Data's Dark Side

This Master Hyde, if he were studied," thought he, "must have secrets of his own; black secrets, by the look of him; secrets compared to which poor Jekyll's worst would be like sunshine."

~

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It was too late in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, when the narrator final revealed that attorney Mr. Utterson was misinformed, that the black secrets he feared had in fact been a product of the dark side of his own client Dr. Jekyll all along. This is a classic tale of good versus evil with a twist. To the reader the frays of evilness were exposed but the threads never pulled to investigate and reveal their true nature. Too common are dark secrets revealed too late…

Now my first choice for the Halloween-to-data-management-blog-hook was of course The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, but I struggled for a tie in. In my opinion Robert Louis Stevenson was no Charles Schultz but he gave us a haunting tale where the dark consumes light, where the black secrets of the seemingly good are eventually exposed and bring complete destruction. In an industry that values data above all else, I couldn’t help but take this Halloween as an opportunity to point out that companies should be as wary as Mr. Utterson, for data has a more nefarious dark side.

But data is king, how could it be? McKinsey told us that companies are 5% more profitable when they rely on data-driven decision making as a culture, so we kept it all. Organizations throughout the globe effected culture change across their knowledge workers, driving a new culture of Data Hoarding. But this perpetually saving behavior, this belief that data has to be kept because employees may need to reference it later, will eventually rear its ugly head. There are 2.3 billion files in every petabyte of data you hoard, can you really identify the “decision making catalysts” amongst the rest? Before you realize it, the average organization is spending over $20 million on storage costs for data that no one has modified for 3 years.

You are betting on its eventual use, but don’t forget that over time data has a dark, lazy, wallet-eviscerating side.

Now some of our data must be valuable, right? Of course it is. Organizations are experiencing a digital transformation at a velocity that is incredible, and data is being put to new –and very valuable—uses. Intellectual Ventures, a private invention capital company, raised over $6 billion in venture funds based on a portfolio of 70,000 Intellectual Property assets, or patents. Quite literally raising money based on information. But with increasing values attributed to data, thieves become greedier and more persistent. Thirty three percent of fortune 100 companies will experience an information crisis by 2017, and most of them are looking for that crisis to come at them. They forget that the most destructive crisis –inadvertent or malicious – may come from within. And many organizations may be in a precarious position. Employees admit to storing dangerous items such as unencrypted company secrets across personal and corporate devices and 83 % IT decision makers across the globe fear the sheer amount of data that they are storing increases the time to respond to a data breach.

You are confident you can keep the bad guys out, but don’t forget that data has a dark, stealthy, loyalty-betraying side.

IP portfolios and trade secrets are obviously valuable, but what about the rest? All data, whether it is personal, public or corporate, is getting significant value attributed to it. At the time of Facebook’s IPO they had $68 billion in value attributed in goodwill. The Facebook brand is incredibly valuable, but the more likely reason this number was so high is because you can’t put your data on a balance sheet. Value is being applied to data whether it’s personal photos and comments on FB or the quarter’s sales forecast. With the functional line now blurred between corporate and personal lives, so goes the digital line. Employees admit to storing job applications, unencrypted personal health records and incriminating correspondence on their corporate machines. The risk being when organizations lose personal data the gravity of the situation is heightened and the fallout more extreme. When it is our personal data we just take it so personally.

You have integrated it into every part of your life, but don’t forget that data has a dark, spiteful, reputation-destroying side.

But there is hope. Find the jewels amongst the junk and protect them. Track who’s accessing what and predict the crisis before it happens. And call us. At Veritas we just might have a way to find the Mr. Hyde lurking in your data, and stop him before it is too late…

Happy Halloween.

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