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Importance of Predictive Analytics and Cyber Security

Organized digital transformation plans need spanning both the information technology and the operational technology aspects. Solid digital resilience is the need of the hour.

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It is paradoxical that the more connected we get, the more vulnerable we become. We are all familiar with hacks of personal email or Facebook accounts with a plaintive call from a friend stuck abroad. But, when such hacks expose sensitive and strategically valuable data, then it is indeed a case for organizational concern.

The most sensational case of hacking has been that of a casino in the USA – targeting a fish tank which had sensors that regulated the temperature and salinity of the tank – which was in turn connected with the rest of the controls of the casino. The famous Japanese electronics company Sony’s PlayStation Network was attacked – the online gaming service contained the personal data of 77 million users which was leaked as also the banking information of tens of thousands of players. A massive hack in South Korea led to the theft of data about a 100 million credit cards. Alteryx, a marketing analytics firm left an unsecured database online that publicly exposed sensitive information for about 123 million U.S. households. The hack of Equifax an American credit company caused the leakage of personal data of 143 million American, Canadian and British customers as well as their 200,000 credit card numbers.

Marriott Hotels had had 500 million accounts breached. The US NSA, the Central Bank of Bangla Desh and many other government entities have been hacked. Recently, the computer systems of the National Highways Authority of India were held to ransom for a few days by unknown assailants. Even technology companies like Yahoo, Twitter, Amazon, Adobe and Netflix have been hacked. One of the most infamous hacks has been from the IOT focused malware called Mirai which infected a massive swath of connected devices – smart energy meters to home televisions.

As our digital connectivity increases we are going to become more susceptible to external hacks. A modern car has several million lines of code. A deliberate or inadvertently left-behind bug can play havoc with the controls and lend the entire manufacturing effort amenable to ransom. It is possible to imagine that even MH 370 could well have been forcibly driven to the ocean by somebody who had been able to develop remote access to its controls.

As the science of health improves, it is necessary to fathom the implications of hacking of personal medical systems which have lakhs of lines of code. What if somebody could tinker with a pacemaker on a person with fragile health. Or, if insulin pumps were to administer overdoses to a patient. Or, an MRI were to misreport? The viruses of the post-covid world may actually take the cyber route rather than the physical one, and may be man-engineered, rather than biological.
Who are the people behind hacks? There are terror groups like the Japanese Yakuza, Islamic groups, Russian mafia and the Chinese and American intelligence communities who are snooping around all the time. At an individual level people are driven by vanity. Some want to influence the stock market. Some want to rob a bank – a cyber-hack is less risky than a physical heist, and with a mere click one has access to millions.

Foolproof cyber security is therefore a sine-qua-non for the digital economy. Just like a building has to be earthquake proof so also the digital architecture has to be cyber-hack proof. Organized digital transformation plans need spanning both the information technology and the operational technology aspects. Solid digital resilience is the need of the hour.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Raghav Chandra

Former Secretary Government of India

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