In today's interconnected world, businesses not only grapple with the management of vast amounts of data but also face the looming threat of illegal data concealed within their digital repositories.
This proliferation of illegal data presents a range of risks and challenges that organizations must confront.
Illegal data encompasses a broad spectrum of content or files that contravene laws, regulations, and/or company policy.
It includes materials such as pirated software, confidential information obtained through unlawful means, and content that promotes or facilitates illegal activities; as well as content that is simply not acceptable or useful on the corporate network such as holiday videos and cat pics.
How illegal data finds its way into corporate networks
The explosive growth of unstructured data on a global scale has provided fertile ground for the simultaneous increase in illegal data.
With the emergence of digital technologies, businesses accumulate vast volumes of information originating from diverse sources such as emails, documents, images, videos, and social media interactions.
As unstructured data continues to proliferate, the potential for illegal content to infiltrate organizational systems grows exponentially, presenting a pressing concern that demands immediate attention.
It is of course important to acknowledge that not all instances of illegal data within business systems are a result of intentional wrongdoing.
With the increasing intermingling of personal and professional devices, there is a higher likelihood of inadvertent entry of illegal data into organizational systems.
For instance, an employee may unknowingly download a copyrighted movie on their personal device and inadvertently transfer it to their work device or cloud storage, thereby introducing illegal data into the business environment.
And, orphaned data along with dark data carries a risk of potentially containing illegal data as well. As a reminder, orphaned data refers to data that has no clear owner within an organization while dark data is data that is not used by the organization.
Orphaned data can accumulate when data is created or stored and the individual responsible for it leaves the organization without transferring ownership or knowledge of the data to another person or department.
Dark data accumulates naturally due to the aging process wherein the older data gets, the less it is accessed and the lower the level of knowledge of its contents.
The ramifications of illegal data on corporate networks
Having illegal data on a corporate network can result in severe consequences for organizations across various aspects of their operations, including legal, reputational, compliance, security, and operational impacts.
From a legal standpoint, possessing or distributing illegal data exposes businesses to potential legal hardships. Authorities, regulatory bodies, or copyright holders can initiate legal actions, leading to financial penalties, fines, or even criminal charges.
Reputational damage is another significant concern. The presence of illegal data tarnishes the organization's image and erodes trust among stakeholders, including clients, partners, and the general public.
Negative publicity, loss of credibility, and public backlash can result in a diminished customer base, hindered business opportunities, and long-term harm to the organization's growth prospects.
Compliance issues also arise when illegal data infiltrates corporate networks. Organizations must adhere to various laws and regulations regarding data protection, intellectual property, and content distribution.
The presence of illegal data signifies a failure to meet compliance standards, attracting regulatory scrutiny, potential penalties, and further legal risks.
Vulnerability to breaches
The presence of illegal data on a corporate network increases the vulnerability to security breaches and compromises.
Such data may contain malicious files, malware, or ransomware that can infiltrate the network and compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive business information. Security breaches can lead to data theft, financial losses, operational disruptions, and the erosion of customer trust.
Operational disruptions are also a consequence of dealing with illegal data. The discovery, investigation, and removal of illegal content necessitate significant resources, time, and manpower. These processes can disrupt normal business operations, impacting productivity, business continuity, and overall efficiency.
Individual employees responsible for introducing or distributing illegal data may face disciplinary actions, including termination of employment. Moreover, the presence of illegal data within the corporate network can create a hostile work environment and negatively impact employee morale.
Last but not least, organizations with illegal data may face challenges in collaborating with partners, suppliers, or industry associations.
Entities that prioritize compliance may hesitate to engage in business relationships with non-compliant organizations, hindering potential partnerships and collaborations.
To mitigate the risks associated with illegal data, organizations need to implement data governance policies and procedures to ensure that all data is properly documented, stored, and maintained.
This involves conducting regular data audits, assigning clear ownership and responsibility for data, and establishing guidelines for data creation and storage.
The final critical step is to employ an innovative solution that enables you to assess, organize, and act on your data so that it is always in the right place at the right time.
In doing so, enterprises can gain optimum value from data, while lowering the associated risk, carbon footprint, and cost.