Data security issues: Main challenges and threats in coming years

Published April 4, 2017   |   

2016 brought the term “big data” crashing into public awareness, thanks in large part to the plethora of hacks and attempted hacks that took place during a year where cybercrime made mainstream headlines. Clearly, data hacks are a real concern for businesses of all sizes; even behemoths such as Yahoo! have not found themselves immune to negative PR relating to hacks, with company valuations and credibility seriously at stake. In fact, the owners of Yahoo! found themselves having to scramble to try to continue the sale of the company to Verizon, with concerning delays brought about solely by the nature of the security breach, which affected data from over 500 million user accounts.

As the applications of big data become ever more diverse, and even more important for daily life, so an awareness grows of precisely how fragile big data is when it comes to those who want to use it for dishonest means. But what are the main challenges facing the world of big data in 2017?

What are the big threats?

Predicting what hackers will target and how is never straightforward. That said, 2017 is likely to see further evolutions of viruses and malware, an increase in internal threats, and innovative evolutions in terms of hacking targets.

The mutation of computer worms into ransomworms is an example of an evolution that, while not entirely new, can now be used to steal network information before encrypting data and sending the worm on its way, damaging companies twice over. This is likely to mean that we could end up in a world where attacks that hit multiple users thanks to worms that self-propagate and spread across hundreds of networks at once are alarmingly more commonplace.

When it comes to internal threats, the concern falls most heavily upon ensuring that as few staff members as possible are able to access sensitive data so that there is a reduced chance of individuals being exposed to and falling for phishing scams, especially as awareness grows amongst those with dishonest intentions of precisely how valuable big data can be.

It is for this very reason that businesses of all sizes need to implement intelligent data protection strategies, identifying vulnerabilities with big data and acting upon them appropriately before they are exploited. Security solutions for big data must be able to monitor all access to sensitive data whilst being able to flag any unusual patterns when compared against baselines of normal activity. Because of multiple layers, instances and technologies serving a variety of purposes in sets of big data, providing adequate security for big data is a more complex task than implementing regular data security solutions. Flagging activity is one thing, but an incident response is another key requirement of any security solution for big data, with advanced techniques needed to help visualize and analyze events that do occur.

When it comes to big data security vendor offerings of scalability, speed, diversity, and complexity, companies can assess any issues that need addressing by being proactive and running regular database vulnerability scans. This way, they can avoid a series of threats to their big data stacks.


All of these fears for 2017 are obvious predictions rather than certainties, but the concerns tell us that hackers will look to target anything that companies consider to be important, with the aim of increasing ransoms or simply causing maximum disruption across big data databases that perhaps have no security credentials or simple credentials that are vulnerable to illegal access.

Hadoop, one of the primary big data vendors, was the target of an attack in late January, with cybercriminals hijacking and deleting data from over 100 installations, whilst MongoDB, another big data database vendor, suffered a larger scale attack that same month that saw thousands of installations hit in a wave of attacks against unprotected source data management platforms.

Assessing vulnerabilities

As previously mentioned, identifying where vulnerabilities lie means you can be on the front foot when it comes to preventing hacking attacks. In a world where viruses continue to evolve to take on new and nastier forms, the battle to be protected is real, especially when big data hacks can be so costly to companies.

If you are involved with online security, whether that’s for your own company or as an employee, then assessing whether or not the big data you hold or make use of is vulnerable is going to be hugely important to help protect you against some of the biggest and most serious online threats in 2017.