Ever since the Digital Revolution began during the mid 1900s, technology has rapidly expanded at a near unforeseeable rate. Computers 50 years ago were big enough to fill entire rooms, yet today would have similar computing power to an old iPhone. To put this in perspective, the four computers used to bring the NASA astronauts to the moon for the first time in 1969 are not as powerful as your everyday pocket calculator or even a basic USB flash drive. This was predicted in 1965 by Gordon Moore, who said that the number of transistors that can fit on integrated circuits will double about every two years. This means every two years, microprocessors are shrinking nearly in half, allowing for a large amount of computing power into a small device like an iPhone. Because of this principle, technology has been able to expand and develop at an exponential rate, allowing for everyday people to have access to the internet and computing abilities through personal laptops and smartphones.
As of June 2018, 55.1% of the world population were internet users. This amounts to over 4.2 billion people, and that number is expected to increase quickly. With this many people accessing the internet, a massive amount of data is created and stored online. This occurs when someone signs up for an account with an online retailer, social media platform, entertainment website, and most other web addresses. Furthermore, data can be created and stored internally on a specific computer often demonstrated when someone creates and saves documents on his or her computer. Additionally, businesses often have software programs that generate and store data internally along with data on each transaction and customer in the system. Data is being created at a rapid rate, with approximately 90% of the world’s data being made in the past two years. .Although data collection has made large advancements over the years, security measures have not evolved in correspondence with this trend.
Since 2013, over 13 billion data records have been lost or stolen. This is enough for nearly every person on Earth to have their data taken twice! The information taken can be used for identity theft, with social security numbers, emails, phone numbers, addresses and credit card numbers commonly being targeted. Because of this, data security should be of the utmost importance to people when utilizing the internet. Nevertheless, this is often one of the last things on someone’s mind as he or she browses online. Data storage and security is the responsibility of the business that keeps the information. For example, Facebook has the responsibility of safely storing all information about each of its users. This includes all email addresses, phone numbers, addresses, relationships with other users, and other information. If Facebook or other tech firms fails to do this, users may be subject to identity theft among other issues.
Although data breaches have been increasing each year, security measures have not developed to match this growth. A few reasons come to mind for this. First, data security is often considered a discretionary cost to businesses. This means that a business will spend money on security measures only if the funds are available after all operating and required costs have been paid. A change needs to be made in the minds of business owners that data security is of utmost importance. The average cost of a data breach is $3.9 million dollars according to a study from IBM, yet this number can greatly increase depending on the severity. Facebook’s recent breach could cost them over $1.6 billion in fines just from European regulators alone. Marriott is a prime example of a company that failed to keep its customers’ information safe as approximately 500 million people may have had their data taken illegally in one of the largests breaches in history. As more information was discovered on the severity of the breach, Marriott’s stock price plummeted to $100.99 on December 24, a 17% decline in share price since the news of the breach broke at the end of November. With countless other costly examples seen in the news (Uber, Equifax, Yahoo, Quora, etc.) it should be evident to businesses that it is more economical to invest in data security than suffer the consequences of a data breach.
If businesses fail to invest in customer data security, then government regulations may be created to increase this involvement. In September of 2018, Congress held a hearing on data privacy and security at top tech organizations. Executives from Facebook and Twitter attended while Google declined the invitation. This congressional hearing displays that the American government is not afraid to regulate the tech industry, and these new rules may be coming sooner than some businesses anticipate. By investing in data security soon, companies can protect their customers, prevent negative effects that come with data breaches, and jumpstart the process of changing how tech companies approach online security. Hopefully in 2019 companies will begin to realize the importance of data security and take steps towards implementing new measures to protect it. And if companies fail to do this, then the government should begin to take action through new laws and regulations.