Monday, March 28, 2011

Business data are vulnerable to thieves

According to a BBC news item today, security firm McAfee alerts that "Intellectual property and business secrets are fast becoming a target for cyber thieves...research found that some hackers are starting to specialise in data stolen from corporate networks. McAfee said deals were being done for trade secrets, marketing plans, R&D reports and source code."

Well, a security firm selling products to counter such threats would report the threat, wouldn't they?

Whether you lean towards that cynical view or not, the reality is that many organisations find that their core value now lies in the data they store. (It's not just firms like Google that have precious few assets beyond the data that other people allow them to collect; many much smaller firms, too, have valuable data they can mine for value.)

And it's often trivially easy to lose it. Last week I walked out of a building with a copy of the business's entire database stored on a tiny sliver of a card often found in digital cameras, tucked safely in my shirt pocket.

Not only had I signed a non-disclosure agreement, but I'd checked with the Managing Director, the Operations manager, the IT manager and the individual who administrates the database on a daily basis before I took the data. They knew why I was taking the copy and trust me to delete it as I promise when our agreed limited purposes are over.

However, a thief wouldn't bother to make these safeguards, and would find it almost as easy as I did; whether acting as a business visitor, cleaner, security guard or temporary staff member. They don't even need to walk out with a USB stick - your data can just be emailed out to a Gmail or Hotmail account. Remember, much of your data probably leaves the building routinely on employee laptops, pads and smartphones. Take precautions!
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