Anybody who watched the ABC's 4 Corners
Cyber War episode on Monday should be very concerned about our
exposure to hackers accessing our sensitive information, whether as
individuals or business people.
4 Corners highlighted how weak our cyber defences are against
attacks from criminals on our personal information, or against
international sabotage at a government level.
Much is made of cyber security, but in the past these attacks
have been seen more as a nuisance or a way to earn bragging rights.
But it's important to realise that it is the data and
information that these electronic spies are after.
How well do we understand what, where and how our data is
stored? A recent
global study published by Veritas showed that of the data owned
by Australian businesses, 62% is 'dark data', meaning its
value has not been identified: it is not known whether it is
'business critical' data. This lack of understanding and
ownership of data is a greater problem than simply identifying
vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure and applications.
We all understand that we need good locks, alarms and insurance
to protect assets in our homes. Our household assets are easy to
protect because they're tangible. Data is not. We should be
focusing on understanding and protecting the data especially as we
know that vulnerabilities will always exist.
Accounting standards rarely permit data to be recognised as an
asset on a balance sheet. Nonetheless, there are many of examples
of companies recognising their data's value and spending money
to develop and protect it. Coles and Woolworths use data from their
FlyBuys and Woolworths Rewards programs to
target customers with personalised ads. Another example is
companies recovering losses from ex-employees who join a competitor
and take the client database with them.
As data becomes more pervasive, companies would do well to grow
more aware of the types of data they own, the potential to generate
profits and the real risks and vulnerabilities.
Don't be like Bob Dylan:
I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Till I threw it all away!
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White collar fraud otherwise known as occupational fraud and abuse can affect any business from an SME through to a large multi-national company.
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