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What is Stale Data and Why it is Cyber Security Threat?

Iain Roberts
| Read Time 4 min read| Published On - December 19, 2022

Stale Data

Stale data is any data collected by an organization that is no longer (or never was) necessary for daily operations. This also includes data that is sensitive, such as information about employees, customers, and projects. It may also include duplicate data that is stored across multiple locations or information that is out-of-date and no longer accurate.

According to the Global Databerg Report, 52% of all information held by organizations is considered ‘dark’ data, whose value is unknown, and 33% is considered redundant, obsolete, or trivial (ROT).

Why is it Important to Manage Stale Data?

Storing large amounts of stale/inactive data will increase costs and security risks with little-to-no benefit. According to a study carried out by Dimensional Research, 82% of companies are making decisions based on stale information, and 85% of this stale information is leading to incorrect decisions and lost revenue. It is also a lot harder to safeguard data when you’re not entirely sure what data you have, where it is located, and why you’re storing it in the first place.

How to Manage Stale Data

In order to manage stale data, you must create a policy that enables you to collect and store data in a consistent manner. Once a potential cybercriminal enters a network, they immediately start searching for stale (or unprotected) directories. While businesses generally concentrate on preventing intrusions, all too often the data itself stays widely available and unmonitored. Below are some of the most notable ways to manage stale data;


Any sensitive data you store should be encrypted – both at rest and in transit. By employing a data encryption solution you can be sure that every piece of sensitive data you have—including data that is considered “stale” —is only accessible to key members of your organization.

Data deduplication

Identifying duplicate sets of data could be a good place to start in eliminating stale data. There are many data deduplication tools available that will automatically scan your repositories for duplicate data and eliminate it as necessary. Most solutions function by replacing the redundant information with a link to the primary copy, often known as a “single source of truth” (SSOT). Data deduplication solutions can also be used for performing backups.

Data classification

Finding out exactly what data you have and where it is located will help you figure out what data can be moved, archived, or removed. An automated data classification solution will scan your repositories – both on-premise and cloud-based – for documents that contain sensitive data. The majority of proprietary data classification tools can also categorize data as it is being created or modified. Any data that is considered stale, can be easily identified and removed.

Real-time auditing

In addition to preventing unauthorized access, a real-time change auditing solution can help you to determine what data is frequently accessed, and by whom. If the data hasn’t been accessed in several years, it might be safe to archive or remove the data accordingly.

Inactive user account management

While stale data and inactive user accounts are not the same things, most inactive user accounts will have stale data connected to them, and should thus be managed accordingly. Most sophisticated Active Directory cleanup solutions can automatically discover and manage inactive user accounts.

Data retention policies

Make sure your company has policies in place to prevent the unnecessary collection and storage of any type of data. Every piece of data that is kept should have a retention period assigned to it, and the relevant personnel must be informed when the retention period ends. It is also possible to use an electronic document management system (EDMS) to automate the process.

If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help you manage your stale data, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.

Iain Roberts
Iain Roberts

A highly experienced cyber security consultant with 12 years experience in the security arena.

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