The 5 Most Important Trends In Data Security For 2011

  This series on data security is commissioned by IBM. Read more about building a smarter planet on the IBM A Smarter Planet Blog.

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Photo: James & Vilija

The year in data security ends amid one of the biggest international data-security scandals in recent memory and with lingering fears that a Stuxnet-like worm will suddenly take down the U.S. power grid.Wikileaks founder Julian Assange may be free on bail and electricity may flow unfettered through U.S. households for now, but repercussions from Cablegate, the possibility of a super-virus and other trends that made 2010 a banner year for security will continue into 2011.

Here’s a quick look ahead of what to expect in the new year.

Security fears ease slightly, leading to more data moving to cloud networks

Security administrators will put on their big boy pants, get over their fears about giving up their data to someone else and start putting heaps of data in the cloud. They'll have no choice; pressure to cut IT costs will continue in 2011, and trading on-premise software and hardware for the cloud is the easiest and quickest way to do it. This also means cloud providers will be under even more pressure to lock down cloud infrastructure.

Cloud-based security gets smarter

The good news for the previous trend is this one: cloud providers and security vendors will get smarter about how to secure data in the cloud. Look for the former to improve how they partition the data of different customers and protect that data from the IT professionals -- ie, their own employees -- that oversee cloud infrastructure. Expect companies selling security products to release a new wave of cloud-specific security products as well.

Keep your enemies close but your friends closer

Think security professionals will have learned their lesson from Cablegate? Think again.

Insider breaches will continue to plague organisations next year. While federal government security professionals figure over how to secure their domains from similar scenarios, businesses should reexamine their security to make sure no one in the organisation has access to sensitive information unless it's critical to their job.

While Big Brother measures don't need to be taken, it wouldn't hurt for companies to keep a healthy sense of scepticism when considering who to trust with the most critical data they own.

Mobile workers will pose an increasing threat to business data

With more and more business workers using smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to access e-mail and applications from company networks, attacks exploiting these devices to infiltrate the network will increase next year.

Security administrators will have to think outside the network and allow devices to access data and applications on a need-to-know basis. Limiting the resources that devices can access inside the firewall to shield as much data as possible from potential hackers, as well as other device-specific security steps will need to be taken to stave off attacks.

Government-sponsored hacker attacks on the rise

As if evil geniuses acting unilaterally to steal your data aren't enough to worry about, 2011 will see a surge in hacker attacks with big-name and big-money sponsors: foreign governments.

This won't come as a shock to the security community, but it's troubling nonetheless. Security researchers should keep a watchful gaze in particular on China, which federal officials believe is not-so-secretly using the Internet to spy on the U.S. government as well as top technology companies like Microsoft and Google. In fact, a government report revealed in November that China hijacked traffic from U.S. government and business websites for 18 minutes to divert it through servers in its own country. What they did with the information remains a mystery.

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