March 20, 2017

Big data security: Do you know what you don’t know?

Davitt PotterBy Davitt Potter
Sr. Engineering Manager, Cybersecurity
Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions

Security – it’s the hot topic right now. The more data we keep, the more data we have to secure. IT must ensure that security is wrapped around everything, and this no longer means just installing a firewall or new, and hopefully better, anti-virus software. What actually matters are the data and the users – and how they interact. Thanks to the proliferation of BYOD and remote users, the way the user accesses networks is of lesser importance and concern in comparison to data security.

With the growing excitement surrounding big data comes those who want to access, manipulate, massage, transform and unpack all of the information at once. Access to this vast amount of data, however, needs to be controlled. Who needs access to it? Is it part of their job description? What compliance issues need to be addressed? Should it be accessed remotely, or only onsite? What other data is being introduced into the mix? How much can they access? How long will they need access? How can you restrict access to just certain portions of a dataset?Davitt_BigData

By protecting big data, a company can avoid problems like regulatory non-compliance, intellectual property theft and corporate espionage. Companies are increasingly turning to internal network security to control privileged users’ access to data – but who’s watching the watchers? Should IT have access to everything? There is also a definite skills gap when it comes to trained IT personnel around auditing and compliance, and internal security measures. The infographic below shows the severity of inside data breaches.

Identity and access management (IAM) policies help determine user access permissions to ensure that all individuals are properly authenticated, authorized and audited according to your policy. Basically, the questions to ask are: Who has access to what data, from what devices, at what times? This policy can help guide the security of your big data environment as well.

Davitt_ITsecurityinfographic

Click to enlarge.

Think of determining a big data security policy like mapping the physical security access within a building. You have to determine which employees’ key cards get them into what sections or floors of the building. You don’t want just anyone who has access to be wandering around and badging in where they’d like, “just to take a look at what’s there.” This presents a liability from a compliance standpoint, and is also an attack vector to insider threats, such as IP theft, or potential blackmail and insider data theft. The same concept applies to securing big data – make sure the right people are accessing the right data.

On the flip side, it’s possible to “quarantine” data, in a sense. By isolating and segregating data and departments internally, you can limit exposure to non-authorized personnel, help stop a wide-spread virus or malware outbreak, or at least limit damage to a smaller piece of the dataset and company resources. But you’d rather be safe than sorry, right? First and foremost, policies need to be established. If you don’t have a policy, build one. If you don’t know how, ask for help. If you do have a policy, make sure that it is consistently updated to reflect the ever-changing business IT environment.

It’s equally important to keep the policy updated to reflect employees who move throughout the organization. Rather than prolonging the “once you’re in, you’re in” problem, access drift needs to be controlled. If an employee moves from one team to another, IT needs to make sure their access permissions are updated accordingly.

Overall, IT teams need to be brought into the process much sooner than they currently are, identifying in advance which users can access what and when, and making sure all of these “buckets” are set up properly.

These are three questions you should ask yourself when determining your company’s IAM policies:

Davitt big data security(1)

With Arrow’s Empower Secure Enterprise, you have access to proven leading technologies to help protect your customers’ businesses. In addition, Arrow’s Solution Practice Leaders are well versed in the data center security market opportunity and supplier solutions. They can provide the business planning expertise you need to leverage this opportunity and help build your practice.

If you have additional questions about IAM and securing your big data, please contact Davitt Potter or your Arrow representative.

This post was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.