Unstructured Data is a Waste of Resources… and Potentially Dangerous – Part II

Unstructured Data

In the previous post, we warned that if data remains unstructured and unmanaged, it could be dangerous. In this Part II follow-up article, we will further explain the dangers of unstructured and unmanaged data and the possible solutions to these problems.

Each day, colossal amounts of data are being generated across devices and networks at unprecedented speeds. With all this new data, however, comes many new challenges, including security and accessibility. Backup hardware and software need to be maintained and tested for disaster recovery. In addition to these challenges, if your data is unstructured and unmanaged, it may lead to further complications.

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios involving unstructured data and where it could lead:
Data Leaks

With unstructured data, the organization has no idea what is being leaked and who is doing the leaking or who is harvesting the data from their systems. Data sent to cloud repositories is encrypted, and the encryption key is available only to the data administrator of the organization. Anyone attempting to access the cloud database without appropriate authorization is tracked and logged and can be instantly located. Even when an attempt at accessing the encrypted data has been successful, the encryption will deprive the hackers of the pleasure of using the data.

Insider Threats
“Insiders can do much more serious harm than external hackers can, because they have much easier access to systems and a much greater window of opportunity,” wrote Oxford University professors professors David M. Upton and Sadie Creese, who are co-leading the Corporate Insider Threat Detection research program.

Harvard Business Review research further reported, “According to various estimates, at least 80 million insider attacks occur in the United States each year. But the number may be much higher, because they often go unreported. Clearly, their impact now totals in the tens of billions of dollars a year. Many organizations admit that they still don’t have adequate safeguards to detect or prevent attacks involving insiders. One reason is that they are still in denial about the magnitude of the threat.”

The potential problems caused by unstructured and unmanaged data can be mitigated by utilizing self-service portals and reporting templates, which can help achieve compliance. This will enable IT staff to actively engage data owners. Active engagement could include actionable intelligence that will help align access to business needs and verify ownership to better protect and manage the data and reduce the risk of data loss.

Analytics visualization tools allow secure collaboration and effective data management, file archiving, and retention management.

If one uses properly integrated data management tools, key benefits emerge:

Visibility: Discover unstructured data and navigate using metadata, age, permissions, usage, and ownership to inform data lifecycle management, compliance, and risk-reduction initiatives.

Analysis: Analyze the metadata to provide actionable intelligence. Identify data owners and engage through a self-service portal to facilitate access control, data management, and information security remediation efforts. Detect data use policy violations and outlier users.

Actions: Implement custom actions for disposition, migration, and access control efforts. Data can be automatically archived.

Connectors: Protect information with enhanced capabilities. Intelligent retention management and flexible query interface to enable business process integration and third party application support.

Additional benefits include the following:
•   Automate governance through workflows and customization
•   Drive efficiencies and cost-savings in your unstructured data environment
•   Maintain regulatory compliance for information access, use, and retention
•   Protect confidential information from unauthorized use and exposure

Unstructured and unmanaged data can be mitigated against security risks by implementing best practices, such as the following:
•   Understanding data patterns
•   Classifying data
•   Appointing data owners
•   Appointing an overseeing body
•   Updating data access permissions
•   Automating data recovery

As data is very valuable, data backup and cloud service providers shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that all their customers’ data is safe, secure, and well managed. Therefore, when you consider such factors as cost, compliance, privacy, and bandwidth, companies need to structure their data for easy backup and recovery.


Unstructured data can be better handled and improved through actionable intelligence regarding data ownership, usage, and access controls. Keep in mind that efficiency and cost reductions could be achieved across all data lifecycles using reporting, analytics, and visualization tools. This will help drive the improved protection of sensitive data and achieve compliance and, in the process, eliminate dangers to data.