data-protection-connected-economyIn last week's column, I touched briefly on a fascinating presentation by Chris Young, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Intel Security, who predicted that sensors and connected devices in our smart homes would be "weaponized" and turned against us by cyber attackers.

As a senior security executive at a top global tech company, it's not surprising that Chris would emphasize the risks and dangers of lax security. But he delivered a powerful message, and it's worth reflecting upon his words.

"The target is now the weapon," he told attendees at the RSA Conference in San Francisco earlier this month. "We have to make sure...the Internet of Things doesn't become...the Internet of Terrorism."

He also warned that fake data could be used by hackers to wreak havoc on IT systems and enterprise networks. Data, he reminded us, is rapidly becoming "the bedrock of our economy." Data and information aren't just byproducts of business processes - they are real assets with tangible value.

"Every day, billions of decisions are made across millions of millions and millions of organizations leveraging big data models," said Chris. "And because we now rely increasingly on big data analytics to make decisions, we have to pay a lot more attention to the integrity of the small data that goes into those models. Because if it's manipulated, it can now be turned into a weapon -- and that weapon can be pointed right back against us."

For example, a connected car generates 25 gigabytes of information per hour, or roughly 140 terabytes per year. There are about one billion cars on the road worldwide. By 2020, the data flowing from connected vehicles globally will make today's big data sets look minuscule by comparison. How secure is that data? We already know that cars can be hacked. What will happen when entire traffic systems are breached, compromised and held for ransom? "Data drives decisions, but decisions now write world history," he warned.

Those are sobering words. From my perspective, we're in the early innings of a long game. Cyber criminals are hoping we'll relax our efforts and drop our defenses. But we cannot let them win. There's simply too much at stake. As Chris said, we need to start sweating the small details -- and make sure that our data is secure.

To learn more about top cyber security trends and best practices, check out the upcoming HMG Strategy San Francisco and New York CISO summits.