Oil, Soil and Gold

What could it be that eBay, Craigslist, Sony, Evernote, P.F. Chang’s, Domino’s, Chipotle, Forbes, Delta Airlines, Electronic Arts, Lockheed Martin, Citi Bank, AT&T, Mitsubishi, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Barclays, the Supreme Court of Canada, Vodafone, UPS, and the United States State Department all have in common? 

Within the past 12 months, all of these entities have had their data compromised in one form or another.  Quite a few monumental cyberattacks have taken place within the last year or so, increasing in maliciousness and potential to harm the average civilian, awakening large corporations and individuals alike to the threat that is incurred through operating in the modern day. 

Ann Winblad, legendary investor and senior partner at Hummer-Winblad called data the new “oil”. 

In 2010 British data-journalist David McCandless deemed data the new “soil”.

The European Commission, among multiple other sources, have identified data as the new “gold”. 

Well, let me ask another question. What is it that these three things – oil, soil, and gold – all have in common? 

Far too much to simplify. The contestation of these three domains have largely defined much of human history. So is equating data – a buzz word oozing with misconceptions, a buzz word residing in an abstract and misunderstood domain– is equating data to oil, soil, or gold too bold a move? 

Not in the slightest. However, there are some fundamental differences that we need to understand if we want to protect ourselves. Virtually every person on the grid is vulnerable. Furthermore, mere existence as a legal entity or organization implies the existence of data, or accessible information that defines your reality.  In most parts of the world today, if you have large quantities of any of the three aforementioned commodities, a strict framework of legal protection exists to keep your property safe. Data, unfortunately, isn’t so simple. Infantile, mind-blowingly complex, and appallingly misunderstood, the environment where your data exists is not secure, it is hardly reliable. 

Today, what does that really mean? In 2015, it means your identity, your finances, your property, your brand, your history, and essentially any information that has at any point in time been electronically logged into a database or network. With increasing global integration of all types of systems, the expansion in opportunities for growth is equivalent to the exposure and susceptibility that we are simultaneously faced with.  Now look back to the beginning of this article at the list of organizations that have had highly private customer and constituent information potentially compromised, or outright stolen. If the likes of Apple, Barclays, Microsoft, UPS, and the U.S. State Department are at risk of such threats, then imagine the detriment that these increasingly common attacks will pose to smaller organizations. 

Regardless of size, an organization is legally responsible in the same capacity for the data and information that they collect from their customers or constituents. If globally branded corporations are scrambling to secure their “gold”, then surely we must pay attention. 

  • Why is it so important to manage and secure data? 
  • What are these threats and where are they coming from?
  • What can be done individually and organizationally to optimize security of my data assets?

Thematically, these are the areas that I intend to cover in a relevant and useful manner. The time has come when the individual and the corporation must confront the environment of data and cloud storage in an entirely new way, and using this forum I will be discussing the ins and outs of this multidimensional environment, where threats lie, and how to give yourself and your organization the greatest chance of protecting your “oil, soil, and gold”.