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Ghostly goings-on: six frightening data stories that are certain to give you nightmares

By Jim Crook, Director of Marketing, CTERA

It’s the time of year for carving pumpkins, watching horror movies, and trick or treating. The CTERA sales team has compiled a list of the spookiest data stories they have heard from customers and partners in recent years. Beware: monsters are not hiding under your bed; they are hiding in your datacentre!

1. Creepy crawlies: Acarophobia is a fear of tiny, crawling, parasitic insects; apiphobia is a fear of bees; and arachnophobia, a fear of spiders. But what is the term for a phobia of those beastly bugs that can bring down an entire server? This happened at a London advertising agency! The creative team had an important customer deadline to meet and they could no longer access their critical Adobe illustrator data and other large creative files. The disaster recovery plan would take two days to restore the data. One day after the job deadline. The clock was ticking… The problem was the recovery time objective (RTO) set up years ago and because the longer the RTO, the lower the price, this firm thought a shorter RTO wasn’t worth it. But don’t be fooled when it comes to protecting your business-critical data, there’s always a price to pay…

2. Locked out: You have friends coming for a Halloween party and arrive home from the supermarket, bags full of decorations, drinks, and ice, only to find that you don’t have your house key. No doubt workers who had planned to work on some company files only to realise they cannot access them when working from home feel the same way, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. Users may be completely locked out of their data files, but more often, they face a tedious and clunky experience to access those files. Organisations typically rely on VPNs for secure access to their corporate files. This can be a curse in disguise: it takes a long time to download a file, meaning the workforce is nowhere near as productive as when they are in the office. Even worse, users often don’t bother to download their largest files as it would take so long. A London-based housing agency managing several housing estates found this to be the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. Victims of its VPN, it took forever for workers to make a simple update to one of the spreadsheets or Word files they rely on.

 

3. Lurking in the shadows: Claustrophobia is one the most common phobias. And running out of space on a file server is no different; it can create a ghostly shadow IT issue. Once the company’s file server storage is full, users tend to store their files anywhere they can: external sticks, disk drives, etc. One marketing agency ended up with 50TB of data on visible storage and another 50TB on shadow IT, meaning the company didn’t own half of its data anymore. This is the type of lack of control that sends chills up IT administrators’ spines: data security and governance regulations are likely to be breached, and security vulnerabilities remain unpatched. And it is a huge time waster: in this story, employees had to phone their IT contractors in order to get hold of backup files.

4. Showing up naked: A senior VP at a large financial institution went to meet a prospect. Following weeks of research and preparation, his team had created a killer presentation. With a couple of minutes spare, he opened his laptop and pulled out his thumb drive to get the slides ready and, to his horror, realised the flash drive was corrupted and he couldn’t access the files. Could being completely unprepared in a critical business meeting be worse than the nightmare where you turn up at that same meeting naked?

5. Data runaway: The thought of someone smuggling out sensitive information (and posting it online) would scare even the most steely-hearted organisation. CISOs are probably up at night sweating, thinking about the best way to address such eventuality. At a hospital in Limerick, Ireland, a disgruntled employee stole patient records – the hospital’s worst nightmare in terms of data protection had come true. To make it even more frightening, the records contained personal information such as patient names, medications and dates of birth. The Irish Times reported that “immediate actions were taken by the HSE and by UL Hospitals Group to protect patient data. Twitter blocked the link to the data and disabled the account in question”. But it was too late – the ghost was already out of the bag.

6. Spooky surprise: A massive tidal wave of security issues arose when the WannaCry ransomware swept the world. The virus gave the world a spooky surprise, crippling services and nearly bringing the NHS to its knees, with nurses and doctors having to abandon their online databases and write down their appointments on paper.

The virus was also wreaking havoc on the IT teams who had the gruelling task of bringing thousands of laptops back online and patching up the holes, to keep the ghastly virus out. To make things even more spine-chilling, any data not backed up by laptop users was lost completely, prolonging the agony for thousands of users. Productivity was severely affected – a haunting prospect for many.