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Why Your Data Is at Risk

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Randy Nash discusses various methods by which critical data may be attacked. He compares the risks to data as it traverses a network (data on the wire) with attacks directed at a data repository (data at rest).
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Electronic data resides in two basic areas:

  • In bulk in some form of repository, such as a database or collections of individual files (called data at rest)

  • In small quantities being transmitted over a network (called data on the wire)

Your data is vulnerable no matter where it resides. While most companies take security precautions, many of those precautions turn out to be insufficient to protect valuable corporate assets. The key lies in knowing where vulnerabilities exist and making appropriate risk-based decisions.


The ability to gather and share volumes of information was the primary reason behind the creation of the Internet, but such wide availability greatly magnifies the risk of that information being compromised. Attacks against large databases of critical information are on the rise, such as in the following recent cases:

  • February, 2003: A hacker broke into the security system of a company that processes credit card transactions, giving the hacker access to the records of millions of Visa and MasterCard accounts.

  • June, 2004: More than 145,000 blood donors were warned that they could be at risk for identity theft from a stolen university laptop containing their personal information.

  • October, 2004: A hacker accessed names and social security numbers of about 1.4 million Californians after breaking into a University of California, Berkeley computer.


Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information—such as your name, social security number, credit card number, or other identifying information—without your permission, frequently to commit fraud or other crimes.

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