Guest blog post by Carla Gentry
While we aren’t exactly “following the yellow brick road” these days, you may be feeling a bit like Dorothy from the “Wizard of Oz” when it comes to these topics. No my friend, you aren’t in Kansas anymore! As seem above from Topsy, these three subjects are extremely popular these days and for the last 30 days seem to follow a similar pattern (coincidence?).
The internet of things is not just a buzzword and is no longer a dream, with sensors abound. The world is on its way to become totally connected, although it will take time to work out a few kinks here and there (with a great foundation, you create a great product; this foundation is what will take the most time). Your appliances will talk to you in your “smart house” and your “self-driving car” will take you to your super tech office where you will work with ease thanks to all the wonders of technology. But let’s step back to reality and think, how is all this going to come about, what will we do with all the data collected and how will we protect it?
First thing first is all the sensors have to be put in place, and many questions have to be addressed. Does a door lock by one vendor communicate with a light switch by another vendor, and do you want the thermostat to be part of the conversation and will anyone else be able to see my info or get into my home? http://www.computerworld.com/article/2488872/emerging-technology/explained--the-abcs-of-the-internet-of-things.html
How will all the needed sensors be installed and will there be any “human” interaction? It will take years to put in place all the needed sensors but there are some that are already engaging in the IOT here in the US. Hotels (as an example but not the only one investing in IOT) are using sensors connected to products that they are available for sale in each room, which is great but I recently had an experience with how “people” are the vital part of “IOT” – I went to check out of a popular hotel in Vegas, when I was asked if I drank one of the coffees in the room, I replied, “no, why” and was told that the sensor showed that I had either drank or moved the coffee, the hotel clerk verified that I had “moved” and not “drank” the coffee but without her, I would have been billed and had to refute the charge. Refuting charges are not exactly good for business and customers service having to handle “I didn’t purchase this” disputes 24/7 wouldn’t exactly make anyone’s day, so thank goodness for human interactions right there on the spot.
“The Internet of Things” is not just a US effort - Asia, in my opinion, is far ahead of the US, as far as the internet of things is concerned. If you are waiting in a Korean subway station, commuters can browse and scan the QR codes of products which will later be delivered to their homes. (Source: Tesco) - Transport for London’s central control centers use the aggregated sensor data to deploy maintenance teams, track equipment problems, and monitor goings-on in the massive, sprawling transportation system. Telent’s Steve Pears said in a promotional video for the project that "We wanted to help rail systems like the London Underground modernize the systems that monitor it’s critical assets—everything from escalators to lifts to HVAC control systems to CCTV and communication networks." The new smart system creates a computerized and centralized replacement for a public transportation system that used notebooks and pens in many cases. http://www.fastcolabs.com/3030367/the-london-underground-has-its-own-internet-of-things
But isn't the Internet of Things too expensive to implement? Many IoT devices rely on multiple sensors to monitor the environment around them. The cost of these sensors declined 50% in the past decade, according to Goldman Sachs. We expect prices to continue dropping at a steady rate, leading to an even more cost-effective sensor. http://www.businessinsider.com/four-elements-driving-iot-2014-10
The Internet of Things is not just about gathering of data but also about the analysis and use of data. So all this data generated by the internet of thing, when used correctly, will help us in our everyday life as consumer and help companies keep us safer by predicting and thus avoiding issues that could harm or delay, not to mention the costs that could be reduced from patterns in data for transportation, healthcare, banking, the possibilities are endless.
Let’s talk about security and data breaches – Now you may be thinking I’m in analytics or data science why should I be concerned with security? Let’s take a look at several breaches that have made the headlines lately.
Target recently suffered a massive security breach thanks to attacker infiltrating a third party. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-03-13/target-missed-alarms-in-epic-hack-of-credit-card-data and so did Home depot http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/11/06/home-depot-hackers-stolen-data/18613167/ PC world said “Data breach trends for 2015: Credit cards, healthcare records will be vulnerable http://www.pcworld.com/article/2853450/data-breach-trends-for-2015-credit-cards-healthcare-records-will-be-vulnerable.html
Sony was hit by hackers on Nov. 24, resulting in a company wide computer shutdown and the leak of corporate information, including the multimillion-dollar pre-bonus salaries of executives and the Social Security numbers of rank-and-file employees. A group calling itself the Guardians of Peace has taken credit for the attacks. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/04/business/sony-pictures-and-fbi-investigating-attack-by-hackers.html?_r=0
So how do we protect ourselves in a world of BIG DATA and the IOT?
Why should I – as a data scientist or analyst be worried about security, that’s not really part of my job is it? Well if you are a consultant or own your own business it is! Say, you download secure data from your clients and then YOU get hacked, guess who is liable if sensitive information is leaked or gets into the wrong hands? What if you develop a platform where the client’s customers can log in and check their accounts, credit card info and purchase histories are stored on this system, if stolen, it can set you up for a lawsuit. If you are a corporation, you are protected in some extents but what if you operate as a sole proprietor – you could lose your home, company and reputation. Still think security when dealing with big data isn’t important?
Organizations need to get better at protecting themselves and discovering that they’ve been breached plus we, the consultants, need to do a better job of protecting our own data and that means you can’t use password as a password! Let’s not make it easy for the hackers and let’s be sure that when we collect sensitive data and yes, even the data collected from cool technology toys connected to the internet, that we are security minded, meaning check your statements, logs and security messages - verify everything! When building your database, use all the security features available (masking, obfuscation, encryption) so that if someone does gain access, what they steal is NOT usable!
Be safe and enjoy what tech has to offer with peace of mind and at all cost, protect your DATA.
I’ll leave you with a few things to think about:
“Asset management critical to IT security”
"A significant number of the breaches are often caused by vendors but it's only been recently that retailers have started to focus on that," said Holcomb. "It's a fairly new concept for retailers to look outside their walls." (Source: http://www.fierceretail.com/)