Article:

Is data the new gold?

14 September 2021

Stan Gallo, Partner, Forensic Services |
Quin Rijnders, Executive Director, Forensic Services |

If you believe the media hype, data is the new gold, and mining it or putting it on chains will make you a multi-millionaire. Sound vaguely familiar but hard to grasp? 

Coined by Thomas Nield, the ‘jabberwocky effect’ is real. Innovations are hyped and the risk of looking professionally out of the loop on something is simply too great, and so the participation in the glossy, name-throwing begins.

Separating the myth from the real world

The positive part about these ‘glossy term’ data conversations is that they are really exciting. 

The negative is the value they truly add, which is usually very little and even worse, they can be costly. Information Technology (IT) projects have a reputation of taking twice as long as planned, costing double the budget for ‘regular’ IT projects. An innovative IT project run on ‘jabberwocky’ is much worse, often not delivering return on investment and leaving stakeholders frustrated and wondering where things went wrong.

Terms such as ‘advanced artificial intelligence’ or ‘deep neural network machine learning algorithms’, are often thrown around, with no-one daring to say no and often a lack of understanding of the ideas behind the catchy terminology.

The media is littered with stories of big budget IT projects that have failed to deliver, often while causing significant upheaval to business processes.

To be clear, artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications are real. However, AI is presently much more niche, focussing on a specific problem as opposed to being useful for broad business problems in a large ‘total addressable market’, across many different sectors.

With connectivity via cloud computing, bandwidth, storage capacity and processing power increasing at an exponential rate, data gathering for insights is easier than ever before.

Solutions in the real world, however, can be surprisingly simple, leveraging modern versions of old-fashioned technology with an innovative approach.

The real value of data

Our team strive to remain at the forefront of technological advancements while providing practical advice and assistance to clients seeking to extract real value out of their data. In Digital Forensic, we are often tasked with finding the elusive ‘needle in the haystack’, code level analysis or ensuring evidentiary compliance for electronic evidence.

A creative approach using a Hex Viewer, custom scripts or a Structured Query Language (SQL) database is often more successful in achieving this, even across a petabyte of unstructured data, than any amount of ‘jabberwocky’ one can come up with.

More complicated applications of this approach have included (among many others):

  • Reverse engineering of encoded data on a lost backup drive
  • Remote bot based searches
  • Collection and defensible deletion in accordance with binding agreements during the COVID-19 lockdown
  • Tracking, tracing and remediation of personally identifiable information, spread throughout the operating system environment via errant coding practices.

Although we are aware of other domains where ‘glossy’ technology is much more appropriate and useful, we are inclined to think that in many other scenarios a creative approach using proven technology will get you closer to the promised gold much quicker than jabberwocky ever will.

Should you have any questions about your data, planned projects or a practical approach that best suits your needs, reach out to our team of Forensic Technology professionals.