A new era for data: What’s possible with as-a-service

By incloudhosting.co.uk

In association withDell Technologies For organizations in today’s complex business environment, data is like water—essential for survival. They need to process, analyze, and act on data to drive business growth—to predict future trends, identify new business opportunities, and respond to market changes faster. Not enough data? Businesses die of thirst. Dirty data? Projects are polluted by “garbage in/garbage out.” Too much data for the organization’s analytical capabilities? Businesses can drown in the data flood in their struggle to tap its potential. A new era for data: What’s possible with as-a-service But the right amount of data, clean and properly channeled, can quench a business’s thirst for insights, power its growth, and carry it to success, says Matt Baker, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Dell Technologies. Like water, data is not good or bad. The question is whether it’s useful for the purpose at hand. “What’s difficult is getting the data to align properly, in an inclusive way, in a common format,” Baker says. “It has to be purified and organized in some way to make it usable, secure, and reliable in creating good outcomes.” Many organizations are overwhelmed by data, according to a recently commissioned study of more than 4,000 decision-makers conducted on Dell Technologies’ behalf by Forrester Consulting.1 During the past three years, 66% have seen an increase in the amount of data they generate—sometimes doubling or even tripling—and 75% say demand for data within their organizations has also increased.
The research company IDC estimates that the world generated 64.2 zettabytes of data in 2020, and that number is growing at 23% per year. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes—to put that in perspective, that’s enough storage for 60 billion video games or 7.5 trillion MP3 songs. The Forrester study showed that 70% of business leaders are accumulating data faster than they can effectively analyze and use it. Although executives have enormous amounts of data, they don’t have the means to extract insights or value from it—what Baker calls the “Ancient Mariner” paradox, after the famous line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”
Data streams turn to data floods  It’s easy to see why the amount and complexity of data are growing so fast. Every app, gadget, and digital transaction generates a data stream, and those streams flow together to generate even more data streams. Baker offers a potential future scenario in brick-and-mortar retailing. A loyalty app on a customer’s phone tracks her visit to an electronics store. The app uses the camera or a Bluetooth proximity sensor to understand where it is and taps the information the retailer already has about the customer’s demographics and past purchasing behavior to predict what she might buy. As she passes a particular aisle, the app generates a special offer on ink cartridges for the customer’s printer or an upgraded controller for her game box. It notes which offers result in sales, remembers for the next time, and adds the whole interaction to the retailer’s ever-growing pile of sales and promotion data, which then may entice other shoppers with smart targeting. Adding to the complexity is an often-unwieldy mass of legacy data. Most organizations don’t have the luxury of building data systems from scratch. They may have years’ worth of accumulated data that must be cleaned to be “potable,” Baker says. Even something as simple as a customer’s birth date could be stored in half a dozen different and incompatible formats. Multiply that “contamination” by hundreds of data fields and achieving clean, useful data suddenly seems impossible. But abandoning old data means abandoning potentially invaluable insights, Baker says. For example, historical data on warehouse stocking levels and customer ordering patterns could be pivotal for a company trying to create a more efficient supply chain. Advanced extract, transform, load capabilities—designed to tidy up disparate data sources and make them compatible—are essential tools. Download the full report. This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

How a Russian cyberwar in Ukraine could ripple out globally

By incloudhosting.co.uk

Russia has sent more than 100,000 soldiers to the nation’s border with Ukraine, threatening a war unlike anything Europe has seen in decades. Though there hasn’t been any shooting yet, cyber operations are already underway.  Last week, hackers defaced dozens of government websites in Ukraine, a technically simple but attention-grabbing act that generated global headlines. More quietly, they also placed destructive malware inside Ukrainian government agencies, an operation first discovered by researchers at Microsoft. It’s not clear yet who is responsible, but Russia is the leading suspect. But while Ukraine continues to feel the brunt of Russia’s attacks, government and cybersecurity experts are worried that these hacking offensives could spill out globally, threatening Europe, the United States, and beyond.  On January 18, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned critical infrastructure operators to take “urgent, near-term steps” against cyber threats, citing the recent attacks against Ukraine as a reason to be on alert for possible threats to US assets. The agency also pointed to two cyberattacks from 2017, NotPetya and WannaCry, which both spiraled out of control from their initial targets, spread rapidly around the internet, and impacted the entire world at a cost of billions of dollars. The parallels are clear: NotPetya was a Russian cyberattack targeting Ukraine during a time of high tensions. “Aggressive cyber operations are tools that can be used before bullets and missiles fly,” says John Hultquist, head of intelligence for the cybersecurity firm Mandiant. “For that exact reason, it’s a tool that can be used against the United States and allies as the situation further deteriorates. Especially if the US and its allies take a more aggressive stance against Russia.”
That looks increasingly possible. President Joe Biden said during a press conference January 19 that the US could respond to future Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine with its own cyber capabilities, further raising the specter of conflict spreading.  “My guess is he will move in,” Biden said when asked if he thought Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine.
Unintentional consequences? The knock-on effects for the rest of the world might not be limited to  intentional reprisals by Russian operatives. Unlike old-fashioned war, cyberwar is not confined by borders and can more easily spiral out of control. Ukraine has been on the receiving end of aggressive Russian cyber operations for the last decade and has suffered invasion and military intervention from Moscow since 2014. In 2015 and 2016, Russian hackers attacked Ukraine’s power grid and turned out the lights in the capital city of Kyiv— unparalleled acts that haven’t been carried out anywhere else before or since.  The 2017 NotPetya cyberattack, once again ordered by Moscow, was directed initially at Ukrainian private companies before it spilled over and destroyed systems around the world.  NotPetya masqueraded as ransomware, but in fact it was a purely destructive and highly viral piece of code. The destructive malware seen in Ukraine last week, now known as WhisperGate, also pretended to be ransomware while aiming to destroy key data that renders machines inoperable. Experts say WhisperGate is “reminiscent” of NotPetya, down to the technical processes that achieve destruction, but that there are notable differences. For one, WhisperGate is less sophisticated and is not designed to spread rapidly in the same way. Russia has denied involvement, and no definitive link points to Moscow. NotPetya incapacitated shipping ports and left several giant multinational corporations and government agencies unable to function. Almost anyone who did business with Ukraine was affected because the Russians secretly poisoned software used by everyone who pays taxes or does business in the country.  The White House said the attack caused more than $10 billion in global damage and deemed it “the most destructive and costly cyberattack in history.” Since 2017, there has been ongoing debate about whether the international victims were merely unintentional collateral damage or whether the attack targeted companies doing business with Russia’s enemies. What is clear is that it can happen again.  Accident or not, Hultquist anticipates that we will see cyber operations from Russia’s military intelligence agency GRU, the organization behind many of the most aggressive hacks of all time, both inside and outside Ukraine. The GRU’s most notorious hacking group, dubbed Sandworm by experts, is responsible for a long list of greatest hits including the 2015 Ukrainian power grid hack, the 2017 NotPetya hacks, interference in US and French elections, and the Olympics opening ceremony hack in the wake of a Russian doping controversy left the country excluded from the games.  Hultquist is also looking out for another group, known to experts as Berserk Bear, that originates from the Russian intelligence agency FSB. In 2020, US officials warned of the threat the group poses to government networks. The German government said the same group had achieved “longstanding compromises” at companies as they targeted energy, water, and power sectors.  “These guys have been going after this critical infrastructure for a long, a long time now, almost a decade,” says Hultquist. “Even though we’ve caught them on many occasions, it’s reasonable to assume that they still have access in certain areas.” A sophisticated toolbox There is serious debate about the calculus inside Russia and what kind of aggression Moscow would want to undertake outside of Ukraine.  “I think it’s pretty likely that the Russians will not target our own systems, our own critical infrastructure,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a longtime expert on Russian cyber activity and founder of the Silverado Policy Accelerator in Washington. “The last thing they’ll want to do is escalate a conflict with the United States in the midst of trying to fight a war with Ukraine.” No one fully understands what goes into Moscow’s math in this fast-moving situation. American leadership now predicts that Russia will invade Ukraine. But Russia has demonstrated repeatedly that, when it comes to cyber, they have a large and varied toolbox. Sometimes they use it for something as relatively simple but effective as a disinformation campaign, intended to destabilize or divide adversaries. They’re also capable of developing and deploying some of the most complex and aggressive cyber operations in the world. In 2014, as Ukraine plunged into another crisis and Russia invaded Crimea, Russian hackers secretly recorded the call of a US diplomat frustrated with European inaction who said “Fuck the EU” to a colleague. They leaked the call online in an attempt to sow chaos in the West’s alliances as a prelude to intensifying information operations by Russia.  Leaks and disinformation have continued to be important tools for Moscow. US and European elections have been plagued repeatedly by cyber-enabled disinformation at Russia’s direction. At a moment of more fragile alliances and complicated political environments in Europe and the United States, Putin can achieve important goals by shaping public conversation and perception as war in Europe looms. “These cyber incidents can be nonviolent, they are reversible, and most of the consequences are in perception,” says Hultquist. “They corrode institutions, they make us look insecure, they make governments look weak. They often don’t rise to the level that would provoke an actual physical, military response. I believe these capabilities are on the table.”