Opinion: The Perils and Promise of the Data Decade

We have entered the “Data Decade,” says RSA Security* CTO Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan. What does that mean? Here are three “Data Decade” trends that will reshape how we talk about, approach, and manage data.

The concept of “data” has been embedded in our lives and across every industry since the beginning of time – in various incarnations and forms. In the security and risk industry, data is the lifeblood for how you assess business risk and respond to threats. 

Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan RSA Security
Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan is the Chief Technology Officer at RSA Security.

As we embark on this new decade, I believe data will become the foremost currency that drives the digital economy. It will launch new industries and topple legacy stalwarts.

In my view, we’ve entered the “Data Decade,” a time when data will become the coveted resource needed to fuel a multitude of A.I. and machine learning-based systems embedded across IT ecosystems. Organizations will look to leverage these technologies as part of their business processes, their digital transformation journeys and as a way of solving a set of very complex problems.

In the New Year, I expect three key trends to emerge that will reshape how we talk about, approach, and manage data:

BYOD: Bring Your Own Data

After years of countless high-profile data breaches, organizations are viewing data now as a potential liability to their success if not managed properly. 

In the 2020s, forward-leaning organizations will begin to talk about the idea of “Bring Your Own Data” policies – an evolution of the traditional “bring your own device” approach that reshaped the modern workforce. With “BYOD,” organizations will leverage user-owned decentralized storage rather than storing data themselves, thereby reducing their potential liability in the event of a breach.

This paradigm will be most apparent within healthcare. Patients will be front and center, leveraging easy-to-use technology that coalesces their own medical record data, to which they can grant their providers temporary cloud-based access when needed. Healthcare providers will be able to provide patients with optimal care based on a complete medical history without being exposed to the cyber risks of storing that data themselves. This new paradigm shifts the responsibility of data security and privacy onto end-users, while providing them with intuitive and easy-to-use tools that facilitate the process.

Data Privacy: a Top Business Risk

As we entered 2019, large, multinational companies were unclear about what impact GDPR would have on their business. In 2020, there is no more confusion. The substantial fines levied against British Airways, Marriott and others demonstrated the impact regulatory fines can have on the bottom line.

In the New Year, organizations will take serious steps to address privacy and data concerns. Data governance, security and privacy will be on the C-level agenda.

The challenges of managing regulatory risk will grow in the coming year. Many individual states in the U.S. have ratified laws to govern the use of data, but concerns at the Federal level have stalled. Multinational and U.S.-based companies must comply with dozens of enforcements and guidelines, further complicating an already complex regulatory landscape.

The AI “Black Box” opens – a little

To really understand how machine learning algorithms work you need an advanced background in computer science and mathematics. In many ways, these systems have become something of a black box. The layer of obfuscation surrounding AI has made it challenging to detect data integrity compromises, which puts organizations at incredible risk.

The security, integrity, and comprehensiveness of data used by a growing number of AI systems is essential as we enter the Data Decade. Consequently, users must have the right level of knowledge to know how data is being processed, what is being outputted and how it should be secured. As many know, when even a small fraction of data is tainted, the resulting AI and machine learning models can be massively corrupted. Subsequent decisions made off compromised models leads to failure that could trigger financial and reputational harm to organizations.

In the New Year, I suspect we’ll see capabilities that focus on making AI less of a black box. Decisions made by these models will be more readily understood by the masses, not just those with technical backgrounds.

The New Year is brimming with unprecedented opportunity. The dark underbelly to this period of change and innovation is digital risk. More cyber attacks, an increasingly mobile workforce, greater regulatory scrutiny and a complex data privacy landscape will elevate the severity of threats. Companies must keep pace with risk by focusing on awareness, collaboration, investment, and innovation. Managing risk allows organizations to embrace risk. By overcoming their fear of the unknown, organizations can unlock their full potential and chart a path to accelerate human progress.

(*) Disclosure: This podcast and blog post were sponsored by RSA Security for more information on how Security Ledger works with its sponsors and sponsored content on Security Ledger, check out our About Security Ledger page on sponsorships and sponsor relations.

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