Getting to the bottom of data storage security issues can be very complicated. Assistant professor of computer engineering Zachary Peterson gave a talk, Cyber CSI: Working to Solve the Data Security Crisis on April 16 at the Data Studio about these issues.
Peterson spoke about the security implications of data storage systems and issues with encryption. He also adressed the challenges of digital forensics, a branch of forensic science encompassing the recovery and investigation of material found in digital devices, often in relation to computer crime.
Data is everywhere
“Everything we touch essentially produces data,” Peterson said. In other words, everything we click, whether we’re online shopping or looking at our online bank statements, produces data. Because there is so much of it, it’s challenging to protect.
In addition, financial data, medical records, things we’ve saved and things we’ve purchased are all valued differently, and protecting them is very important.
How can we protect our data?
Peterson talked about cryptography as a way to protect our information. In the past 20 years, it has become one of the most popular ways to protect digital information. Cryptography is basically encrypting your information with a secret key. One of the biggest challenges with this method is making sure that your key is not guessable. Security falls apart if keys are guessable.
“I’m pessimistic in the short term, but optimistic in the long term,” Peterson said about solving data issues with cryptography.
Also, data deletion is an overlooked problem. You may think that simply deleting a file from your computer can be a great way to hide it if someone is looking for it. However, your computer only marks the file for deletion. So, not only is the file still accessible on your computer, the person looking for that file can tell you tried to delete it.
Another method people use to protect data is to try securely overwriting their data. In this method, existing data is overwritten with new data. This method can take a long time.
Where do we go from here?
Peterson joked about personal data security awareness:
- You know a little about security threats.
- You know a bit more about security threats.
- You know so much you are are completely paranoid about protecting your data.
- You accept that there are threats to your data and try to move on (transcendence).
“I’m in the 4th stage currently,” Peterson joked.
On a serious note, Peterson said that two things need to happen for better security:
- Technology needs to be improved with security risks in mind.
- Better cultural understanding about the risks involved.
Many people do not know how to protect their information, or that they even have information to protect. Hopefully, once people are aware of it, they will do more to protect their data.
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