Preventing data loss in a perilous digital age

After decades of an eager and unbridled embrace of the online ecosystem, companies and consumers are becoming painfully aware of the vulnerabilities associated with the digital age. A superfluous series of high-profile data breaches, cases of corporate mismanagement, and tragic insider thefts are causing many people to question the efficacy of our relationship with the internet and its abundance of immersive platforms. 

As a result, positive brand awareness is quickly becoming intertwined with competent data protection, and, as expected, many companies are struggling in this regard. 

Big data has big problems

For instance, in March, Facebook launched an ambitious public relations campaign intended to help the company restore its damaged reputation after the often-reported Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that an unprecedented level of mismanagement and ignorance allowed a third-party to siphon the personal data of 87 million users.

To support the initiative, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, released a cogent statement explaining, “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you.” 

Nevertheless, the company closed out September with news of yet another data breach, this time compromising 50 million accounts. Publicly, Facebook says that it’s prioritizing data security, but protecting their users’ data continually proves challenging. 

To be sure, Facebook is not alone. Yahoo, Equifax, Under Armour, and even the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. electrical grid have endured network breaches.

For all their problematic peculiarities, each of these incidences share a common theme. They were perpetrated by malicious but external bad actors. Unfortunately, these and other organizations are also frequently plagued by numerous internal risks that threaten to undermine data security. Internal threats like accidental sharing or intentional data theft actually lead to more data loss than exploitation of software vulnerabilities and external threats combined.

What’s more, since social media conglomerates aren’t the only companies with significant amounts of data to protect, this shifting and increasingly perilous digital landscape can seem daunting for companies consider. 

A problem with a solution

Fortunately, the current data loss prevention crisis is not a problem without a solution. In fact, there are tangible steps that any company can take to secure their data, protect their brand, and promote their bottom line. 

Data visibility

According to Forbes, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day, a swelling number that is only growing as the internet becomes more ingrained in every platform, service, and activity. Companies contribute a significant share of that data, and they are responsible for managing and securing their portion. 

Everything from the plethora of emails sent each day to the sensitive customer information that underpins modern platforms collectively creates this incredible amount of data, and companies need visibility into this information to protect its integrity. 

It’s common for many employees to transfer data across multiple platforms through several different access points. Data visibility initiatives can provide companies with a real-time snapshot of their data landscape and security vulnerabilities, allowing them to make informed and immediate decisions to protect their data. 

Nobody can afford to be ignorant about their data, and a software empowered snapshot can help IT administrators best understand and respond to their active data environment.

Activity monitoring

User activity monitoring software can provide companies with a more detailed view of user activity with sensitive data, with the ability to identify usage patterns, unintentional misuse, and intentional data exfiltration attempts. 

As a result, creating, implementing, and monitoring company policies regarding technology use and data appropriation leveraging employee monitoring software is a highly effective way for organizations to protect their information against insider threats. 

In a data environment where compromise can be catastrophic, all avenues for data protection should be available to IT administrators. 

User behavior analytics

Advancements in machine learning are making it possible to combine data visibility and activity monitoring activities into a comprehensive user behavior assessment. 

When employees and team members become insider threats, user behavior analytics can indicate behavioral changes and other markers that can help identify and address potential threats. Real-time identification allows companies to pursue quick investigations to mitigate the risk of intentional or accidental data theft. 

A differentiating factor

Increasingly, companies can differentiate their business model and their brand by providing a secure and intelligent data monitoring apparatus. It can be difficult or impossible to repair a brand’s image after a data breach – look no further than Facebook’s public relations nightmare and their subsequent $120 billion devaluation – but companies that secure their information on the front end can benefit from the inverses effect. They can achieve a brand boost predicated on integrity and intentionality. 

The current technological landscape may be perilous, but there are clear steps that organizations can take to better protect their data and support their customers, employees, and bottom lines.

Isaac Kohen, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Teramind 

Isaac Kohen

Isaac Kohen is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Teramind, a leading, global provider of employee monitoring, insider threat detection, and data loss prevention solutions. He is the CTO of Teramind Inc. Teramind is a group of brilliant developers writing state-of-the-art applications for user behavior analysis, insider threat prevention, and session recording.