Voices: Hand

Network Infrastructure Gets Larger, but Less Protected

How to Analyze 'Big Data' and Prevent Cybersecurity Threats From Adversaries

By Aaron Hand

After hearing Shawn Henry, president of CrowdStrike Services, give dire warnings about rampant threats to network infrastructures and the data they hold, IBM's Michael Valocchi wondered aloud whether we should just keep all that big data to ourselves.

Henry and Valocchi both spoke recently at ABB Automation & Power World in Orlando, Fla. Henry, who spoke about cybersecurity dangers, knows what he's talking about. He's a retired executive assistant director at the FBI who oversaw computer crime investigations around the world.

SEE ALSO: Ever More Data, but Still Cyber Vulnerable

"The DNA of all of your companies resides on the Internet. And it's incredibly valuable," Henry said, noting the value of intellectual property, R&D, corporate strategies and more. "There's an increasing push to move it all to the network. It's all riding on an inherently insecure infrastructure."

That infrastructure, Henry insisted, is only getting larger and less protected. "Imagine trying to protect a building with 100,000 doors," he said. "There are too many vulnerabilities right now."

It's an incredible challenge for which there is no short-term answer, Henry said. To make a better run at the problem, however, the focus needs to change. "We've been focused on how to reduce our vulnerabilities," Henry pointed out. "We need to focus on who our adversaries are."

Those adversaries take three main shapes: organized criminal groups largely centered in Eastern Europe that are focused on monetary gain by attacking major corporations; terrorist organizations, which are an increasing threat, particularly to infrastructure; and foreign intelligence service groups operating on behalf of governments that steal data for economic gain, military gain or some other advantage.

While people might run screaming from the threat that a physical bomb presents, they have a harder time understanding and grasping the very real threat of having an unwelcome visitor in their network. "In many cases, the adversary had been in that network for months or even years, and had gone undetected," Henry said, noting such adversaries as trusted insiders, disgruntled employees, or people setting up wireless hotspots, just waiting to intercept vital information.

"We often think of the vulnerability to data; you want to maintain some level of confidentiality," Henry said. "But with the depth and breadth of access that adversaries have right now, they can change the data or completely destroy the data."

That data, along with advanced analytics, is what Valocchi, global energy and utilities industry leader at IBM Global Business Services, came to talk about. "Big data," he said, has replaced "smart grid" as one of the most overused and misunderstood terms used today. Above all, Valocchi emphasized that big data is not a technology trend, but rather a business trend. "If I can't prove the business value, I'm not going to embark on the journey," he said.

The concept of big data refers to the sheer volume of data that's out there — the scale of data (terabytes) and the variety of data. It's coming at us from so many different sources, in near real time, and now even in unstructured forms, Valocchi said. "It's all over the place. And it's coming at us like nothing before," he said. "And real time is coming at us so quickly, we also have to worry about the veracity of the data. How certain are we that the data is good?"

Valocchi summed up the issue surrounding big data with four key characteristics: volume, variety, velocity and veracity.

Although Valocchi called it "early days" for big data, a lot of data-based initiatives are beginning to take off around the globe. A survey of executives found that almost half of the organizations polled are at least having discussions about big data projects. The survey showed that 47% are planning big data activities, and almost a third (28%) are at the pilot and implementation stages.

On top of that, Valocchi said, the big data discussions have moved out of the IT departments into operational, finance and other departments. "It's no longer an IT-driven discussion."

Valocchi reported on five key findings: Customer analytics are driving big data initiatives, which is happening not just in banking, but in industry and utilities as well; big data is dependent on a scalable and extensible information foundation; initial big data efforts are focused on gaining insights from existing and new sources of internal data; big data requires strong analytics capabilities; and the emerging pattern of big data adoption is focused on delivering measurable business value.

More From This Voice


Network Infrastructure Gets Larger, but Less Protected

How to Analyze 'Big Data' and Prevent Cybersecurity Threats From Adversaries


Energy Management: Small Steps Can Pay Big

Like Coins in the Couch Cushions, Savings Are There to Be Had


Wireless IP Networks Don't Have to Be Vulnerable

As IP Networks Grow Beyond the Enterprise and Into the Field, That Should Not Mean They're More Susceptible to Cyber Attack


There's Room for Safety in Lean Manufacturing

Risk Assessment Is the First Step Toward a Safer, More Productive Machine


Ever More Data, but Still Cyber Vulnerable

Megatrend Session Discusses Cybersecurity Concerns from an Adversarial Perspective, Plus the Impact of Big Data and Advanced Analytics


PLCs Help Optimize Alternative Energy Processes

Even in the Harshest Environments, ABB Extends the Power Available From Wind and Sun


The Benefits of Windows Embedded OS

Microsoft Releases New Version of Software for Windows 8 Operating System


Robotics Save American Jobs, Not Kill Them

Is Manufacturing in the U.S. the Best Option? Is Manual Processing the Best Option?


Ethernet: You Don't Have to See Stars

American Axle & Manufacturing Makes Its Networks More Flexible and Easier to Deploy By Increasing Topology Flexibility


OEMs Focus on Building Smarter Machines

How OEMs Are Leveraging the Wealth of Information That's Available on Machines Today to Build Competitive Advantage or Reduce Costs


Making a Business Case for Safety

Though Manufacturing Has Made Considerable Progress Toward Safer Operations - on a Global Basis, the Frequency Rate of Injuries Has Been Steadily Declining for Years - the Inherent Dangers Remain Very Real


Filler Brushes Up on Speed, Precision

Oystar IWK Increases Toothpaste Tube Production Rates. Pneumatic Drives Help Make the Machine Fast, Precise and Safe


Megatrends to Impact Business in Nine Areas

Yokogawa Users Group Conference Keynote Speaker Stresses the Need for Companies to Innovate for the Future...or Else


Building Good Relationships Pays Off

A Company Can Be a Good Neighbor by Building a Community Where Engineers, Operators Want to Work


CEOs Optimistic About Company Revenue Growth

Despite Economic Uncertainties, Industrial Manufacturing CEOs Look to Change Course for a Brighter Future by Reevaluate Strategies


Make Circuit Protection Easier

All Industries Still Struggle to Troubleshoot Electrical Equipment Effectively


Rethink Human-Machine Interaction

Make Interaction Less About Technology Itself, More About Tasks People are Trying to Achieve


How Can Integrated Automation Expand Your Functionality?

Machine Builders are Finding It Easier to Expand Their Universe


Lack of Skill or Lack of Respect?

Engineers Say Pay Us What We're Worth


Economist Predicts Steady Growth, but on a Rough Road

Despite Headwinds, U.S. Recovery Will Continue, Predicts NEMA Economist