Remember, remember the 5th of November

It’s hard to believe that after all these years – roughly 408 to be exact – that we still remember the 5th of November as Guy Fawkes Day. In what was one of the most serious assassination attempts in the United Kingdom’s history, Guido “Guy” Fawkes planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in which he aimed to dethrone King James, a Protestant, and replace him with a Catholic.

While the religious implications of this day probably reverberate through the theologies, especially those within Christianity, the 5th of November – as well as Mr. Fawkes – have come to signify something more progressive: digital protest, information attacks and other data-related activities.

That dude from Anonymous’ logo;

In honor of the “holiday,” which is likely still observed to celebrate Britain’s ability to identify and destroy opposition in the colonial days, I’d like to discuss how privacy protection and other corporate-facing digital security and data management issues have been impacted by Anonymous and other hacktivist networks.

First, though, as a long-time professional in the information governance, data forensics, eDiscovery and general data management industries, sometimes I am baffled by the selection of Guy Fawkes as the Anonymous logo. Not only did Fawkes attempt to blow up a King because of his religious affiliations, he failed. He did, however, have some pretty incredible nicknames and pseudonyms, such as John Johnson and, my personal favorite, Guido Johnson.

I digress. In some ways, the selection of Guy Fawkes’ face for the logo might not be that much of a stretch, as Anonymous is simultaneously viewed as an incendiary threat and revolutionary human rights organization. Whichever feelings you might subscribe to, though, you’ll need to treat hacktivists as substantial threats to data security and privacy protection when you’re running a major enterprise.

Anonymous and other hacktivist networks have successfully breaches corporate accounts, governmental databases and many other sources of sensitive information. These cyber characters have even taken over organizations’ social media pages when they are upset.

Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter;

It is hard for me to say whether or not I completely stand behind a group like Anonymous. On one hand, they do seem to try hard to educate the public and unearth secrets in the name of freedom. On the other, do they really know what they’re doing when they release sensitive information or hack into corporate accounts?

Either way, I believe that the 5th of November should begin to signify the cyber threats that loom and face organizations of all kinds. Hacktivists might not be the top concern of a smaller company that produces PapierMâché butterflies, but regular cyber thieves might steal trade secrets and buckle that unsuspecting victim. Also, did you know that “PapierMâché” is French for chewed paper? We’re blowing minds here.

At the end of the day, the 5th of November has come to mean a lot of different things to a variety of people and groups.

I for one feel as though today should serve as a reminder of how important information governance, (digital) security and compliance continues to be today. Taking the time to evaluate the organization’s defenses, vulnerabilities, information governance protocols and other digital security and management strategies toward the end of the year can be a big help going into 2014, and what better time is there to identify and eradicate threats than such an infamous day in November?”