to handle sophisticated cyberattacks.

This reflects an increasing trend across industries, as research by Palo Alto Networks in 2021 found that about 94% of organisations in Asean experienced a rise in number of attacks, with financial services (45%) and fintechs (42%) being concluded as the most at risk of cyberattacks.

See also: How to tread the fine line between personalisation and privacy

Threats to organisational data are a reality that businesses must take active steps to mitigate. This is particularly true for those in Southeast Asia as the region looks to continue its fast growth. To do so effectively requires that organisations look at four areas of the business: security and governance, network security models, cloud and data strategies, and employee training.

1. Prioritising security and governance

Security and governance are instrumental pillars to effectively harnessing data. Organisations must prioritize support for these pillars or risk reducing their confidence in using data to unearth digital insights.

See also: A local spin on voice AI

A single organisation today can generate exabytes of unstructured enterprise data, which is streamed via the edge through billions of devices, sensors and cloud-based applications. Mitigating cyber vulnerabilities requires the organisation to first secure its rapid stream of enterprise data in real-time. This requires comprehensive threat detection and mitigation measures, done through the ingestion, tracking and managing of real-time data securely at scale. Understanding a data unit’s origin is also vital. Organisations must ask key questions about a data’s lineage, such as pipeline tampering possibilities or a data’s security status upon its endpoint arrival, to enhance security.

For organisations in tightly controlled operating environments that have to abide by innumerable sovereignty rules, standards, and regulations, the ability to secure and govern data is even more critical.

2. Implementing a zero-trust approach

The rise of cloud adoption and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) cultures at workplaces have widened opportunities for bad actors to exploit vulnerabilities and organisations can no longer afford to rely on traditional network security models for data security.

A zero-trust architecture creates a paradigm shift for organisations by applying high levels of scrutiny and suspicion to any entity or device interacting within a network’s perimeter. This architectural stance assumes that networks are hostile by default, and that each interaction and request must be verified by access policies or mechanisms.

By starting with minimal permissions for each role, and then requiring authentication throughout the network plane, zero-trust architectures enable organizations to layer their network security and prevent bad actors from moving deeper into the network.

3. Investing in a modern data platform

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The future is hybrid. A modern data strategy can no longer be one-dimensional -- not on-premises or cloud or multi-cloud, but a seamless marriage between them. Balancing data security with a business’s inherent need for innovation requires aligning data strategy with cloud strategy and business priorities to ensure that the organisation is well set up to quickly extract insights from all data sources in a secure, governed manner for informed decision making in real-time, no matter where the data resides.

The ideal tool(s) is scalable to properly store and process massive, growing volumes of data, diagnose vulnerabilities for pre-emptive action, and flexible in allowing data and workloads to freely move to optimise cost, performance, and security. Advanced capabilities like machine learning will allow organizations to quickly build machine learning models on new data sources for increased agility and response to market changes, while built-in security and governance will enable the organization to enforce consistent security policies through a dataset’s lifecycle.

Organisations must build their strategies and plans on top of security and governance, not the other way around. Bolting on third-party security solutions to achieve these benefits after will be a difficult and expensive process .

A hybrid data platform like the Cloudera Data Platform that combines scalability, adaptability, and flexibility, with built-in security and governance capabilities, will allow high-value, deeply sensitive data to remain on-premises while taking advantage of the elastic, cost-effective properties of multi-cloud for improved operational efficiency.

4. Educating employees on best practices

Businesses must also remember the potential for security risks and threats that come from within the organisation, such as employees and trusted insiders. Vulnerabilities aside, data breaches can occur through insider threats (with cooperation from someone within the organization) or unintentional breaches as a result of social engineering. The most common form of social engineering attacks come from phishing or spear phishing, varying with current events.

As the world grappled with the chaos from the pandemic, threat actors have been opportunistically using the shifting landscape to adopt tactics and techniques to successfully infiltrate organisations across the globe.

According to a research by IBM on the cyber threat landscape in 2021, server access attacks, ransomware, and data theft topped attack types on Asian organisations. Vulnerability exploitation and phishing tied for top infection vector, contributing to nearly half of attacks observed in the region, while the use of stolen credentials contributed to 7%. The same research identified Asia as the most attacked region in the world, with commonly targeted industries including finance and insurance (30%), manufacturing (29%), professional and business services (13%), and transportation (10%).

As more organisations seek to democratise their data’s access to business users, teams and employees must be well-trained with proper resources to handle the increasingly complex threats targeting today’s businesses.

Staying vigilant to combat data security challenges

Asia Pacific organisations are expected to generate 7,552 terabits of data per second up until 2025, according to recent research by Equinix. Even as organisations look to harness this data to innovate and drive business impact, challenges remain in the secure storage, management, and governance of data.

We foresee these challenges growing in complexity as our world continues to digitally transform -- as will the threats. Even as organisations practice good security hygiene, insider risk and insider threat -- and the methods by which they are intentionally or unintentionally carried out -- will continue to evolve. Bad actors do not discriminate against organisations large or small and an overlooked vulnerability could turn out to be a costly misstep for the business. Vigilance will be key to combating these challenges.

Wee Tee Lim is the regional vice president for Asean and Taiwan at Cloudera

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