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Big Data and Cybersecurity

Many of our daily activities produce data. Activities such as using social media, mapping a commute, and carrying a smartphone generate data. This data is collected, analyzed, and increasingly being used to improve transportation networks across both private and public sectors. Data is getting larger and more complex as our work becomes increasingly connected by technology. These datasets are sometimes referred to as big data, defined as data gathered from devices like smartphones and services like online shopping.1

The breadth of big data creates opportunities to reimagine how we live. Big data helps the healthcare system understand how treatments and procedures impact patient populations. Retailers use big data to better target customers and to suggest products to consumers. And the Minnesota Department of Transportation uses big data to maintain and improve our roads and bridges and understand traffic flows and transportation trends.

Cyber security is vital for protecting big data. The United States Department of Homeland Security defines cyber security as “The art of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use….”2

Security concerns multiply as the abundance of collectible data grows—generated from smartphones, Wi-Fi-enabled devices, and automated vehicles. Cyber security is no longer just an ad blocker on your computer. Cyber security is now concerned with smart vacuums and coffee makers. While it is handy to brew coffee remotely, the coffee maker’s Wi-Fi capabilities make it vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Likewise, connected traffic signals or dynamic message signs might also be vulnerable.

Protecting these systems will save individuals and institutions from erased databases, corrupted systems, and files, automated vehicles being hacked and taken control of, and stolen personal information.

1. Michael Mattioli, “Disclosing Big Data,” Minnesota Law Review (November 2014): 539-40.
2. United States Department of Homeland Security, “Security Tips (ST04-001): What is Cyber security,” National Cyber Awareness System https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST04-001 (accessed April 6, 2020).

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