What Is a Data Dump, and Should You Worry About Them?

  • By Greg Brown
  • Published: Sep 14, 2022
  • Last Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Some words and phrases in modern vernacular sound intimidating to the uninformed. One such small phrase is the data dump, which has a short and targeted history. When hearing the phrase, many people think their credit cards or bank information has been stolen.

A data dump is usually a large amount of data or files transferred between two systems over a connected network. For example, several thousand personnel files need to be analyzed by the corporate HR system. That data is dumped, or transferred en masse, onto the server that needs the files.

data dump

Professional data managers often use the Structured Query Language (SQL) for dumping a database. SQL data is formatted as a collection of statements, and the dump reveals a record of tables in the database. In most databases, utilities can perform the task of dumping their data onto another server. With SQL, it is the mySQLdump utility.

An Alternative to the Traditional Data Dump

Expounding on the explanation of a data dump above comes an alternative slant on the meaning. Suppose a lawyer’s office wants to hide their client’s wrongdoing from the police. Rather than sending them only small portions of evidence when requested, the firm dumps massive amounts of data on the police. The goal of this data dump is to bury the actual evidence in an endless stream of details.

The practice of hiding small extraneous pieces of data that cloak the factual information has been used for decades. It is essentially hiding a needle in a haystack of needles. 

Analyzed and Utilized

The term data dump first started to appear in research journals in 1965. Since then, the term has been associated with various business operations, and data manipulation has become commonplace. Systems everywhere could now manipulate data results as if they came from the original server.

Pitfalls quickly began to emerge from the free-flowing data exchange. First and foremost, the overall accuracy of the data on the receiving end began to suffer. Secondly, with the transfer of large amounts of personal data, privacy suffered. After an onslaught of massive amounts of raw information, most people left a meeting frustrated. 

Data Stories

A new, more effective means of conveying information is an approach that combines raw data with critical insights. These stories provide businesses with the correct and targeted amount of data and intriguing stories to understand their meaning. Analyzing a dataset is not enough; providing a voice for the data is all-important.

Data stories must focus on a critical point and let the rest of the data dump provide a backdrop that emphasizes the primary focus. Anyone loses interest if they must sift through mounds of data. On the flip side, a data story offers a clear destination.

Bad Side of Data Dumps

bad side of data dumps

Not all data is created equal, and not all of it gets to its correct destination. Enter the dark web, hackers, and ransomware. In early 2020, over 20,000 email addresses and passwords were exposed from a data dump of several government-based health organizations, including the WHO.

Most of us only know that data dumping is associated with credit card numbers, DL numbers, and email addresses. From its early beginnings, data dumps were only thought of as a hacker’s way of getting at personal information to harm everyone. Businesses’ complete lack of security has dominated tech forums and chat boards worldwide. 

A few years ago, the public only heard of the millions of personal and business records being stolen regularly. Month after month, no good news came out of the tech sector. Finally, IT admins made the data more secure and removed it from the headlines. 

Is terrible data dumping still around? Probably so, but the people who manage the database may not be. 

Singular Data Dumps Still Haunt Our Memories

No matter the efforts to try and cover up or delete lousy press, the Yahoo data breach remains the largest in history. According to statistics and a few years past, over three billion user accounts and their associated information were stolen by hackers and ransomware cybercriminals. 

It took Yahoo months of research to determine just how significant the breach was. However, the flood of bad headlines was splashed worldwide, and the damage was done. In 2014 another massive data dump from Yahoo gave the dark web 500 million accounts. 

These extreme cases highlight the capabilities of hackers who want to steal data quickly by dumping it onto another server system. Statistics from Data Breach are astonishing, such as 68 records are stolen every second, and it costs each user $150 per incident. The list of data breach information goes on forever and affects nearly every person globally.

Data dumping became so problematic for companies that new protocols, security measures, and tighter admin control became necessary. Hackers found it easy to breach large databases mainly because of the deficient and insufficient data from system to system. Businesses have begun to improve. Today, their data is conveyed like a story rather than a line item, and the data sheets are encrypted and secured.

Bad Data

The appetite for more information has become insatiable, and with it, the need for large databases of small meaningful details. The effort to store more data was the need of every organization. However, the problem that arose was the lack of IT professionals to manage the systems and the data itself. Over time, databases became so corrupt that they were unstable. Hackers no longer needed data dumping.

How bad is the data? According to a research study in 2016 by IBM, bad and corrupt data costs America nearly $3.1 trillion yearly.

Should We, as Consumers, Worry About Data Dumps?

Everyone online or even using a smartphone will deal with data dumps on some scale. For example, we want to find historical financial information on a company of interest so we can invest. You request three years of balance sheet information to determine if the dollars make sense.

The total cash and investments line says the company has plenty of short-term cash to weather an upcoming problem. However, instead of checking the information before it was posted. The IT Admin said, “who cares” and posted the wrong years and cash information without double checking. 

The “who cares” era is upon us, so be careful! Data dumps could end up costing you far more than you think. All it takes is a single breach and your data could fall into the wrong hands.

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