Business Unusual

Any data you are not willing to share is data someone might want to steal

The Panama Papers are the largest unauthorised distribution of data in history. The first thing the journalists who received the data did was to store it somewhere secure to avoid the data being leaked!

Hacks and leaks are not new. The first hack reportedly happened at the beginning of the last century. The shift now is the scale.

In 2010 there was a massive leak of US Intelligence cables that came to be known as Wikileaks Cablegate and consisted of 1.7 gigabytes of data. This leak is 2.6 terabytes - over 1000 times bigger.

It is not easy to imagine how much data that is. Below is an image of Bill Gates showing how much printed documents can be stored on a data CD. You would need to duplicate that pile of paper 1613 times to understand how much information was in the leak.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates sitting on top of the volume of printed data that could be stored on the origianl CD Rom (650 MB). pic credit: Microsoft

A composite of the first image to show the 1613 CDs of data that make up the Panama papers, the largest data leak ever.

Exposing the truth

Sifting through the reported 4.8 million emails, 2.1 million scanned documents, 3 million database entries and other other documents amounting to 11.5 million records is no small task. It is why the the German media company that received the leak contacted the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to co-ordinate the project who in turn made use of an analytics engine called Nuix.

They invited news organisations from 76 countries on six continents at over 100 media organisations to collaborate. The publication on 3 April comes after 12 months of investigations by over 370 journalists with more of the data to be released in May.

Journalists accessing the data have to use two-factor authentication and encrypted chat when discussing their research. Even so, news about the leak and its contents did manage to get mentioned ahead of the official publication date.

News collaborations will allow more news agencies to cover more stories with greater depth for the benefit of all of us.

Two of the African media companies involved are ANCIR and Amabhungane.

Protecting your data

But we should also consider the flip side of the story. Law firm Mossack Fonseca has been at the very least embarrassed by the hack/leak and their clients are understandably angry and may be in danger following the publication of information.

Their reputation and ability to continue with normal business operations will be affected for at least months if not years to come. They maintain that they have done nothing wrong and comply with all laws affecting them. It will be some time to see if that is indeed true.

This leak shared information that goes back 40 years to their establishment and they have said they are reviewing their systems to determine how the data was taken and what they can do to prevent it from happening again. A security expert doing a cursory check found their systems outdated and vulnerable. They are unlikely to be unique in that estimation and no doubt there will be a business boom in business security spending.

While this one leak has significant media interest many hacks and or leaks might be for the benefit of competitors or increasingly a form of digital hijacking that locks your data for which you need to pay a ransom to unlock.

The business lapse in security comes most often from our own attitudes to digital security.

Imagine you had an empty briefcase with a 3-number combination lock on each lock. If the default code was triple zero, you would be unlikely to change it.

If that same briefcase held your life’s savings, you would take more care to not only ensure it is locked but have a combination that is more secure.

Phones and computers are those briefcases filled with information that is either a valuable asset or valuable to you. Yet most of us treat them like the empty briefcase until something goes wrong.

That is compounded in a business environment where staff use weak passwords or openly share them. Businesses that don’t revoke employees access after they leave run the risk of losing information to a rival or having your systems damaged if not destroyed by a disgruntled employee.

There are three options for individuals and business in responding to this. Do nothing; do something poorly or do enough.

Most fall into the second option for both their own data and that of their business.

Doing enough only requires three basic steps.

  • Use unique passwords for each of the services you use (a password manager will make it easy).

  • Don’t click links from emails that prompt you to enter login information. If you must learn what to look out for in the URL.

  • Find a means to backup your data to both a secure physical and secure cloud location.

It will require a little work to learn what is needed, but the effort is nothing compared to the damage for failing to do it.

Subscribe to our Business Wrap Newsletter

702 welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the 702 community a safe and welcoming space for all.

702 reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

702 is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
The chemical equation for good business

The chemical equation for good business

Simon Sinek argues that office chemistry mirrors our own.

Where you work is getting complicated. Which do you prefer?

Where you work is getting complicated. Which do you prefer?

Home, office, open-plan, cubicle or own office. Or maybe a coffice.

What is the best career to pursue?

What is the best career to pursue?

I am sure there is an app for that.

Google is almost 20 years old

Google is almost 20 years old

September is a special month for the search giant. Here are a few things you did not know.

Your camera could save the world

Your camera could save the world

A picture is no longer worth just a thousand words, it is how we will build the future and save the past.

What Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is and what it isn't

What Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is and what it isn't

There is much to gain and even more to lose which means we all need to learn more about AI.

Popular articles
Why Sisulu and Dlamini-Zuma aren't suitable Presidential candidates: analyst

Why Sisulu and Dlamini-Zuma aren't suitable Presidential candidates: analyst

ANC branch in the Eastern Cape, Z.R Mahabana, has launched a campaign backing Lindiwe Sisuslu as an ANC presidential candidate.

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

"Recognise that it’s not the end, it’s the beginning." Expert advise for school-leavers who want to improve their results.

Pamela Nomvete on her downfalls as actress, and 'climbing back'

Pamela Nomvete on her downfalls as actress, and 'climbing back'

This week Xolani Gwala's speaks to former Generations actor Pamela Nomvete for #WhatInTheWorldHappenedTo feature.

[WATCH] New adapted national anthem by students

[WATCH] New adapted national anthem by students

Fees Must Fall activists singing the national anthem with a new melody and phrases calling it a 'decolonised national anthem'.

‘I started my thriving business with R5000 (and made a profit in the 1st month)’

‘I started my thriving business with R5000 (and made a profit in the 1st month)’

After 3 years there are 3 Nic Harry stores (incl online) that sell 100 000 pairs of socks in over 20 countries around the world.

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

WIN R2000! But only if you can prove you're a whiz of the MTN Biz Quiz by answering the following three questions...

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Is social trend Blesserfinder, where girls are allegedly matching up with rich 'benefactors' in exchange for sex, a real thing?