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Digital data continues to expand exponentially, according to the authors of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think. The amount of information stored online is growing at an unprecedented rate – one that currently exceeds the growth of the world economy by approximately four times. It’s estimated that we generate about 16.3 zettabytes of data annually, and by the year 2025, that number will increase to 163 zettabytes. These figures are even more telling when we compare them with actual data usability.

Research shows that the entire YouTube community uploads an hour’s worth of video footage every second, and that we tap our phones on average 2,617 times a day. But, as we descend evermore into a truly datafied, tech-savvy society, we also become less careful about the information that we voluntarily share with service providers – not to mention the digital footprints we unconsciously leave behind.

The Dangerous Side of Data

Telehouse created an infographic on the impact of poor data management. Let’s look below at the twelve worst case scenarios that businesses could face from poor data management.

  1. You could suffer a security breach or attack. Nearly half of all businesses in the UK have reported at least one data breach or data breach attempt in the last year. The bigger your organization or company, the more data you will hold. Therefore, there is a higher risk that you may be targeted by cybercriminals attempting to compromise your data security. The possibility increases to 66% for medium-sized firms and 68% for large firms.
  2. You could lose or compromise your customers’ data. In the infamous Equifax data breach, which most likely occurred between mid-May and July 2017, personally identifiable information belonging to around 800,000 UK consumers is believed to have been accessed by cyberthieves. The scale and consequences of the Equifax security faux pas is enough to scare any business into dealing with sensitive information correctly.
  3. You could put your employees’ data at risk. You’ve been warned over and over again that your employees’ behavior can have a big impact on data security in your organization. Social engineering is one of the most common and effective ways of gaining unauthorized access to classified information. Suffice to say, recently, a 15-year-old British teenager was able to gain access to intelligence information about operations in Afghanistan and Iran. How? By pretending to be the head of the CIA. Yet it’s worth remembering that security is a two-way street. Sensitive information about people in your company is just as valuable as your customers’ data, therefore security procedures and processes should be just as stringent for both employees’ and customers’ information.
  4. You could suffer a DDoS attack. DDoS attacks are a distinctive type of a malicious attack that takes down machines or whole network resources. It’s done by temporarily or indefinitely disrupting services of a host connected to the internet with an avalanche of superfluous requests. This, of course, has foreseeable financial consequences.
  5. You could lose a lot of money. The majority of cyber-attacks concentrate on the insides of your wallet. It is forecast that by 2021, cybercrime damages will cost the world $6 billion.
  6. You could be operating against laws and regulations. Depending on the country, regulations or directives outline how companies and organizations should comply with data protection. Following these rules is crucial to help successfully avoid cyber-attacks and fines. In 2016, UK businesses were fined £3.2 million in total for breaching data protection laws.
  7. You could be putting your intellectual property or trade secrets at risk. When we talk about cybercrime, we usually picture huge financial loss and personal identity theft. However, anyone familiar with espionage will know that intellectual property is also under threat. In the UK, 20% of businesses admit they have experienced a breach resulting in material loss.
  8. You could be hit with a virus. WannaCry, StormWorm and MyDoom are just a few examples of weapons of software mass destruction that made it onto the list of vicious malware. According to research conducted by the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Program, 33% of all data breaches originate from intrusive or harmful software.
  9. You could be targeted by hackers. Having the same or similar passwords for every email account and website may make things easier for you. However, weak passwords make you extremely vulnerable to attackers. It’s advisable to use a random password generator that will incorporate both upper and lower-case letters, as well as special characters, to increase your password security.
  10. You could suffer damaging downtime. Businesses and organizations spend a lot of their time and money ensuring they remain visible and have a positive perception online. Unfortunately, once they are targeted by cybercriminals who use sophisticated systems to execute data attacks, that time and effort is worthless. It’s reported that an unplanned outage costs a business £6,000 per minute on average.
  11. You could hurt your reputation. Most downturns for firms and organizations are usually caused by data breaches and cyber-attacks that could have been prevented. According to 90% of CEOs, striving to rebuild commercial trust among stakeholders after a breach is one of the most difficult tasks to achieve for any company –  regardless of their revenue.
  12. You could risk physical data loss. Over 70% of businesses involved in a major incident either do not reopen or fail within three years of an incident occurring. Remember to keep your infrastructure safe at all times to avoid being forced out of business by cyberthieves.

With technology being fundamental to many businesses, it should hardly be seen as a surprise that cyberattacks pose significant threats. The above twelve worst-case scenarios are to encourage businesses, and active participants in the digital economy, to implement protective measures that allow them to comply with data protection regulations. Although there is no “silver bullet” that can protect your business from cybercrime, putting in place adequate security measures is essential for stability and continuity.