If Data's Your 'Lifeblood,' Time to Think About Security

Loraine Lawson
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Five Tips for Easier Data Governance

Five steps you can take to ease the trauma of starting data governance.

"There should be some data solution for this," a friend wrote by way of explaining the attached link, which read - I kid you not - "Inmates register as tax preparers."


Now the mind plays tricks - so don't read that as "tax payers." No, no. It's tax PREPARERs, as in, the people who go over all the juicy details of your finances and write it up for the IRS.


You'd like to think there'd be a technology solution for checking to see if, oh, I dunno, 331 tax preparer wannabes are having their mail sent to a prison. You would think it would be a fairly easy thing to check against the court records and determine that 962 of the people you just sent tax payer IDs to had been incarcerated in the last 10 years. At the very least, you'd like to believe the IRS is not so incompetent that it would send tax preparer IDs to 43 people serving life sentences.


But no. Despite a long history of being scammed by incarcerated felons (read the full article), the IRS did just that.


It's a sad reminder that we've got a long way to go with technology - and particularly, with integrating the various aspects of technology. I used to cover security, and this is exactly the kind of stuff a good IT security chief could predict.


But unfortunately, it seems security is still locked in a box focused primarily on the network's firewall - watching for an attack from 1999, rather than scanning the overall security picture.


And the data people just don't get it - at least, that's my impression from being involved in this beat. When companies were concerned about cloud security, I saw quite a few people challenging that by saying, "What security problem?"


They felt the cloud had the same security problems as everything else - and that's true to some extent. But this is what I mean by "data people just don't get it": Putting a whole lot of data in one place makes that place a very attractive target for a more adept set of criminals. Get the pot big enough, and the criminals will come - hard and fast. There's a certain amount of security to be had in being among a herd of companies running under the crime syndicate's radar.


That's OK - I'm not saying anyone's come up short here. Data experts don't think like security experts, just like accountants don't think like police. And honestly, that's probably a good thing. When you think like the police, you tend to sound a bit paranoid, and if you do your job, it looks like that's all it is: paranoia. And when you're right, well, no one will thank you for warning them.


But it's not just about security; it's also about good business. In this highly interactive world, data quality is as much an external practice as an internal one, as data quality expert David Loshin recently pointed out. Your customer records may all agree on a customer's address - but it's all meaningless if the customer moved last week.


Bottom line: If data is the lifeblood of an organization, then it's time to think differently about data, and that means, among other things, taking a more strategic view of how data intersects with the rest of the world.

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