2017 was an interesting year for business technology. While data security issues continue their inevitable march across the virtual landscape, several new concepts and technologies have come into focus during the past year.
From ransomware, to blockchain and the state of big data, let’s take a look at the major issues that affected IT over the past year.
The Top IT Tech and Security News of 2017
Once again, data security took the technology spotlight in 2017, with an ever-growing list of incidents affecting businesses and individuals worldwide. From the Paradise Papers leak to the increasing rise of alarming ransomware incidents, it’s clear that this trend won’t be abating anytime soon.
Credit reporting agency Equifax revealed it had been the victim of not one but two security breaches in 2017, resulting in the theft of the names, social security numbers, and addresses of approximately 143 million Americans, as well as the credit card numbers of about 209,000 individuals. They later released a revised statement indicating as many as 2.5 million people may have been affected.
The technology community’ reaction was severe. Ars Technica noted Equifax’s admission that the breach exploited a well-known flaw in the Apache Struts web application, noting that
Equifax failed to update its Web applications, despite demonstrable proof that the bug gave real-world attackers an easy way to take control of sensitive sites
The fallout was immediate and immense, with Equifax’s shares dropping 13% as well as getting hit with at least 23 class action lawsuits, with one reportedly seeking $78 million in damages.
In May, 2017, a devastating ransomware attack began to propagate, with over 75,000 computers infected globally within the first 24 hours. Called WannaCry, the cryptoworm encrypts the files of affected computers and demands a bitcoin payment equivalent to US$300 to decrypt the files.
The attack on vulnerable Windows-based systems was especially devastating to organizations around the world. 48 National Health Trusts in the U.K. were left virtually paralyzed, with doctors unable to access patient records. Other entities affected included FedEx, Chinese schools, French automaker Renault, and a telecom company in Portugal.
All told, it’s estimated the attack affected as many as 300,000 organizations worldwide.
While it’s mostly become known for powering Bitcoin exchanges, the underlying blockchain technology has itself gained attention in 2017.
The decentralized, peer-to-peer nature of blockchain is opening up new avenues for applications that open the door to new so-called Trust Economy.
Blockchain doesn’t simply solve data access or sharing issues; it also solves a confidence problem.
In the peer-to-peer trust economy, an individual user — not a third party — will determine what digital information is recorded in a blockchain and how that information will be used. Blockchain users, according to Deloitte, will work toward creating a single, versatile digital representation of themselves that can be managed and shared across organizational boundaries.
By allowing unprecedented user control over which data is shared, blockchain has already ushered in platforms such as Gameflip, SparkleCoin, and Filecoin, which are quickly providing new avenues for everything from supply chain management to the buying and selling of goods.
There’s no doubt that 2017 saw the increased use of machine learning and artificial intelligence — especially its adoption into commercial practices.
Specifically, the growing use of AI chatbots has opened the door for new ways for companies to interact with their customers, improving the customer service experience while helping organizations save money in the process.
As Zendesk President of Products Adrian McDermott tells Forbes,
“We know that many businesses don’t have the resources to staff their chat team operations 24×7. That said, based on research from more than 50,000 Zendesk customers, a top driver of customer satisfaction is the time it takes for a business to resolve a customer’s issue. AI can automate many of these simple interactions, allowing customers to get the answers they need in real-time and significantly improve customer satisfaction and retention. Additionally, research has shown that customers increasingly prefer resolving their issue without another human-in-the-loop.”
In addition to customer service, it’s estimated that machine learning will continue its impactful trend, helping businesses with everything from lead generation and predictive sales insight to data visualization and product marketplace intelligence.
Spotlight on Big Data
Finally, 2017 became the year that big data entered the limelight. People became more aware than ever of the state of their data, and how businesses have been using it.
From Facebook’s algorithms to the Paradise Papers leak, big data has captured the world’s imagination. Yet businesses have also started to take notice as well. Gone are the days when business intelligence was a complicated, labor-intensive process.
As NYU Professor and SCT Capital Management Founder Vsant Dhar notes
2017 was a big year for big data. There are several broad new themes that emerged regarding the impacts of big data on society…On the technical side, we continue to see the emergence of novel algorithms, especially in the deep learning space, fueled by the massive datasets available in areas of perception. As systems become better at seeing, reading, and handling unstructured data in general, and as recognition accuracy increases, we should expect to see rapid progress in autonomous vehicles, language processing, and the interpretation of unstructured data in general.
Ultimately, businesses in 2017 began to realize that data no longer exists in isolated silos; and that new technologies such as AI-powered platforms along with new subscription models have changed the way the organizations can make full use of the increasing volumes of data available to them.
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