The age of big data and cyber security is here. And that means both opportunity and risk for most businesses. If you are in the cyber security field you are likely very familiar with big data, which is the term used to describe a very large data set that is mined and analyzed to find patterns and behavioral trends. It is generally defined as being dense in variety, velocity and volume. From a cyber security standpoint big data has ushered in new possibilities in terms of analytics and security solutions to protect data and prevent future cyber attacks. But just as big data has opened up new possibilities for cyber security teams, it has also given cyber criminals the opportunity to access mass quantities of sensitive and personal information through the use of advanced technologies.

Threats and Opportunities

There are three main challenges that businesses are running into with big data:

  • Protecting sensitive and personal information
  • Data rights and ownership
  • Not having the talent (i.e. data scientists) to analyze the data

While meeting the main challenge of safeguarding information may sound simple enough, when you look at the scale of data that needs to be processed and analyzed in order to prevent cyber attacks, the challenge becomes a little more daunting. For example, “to give you an idea of how much data needs to be processed, a medium–size network with 20,000 devices (laptops, smartphones and servers) will transmit more than 50 TB of data in a 24–hour period. That means that over 5 Gbits must be analyzed every second to detect cyber attacks, potential threats and malware attributed to malicious hackers,” according to Computer World.

Traditionally, the technologies and security tools that have been used to mine data and prevent cyber attacks have been more reactive than proactive and have also created a large number of false positives, creating inefficiencies and distracting from actual threats. What’s more these traditional tools do not have the bandwidth required to deal with the large volumes of information.

In comparison, big data analytics give cyber security professionals the ability to analyze data from many different sources and data types and then respond in real time. Big data analytics is not only able to gather information from a vast universe but it is also able to connect the dots between data, making correlations and connections that may have otherwise been missed. This increases efficiencies for cyber crime professionals and casts a wider more reliable net when it comes to thwarting cyber attacks.

If businesses can figure out how to use modern technologies to safeguard personal and sensitive data, then the opportunities that big data present are great. The two biggest benefits big data offers companies today are:

  • Business intelligence through access to vast data/customer analytics that can be used to enhance and optimize sales and marketing strategies
  • Fraud detection and a SIEM systems replacement

Increasing Big Data Security

When cyber criminals target big data sets, the reward is often well worth the effort needed to penetrate security layers, which is why big data presents such a great opportunity not only for businesses but for cyber criminals. They have a lot more to gain when they go after such a large data set. Consequently, companies have a lot more to lose should they face a cyber attack without the proper security measures in place.

In order to increase the security around big data, your business may consider:

  • Collaborating with other industry peers to create industry standards, head off government regulations, and to share best practices
  • Attribute based encryption to protect sensitive information shared by third parties
  • Secure open source software such as Hadoop
  • Maintain and monitor audit logs across all facets of the business

Overall, big data presents enormous opportunities for businesses that go beyond just enhanced business intelligence. Big data offers the ability to increase cyber security itself. Yet, in order to benefit from the many opportunities big data presents, companies must shoulder the responsibility and risk of protecting that data.

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