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Data growth, the Internet of Things will require security from cyberattacks, espionage

January 27, 2016 (Photo Credit: EtoileArk/Getty Images)

Scientists have concluded that more data has been generated in the past two years than in the entire history of mankind, and the rate of data generation is intensifying. Figures suggest that each and every minute, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube alone. One report states the White House has invested more than $200 million in big data projects already. 

A recent Cisco Systems report projects the global Internet traffic will exceed the zettabyte (1,000 exabytes) threshold by the end of 2016. IDC looked at the data growth trends and projected that by 2020 the digital data universe will reach 44 zettabytes. That's 44 trillion gigabytes.

IDC estimates that big data technology and the associated services market will grow at a 26.4 percent compound annual growth rate to a whopping $41.5 billion in 2018. They went on to state that that figure is six times the average growth rate of the overall information technology market.

One of the major sources of massive amounts of data is the Internet of Things (IoT). Cisco has projected that IoT devices will top 50 billion by 2020, and Morgan Stanley estimates the number could go up to 75 billion. Some analysts put that number much higher at 200 billion devices. Each of these devices is a potential target for a cyberattack.

High-growth data sources include:

  • IP in data files used in 3-D printing.
  • Data from the billions of IoT sensors.
  • Data to and from the connected vehicles.
  • The "smart" movement of homes, buildings and cities.
  • Growth in video over the Internet, such as video conferencing and streaming.

While many celebrate the increased data and the insights it will provide, that view is not shared by everyone. Some analysts are quick to point out that based on current analysis, a mere 0.5 percent of all data collected is actually analyzed. That is a shocking figure for most. Those same analysts expect that percentage to shrink as all this data floods the data centers of organizations. 

There is a growing concern about the risks associated with all that data. All that valuable data creates a target-rich environment for cyber espionage and cyber sabotage.

Cyber sabotage via data modification is a growing concern. In fact, a number of intelligence sources have expressed concerns over the ability of an attacker to access data storage and make undetectable changes to data in supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, financial reporting systems, inventory systems and more.

They went on to pose several questions, such as: How would this be detected, and how would an organization recover from their financial data being maliciously manipulated?

Consider the secondary effects of such an attack: If the attack was focused on SCADA systems, it could lead to an explosion. Think about the potential secondary effects if the attack was on the stock market; it could lead to a massive, panic-driven sell-off.  

The value of the data that will make up the 44 zettabytes is incalculable. Clearly it will play an essential part of the global economy, as well as the United States' economy and national security.

That demands it be properly protected from the plethora of threats it will face in the digital society in which we live and operate. This is no small undertaking. Many of the IoT devices (including sensor networks) will not have cyber defenses to protect against the cyberattacks that are sure to come.

As sources of data grow around us, we must also grow the ability to collect, analyze and apply the knowledge we gain in a near real-time format. One has to wonder if the massive $1.4 billion National Security Agency data storage center built in Utah back in 2014 is already out of capacity. If not, with growth rates like these, it could be shortly.

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