Cloud and big data: a perfect storm for security disruption 

Cloud and Big Data

Let’s look at some basic facts about Big Data and cloud storage, so that we can see how they can be connected with online security issues and what we can do about improving cybersecurity around these services in our daily lives.

Big Data is basically a huge amount of data being collected, processed and stored, at a very fast rate and in unimaginable quantities. This includes explicit data individuals provide, but also information such as time, location or other “hidden” data about our internet usage and habits. This data is then usually processed by specially-developed algorithms or softwares which can handle such a huge amount of data and try to process and analyze it in a way that gives some order and useful information from it.

Cloud storage on the other hand is a way of storing data virtually over the internet through a cloud computing provider who manages and operates data storage as a service. It is basically a secure virtual space which you access through the internet from your own device, and this removes the need to buy and keep hard storage devices at home, as well as lets you access your data from any device which has a connection to the internet.

Current regulations surrounding big data

Big Data is relatively new, and as such not always regulated and monitored as it maybe should be. In certain countries there are still no data regulations concerning Big Data or any type of data collection. In the EU we have the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which can partially influence and regulate Big Data, even though it’s not aimed specifically at Big Data and is not a sufficient solution.

The GDPR is aimed at protecting individuals and ensuring only the necessary data is collected, as well as stored and used in an ethical way and with the individual’s approval. This comes in contrast with Big Data which is aimed at collecting as much data as possible in order to make analyses and decisions based on it. Big Data is circulated globally between big companies, multinational organizations, advertisers and partners. Consent is usually asked in a very simple and basic manner and people are not really aware what they are consenting to. This is not necessarily due to the company trying to trick us or avoid transparency, but due to our wish to simplify everything and go the easy way. We don’t really read any of those notifications asking us for consent and what we are giving away. The truth is that even when we give away data, with GDPR we are still technically the owners of this data and can ask companies to delete it or stop using it – this is just not worth the time and effort for most of us. 

How is our digital safety impacted?

The goal is to have data protected at every stage during the collection, storage, as well as usage and distribution of data. The information that is collected comes from various sources, including sensitive databases with personal information that companies keep about consumers, as well as their habits and behavior. Most companies try to keep in line with laws and industry standards, but since this field is not extremely regulated, we often rely on the ethical and moral standards of those companies to keep our data well-protected. 

In large companies, cloud storage is usually combined with on-site storage to offer the best combination of safety and flexibility, and the cloud services used are well protected and updated to ensure their security. Security risks increase when all your data is stored on the cloud. This is true both for companies but also for individuals. We can’t completely ensure the safety of cloud storage, and keeping all our data there can be dangerous as it is more liable to attacks. However, this is especially true when we discuss companies who have terabytes of sensitive data about thousands of their consumers. Losing such information can be devastating for individuals as well as for the company who allowed such an attack.

How to improve the security of these services?

These online services are a perfect target for hackers and a risk to your security, but they are something that has become necessary and will continue to be used and upgraded. Both the services for our private lives and the complex ones meant for big organizations will continue to grow and expand. This is why we have to ensure our own high standards as well as the use of the most upgraded and secure technology that we have access to. 

There are a few important security technologies which help keep Big Data and cloud storage more safe and protected from attacks and data losses. First we have encryption, a process with which data is turned into secret codes and jumbled up so that the information is not detectable and the true meaning is well hidden. Data can be encrypted while stored, but also during transition or output to protect it even further. This also helps even after data is potentially stolen, because attackers can’t decipher it to see its true meaning so it becomes useless to them. 

Next we can mention user access control which helps with inside security, allowing only the necessary people to access some services or data. This can also help identify where something went wrong or if someone is at fault, since there are limited people allowed to do certain administrative procedures or access certain parts of the system, instead of hundreds of people having access without the need to ever use that data. Along with that, centralized key management is another good practice especially in Big Data environments, bringing all software, hardware and processes into one secure location and helping with its control and safety.

The other obvious threats are hacks and intrusions by third parties. There should be a good detection system that helps to identify and defend against attacks, prevent data loss and fix weak spots as soon as they are seen. And finally there is also physical security, keeping the data center safe and not accessible to employees who shouldn’t have access or random strangers entering the premises. This is done with video surveillance, security checks and special permits or cards to enter sensitive areas. 

There are many ways to avoid a security disruption caused by big data and cloud services. We need to ensure high security standards and use updated technology, as well as demand ethical and moral standards from companies. These services can benefit us greatly if used appropriately and ensured to keep our sensitive data safe.

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