Data on the rise: 4 new challenges security must master

Data is information security's bread and butter, but the rise of data brings both new challenges and new opportunities. To meet them, security needs to change its relationship with data.

data architecture

You've likely heard that 90% of the world’s data was created over the last two years.  This phrase, often quoted, sometimes attributed, is passing through the public consciousness, on its way to becoming trivia.  Before its reduced to a ‘fun fact’ I offer it as a cautionary tale.  The author’s favorite fictional detective once said “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”  I invite the reader to turn this ‘obvious fact’ around and project it forward into the future.  If true, the world’s data will grow tenfold in the next two years, and a hundredfold in the next four.

The reasons for the rise, and its continuation, should be self-evident.  Data is perceived as an asset, and one that holds valuable information.  Big data has led to the development of new tools and new fields of analytics (which in turn creates more data) from which ever more valuable information is being gleaned.  From an economic point of view the big data market was worth $49 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow to $103 billion by 2023.  Abstractly, one should expect market forces to drive the growth of any monetizable commodity.


The rise of data poses several challenges for information security; here are just a few.

Protecting the asset
The 'obvious fact’ is the asset under protection is growing.  In 2012, the world’s data was expected to approach 40 zettabytes by 2020, and a recent study predicts 175 zettabytes by 2025, just five years hence.  More to the point, the proportion of data requiring protection is growing faster than the digital landscape itself, from less than a third in 2010, to an estimated 40% by 2020.

A number of factors contribute to the growth of raw data, from social media to digital transformation to innovation.  For example, 3D radiology has increased file size by a factor of 20, over 2D radiology, and autonomous vehicles are expected to generate 3TB of data per hour, or just under one GB each second.  Analytics, turning raw data into valuable information, is still in its infancy.  Research suggests that only a tiny fraction of data is analyzed, but the big data growth figures (above) suggest explosive interest.

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