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November - 2015 - issue > CXO Insights

Zombie Data:Draining Life Byte by Byte

Anshuman Singh, Director, Product Management of Application Security, Barracuda Networks
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Anshuman Singh, Director, Product Management of Application Security, Barracuda Networks
Technology in todays world is advancing at a phenomenal speed, not a single year passes without a new technological breakthrough the next big thing! If one observes acutely, there is yet another phenomenon which is speeding up the newer, bigger and more complex vulnerabilities challenging the IT security environments in every possible way - big and small. One may or may not be a fan of the horror genre of entertainment, but it is important for them to be aware that the zombies, the undead data, have now attacked the technology world too. This is one of the biggest irreprehensible IT challenge in the coming days.

An organization might have disaster recovery mechanisms and a secure technical environment that's protected against the threat of undead data destroying or corrupting the system,but is this threat already lurking hidden in your system? Zombie data is real and it's taking up valuable resources and posing risks in your environment at a greater degree than you might imagine.

In the world of technology, zombies can take many avatars and the term might be employed in a number of references. It can be used to refer to a computer connected to the Internet that has been compromised or computer virus which can be used to carry out notorious activities under isolated direction. Most owners of these compromised computers are unaware that their system is being used for any such purposes; hence these computers are metaphorically compared to zombies. In UNIX operating systems, a zombie is a child program that was started by a parent program but then abandoned by the parent.

Zombie data on the other hand, refers to enormous collections of data that lack purpose and insight and might cause a threat to the system. This information which usually has originated from former employees either has no business value or no valid reason to be still preserved but is being retained, backed-up, and maintained on corporate networks. Most zombie data comes from files and file shares which IT organizations regularly discard devices when employees leave. One area often causing organizations the biggest headache is PST files.

PST files The Lurking Zombies
As soon as a user is no more retained on active directories, any PST files they had been using get technically orphaned or abandoned such as, they have no current owner and unless someone specifically delete them or even know enough to those PST files are still out there. Data within a PST file is considered an organization record and is thus is subject to detection requirements, just like email. These PST files have a tendency for data corruption, and due to their very limited recovery capability, the file corruption can result in permanent data loss. However, the detached identity from any active users makes it very complex for organizations to securely classify and do away with these files that no longer ought to be serving any organization purposes.

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