Company Culture and Cybersecurity are Critically Intertwined

How serious is your organization about securing and keeping private the consumer and other data you access, handle, store or otherwise process? Put another way, does your company culture emphasis and value the allocation of precious resources to fight cybersecurity threats?

These are particularly important and timely questions to ask, especially in light of recent well publicized data breaches affecting millions of Americans. According to a recent New York Times article, one of those breaches involving Home Depot was due at least in part to years of neglect and a lack of attention to vulnerabilities and warnings by former members of the company’s cybersecurity team. This alleged culture that stressed “selling hammers” over securing data left the company open to attack from malware that it says “had not been seen before and would have been difficult to detect.”

Several former Home Depot employees said they were not surprised the company had been hacked. They said that over the years, when they sought new software and training, managers came back with the same response: “We sell hammers.”

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Additional investigation (and litigation) will likely tell more about whether and to what extent company culture played an integral part in the data breach that ultimately compromised 56 million of Home Depot’s customers’ credit cards. In the meantime, however, all organizations – for-profit and non-profit – should be taking a long hard look at how they value cybersecurity. Is company culture deeply intertwined with a dedication to keeping data safe, or is the privacy and security of information ‘something for IT to worry about?’

Federal Regulation Coming Soon to the Internet of Things

It was really only a matter of time…to the extent that the Internet of Things (#IoT) isn’t already regulated by existing state and federal rules, the United States Senate now appears to be taking at least preliminary steps towards legislation that would specifically apply to IoT. According to an article published in The Hill today, “A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee wants Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to hold a hearing on the millions of new connected refrigerators, cars and other devices.”

“‘The so-called “Internet of Things” is “sparking a number of important policy questions” about security and privacy, Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote to Rockefeller and ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) on Monday. Congress should engage on the issue cautiously and constructively, in a bipartisan fashion, and we appreciate your leadership in examining this topic,” they wrote.'”

This is an important but not unexpected development, especially given the rash of recent highly publicized data breaches. It’s also not truly the first foray of the federal government into IoT, as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in November of last year held a public workshop on IoT privacy and security implications.

Read The Hill’s full article here, and stay tuned for more federal action on IoT to come.

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“Now is the right time for the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing…”

Startups are Leading the Way in IoT…Is That a Good Thing?

According to the world’s leading information technology research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc., in just two short years 50 percent of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions offered to enterprise and the consuming public will originate in startups that are less than three years old. This means that “makers” (folks like inventors, tinkerers and entrepreneurs) as well as “startups” (fledgling businesses that are often technology-focused and have the potential for high growth) will be driving and shaping the IoT landscape in the coming years, not the large-scale dominant players we tend to think about (Cisco, GE, Google) with emerging market trends.

“Conventional wisdom is that the growth of the Internet of Things is driven by large enterprises. As is always the case, there is an element of truth in conventional wisdom and major consumer goods companies, utilities, manufacturers and other large enterprises are, indeed, developing IoT product offerings,” said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner. “However Gartner’s Maverick research finds that it is the makers and the startups who are the ones shaping the IoT. Individuals and small companies that span the globe are developing IoT solutions to real-world, often niche problems. They are taking advantage of low-cost electronics, traditional manufacturing and 3D printing tools, and open- and closed-source hardware and software to create IoT devices that improve processes and lives.”

It’s exciting to think about the innovation and creativity happening in these small companies and the IoT solutions they will generate in medicine, smart city management, manufacturing and other fields. However, since many small and emerging companies often lack the critical resources to fully secure their services or products, and since 8 of out 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months (Forbes, Sept. 2013, from Bloomberg), it is somewhat concerning, as well. For IoT to ultimately be the success so many want it to be, and for IoT solutions to positively impact people’s lives, trust in providers will be key. If IoT providers don’t stay around for long and/or they don’t protect consumers and keep their private data secure, confidence in IoT will erode before the many exciting innovations even have a chance to come to market, fulfilling the promise of the technology.

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The Internet of Everything (IoE) is Changing Education…For the Better?

“Educators need to embrace [the] ‘connected student…’ They need to leverage mobile phones to collect data to interpret students’ behaviors and habits, create personalized teaching plans and remove the need for examinations, replacing them with ongoing assessments…”

This is the vision of an Internet of Everything (IoE)-transformed education system, as set out in this interesting piece on ZDNet by Cisco’s Contributing Blogger on IoE (see below screen shot and link to full post).

You might or might not agree with this fascinating and provocative take on IoE and what education can or perhaps should be, but technology is clearly changing our traditional approach to educating our children. The idea here is that the Internet of Everything (IoE) – a future where every device is connected and can talk to other devices, enabling instant access to information and data and reliable unified communications – will evolve how we educate students towards an immersive, collaborative, interactive, real-time, hands-on type of learning designed to better connect the act and process of education to students’ application of knowledge in jobs and in life.

“Thanks to technology, education is evolving from a linear knowledge-transfer model, to a more collaborative, engaging process. Rather than a bottlenecked route for information to come from set textbooks, students are able to use the internet to discover their own sources of information to add to the overall learning process.

The push towards connected learning is designed to prepare children for their professional lives, which will demand an ever-increasing familiarity with, and proficiency in technology.”

This transformation is happening today in Australia, South Korea, the UK and in places closer to home like Cleveland, Ohio. So buckle up and get ready for more IoE driven change – the Internet of Everything is happening now in a community near you.

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Thread Protocol Aims to Address Interoperability Challenges of IoT

Key players in Internet of Things promote Thread protocol at Google campus

One of the main challenges confronting a future of a seamless, secure IoT is the likelihood that not every device will be able to talk to every other device. Think of this as VHS versus Beta – if your Nest thermostat won’t ‘talk’ to your Ford F-150, then your truck can’t tell your house that you’re almost home so the temp can be lowered! I know, that would be a disaster, right?

Ok, maybe not. But what if the medical device implanted in your mom’s abdomen that gives her life saving medicine doesn’t ‘talk’ to her cell phone or her doctor’s servers? Now that is a problem.

To ensure that devices will talk to one another and be interoperable, there are a number of movements occurring to standardize platforms or languages, if you will. One of these is Thread, the aim of which is to allow up to 250 devices to communicate and operate with one another, bringing Thread-enabled devices into one harmonious IoT environment.

Check out the attached article for more information, and stay tuned for more developments re: Thread and other movements to help enable IoT communication regardless of make or model.

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