There are around 4.4 billion internet users, and only the Chinese have bested Indians in terms of numbers. Billions of users all over the globe create data amounting to 2.5 quintillion bytes every day. It is all created using various software, applications and online platforms.
Data Security: The myth
The most baffling fact though is that all this data is stored on online clouds and platforms owned by a handful of gigantic corporations. What this means for the millions of users is that the data they created is not owned by them at all.
In other words, the data of every individual is just lying about in the servers and databases of these large corporations. These are also completely accessible to anyone with the right tools on the internet. These organizations claim that this data is under heavy security, and protected by privacy policies and flawless firewalls. But that is all there is, a claim! The data is not as secure as it is claimed.
The data breach endured by internet pioneer Yahoo! in 2013 and 2014 resulted in the compromise of data of over 3 billion accounts. Various other platforms such as Facebook, Sony, and Twitter among others too have been hacked. They have been turned into crime scenes with their users being the victims who have had their data and information compromised.
This proves that the promises of the utopian virtual privacy and data security are faux.
In reality, the data is threatened not only by hackers, but also by the actions of big tech companies. Tracking of digital footprints is an everyday occurrence. Through this tracking, they gain information about users that they did not specifically ask permission for. Users are not in the habit of reading the terms and conditions thoroughly and that neglect proves to be expensive.
Somewhere between the jumble of words, users tick away to being virtually surveilled. There is nothing worse than being surveilled unknowingly. You search for something in a search engine, and moments later, you see an advertisement for it on your social media account, often directing you to something that is close but not what you searched for.
The more data the companies can acquire and process, the more their database grows. The more the base grows the bigger target it becomes. All a non-ethical hacker needs to do is hack into the company’s mainframe and voila! They have all the information about all the users of the company’s products. This is because most platforms utilize shared storage. This is a place that has no private spaces or firewalls for an individual’s information. It is a huge feast just waiting to be devoured, and it is disturbing to no limits.
This knowledge is enough to inculcate paranoia amongst the users and then the only ones they turn to are the legal authorities, only to be faced with disappointment. The authorities are stepping up all over the world, yet they still lack concrete solutions. India, for one, does not have any specific laws for data security.
The IT Act, 2000 deals with cybercrimes yet it does not specifically mention data protection or security, which results in a large loophole for cyber criminals. The act of cloning and theft of data from a device is specifically mentioned and is punishable by the law but the act does not state anything about the internet platforms that house data of its users.
Furthermore, no parts of the Indian legislature mentions data privacy or online data privacy in specific, and it does nothing to ensure the security of data of the individuals online. It all thus depends on the goodwill of the providers.
So, malicious entities have a probable way out if the authorities get involved and there is a desperate need for a structural solution.
If one carefully analyzes, it will become clear that threats to data privacy are growing exponentially. The number of data breaches are rising and the possibility of them decreasing isn’t in sight.
The attacks are not just from external entities but from the inside as well. Insider attacks are the 6th highest in number when data privacy violations are observed. This happens because the servers can read each and everything, and the eyes of the company are all over your data. Even the most trusted platforms and search engines aren’t safe anymore. Thus, data can only be protected when only the user can have eyes over the data. Otherwise, with increasing technology penetration into our everyday lives, data security is nothing but a global myth.
The article is written by Bijai Jayarajan, Founder & CEO, Houm Technology.