Putting Data Breaches to Work
It turns out that the extremely sorry state of enterprise data security has a silver lining: It's likely to generate a lot of new jobs that could stimulate the economy. As retailers such as Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels—the latest in a long line of businesses reeling from large-scale breaches—attempt to right the enterprise ship, they're likely to look for more and better data experts, according to John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
That's good news, if it actually leads to some type of substantive change. Obviously, the current breach du jour is news only because it involves consumers, and there's no way to duck out of public reports about stolen data, including credit and debit card numbers.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are likely numerous data breaches that involve other types of sensitive corporate data. Because these cases don't directly affect consumers, they fly below the news media radar.
Clearly, something has to change. Security is now front-page newspaper and television news. Breaches and breakdowns are making life increasingly miserable for consumers as well as businesses.
The reality is that in the rush to get products out the door and maximize sales, many firms approach data security as if it were a lighthearted musical comedy rather than a real-world drama. Many security experts argue that most breaches are entirely preventable, if businesses and others are willing to commit the necessary money and resources to fix the problems.
Here's the bottom line: If the business world doesn't get its act together soon through better industry standards and self-imposed governance, it can expect plenty of government regulations to follow. As Challenger explains: "Wide-scale, comprehensive data protection laws do not exist yet."
However, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is now investigating Target, and a spate of class action lawsuits have emerged. In addition, banks and other institutions that are forced to provide customers with new credit and debit cards are increasingly seeking financial redress from negligent retailers.
So, yes, hire like it's 1999! But at the same time, think about the problem far more dimensionally and seek out security analysts and experts with the right knowledge, skills and sensibilities to lock down your data and protect your customers.
The current state of affairs is unsustainable. Pay now or pay later.