Network Security

Horse trading 2.0: Information is a valued commodity

Back in the day, for many American Indian tribes of the Great Plains, the horse was the commodity of choice. Not only did the animal serve well in times of war with European invaders and later the United States, during raids of competing tribes and in enabling trade with various groups, but it also sent a message to others by indicating individual owner's and the overall tribes' level of wealth. The equation was a simple one: the more horses, the more moneyed. So for Great Plains Indians in the 1700s and well beyond, the horse was the commodity of choice. 

Commodities change with time and across groups, of course. What has value for some, means little to nothing for others. Yet, for most modern-day collectives, it's all about the money, right? Well, money and maybe power and reputation, too, that is. But, getting these things and exactly what can get a group or a person these things, well, that's a different story.

Lately, though, data seems a major driving commodity behind many an initiative. The U.S. federal government's domestic data collection efforts – leaked by the Edward Snowden – are all about power. Of course, politicos and others who have the power to surreptitiously undertake these efforts will say they're keeping us safe from terrorists. But, as noted over the last couple of months in this column and in SC Magazine's continuous news coverage on the subject, the anti-terrorist impacts of these privacy-invading programs still have yet to be proven and, as many experts contend, are peripheral at best.

But, I digress. My point is that information is a key underpinning all sorts of trade and holds both hard and soft values for those engaged in its transaction. For those looking to both harness and protect so-called Big Data, problems abound. IT security pros like you and the executive leaders for which you work understand Big Data analytics is where it's at right now or, at least, where you need to get to. That is, if you can leverage the terabytes of information feeds that pour in from various network and security devices, identity and access management applications, compliance tools, operating systems to more deeply understand what's happening across your corporate infrastructures, then you can much more effectively safeguard the terabytes of all the other Big Data, which encompasses intellectual property or sensitive customer or employee information. 

Of course, you're not the only one who grasps this. As Daniel Cohen, head of knowledge delivery and business development for RSA's Fraud Action Group, wrote in the company's blog last month, “Yes, the bad guys are getting there too – to the understanding that Big Data should matter more in their operations and that it will take more human-like, legitimate-looking behavior to trick detection systems into categorizing their activity as ‘un-risky.'”

Hence, just as organizations are increasingly trying to integrate more robust and advanced data analytics into their security operations so, too, are cyber criminals devising ways and enlisting technologies, such as plug-ins, to parse stolen data they've collected in order to make better use of it and, probably, make some more money and solidify reputations of, you guessed it, power, prestige and/or wealth. The power of data, of information as a commodity, then, only continues to deepen as it satisfies so many disparate needs and wants. The hope is that the security and privacy of it will be embraced by more officials and organizations as just as valuable.

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