Every organization generates data in the cause of running its business. However, not all of the data is easily accessible to employees and management when needed. Business data that are practically invisible and cannot be readily accessed are known as dark data. This includes unstructured on-premise and off-premise files, shelf-based files or digitized data that have not been indexed or organized for easy discovery and access.
Electronic information that an organization is not aware of their existence as chat messages, video call transcripts, emails, and others that are not in a centrally searchable data repository also make up dark data.
Sources of Dark Data
1. Legacy Files
When organizations digitize their business processes or move to the cloud, they may leave behind old files, documents, and reports that are no longer essential to current business operations or are too cumbersome to migrate.
This cache of legacy data contributes significantly to a company’s dark data.
2. Work From Home and Personal Device Use
Employees who work partially or fully from home generate a lot of business data during working hours. These include video calls, chat messages, and emails.
In addition, the company’s documents that are downloaded and edited on employees’ personal devices may not be re-uploaded to the organization’s server. As a result, they end up as inaccessible dark data.
3. Multi-Cloud Adoption
Many organizations make use of separate multi-cloud technologies for processing and storing data. If there is no process in place for harmonizing all the data from various sources, a large part of it will become dark data.
Dangers of Dark Data to Your Business
Taking dark data for granted and leaving them unattended can pose serious danger to the survival of your business. Some of the risks associated with this particular type of data are discussed below.
1. Legal and Compliance Penalties
There are legal and regulatory requirements for businesses to protect users’ confidential information. These requirements are governed by various data privacy and security laws in various jurisdictions.
If this confidential information such as customers’ financial data or patients’ health records ends up in dark data collection, they are very likely to get exposed. Data leaks can carry legal and financial penalties against the offending company.
In addition, the evidence needed to defend a lawsuit may be hidden away as dark data, and not finding them may lead to a loss.
2. Reputation Loss
Data that is not being actively managed or secured is more likely to be inadvertently exposed to unauthorized parties. The leakage of confidential data to the public will impact the affected company’s reputation and can cause business and customer loss.
3. Loss of Business Intelligence
Proprietary and business secrets may fall out of your active data management collection. When this happens, your competitor may get access to important data containing your business practices, competitive advantages as well as profitable partnerships from an unmaintained archive or device.
Such data may give competitors an insight into your organization’s operation and help them develop an edge over your company.
Also, important business data reports and analyses may be lost to an employee who leaves your company because you are not aware of the data.
4. Wrong Business Decision
Complementary data needed to make critical business decisions may be sequestered among dark data collections. Since this type of data can’t be easily accessed to gain insight, decisions made without it may turn out wrong due to insufficient information and analysis. Wrong decisions can affect your organization’s finances and industry position.
5. Increase Enterprise Silos
Accumulation of dark data contributes to enterprise data silos. This is a situation where departments in an organization are not aware of data possessed by other departments due to a lack of centralized data management. Isolated dark data limits collaboration and integration.
6. Productivity Loss
Dark data accumulation can lead to waste. This is because employees will spend more time searching for information when needed. Your organization will also spend more to store unstructured and unorganized data.
7. Opportunity Loss
Not mining, analyzing, and organizing dark data is a lost opportunity for a company. If these data are accessible to the public, other organizations not part of the data collection can end up benefiting instead.
How to Handle Dark Data
1) Identify all datasets of your organization residing across cloud services and offline storage for proper classification and cataloging.
2) Research and identify security risks and compliance that may be associated with the dark data discovered and take steps to correct it.
3) Organize sensitive data across both structured and unstructured data systems.
4) Assign correct access to discovered personal data and their owners as well as server manager.
5) Establish automated systems and processes to comply with data privacy laws and industry-specific legislation in health care, finance, and other sectors.
Management and employees for the reasons of logistics and priority, often relegate dark data. Without proper management and capturing, data has little value and can also pose serious security risks.
Your organization must be aware of the kind of information and data it possesses. Take immediate control of your dark data to improve your business health. Contact us today to learn more about how SDTEK can help you with all of your IT security needs.