Getting out in front of the Black Hats


There doesn't seem to be any doubt in the minds of experts, at least those who spoke on O'Reilly's Webcast this week on Data Warfare, that the Black Hats are coming. Big data needs to brace for, prepare for and try to mitigate the inevitable carpet bombing it is about to take from nefarious abusers of technology.

It seems obvious. Unfortunately, it also seems typical. Humanity exploits wherever the opportunity is. As head of MetaOptimize, Joseph Turian, said, "If our predictions are correct and the big data market becomes increasingly lucrative, we will attract more unscrupulous actors because unscrupulous actors will be drawn to any large market they could exploit for profit and gain."

We will have more coverage on this topic over the next few days from other speakers such as Christina Gagnier, head of Intellectual Property, Internet & Technology practice at Gagnier Margossian LLP, who said the response to threats and actual abuses are slow in coming, often reactionary and do not take intent into account, thereby treating all hackers equally.

In reality, this should not be the case. Aaron Swartz and Julian Assange should perhaps be treated differently.

In the United States, she said, everybody automatically thinks hacking has to do with national security and has a very reactive approach. Still, even with a reactive approach, the lag time between security breaches and legislative remedies can be several years.

She suggests we reconsider the ways we prosecute hacking and try to get out in front of the situation with laws that react proportionally.

We also will hear from Duncan Ross and Fran Bennett, who gave a very entertaining talk on how to use data for evil. It was funny and frightening at the same time. A short preview: If you want to do maximum evil, make sure your data scientist is kept as far away from the business end of things as possible. No need for them to think about their impact.

If our reaction to climate change is any indication of whether the ability exists within human nature to get out in front of something like the new generation of corrupted Black Hat data scientists or the new vulnerabilities created by big data, then we could be in trouble. The fact that we are talking about Black Hat data scientists before they have even been identified is a good sign, unless they are already so good that we just don't know they're there. - Tim