Business intelligence strategy has ushered in a new era for organizations the world over. A strong focus on data analysis has business leaders enjoying reduced costs, increased efficiency, and all-around better decision-making. When previously unheard-of ROI is touted in headlines regularly, it sparks more businesses to follow suit and jump on the BI movement. However, many do so without considering the full implications of business intelligence on data security.
The mere act of producing, receiving, or housing data always poses a danger if left unsecured. Those incorporating BI strategy into their operations are at least more aware of their data, of what it is and where it is housed. But knowledge doesn’t equate to security. The insights drawn from BI and data analysis are no longer unstructured 1s and 0s, but highly-sensitive easily-understandable information, making it even more valuable to a hacker. If they can steal data that has already been analyzed, then they are in effect stealing the very keys to your success. Liken it to a car thief. Instead of just robbing a garage for a few spare parts, they’re boosting Ferraris right off the dealership lot.
A first line of defense will be the very BI tool an organization utilizes, and therefore requires heavy scrutiny. 70% of organizations view the cloud as an essential part of their analytics strategy, despite the security concerns inherent in using the cloud. Cloud BI options are easy and cost-effective ways to begin using data more strategically, but cloud vendors must be able to concretely describe their measures for keeping your data secure. Look to see if their other clients are well-known names for added confidence. Additionally, it’s best to have internal or consultant talent versed in cloud security on your side to provide a second layer of security.
Given that BI insights are of extreme value to hackers, it’s especially important to secure data once it’s unraveled. Many base-level essential security practices must be adapted to business intelligence. Before insights are stored or sent to someone else, they must be encrypted. At the very least, this practice will drastically slow down a hacker from making sense of your private data. Today, it’s possible to encrypt massive amounts of information quickly, proven by the IBM Z machine which can process 12 billion encrypted transactions per day. Neglecting encryption is a mistake, and one that may have contributed to the enormous Equifax breach.
Additionally, think strategically about segmenting both your network and data storage. Siloed raw data is inefficient for analysis, but siloed data insights can be a safe practice. This way, should a hacker gain access to one section of your network, they won’t have automatic access to every insight you have. It’s the difference between mining for gold nuggets and strolling into a vault at Fort Knox.
BI insights are powerful, and power in the hands of the wrong user can be dangerous. While you may trust all your employees, it’s not safe to give them all unlimited access to these insights. While employees should certainly see data results and trends that are applicable to their jobs, many of these items can be distributed to them from a supervisor or management. At the inception of a BI strategy, it’s necessary to scrutinize every employee’s role to determine the necessity of their access to BI tools and data. Even if you’re certain a disgruntled worker won’t try to wreak havoc and corrupt your data, if they don’t truly need access to certain BI tools then they may neglect basic security measures (like updating their password) and serve as an unknowing invitation to a hacker.
Many business leaders understand that data can be used to learn significant insights about their companies, but the fact BI can be used to address security is often neglected. Data analysis can discover backdoors, network inconsistencies, or technological issues that hackers can take advantage of. With real time results, BI security strategy can monitor data as it enters or leaves your organization to discover any questionable activities immediately.
Consider the fact that unauthorized access to Equifax’s systems began in mid-May but was not discovered until the end of June. More strategic security measures powered by BI could potentially have spotted the breach (and even the vulnerabilities that lead to the breach) sooner. But assessing risk and acting proactively are two critical cybersecurity measures that often fall to the wayside due to a lack of expertise. While IT departments have the raw, unstructured data with which to act, they may lack the manpower to look at it with a BI mentality. Unfortunately, it is already hard enough to locate and recruit cybersecurity talent, let alone cybersecurity talent versed in BI.
Once business intelligence is implemented and begins to show results, organizations find it remarkable to reflect on their older pre-BI strategies. The power that BI ushers in also brings a heavy responsibility to concentrate more than ever on security, as the best insights are of no use if they open up your business to threats. At the end of the day, the most successful companies are the ones that understand business intelligence and data security are inseparable.