Business Intelligence – Efficiency and Security

An essential asset of many successful companies, business intelligence (BI) enables businesses to follow the right strategies, make smart moves and choose the most effective method of their realization. It is indispensable to marketers who use it to adapt to often volatile realities of the market and make fine adjustments to their product placement. Unfortunately, with all the benefits it brings, BI also involves serious security risks. As they say, hard truths cut both ways, and if such a powerful tool is misused, the potential damage it can cause to a company is irreparable.

Army of risks

Unlike data warehousing, which involves storing massive amounts of data, BI provides the means of incorporating the data into business systems. The aim is to enable companies to make intelligent, strategic business decisions and deploy resources in the best possible way. However, the security of accumulated and analysed data is paramount. Due to their centralized architecture in which a large amount of data is stored in one place, many BI solutions are attractive to cyber thieves and hackers. They may steal the sensitive information or alter it, if that suits their goals better.

Note: Apart from external security threats, many risks stem from the internal business environment.

Enforced policies

To make matters worse, new technologies and trends have made the situation even more unstable. An avalanche of personal mobile devices and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies create dangerously exposed environments. Nowadays, employees want to have mobile access to all data from their office – a prospect that compromises the safety of the entire business network. As a result, businesses have no other alternatives than to enforce comprehensive security policies for BI. They need to integrate essential aspects of data storage, user/role classification, data transmission and data classification. In some sectors, business also have to follow the industry and regulatory compliance directives.

Security measures

The first step is to select the appropriate business intelligence software that suits your business environment. The market is saturated with quality tools, and fine details can influence your choice. Although they determine the efficiency of software use, the features and user-friendliness should not be the leading considerations. Security mechanisms for corporate data as well as developers’ security credentials must also be taken into account.

Access control

The most effective way to protect sensitive data is to introduce access controls. Simply put, users are granted access on an as-needed basis. This setup saves time and reduces the risk of altered analysis results. Access controls can be located in the data warehouse or at the presentation and reporting level. The second method is simpler, but it makes room for human error.

Preventing data leaks

A lot of businesses go one step further to prevent data leaks and employ data de-identification. This is an irreversible process where data is stripped of all personal information like names, phone numbers, addresses, etc. There is a variation called tokenization that is largely used by credit card companies. In tokenization, sensitive data is replaced by tokens that point out to data in external databases. This way, data storage is in compliance with the PCI standards.

Business intelligence is not a novelty concept. It is a vital tool for knowledgeable decision-making on all levels and business branches. Protecting sensitive data that lies beneath has become as important as marketing a product or service. Businesses need to identify security vulnerabilities and devise the best ways of securing them. Protecting company data while enabling time-saving access is a labour-intensive task. The goal is to strike gold and walk a fine line between efficiency and security.

Guest article written by: Dan Radak is a marketing professional with eleven years of experience. He is currently working with a number of companies in the field of digital marketing, closely collaborating with a couple of e-commerce companies. He is also a coauthor on several technology websites and regular contributor to Technivorz.

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