Is Big Data just another over-hyped buzz word for physical security users?

Several security professionals provide their roadmap of where Big Data fits into security's Big Picture


“I’m oversimplifying here, but the collection of ‘everything’, coupled with the ability to measure and compare ‘everything’ against ‘anything’, runs the risk of paralysis through analysis. Overtime, organizations will demand a higher degree of accuracy in their risk picture with less tolerance for assumptions – beyond the reasonable due diligence and analysis by today’s standard. The increased accuracy and the resulting narrow focus will make organizations more, not less, susceptible to Nassim Taleb’s ‘Black Swans’, warns Cummins. “Big Data is not without merit either. Well-defined data mining processes can feed into specific core metrics providing additional analytical capabilities to the organization’s risk picture as the actual operating environment or planning scenarios change.”

Ty Richmond, senior vice president of global security at Sony Pictures Entertainment also knows a lot of the burden will be on the shoulders of his peers. "Big Data needs an end user who can understand and apply analysis and then use problem solving and decision making to address the findings in the data. Time and time again we push information around without having a clear picture on what we are trying to understand and improve; and even worse, the ability to implement a plan that will demonstrate the value of investments in Big Data."

Terry Gold is an analyst and founder of iDanalyst, a vendor-neutral research and advisory firm that provides information on strategy, best practices, methodology, and analysis for security, identity and privacy. He insists that security professionals are still trying to wrap their heads around the concept of Big Data as it relates to security. Gold contends that its definition is so all-encompassing that it blurs the true nature of its applications.

“Just how big is big data? One could argue that there has always been big data. But now much more information is being collected, with organization struggling with storing it and making conscious efforts to better manage it. Hence, there is much more awareness of Big Data,” says Gold, adding that the complexities of how data will be managed and not just stored will depend on a strong working relationship between end users and vendors offering solutions. “So, it is in fact buzz, but is also very real and not going away. We will likely see Big Data ‘2.0’ instead of it just passing. Big Data requires multiple disciplines to manage, from technical IT, policy, legal, security, privacy, and others. This is why it is multi-faceted, confusing, dynamic, and ultimately, very interesting."

Gold also points out that physical access does not have anywhere near the data load capacity as information security. However, he says as the two merge - at least from an infrastructure standpoint, with physical security transforming from separate legacy systems to servers, Ethernet, digital storage of video, PSIM and event aggregation – a clearer picture on creating true analytics will come into focus.

But Shahar Ze'evi, a senior product manager with Tyco Security Products thinks the security industry has already reached that tipping point. He concludes that we should no longer be debating the whys and ifs of Big Data, rather the how.

“The key for Big Data is the ability to convert all this data to usable, actionable information that can be measured and acted upon. An important usability factor is the ability to implement ‘thresholds’ to scrutinize new information and deems it usable,” he says. “Storing days, weeks and even month of security activity is an eventual Big Data issue as the user seeks to convert this data to information. The key is to convert the data and reduce it to actionable information and provide the ability to then manipulate incoming data to provide better analytics. The ability to adapt useable data and create actionable metrics will be the pillars for its success.”

Jeffrey A. Slotnick‏, CPP, PSP, who is president of Setracon Inc., points out that it is not the unwieldiness of the data as much as it is the lack of savvy among security end user to properly organize and analyze this information that causes confusion. While he admits that traditional Big Data applications for business can be large and complex, and perhaps even more difficult to process using legacy database management methods, he believes security is different.

“It is my experience that security professionals do a great job of speaking ‘security’, which may have been great years ago when our primary focus was ‘guards, gates and guns’. Today, we live in a different world of converged and integrated data systems. Additionally, security professionals are challenged to speak the language of business which is spoken by all other aspects of the enterprise.