The impact of your business data footprint

Will you dare to look at the trail of data footprints that your business is leaving behind?
26 June 2019

Accessing sensitive data could be ‘one small step’ for hackers. Source: Shutterstock

There is a long list of high-profile celebrities and influencers that have learned the hard way that the digital footprint of their past will come back to haunt them. 

Ten-year-old tweets can resurface when you least expect them and will ruin a reputation that took years to build in an instant.

However, in the world of business and big data, leaders seldom think about their corporate data footprint. The critical applications, databases, servers, and cloud computing services will have log files recording every action. 

Our reliance on application programming interfaces (APIs) have all created a spaghetti factory of connection points that stretch far beyond your corporate network.

We all enjoy the benefits of living in a connected world. But what does that actually mean? It’s not until you dare to look up from your screen that you slowly realize that you are surrounded by desktops, smartphones, laptops, tablets, printers, and applications that are consuming power and continuously gathering data.

The arrival of 5G is expected to create a boom in IoT sensors that will pave the way for 20 billion connected devices by 2020. Add these inconvenient truths together, and there is little doubt that your enterprise data footprint is about to get even bigger.

The cybersecurity risks of your data footprint

In our personal lives, it’s never been easier for hackers to build a detailed profile of your likes, dislikes, and where you hang out. How? We happily share this information with the world across a myriad of social channels which make it easy to personalize those pesky malware-ridden emails. Enterprises face even greater risks, and it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

Cybercriminals don’t have to look far before they stumble on the data footprints of your organization. Web assets, email domains, network touch-points, and the inevitability of human error all make an attack on a company incredibly easy. 

Cyber attackers will have sophisticated software tools at their disposal, but for the most part, businesses are guilty of leaving an easy trail to follow.

The company website will often reveal the email domain used by all of its employees. A visit to LinkedIn and Twitter will enable anyone to find out exactly when a senior member of the management team is at a conference or on holiday. One more final trip to LinkedIn will help determine who approves invoices and enable an attacker to send an urgent payment request in the name of the manager.

Automated scanning engines also enable cybercriminals to search the web for enterprises with inadequate security controls. Once again, your data footprint will reveal misconfigurations, absence of security patches and enable them to exploit any vulnerabilities that they find.

It has never been easier for cybercriminals to gather intelligence and launch a coordinated attack against an organization. The vast amounts of company data and intellectual property (IP) are at risk of being compromised or even used as weapons to damage the reputation of a business.

The ROI of reducing the data footprint of your organization

Reducing your data footprint is not just about security. On a more practical level, it can reduce storage costs. Many forget that the cloud is simply somebody else’s computer and that everything comes with a high price tag. 

In a world where everyone expects 100 percent availability 365 days a year, reducing your data footprint can also help businesses improve the performance of the backup and restore process that plays a critical role in protecting company data.

Cheap cloud storage is largely responsible for organizations holding on to every piece of data, just in case. Years of data stockpiling has created a heap of other problems and the realization that cleaning up its data is both complicated and expensive. But the arrival of AI is forcing many businesses to think differently. Forcing AI algorithms to wade through data sludge will only result in a severe case of garbage in, garbage out (GIGO).

Increasing the security and safety of your data should be enough motivation to consider reducing the data footprint of any enterprise. But the ROI of lowering IT costs and future proofing your business by ensuring only clean data gets added into algorithms managed by AI, and machine learning should make it impossible to ignore.

As data footprints continue to grow at breakneck speed, many businesses are outgrowing the solutions they have in place. Having a data storage backup environment that is capable of supporting these vast volumes of data is a conversation that will increasingly be heard in every boardroom.