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Big Data meets strong magnets or how a deluge of petabytes makes security paramount

Thanks to the advancement of analytical technologies, banks have the opportunity to use big data to drive growth. With the right data knowledge and strategic partnerships, the possibilities to generate revenue is massive, but there are many challenges along the way.

Firstly, it takes time and resources to mine the appropriate data - and analytics can cost a fortune. Secondly, given the immense amount of data regularly generated by financial institutions, most organisations don’t even know where to begin to take full advantage of all of the information they gather. Thirdly, there’s a lot of talk about combining structured data with more fluid information gathered from the cloud, social media and mobile devices, but finding staff with the knowledge to do the job right is hard to come by.

Indeed, executives are faced with a major data management challenge to create any value in mushrooming data, and most lack the knowledge to fully utilise the data they hold.

Where to start?

Companies need to decide exactly what they want to get out of business data and what data is deemed important. Remember, about 2.5 billion gigabytes of data is produced each day - and 90 per cent of the stored data in the world has been created in just the past two years. That’s a lot of data to sift through. Companies should know what they want before they start digging.

Once businesses understand this important data, they need to become more analytical in their approach to data management to ensure only useful information is kept and combined with existing data to provide insights.

Thirdly, as information is pouring in from a number of places, deletion and duplication policies should be in place to streamline processes. Finally, companies must secure storage data and quality control their erasure processes to avoid risk.

The last point is an important one to emphasise as it’s a growing area of concern. There are a number of big risks related to the storage of unencrypted media, particularly when in transit between company sites and long term storage facilities. Over the last three years, the negative press and costs associated with losing customer data has made banks more vigilant in trying to remove the risks before they cause damage.

Nowadays, the banking sector and most enterprise organisations have managed to eliminate this risk from their primary backups and most recent archives by transferring data via a secure WAN to their storage facilities and then archive to encrypted tape. The big headache that organisations are encountering is related to the older tape archives.

Companies have the option of either restoring all their data to disk based storage, within their secure data centre, or restoring and then backing-up again to encrypted tape. Then there’s the headache of degaussing and knowing how to quality control the erasure process. Very few companies are able to fully destroy data on magnetic media in-house. Even fewer can prove that degaussing in-house has been successful without third party assistance.

A major bank recently used Kroll Ontrack to validate its degaussing process and we were successful in recovering the data. It turned out that the bank’s existing degausser was not powerful enough and created the wrong shaped magnetic field for it to penetrate multi platter workstation disk drives.

If a company is just using offsite data destruction for unencrypted media the media is at risk during transit and the quality controls of the destruction company. Degaussing onsite reduces this risk, but again, the system has to be powerful enough to destroy all data.

The benefits of harnessing big data for banks are immense. The more intelligence they have on their customers the greater the opportunity to cross-sell and build a bigger business. But there are ways to go about tackling the data - and knowing which data to use and how to safeguard it should be on the top of the agenda for any organisation wanting to make data one of its greatest assets.

Robert Winter is responsible for all operations within the area of disaster recovery in the Kroll Ontrack labs, based at the UK headquarters in Epsom.Robert started his career in the aerospace industry as a design engineer, later moving on to become a risk analysis specialist for aircraft. He joined Kroll Ontrack in 1995 as a lab supervisor, specialising in tape recovery and computer forensics before quickly being promoted to manager of engineering for data recovery.