Software Development
Cybersecurity / Data / Startups

Reston’s ActiveNav wants to help companies dump extra data

Although we live in a data-driven world, ActiveNav CMO Dean Gonsowski thinks that a lot of data is actually a vulnerability, not an asset. It signals a shift: "You can't be data privacy compliant without actually understanding your data," he said.

A look at the Zero Dark Data software system from ActiveNav. (Courtesy photo)
For ActiveNav CMO Dean Gonsowski, there is such a thing as too much data.

“An interesting paradigm shift we’re at now is, as a universe thinking about how we leverage data, is it really helpful or is it noise and liability and toxic and risk?” Gonsowski told “And I think we’re starting to see is that it’s more the latter.”

The way to combat this noise, he said, is knowing where a company’s data can be found — and what exactly it has. ActiveNav, the Reston, Virginia-based data privacy and governance software provider, just dropped a brand-new tool to help. 

Inventory, the company’s new data-mapping-as-a-service tool, creates, well, an inventory of a company’s data, organizing it into files and analyzing what data is toxic or vulnerable. From there, it lets companies find, store and filter out unnecessary data, be it data systems information, customer data like social security numbers and user-created data like emails, spreadsheets and messages from Slack or Microsoft Teams.

With increasing data privacy laws and an increase in hacking and data breaches, Gonsowski said now is a crucial time to know all about your data, because he thinks companies may find that excess data goes from beyond unnecessary and into a liability.

“Unfortunately it means that a lot of companies are sitting on kind of this toxic, dark data store,” Gonsowski said. “It would be okay if people had visibility into what their assets were and what their files and inventory and content was, but they don’t. And one of the reasons is that data mapping as a discipline has largely kind of failed.”

Dean Gonsowski. (Courtesy photo)

Dean Gonsowski. (Courtesy photo)

The Inventory system also highlights “toxicity spots” be it certain departments or even certain office locations, if a company has multiple. The system also tracks and monitors data over time, since data is always changing and being added to. While it’s obvious that an organization might want to protect the personal information of clients and staff, and likely know where that is, Gonsowski said not knowing what data is where can put both customers and companies at risk.

“The interesting thing to me about a lot of this is that companies don’t understand their data really well,” Gonsowski said. “Which you could say is fine at some level, but the people who do really understand your data? Well, it’s the hackers.”

But once they’ve pinned down their data, Gonsowski said, the best thing to do might actually be getting rid of anything unnecessary or at least moving it elsewhere. Although it can be useful, the more data there is, the more there is to lose in a breach.

Gonsowski offered a comparison of this reconsideration of stored data: If you knew someone was going to rob your garage regularly, you might think differently about what you stored in there.

“We think this sensitive data discovery and data mapping as a service is going to be this new area that emerges, as people realize that you can’t be data privacy compliant without actually understanding your data,” Gonsowski said.

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