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Increased data growth, coupled with the need to benefit from the existing data opportunity consistently positions data at the core of all business operations today. But within the data hype, are businesses too consumed with either storing all data for ‘just in case’ scenarios, or perhaps focusing only on certain data sets and positioning for an immediate need, allowing large dark data pockets to form across the organisation? And if so, what does the reality of dark data mean? Industry experts share their insights.

Says Jessie Rudd, Technical Business Analyst at PBT Group; “As technology continues to power data creation, digitally transforming businesses can only expect to handle more data with each passing year. In fact, research predicts that worldwide data will grow 61% to 175 zettabytes by 2025. While these are exciting times, extracting consistent value from data takes careful consideration and planning that businesses need to get right, to not only avoid a missed data opportunity, but to mitigate risk that is present in the digital era.”

Considered a key business asset and for most, a competitive differentiator, this data driven world is placing pressure on businesses to deliver unprecedented value from the data the business holds. As not all data is of immediate value, depending on its narrative or the objective of the business at any given time, much of it ends up being stored, or set aside for possible future use if needed. Continues Rudd; “While there is merit in data storage, there is little to be gained if adequate data storage and analysis processes don’t exist for these so-called dark data pockets being created through storage, or if the dark data is completely forgotten about.”

“The misnomer ‘dark’ often assigns a connotation that is not accurate and dark data certainly should not be pushed aside in business context. Data is stored, or becomes dark, when it is not needed for an immediate purpose, but this does not mean that the data can’t be beneficial down the line. A business that pays no attention to dark data can in fact miss out on valuable analysis and detail rich information opportunities – and often these are the opportunities that can provide the competitive advantage a business is seeking.”  


Sound data management processes, backed by the right technological tools, compliance and management systems become critically important for a business to not only see the value in its dark data, but to also mitigate some associated risk that comes with it.

Furthermore, dark data that is stored yet not actively or appropriately managed, from both a data protection and compliance point of view can pose a massive cyber security threat to a business.

Says Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager of Kaspersky in Africa; “Cybercriminals look to exploit all and any possibilities for both short and long-term gain – and often data sits at the centre of this. Unattended data, or data that does not form part of a stringent data strategy and data storage plan, can be attractive for cybercriminal activity. Either malicious files are planted, often unnoticed, just waiting to be released into corporate networks or systems or cybercriminals target this data as a means to gain access to confidential company information. This is how unattended dark data can pose a corporate risk.”

Data breaches are expensive and destructive to a business. In fact, past Kaspersky research* showed that the average cost of a breach for an SMB reached $114K in 2018 – 30% higher than in 2017 ($88k). For enterprises, it increased by 63%, with the average financial impact of a breach reaching up to $965K.

“Dark data doesn’t need to be a business risk or a missed opportunity. With the right focus and data processes in place, dark data won’t sit around gathering dust or waiting for a cybercriminal to give it some attention. Rather, it can be measured and protected to unlock value when the time is right,” concludes Rudd.

*What is the cost of a data breach? Kaspersky IT security economics report https://www.kaspersky.co.za/blog/economics-report-2018/20322/