Big Data as the New Currency

The holy grail of Big Data lies in the ability of identifying the right set of data and thereupon properly using it for greater insights. Asking for such capabilities may have been difficult in the past years, but the recent flood of applications and softwares have made such tasks much easier (if not trivial). It is suffice to say that we are entering into an era where the power of predicting things seems to be within grasp.

Data Value

The moment we have a tangible use (such as predictability and decision insights) associated with the data, it becomes valuable; equally valuable to companies, individuals and the bad guys. Back in 2013, the most popular trend among hackers was to steal credit card information and to sell that info to third parties internationally. Now that trend is shifting towards stealing personal data. From PHI (personal health information) to things like emails, the possibilities are endless. Look no further than what happened to Sony in the recent breach.

Data Breaches

The sad part is that it will still take some time for us to take data security seriously. There is a risk of additional breaches, hacks and leaks in 2015 which will give the governments and companies the “push” they need to make data security reforms.

Looking back at some of the breaches in 2014 we can see a trend starting to appear. It will only get worse if nothing is done about the security.

Data Breaches in 2014

Onsite Health Diagnostics

When: January  2014

Number affected: 60 thousand

Data Type: patient names, DOB, addresses, emails, phone numbers and gender

Method used: Unknown party inappropriately accessed online scheduler system

Michaels Store Chain

When: January 2014

Number affected: 3 million

Data Type: customer debit and credit information

Method used: Payment system was breached by hackers

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services

When: February 2014

Number affected: 170 thousand

Data Type: patient names, SSN, DOB, billing information and medical history

Method used: Eight computers containing the data were stolen from the billing company (Sutherland Healthcare Solutions)

American Express

When: March 2014

Number affected: 76 thousand

Data Type: California customer names, accounts numbers, expiration dates and four-digit CVS codes

Method used: Hacktivist group The Anonymous

Living Social

When: April 2014

Number affected: 50 million

Data Type: Customer names, emails, DOB and encrypted passwords

Method used: Hackers attacked the website

Community Health Systems, Inc.

When: April 2014

Number affected: 4.5 million

Data Type: patient names, addresses, DOB and SSN

Method used: Chinese hackers were believed to be behind the attack

Aventura Hospital and Medical Center

When: September 2014

Number affected: 82 thousand

Data Type: patient name, DOB and SSN

Method used: Vendor’s employee stole the data

Home Depot

When: September 2014

Number affected: 56 million

Data Type: customer credit card information

Method used: Malware was installed on payment systems by a hacker group

New Jersey Doctor (Dr. Nisar A. Quraishi)

When: October 2014

Number affected: 40 thousand

Data Type: patient names, SSN, DOB and medical history

Method used: Break-in at the storage facility

JP Morgan Chase

When: October 2014

Number affected: 76 million

Data Type: patient phone numbers, DOB, addresses and SSN

Method used: Hackers gained root access to the secure servers

Bottom Line

Our discovery of the powers that data holds is turning it into a tradable commodity. We are entering into a world where stealing data is as lucrative (if not more) as stealing credit card information. Hackers have successfully demonstrated they can compromise governments, companies and law enforcement agencies. The large number of data breaches that occurred in 2014 proves the aforementioned points and demands that we pay equal attention to the security of the data.

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