Information Technology also referred to as “IT” (NAICS Code 541618 and SIC Code 8748) has evolved tremendously and continues to advance day by day. There’s so much innovation and at times it may feel extremely hard to keep up with what’s new and how to use certain software, smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. So, what exactly is Information Technology?
According to Techopedia, “Information technology is a business sector that deals with computing, including hardware, software, telecommunications and generally anything involved in the transmittal of information or the systems that facilitate communication” (Techopedia, 2018). Findings There are about 3.5 billion users which accounts for 40% of the world’s population accessing the internet using a smartphone (Hughes, 2017). In the past twenty years, we have seen dial-up internet which would take a few minutes to achieve a connection to 4G and wireless at the palms of our hands and we still tend to get frustrated when the connection at times is just a tad bit slow.
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We have become so dependent on IT; it is incorporated in our day to day lives personally and professionally. IT has allowed us to streamline complexity to simplicity and come to acceptance that there will always be change (Page, 2016). Top Trends in Information Technology Three trends that are flourishing rapidly in the IT world include Data as a Service (DaaS), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Cybersecurity. DaaS is a cloud computing model which delivers readily accessible data via cloud-based platform to users regardless of their geographic location. (Data as a Service, 2013.) Cloud storage is where digital data is stored on a server which is owned and managed by a hosting company. This helps minimize the risk of data latency which can occur from locally stored data. This is achieved by DaaS packaging Symantec web technologies for data discovery using open standards and builds web links between different distributed systems. DaaS using data virtualization allows access to all data including internal and external, provides secure and controlled access to data, abstract data complexities, and the ability to build data views of diverse levels of granularity.
Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science where computer systems attempt to model and apply the intelligence of the human mind. It has become a crucial part of the technology industry and everyday life. Artificial intelligence is developing quickly but as far as it’s come, it’s still in the preliminary stages of development. Over the past few decades, Artificial intelligence research has mostly focused on solving specific problems where solutions have been developed to do so reliably and efficiently. AI is composed of various commercial applications including; software, sensors, devices that compete with and enhance human capabilities, learn or understand from experience, use reasoning to solve problems and make decisions effectively, and make sense of ambiguous or contradictory information. Five categories of AI include; expert systems, neural networks, genetic algorithms, intelligent agents and virtual reality (Darguzas & Mikulski, 2018).
Artificial intelligence can help improve our way of life, machines will be able to complete tasks that require detailed instructions, decisions making capabilities, execute and perform certain tasks faster and better than most humans. Four diverse types of AI include modeling exactly how humans think, act, and modeling how ideal agent should think and act. There’s Artificial intelligence in our digital systems, like Siri, Alexa, and Google assistant and in software like Facebook messenger or Gmail auto replies (Fast Company, 2017).
Cybersecurity has become essential to the IT industry yet organizations are still struggling. Cybersecurity, a wide-ranging term which covers all aspects of protecting and defending the integrity of electronic systems, servers, network, and data from unauthorized users. The opportunity for hacking and cyber-crimes is growing exponentially with an increasing number of people and devices connected to the internet. IT security is everyone’s responsibility and individuals need to understand how to keep their data and devices secure.
Cybersecurity and Cyber Threats The U.S. government has spent billions of dollars when it comes to tackling the next threat to global security. Cyber spending has increased enormously from $7.5 billion in 2007 to $28 billion in 2016 (Stone, 2017). Cyber-attacks have become much more sophisticated and much more dangerous. In the past year cyber criminals used technical expertise to breakdown cyber defenses and cause major disruptions. In the coming years, it is predicated that cyber criminals will take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning to launch treacherous attacks (Savvides, 2017). As technology advances so does the number of enemies in the cyber world. Hackers come in every shape and size.
Information security is broken into five vital components: confidentiality, integrity, availability, authentication, and non-repudiation. Confidentiality is protecting and preserving information and information systems from unauthorized access and disclosure. Unauthorized disclosure of information is a loss of confidentiality. Integrity is shielding against improper information alteration or destruction, and safeguarding information authenticity. Availability is having information readily available, loss of availability is a disruption to information and information systems (Chia, 2012).
Authentication is a validation process that verifies the identity and establishes the validity of individual's authorization to receive access to specific information and information systems. Non-repudiation is assurance that sender and recipient are provided with proof of identity and delivery so neither can later deny having processed the data.
Cybercrime comes in all different forms ranging from social engineering, denial of service, exploit tools, logic bombs, phishing tricks, sniffers, viruses, and malware. Social engineering manipulates human interaction to gain knowledge of and access to confidential information. Spear phishing is a social engineering email attack targeted against a specific user or organization that usually contains a zip file, pdf, or hotlink that relates to the field of responsibility or interest. If the attacker is successful in creating a legitimate email sent to the phishing target, the attachment is activated and attacks the receiving computer (Symantec, 2017). Cyber-attacks can work in two ways; they either require a user to mistakenly run an infected program or the virus spreads itself and only needs a network to infect other computers. Software like anti-versus and anti-malware are available for protecting against unwanted operations.
In 2017 cyber-attacks doubled targeting businesses, according to Sargent (2018), “Online Trust Alliance (OTA) found 156,700 cyber incidents last year, compared to 82,000 in 2016. 93 percent of breaches could have been avoided by regularly updating software, blocking fake emails, and training people to recognize phishing attacks” (Sargent, 2018). Three of the worst breaches included Equifax, Yahoo, and Uber. Equifax lost 143 million consumers' personal details which could have been prevented if due diligence was done and security warnings were not ignored. Yahoo’s entire user base accounts were compromised which could have been prevented if security initiatives were not ignored. Uber concealed a data breach which affected 57 million customers and drivers.
Instead of notifying impacted users and authorities, Uber gave $100,000 ransom to the hackers believing the data would be destroyed in exchange for the payment (Nizri, 2017).
Criminals techniques are consistently evolving but their goals remain steadfast. Combating cyber-crime will require a cohesive formalized movement whereby law enforcement agents can go beyond cyber space to prosecute those engaged in illegal cyber activities. In a recent study (Schulze. H, 2017) “The three biggest obstacles to stronger cybersecurity are lack of skilled employees (45%), lack of budget (45%), and a lack of security awareness among employees (40%). To overcome these challenges and create a better security posture, 54% of organizations want to train and certify their current IT staff. Leveraging third-partner security solutions (47%), partnering with a managed service provider (41%), and hiring additional security staff (32%) are popular strategies companies use to address security issues” (Schulze. H, 2017).
The demand for cybersecurity professionals is on the rise, so many organizations are providing cybersecurity related trainings and seminars. To prevent cybercrimes individuals and organizations both need to do their part. Educating and having open discussions with individuals, recognizing the impact of cyber related crimes will provide awareness and prevent future cybercrimes. Information technology is used in every aspect of our lives and has increase efficiency and effectiveness along with adding risk.
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