When stolen data can ‘phone home’

Digital ‘watermarking’ won’t prevent your data from being stolen, but it can let you find out about it much more quickly than the average of seven months it takes organizations to discover a breach

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Tracking devices is nothing new. In the auto industry, multiple vendors compete to convince drivers to install the devices in their cars, promising that if it gets stolen, the cops will know right where to find it. In law enforcement, criminals on probation sometimes are required to wear an ankle bracelet that does the same thing – tells authorities exactly where they are.

It is also possible to do that with data. Digital watermarking can track where it is being viewed or downloaded, and also identify the IP address and the type of device doing it. It is not in widespread use, according to experts, and could in some cases have privacy implications, but its advocates say while it doesn’t prevent a data breach, it can let an organization that has been breached know about it almost immediately, instead of months later.

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