Information Security in 2020

The rise in mobility and participation in social networks, the increasing willingness to share more and more data, new technology that captures more data about data, and the growing business around Big Data all have at least one assured outcome — the need for information security.

However, the news from the digital universe is as follows:

  • The proportion of data in the digital universe that requires protection is growing faster than the digital universe itself, from less than a third in 2010 to more than 40% in 2020.
  • Only about half the information that needs protection has protection. That may improve slightly by 2020, as some of the better-secured information categories will grow faster than the digital universe itself, but it still means that the amount of unprotected data will grow by a factor of 26.
  • Emerging markets have even less protection than mature markets.

In our annual studies, we have defined, for the sake of analysis, five levels of security that can be associated with data having some level of sensitivity:

  1. Privacy only — an email address on a YouTube upload
  2. Compliance driven — emails that might be discoverable in litigation or subject to retention rules
  3. Custodial — account information, a breach of which could lead to or aid in identity theft
  4. Confidential — information the originator wants to protect, such as trade secrets, customer lists, confidential memos, etc.
  5. Lockdown — information requiring the highest security, such as financial transactions, personnel files, medical records, military intelligence, etc.

The tables and charts illustrate the scope of the security challenge but not the solution. While information security technology keeps getting better, so do the skills and tools of those trying to circumvent these protections. Just follow the news on groups such as Anonymous and the discussions of cyberwarfare.

However, for enterprises and, for that matter, consumers, the issues may be more sociological or organizational than technological — data that is not backed up, two-phase security that is ignored, and corporate policies that are overlooked. Technological solutions will improve, but they will be ineffective if consumer and corporate behavior doesn’t change.

The Need for Information Security

Unprotected Data (2012)

Big Data is of particular concern when it comes to information security. The lack of standards among ecommerce sites, the openness of customers, the sophistication of phishers, and the tenacity of hackers place considerable private information at risk. For example, what one retailer may keep private about your purchase, such as your transaction and customer profile data, another company may not and instead may have other data hidden. Yet intersecting these data sets with other seemingly disparate data sets may open up wide security holes and make public what should be private information.

There is a huge need for standardization among retail and financial Web sites as well as any other type of Web site that may save, collect, and gather private information so that individuals’ private information is kept that way.