At too many government agencies and companies, the security mindset, even though it’s never spoken, is that “We’re not a prime target, our data isn’t super-sensitive.” Wrong. The reality is that every piece of personal data adds to the picture that potential criminals or state-sponsored actors are painting of individuals.

And that makes your data a target. “Just because you think your data isn’t useful, don’t assume it’s not valuable to someone, because they’re looking for columns, not rows,” says Hayri Tarhan, Oracle regional vice president for public sector security.

Here’s what Tarhan means by columns not rows: Imagine that the bad actors are storing information in a database (which they probably are). What hackers want in many data breaches is more information about people already in that database. They correlate new data with the old, using big data techniques to fill in the columns, matching up data stolen from different sources to form a more-complete picture.

That picture is potentially much more important and more lucrative than finding out about new people and creating new, sparsely populated data rows. So, every bit of data, no matter how trivial it might seem, is important when it comes to filling the empty squares.

Read more about this – and how machine learning can help – in my article in Forbes, “Data Thieves Want Your Columns—Not Your Rows.”

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