Tips for Securing the Data Center

Data centers have been going through a lot of changes. In the past, it wasn’t unusual to see an organization with dozens or even hundreds of data centers spread out all over the world. As the physical environment of these data centers have become more complicated, there has been a trend towards consolidation in order to reduce complexity. What this breaks down to from a physical perspective is a move from an average of 50 servers to 5 through virtualization. Cloud services have also been deployed for non-critical data center services or to augment those services. However, data centers still contain sensitive, mission critical information. Consolidated or not, virtual or in the cloud, organizations still need to be concerned with securing their data centers.

We recently studied data loss by the numbers and found that in many data loss cases, the results can be devastating. Data loss can result in brand damage, legal fees, class action lawsuits, regulatory fines, credit monitoring services and other free services to retain customers, service downtime and more. The bottom line is data loss can result in lost customers and revenue across various vertical markets.

With the complexity of these next-generation data centers, coupled with the massive amounts of sensitive data that they both store and process, if security isn’t factored in at the outset, the data loss numbers will continue to rise. To give you better insight into our data loss study, we found that according to the Open Security Foundation’s Data Loss Database (DataLossDB), external attacks accounted for the majority of incidents and compromised records, with names and/or addresses, social security numbers and credit card numbers being the most common data types compromised.

An example of how this kind of loss can negatively impact an organization can be seen in the 2011 data breach of email marketer Epsilon. The breach exposed the names and email addresses of millions of customers, and because Epsilon services are used by a large number of highly visible companies, there was a rash of notifications sent out to warn customers of potential fraud. Companies having to engage in customer notification warnings included Barclaycard US, Capital One, Best Buy, JPMorgan, TiVo, Disney Destinations, New York & Company, Walgreens, Marriott, and many others.

This year Honda was hit with a class action lawsuit after a breach where attackers targeted the Honda Canada website and stole 283,000 records containing customer names, addresses, vehicle identification numbers and related personal data. The suit charges that Honda did not inform customers of the breach in a reasonable time. This breach is similar to one that occurred at Honda America in December 2010 when accounts for 4.9 million customers of Honda and Acura were exposed.

Nobody, consumers or organizations, wants to suffer from the consequences of a data breach, and ground zero for these attacks are data centers. Regardless of business vertical, most of the battles to protect sensitive data will occur in or around the data center, whether it is physical, virtual or in a cloud environment. Additionally, one shouldn’t associate data centers with big enterprises – even SMBs who use a single data center that just sits in the cloud can have their data threatened. Having comprehensive security controls around servers, storage, content and networks will help mitigate the risk, and these controls should be implemented at the onset.

We at McAfee are working diligently to help our customers achieve efficient and effective security controls for their data centers. For content protection, here are the main areas that organizations should focus on:

  1. Structured data
  2. Unstructured data
  3. Web applications
  4. Data in motion, data at rest and data at use – organizations must look at all those and protect along those categories

McAfee also offers a wide range of solutions for servers, storage, content and networks, as well as specialized solutions for virtualized environments and security SaaS offerings. Visit our Data Center Security page to learn more about how McAfee and its partners can secure your data centers. The whitepaper and key statistics from our study will be shared in the near future, be sure to follow the @IntelSec_Biz handle for updates.

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