The word “information” may sound simple and boring, but the owners of information have access to power, money, and immense competitive advantage. It’s not surprising, then, that companies devote significant time, effort, and resources to protecting their proprietary and valuable information.

As the recent spate of hacking incidents portends, data security breaches and threats are increasing, despite growing awareness. President Barack Obama signaled as much when he issued an executive order, “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,” earlier this year, highlighting the urgency of the issue.

In the face of a data breach, the legal, operational, and reputational risks are immense. The financial toll of a cyber attack can be staggering (see table below showing some historical examples). The consequences tend to be immediate. Not too long ago, organizations saw protecting against these threats as the responsibility of the IT department. Yet as the world has become increasingly reliant on the transfer of electronic data—for business, business relationships, and social interaction—the risk of losing critical information has risen. Data protection has become a topic of discussion at the board level and a top priority for senior executives, particularly those tasked with driving and managing the growth of an organization.

A Sampling of Significant Data Breaches Since 2007



Source: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, “Chronology of Data Breaches,” www.privacyrights.org


In all likelihood, you could look at your own organization and see examples of how the electronic transfer and tracking of information is expanding, such as:

  • An increase in online sales and orders.
  • Increased activity for online engagement with customers and suppliers.
  • More frequent social media activity by both the company and its employees.
  • Growing digital transfer of contracts and business agreements.
  • Additional tracking of employee activity, operational processes, and results.

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