Are you storing too much data? Probably

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There’s an old adage, “It’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.” While that may be true for first aid supplies, it could be bad news for companies who subscribe to this way of thinking.

In the digital age, companies have started collecting lots more data on their customers, employees and just about anything else imaginable than ever before. For a while, that posed challenges like how to store and secure this influx of information.

Then along came Big Data, which promised that all this information companies now had their hands on could be used to forever change and improve the organization. Suddenly, it was worth the investment to collect and house this data.

And now we’re in a cloud and mobile-centric world where limits on data storage and retention seem almost antiquated. Someone else takes care of the storage for you, and you’re able to store it and access it whenever needed (for the most part) and cheaply expand capacity later should you start to bump up against your limits.

So with seemingly endless possibilities and capacity, how can storing too much be a bad thing?

Unused data

For one thing, companies that store data in hopes of getting use out of it in a rainy day scenario may be overestimating its usefulness.

Some estimates place the amount of data that’s recorded then never used as high as 80%. Think of that like going to buy $100 worth of groceries, then putting $80 worth of them aside in a cabinet that you never really open. Even if it’s shelf-stable and could theoretically be used someday, most wouldn’t consider that a very smart investment.

And of particular concern to IT pros is that while you may not have use for all this data, hackers most certainly could.

The risk

Despite automation and services promising they can “protect it all,” it’s only natural that some things slip through the cracks. Directories containing sensitive information that was going to be used for some project somewhere down the line are forgotten about and not stored with the same attention or care as other info that’s protected with encryption or two-factor authentication.

Or maybe a testing environment is set up for that data, but never used.

These throwaway files prove very attractive to hackers. They get all the most important data without having to fight through the most rigorous security measures.

What to do

A 2015 Impervia study that touches on the dangers of unused data has some steps you can take to protect your organization. They include:

  • Look within. Audit and examine files and servers to determine which ones contain sensitive information that may not be given top priority or protection.
  • Classify sensitive data. If you find any unprotected data in these audits, be sure to give it a higher protected status.
  • Revoke permissions and access. Users are sometimes given added permissions to access data for a certain task or process which is no longer needed. Be sure to revoke their access if it’s not needed anymore since their accounts could be even more dangerous if hijacked.

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