Posts Tagged data

INFOGRAPHIC: The Cyber Grinches Who Stole Data

The data industry seems to be in a real pickle if we look at the situation from the angle of data protection. We are now approaching the end of the year, and when we look back in retrospect, we realize that there has been nothing but data breaches all year round. Whoever is responsible seems to be a henchman of the Grinch, all bent on making sure that by the time Christmas comes round, everyone is super miserable. And there is certainly more than one such online Grinch hanging around. These advanced virtual nuisances have an army of malware and spyware up their sleeve to terrorize internet users of al kinds. The Data Breach investigations report documents the year’s data breaches in an easy to read pictorial representation. Take a look.

Get the embed code for this infographic

, ,

Leave a comment

Benefiting from Enterprise Data Warehousing

Reporting and analysis are integral part of virtually all and every business process, especially those that play a role in decision making, while enterprise data warehousing provides the basis for performing reliable and comprehensive analysis that generates unified reports within an organization where information is collected from different sources. Even small and medium sized enterprises often cannot cope with the vast amounts of information that flow into their corporate databases with corporations collecting data from numerous sources that utilize different data models.


By maintaining a copy of the data in its repository, an enterprise data warehouse is able to deal with issues related to third-party systems’ inability to maintain information history, which is often the case in older source transaction systems across many industries worldwide. Closely related to this functionality is the capability of a data warehouse to provide a single view on all processes and papers circulating across an organization, where multiple source systems are used. Managers of fast growing corporations which aggressively acquire rival enterprises often complain that essential information is coming to their desk fragmented, which has negative impact on the overall process of informed decision making. Enterprise data warehousing easily eliminates that problem, though.


Furthermore, a reliable data warehousing system can deal with bad or damaged data, providing functionality not only to repair bad data but to code information in a consistent manner, thus enabling managers to access a reliable database. Consistency of data is another common problem enterprises face on a regular basis, while data warehousing incorporates methods to overcome such issues relatively effortlessly.


Another great advantage of data warehousing is the ability of enterprise data warehouses not to affect operation systems’ performance through data restructuring which is intended to provide high-performance of queries to the respective database. This is truth even when the data warehouse under testing is experience heavy load of complex analytic queries that can easily disrupt operation of other databases and major operating systems.


One should bear in mind that information collected from various sources in a business management system is usually partitioned, fragmented, and formatted in a variety of ways, which in turn may result in loss of data, incomplete report generation, or even incorrect data. An enterprise data warehouse features functionality to restructure data with decision making in mind, producing results that are easily readable by managers and business analysts. This is of utmost importance in organization where strategic and important business decisions are made on a daily basis, and a wide variety of industries fall into this category, including both enterprises in the field of finances and manufactures.


Therefore, enterprise data warehousing is often applied in customer relationship management (CRM) systems, a valuable business software tool that is widely used by businesses across the world. Large multinational corporations might have CRMs that contain unimaginable number of objects and hardly can be managed without taking advantage of advanced technologies and data processing methods incorporated into data warehouses. In addition, a corporation might have requirements that its data warehouse should be updated in real time, functionality that other database types can have only to a limited extent.


Broadly speaking, the methods and functionality of enterprise data warehousing are successfully implemented in different business processes, including trend analysis, decision support, preparation of financial forecasts, inventory management, etc. As far as business intelligence and financial forecasting is concerned, no expert in the field can perform his/her job without the help data warehouses, while enterprise data warehousing is now used in a wide range of business software systems ranging from applications used by small enterprises to complex solutions implemented by large multinational organizations.


Harry is a 33 year old who has earned his bachelor’s degree in computer sciences a decade ago and since then is blogging on IT related topics for different media outlets. He has developed his IT software consulting skills working for IT consultancies in India and abroad. Harry considers his work as a software consultant as a chance to promote technologies that can change business practices and processes for good, and enterprise data warehousing is one such technology.

, ,

Leave a comment

Facebook must delete faces: German official

BERLIN: A German data protection official called on Wednesday for social networking site Facebook to delete biometric profiles of people stored without their explicit consent, saying they breach European privacy rules.

In other words, he wants Facebook to delete users’ faces from its databases.

Johannes Caspar, head of the Hamburg office for data protection, said talks with Facebook to bring its business practices in line with German and European Union privacy rules had failed. Caspar said in a statement that he is now re-opening a stalled probe of the Menlo Park, California-based company “in order to find a legally sound solution with regard to the use of biometric data.”

Caspar is highly critical of Facebook’s photo tagging feature, which asks users to attach the names of people in pictures they have uploaded. Facebook then uses the unique facial characteristics in each picture to automatically identify the same person in other photographs on its site. Users can opt out of the service, but Caspar wants them to have to opt in.

“Facebook will be obliged to delete this data unless it obtains approval by all concerned users,” he said, adding that “due to the immense potential of misuses of biometric data the explicit consent is a legal requirement for the collecting and processing of biometric data.”

Facebook responded with a statement saying that it believes the photo tagging feature “is fully compliant with EU data protection laws.”

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

How Big Data sprung into the mainstream

This has been the crossover year for Big Data – as a concept, as a term and, yes, as a marketing tool. Big Data has sprung from the confines of technology circles into the mainstream.

First, here are a few, well, data points: Big Data was a featured topic this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with a report titled ‘Big Data, Big Impact’. In March, the federal government announced $200 million in research programmes for Big Data computing.

Rick Smolan, creator of the ‘Day in the Life’ photography series, has a new project in the works, called “The Human Face of Big Data.” The New York Times has adopted terms in headlines like ‘The Age of Big Data’ and ‘Big Data on Campus’.

And a sure sign that Big Data has arrived came just last month, when it became grist for satire in the “Dilbert” comic strip by Scott Adams. “It comes from everywhere. It knows all,” one frame reads, and the next concludes that “its name is Big Data”.

The Big Data story is the making of a meme. And two vital ingredients seem to be at work here. The first is that the term itself is not too technical, yet is catchy and vaguely evocative. The second is that behind the term is an evolving set of technologies with great promise, and some pitfalls.

Big Data is a shorthand label that typically means applying the tools of artificial intelligence, like machine learning, to vast new troves of data beyond that captured in standard databases. The new data sources include Web-browsing data trails, social network communications, sensor data and surveillance data. A combination of the data deluge and clever software algorithms open the door to new business opportunities.

Google and Facebook, for example, are Big Data companies. The Watson computer from IBM that beat human ‘Jeopardy’ champions last year was a triumph of Big Data computing. In theory, Big Data could improve decision-making in fields from business to medicine, allowing decisions to be based increasingly on data and analysis rather than intuition and experience.

“The term itself is vague, but it is getting at something that is real,” says Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist at Cornell U niversity. “Big Data is a tagline for a process that has the potential to transform everything.” Rising piles of data have long been a challenge.

In the late 19th century, census takers struggled with how to count and categorise the rapidly growing US population. An innovative breakthrough came in time for the 1890 census, when the population reached 63 million. The data-taming tool proved to be machine-readable punched cards, invented by Herman Hollerith; these cards were the bedrock technology of the company that became IBM.

So, the term Big Data is a rhetorical nod to the reality that “big” is a fast-moving target when it comes to data. The year 2008, according to several computer scientists and industry executives, was when the term ‘Big Data’ began gaining currency in tech circles. Wired magazine published an article that cogently presented the opportunities and implications of the modern data deluge.

This new style of computing, Wired declared, was the beginning of the Petabyte Age. It was an excellent magazine piece, but the ‘petabyte’ label was too technical to be a mainstream hit – and inevitably, petabytes of data will give way to even bigger bytes: exabytes, zettabytes and yottabytes.

Many scientists and engineers at first sneered that Big Data was a marketing term. But good marketing is distilled and effective communication, a valuable skill in any field. For example, the mathematician John McCarthy coined the term ‘artificial intelligence’ in 1955, when writing a pitch for a Rockefeller Foundation grant. His deft turn of phrase was a masterstroke of aspirational marketing.

In late 2008, Big Data was embraced by a group of the nation’s leading computer science researchers, the Computing Community Consortium, a collaboration of the government’s National Science Foundation and the Computing Research Association, which represents academic and corporate researchers.

The computing consortium published an influential white paper, ‘Big-Data Computing: Creating Revolutionary Breakthroughs in Commerce, Science and Society’. Its authors were three prominent computer scientists, Randal Bryant of Carnegie Mellon University, Randy H Katz of the University of California, Berkeley, and Edward D Lazowska of the University of Washington. Their endorsement lent intellectual credibility to Big Data.

Rod A Smith, an IBM technical fellow and vice president for emerging Internet technologies, says he likes the term because it nudges people’s thinking up from the machinery of data-handling or precise measures of the volume of data.

“Big Data is really about new uses and new insights, not so much the data itself,” Smith says. IBM adopted Big Data in its marketing, especially after it resonated with customers. In 2008, Smith’s team put up a website to explain the Big Data theme, and the site has since been greatly expanded. In 2011, the company introduced a Twitter hashtag, ‘#IBMbigdata’. IBM has a Big Data newsletter, and in January it published an ebook, ‘Understanding Big Data’.

Since its founding in 1976, SAS Institute, the largest privately held software company in the world , has made software that sifts through databases, looking for nuggets of value. SAS, based in North Carolina has seen many a marketing term in its field, including “data mining,” “business intelligence” and “data analytics.”

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Google to invest 150 mn euros in Finland data centre

Google will invest 150 million euros ($184.5 million) in doubling the size of a data centre housed in a former paper mill in eastern Finland, the company said, as it responds to growing demand for its services.

Companies like Google have been expanding data centres due to the increasing popularity of cloud computing services, which allow users to store and process data at massive remote data centres instead of on their own computers.

Finland and other Northern European countries are popular sites for data centres, with vast amounts of hydro-power and cold climates which cut the need for cooling, the main cost for many data centres.

Google’s data centre in Hamina uses a sea water cooling system that was part of the old paper mill which Google bought from Stora Enso in 2009.

Europe’s top paper maker closed the loss-making mill in 2008 after nearly 53 years of operation. Older parts of the mill were designed by renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Oracle launches solution to enhance data security

NEW DELHI: IT major Oracle today launched a new set of solutions aimed at helping enterprises that are planning to embrace cloud, mobile and social technologies as part of their business practice.

The ‘Oracle Identity Management 11g Release 2’ further strengthens Oracle’s integrated enterprise security solutions spanning hardware, database, middleware, and enterprise applications, Oracle Vice President (Technology – APAC) Sundar Ram Gopalakrishnan told reporters here.

“Organisations today, while recognising the need for an end-to-end security solution, fail to look at security comprehensively until they’ve had a security breach. There are often security gaps since there is no centralised management or reporting, with independent owners for every solution,” he added.

Oracle’s end-to-end security solutions offer the lowest total cost of ownership and meet compliance needs across IT infrastructure, data, applications and identity management, Gopalakrishnan said.

In India, Oracle is focusing on sectors like telecom, banking, financial services and insurance and government as these sectors own extensive classified or confidential data and are more prone to security threats.

“These sectors are also guided by strong regulatory compliances. Oracle with its full spectrum of security solutions is in a strong position to address the needs of these demanding industries,” he said.

According to a recent survey, respondents said they felt they were are inadequately protecting sensitive data and database infrastructure.

About 60 per cent respondents said they have or are likely to have a data breach over the next 12 months and a majority said the stolen records were from database servers.

“Oracle offers complete identity management solutions that enable enterprises to secure critical applications and sensitive data, lower operational costs, and comply with regulatory requirements,” he said.

Some of the Indian customers using Oracle’s security solutions include Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), TVS Motor Company and Aircel Ltd.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Google’s data collection violates privacy, claim regulators

Secrets spilled across the computer screen.

After months of negotiation, Johannes Caspar, a German data protection official, forced Google to show him exactly what its Street View cars had been collecting from potentially millions of his fellow citizens. Snippets of emails, photographs, passwords, chat messages, postings on websites and social networks – all sorts of private Internet communications – were casually scooped up as the specially equipped cars photographed the world’s streets.

“It was one of the biggest violations of data protection laws that we had ever seen,” Caspar recently recalled about that long-sought viewing in late 2010. “We were very angry.”

Google might be one of the coolest and smartest companies of this or any era, but it also upsets a lot of people – competitors who argue it wields its tremendous weight unfairly, officials like Caspar who say it ignores local laws, privacy advocates who think it takes too much from its users. Just this week, European antitrust regulators gave the company an ultimatum to change its search business or face legal consequences. US regulators may not be far behind.

The high-stakes antitrust assault, which will play out this summer behind closed doors in Brussels, might be the beginning of a tough time for Google. A similar US case in the 1990s heralded the comeuppance of Microsoft, the most fearsome tech company of its day.

But never count Google out. It is superb at getting out of trouble. Just ask Caspar or any of his counterparts around the world who tried to hold Google accountable for what one of them, Australian Communication Minister Stephen Conroy, called “probably the single greatest breach in the history of privacy.”

The secret Street View data collection led to inquiries in at least a dozen countries, including four in the United States. But Google has yet to give a complete explanation of why the information was collected and who at the company knew about it. No regulator in the United States has seen the information that Google’s cars gathered from US citizens.

The tale of how Google escaped a full accounting for Street View illustrates not only how technology companies have outstripped the regulators but also their complicated relationship with their adoring customers.

Companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple supply new ways of communication, learning and entertainment, high-tech wizardry for the masses. They have custody of the raw material of hundreds of millions of lives – the intimate emails, the revealing photographs, searches for help or love or escape.

People willingly, at times eagerly, surrender this information. But there is a price: the loss of control, or even knowledge, of where that personal information is going and how it is being reshaped into an online identity that may resemble the real you or may not. Privacy laws and wiretapping statutes are of little guidance, because they have not kept pace with the lightning speed of technological progress.

Michael Copps, who last year ended a 10-year term as a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, said regulators were overwhelmed.

“The industry has gotten more powerful, the technology has gotten more pervasive, and it’s getting to the point where we can’t do too much about it,” he said.

Although Google thrives on information, it is close-mouthed about itself, as the Street View episode shows. When German regulators forced the company to admit that the cars were sweeping up unencrypted Internet data from wireless networks, the company blamed a programming mistake where an engineer’s experimental software was accidentally included in Street View. It stressed that the information was never intended for any Google products.

The FCC did not see it Google’s way, saying last month the engineer “intended to collect, store and review” the data “for possible use in other Google products.”

It also said the engineer shared his software code and a “design document” with other members of the Street View team. The data collection may have been misguided, the agency said, but it was not accidental.

Although the agency said it could find no violation of US law, it said the inquiry was inconclusive, because the engineer cited his Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. It fined Google $25,000 – for obstructing the investigation.

Google, which has repeatedly said it wants to put the episode behind it, declined to answer questions for this article.

“We don’t have much choice but to trust Google,” said Christian Sandvig, a researcher in communications technology and public policy at the University of Illinois. “We rely on them for everything.”

That reliance has built an impressive company – and a self-assurance that can be indistinguishable from arrogance.

“Google doesn’t seem to think it ever will be held accountable,” Sandvig said. “And to date it hasn’t been.”

When Street View was introduced in 2007, it elicited immediate objections in Europe, where privacy laws are tough. The Nazis used government data to systematically pursue Jews and other unwanted groups. The East German secret police, the Stasi, similarly controlled data to monitor perceived enemies.

“In the United States, privacy is a consumer business,” said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority. “In Europe, it is a fundamental rights issue.”

Germany was a hotbed of protest. In Molfsee, a town of 4,800 people on the Baltic Sea, Deputy Mayor Reinhold Harwart organized a group of residents in a protest.

“The main feeling was: Who gives Google the right to do this?” Harwart, now 74, said in a recent interview. “We were outraged that Google would come in, invade our privacy and send the data back to America, where we had no idea what it would be used for.”

Google offered few clues. After French privacy regulators inspected a Street View car in early 2010, the company was forced to explain that the cars were collecting information about household’s Wi-Fi networks – in essence, how they connected to the Internet – to improve location-based services.

Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counselor, wrote in a blog post April 27, 2010, that the company had not previously revealed this part of Street View because, “We did not think it was necessary.”

But he said only technical information about networks was being collected, not the actual content sent out.

Still, German regulators, particularly Caspar, the data protection commissioner for Hamburg, were alarmed. Google, Caspar noted, had said nothing about collecting Wi-Fi data when negotiating permission for Street View.

Caspar wanted to inspect a Street View car. Google first said it didn’t know where they were, so it couldn’t produce them. Then, on May 3, it allowed a technical expert in Caspar’s office to see a vehicle. But the hard drive with the information on it was missing.

Faced with the Germans’ persistence, Google published a post, on May 14, 2010, saying it had been prompted to “re-examine everything we have been collecting.” It turned out that Google was collecting emails and other personal data after all.

For a company like Google, which thrives on data, more is always better.

“The Google privacy officers are going to look at this and say, ‘It’s not illegal, maybe no one is ever going to be the wiser, and meanwhile we’ll have stored the data away in some big database,”‘ said Helen Nissenbaum, a privacy expert at New York University. “We’re so enthralled with data, and the good it can bring, that we might overlook any problems.”

Caspar asked to see the hard drive. Google said handing it over could expose it to liability for violating German telecommunications law, which prohibits network operators and other data managers from disclosing the private communications of their clients.

This made no sense to Caspar, who explained that as data protection commissioner he was empowered to receive the data. Finally, in autumn 2010, the company yielded and gave Caspar the hard drive. By this point, Hamburg prosecutors had opened a criminal investigation.

Google was equally resistant with the US authorities.

Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general at the time, announced in late June 2010 that he and attorneys general from more than 30 other states had begun an investigation. Like the Europeans, they asked for the data. For months.

“Google resisted providing more information, even in the face of its acknowledgment that the collection was a mistake,” Blumenthal recalled in a recent interview.

Google argued that its data scooping was legal in the United States. But it told regulators it could not show them the data it collected, because to do so might be breaking privacy and wiretapping laws.

In December 2010, Blumenthal issued a civil investigative demand – the equivalent of a subpoena – and threatened further legal action if he did not get results. Then he became Connecticut’s junior senator and his successor, George Jepsen, took over.

No formal settlement was reached. Some of those who were involved in the case are mystified.

“I cannot think of a single other multistate case that just disappeared,” said one former state regulator who asked not to be named since he did not want to be seen as bashing his former colleagues. “Individual state investigations, yes. But to start up a multistate and not end it with at least a consent judgment or even some token resolution is very unusual.”

A Jepsen spokeswoman said the inquiry was still “active and ongoing.” Jepsen declined to be interviewed.

“The legal platform has not kept pace with the technology platform,” Blumenthal said. “So the investigative effort was done with less legal ammunition than might otherwise exist.”

The same was true of other challenges to Street View.

Citizens in several states filed suits against Google, saying the company had violated federal wiretapping laws through Street View. These suits were consolidated into a class action in San Francisco.

Google moved for dismissal, arguing that because it had picked up information only from unencrypted networks, it had not broken the law. In a significant loss, a federal judge said what the company was doing might be more akin to tapping a phone and allowed the suit to proceed. But he let Google appeal immediately, saying these were novel questions of law. The case may eventually end up in the US Supreme Court.

In Germany, Caspar has also ground to a stop. He is waiting for prosecutors to file the criminal charges. If they do not, he said he will file his own administrative charges.

As for the engineer at the center of the controversy, Marius Milner lives in Palo Alto, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley, and apparently still works for Google. (His garage door was open, displaying a black Miata convertible with a license plate holder featuring the famous phrase from the Google search page, “I’m feeling lucky.”)

During a brief conversation on his front porch, Milner declined to say anything.

, ,

1 Comment