Data Security

What is Unstructured Data?

rectangle Written by: Anne Gotay rectangle 2 2 min read

What is Unstructured Data?

Unstructured data is a term used to describe information that doesn’t adhere to a predefined data model or isn’t organized in a pre-defined manner. This type of data is typically text-heavy, but it may also contain data such as dates, numbers, and facts. Examples include emails, social media posts, videos, audio files, web pages, and many other formats that don’t fit neatly into database tables.


What is the Difference Between Structured and Unstructured Data?

To understand unstructured data, it’s essential to grasp the concept of structured data and the differences between the two. Structured data  is arranged and structured in a manner that enables effortless retrieval in relational databases. Examples include data stored in SQL databases, where information is stored in rows and columns, allowing for simple querying and analysis.

On the other hand, unstructured data doesn’t fit this mold. It’s not neatly categorized and can’t be easily sorted or analyzed using conventional tools. It’s like comparing a neatly organized filing cabinet (structured data) with a room full of scattered papers (unstructured data). The latter contains valuable information, but finding and making sense of it requires more sophisticated methods.


How to Protect Unstructured Data

Protecting this data is a crucial aspect of data management and cybersecurity. Here are some steps to ensure the safety of your unstructured data:

  1. Data Classification: Understand what data you have and classify it based on sensitivity and importance. This step helps prioritize protection efforts.
  2. Access Control: Implement strict access controls. Only authorized personnel should have access to sensitive unstructured data.
  3. Encryption: Use encryption to protect data, especially when it’s being transmitted, stored, or analyzed in the cloud.
  4. Regular Audits: Conduct regular audits to identify any potential vulnerabilities and ensure all security measures are working as intended.
  5. Data Backup: Regularly back up data to ensure it can be recovered in the event of a loss.

Why Protecting Unstructured Data is Important

The importance of protecting this data cannot be overstated. This data often contains sensitive information, such as personal details, intellectual property, or confidential business information. If unauthorized individuals obtain this information, it has the potential to result in substantial monetary damages, harm one’s public image, and possibly have legal repercussions.

Moreover, due to its nature, is more susceptible to insider threats. An insider threat  is a security risk that comes from within the organization. This could be an employee, former employee, contractor, or business associate who has inside information about the organization’s security practices, data, and computer systems. They can exploit this knowledge to bypass security measures, steal data, or carry out other harmful actions.


Use Cases

Unstructured data is everywhere and has a wide range of uses. Here are a few examples:

  1. Healthcare: Patient records, doctor’s notes, and medical images all constitute unstructured data. Advanced analytics can help extract valuable insights from this data for improved patient care.
  2. Business: Emails, customer reviews, and social media posts are all unstructured data. Businesses can analyze this data to gain insights into customer behavior and market trends.
  3. Law Enforcement: Unstructured data like surveillance footage, phone records, and social media posts can be crucial in investigations and intelligence gathering.

In conclusion, this data, while challenging to manage and protect, holds immense potential. With the right tools and strategies, businesses can harness this data to gain valuable insights and make informed decisions. However, it’s crucial to remember the importance of protecting this data, especially from insider threats, to prevent any potential harm.


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