Is your data security strategy a fixer upper?

There are two things that I do passionately outside of work: home improvement projects and offshore fishing. I approach them both with an intensity that can be scary at times. I’m very competitive, but that’s another blog with pictures of bluefin tuna and humpback whales off the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. At cocktail parties, friends only want to talk about tuna and when I’m going to give them another package of fresh steaks.

I watch a lot of This Old House videos and YouTube clips on woodworking and general home building. The entire process from forestry to finishing techniques is steeped in history and minute details. However, does it seem to anyone else that every home improvement show – especially on HGTV – is pretty much the same? In the opening scene, someone is looking to buy, renovate, or buy AND renovate a home that has a lot of hidden charm. The charm is…really hidden. Deeply hidden. But the hosts of the show are sure they can unearth it. All they need to do is knock down a few walls (open concept!), put up some shiplap, install new flooring, build furniture from reclaimed wood and bring in a farmhouse sink. Voilá! In a short (fictionally short) amount of time, the wizard contractors of HGTV can overhaul an entire house for less money than the rest of us might pay to repair a loose step.

Somewhere around the halfway mark of every episode, though, the renovations or home inspections hit a snag. The old cliché, “if these walls could talk,” is spot on. Looking inside the walls reveals an entire conversation when you go beneath the surface. Walls reveal some amazing stories about history and exposure. But behind one of those walls marked for removal, or underneath an old floorboard, or lurking in the scary attic, there is often a problem. Anyone who has ever bought or renovated a house can tell a similar story. In real life, though, those problems take longer than 10 minutes to solve, and it takes much longer than a commercial break to feel OK about what solving those problems will cost.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of similar episodes in the data center. Everything looks fine on the surface, but as soon as IT peers behind the proverbial drywall, they learn that what’s underneath isn’t so perfect. There’s a bunch of personally identifiable information (PII) in places no one knew about. Someone without clearance has easy access to sensitive data – and they’re downloading it. There are anomalous data activity levels that no one can explain. These problems and many others might be just under the surface, and yet no one is aware of them until a breach pulls all the metaphorical walls down.

Organizations cannot wait for these events to happen. It’s when everything seems fine on the surface that companies must take steps to become data aware. When IT discovers what data the company has, where it’s stored and who is accessing it, they can begin the real work: securing sensitive data to meet compliance goals, identify potential threats and enforce data governance policies.

The homeowners of HGTV all eventually learn that knocking down walls isn’t as easy as they had hoped. More often than not, they find something back there they wish they hadn’t. But ignorance is not bliss – not in homeownership and not in data protection. What you don’t know is exactly what can hurt you later.

Learn if your data is at risk with this free assessment.

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John Joseph

John Joseph

President and co-founder of DataGravity, John Joseph leads company’s sales, marketing, operations and customer initiatives. John previously served as vice president of marketing and product management at EqualLogic, leading these functions from the company's initial launch through the successful acquisition by Dell in 2008. He subsequently served as vice president of enterprise solutions, marketing at Dell for three years after the acquisition.