Digital transformation, AI, IoT, ransomware take centerstage in 2017

Information and communications technology continued to make news in 2017 and those that took center stage, at least in the business sector, were digital transformation, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and ransomware, according to commentaries submitted by several vendors to Networks Asia.

For Telstra and T-Systems, the Internet of Things finally became a reality in 2017.

“By end-2017, Asia Pacific is set to have more than five million new industrial IoT connections, driven by Industry 4.0 initiatives in countries like China, Japan, Korea and Singapore,” says Håkan Eriksson, Chief Technology Officer, Telstra.

Eriksson notes that industrial IoT has been driving the emergence of real-time, multi-source data integration and “digital twins”. These technologies are transforming manufacturing processes to reduce costs, monitor assets, optimise maintenance, reduce downtime and enable the creation of connected products.

An energy company, for example, can now use its digital environment to inform the configuration of each wind turbine prior to construction. By analysing the data from each turbine that is fed into its virtual equivalent, guesswork is eliminated from the process of determining the best action to create or service these critical physical assets.

Beyond industrial use, real-time analytics and digital twins are driving innovation and performance across the broader enterprise. In this approach, real-time data is displayed as a virtual instance of a real machine or process – it’s digital twin. The human operator then monitors or manipulates this instance in a familiar way.

Real-time analytics and digital twins that run in the cloud provide individuals with the optimal interface for dealing with digitised parts of their companies. These technologies have and will continue to lower training effort, allow operators to be located remotely and provide a rapid path to value.

According to IDC, companies that invest in these technologies will see a 30 percent improvement in response and lifecycle times of critical processes.

“In 2017, all the talk about the Internet of Things has finally become reality. IHS reported that there were 20 billion connected devices in 2017 and, projected that it will grow to 30.7 billion in 2020,” says a statement submitted by T-Systems.

Ransomware causes great inconvenience to businesses

Ransomware, nation-state attacks, data breaches, and cloud-related security incidents were constantly in the headlines in 2017.

“Threat actors have certainly been busier this year compared to past years,” comments Jonathan Tan, Regional Vice President, ASEAN & Pakistan, A10 Networks.  “High-profile attacks on global corporations through DDoS such as Reaper or IOTrooper, Wannacry Ransomware and breaches through APT have kept security researchers and organizations on their toes and spurred a global rethink regarding security infrastructure.”

According to a report commissioned by A10 and IDG in September 2017, the number of companies that experienced between 6-25 attacks per year has increased more than four times in the past two years. To stay ahead of the bad guys, new technologies will emerge to give security operations the ability to foresee an attack that is yet to happen. Predictive analytics and machine learning (AI) in security technologies will become crucial, and corporations will have to invest these technologies to stay ahead of threat actors.

In 2017, 26.2 per cent those targeted by ransomware were business users, compared to 22.6 per cent in 2016, according to Kaspersky Lab. This is due in part to three unprecedented attacks targeting corporate networks that changed forever the landscape for this increasingly virulent threat.

“2017 saw the emergence of automated lateral movement capabilities causing widespread attacks, including WannaCry, NotPetya and ONI. Cyber-criminals go where the money goes, and adopting an automated lateral movement capability lets them infect a wider magnitude of devices compared to previous years,” said Sanjay Aurora, Managing Director, Asia-Pacific, Darktrace.

Availability of usable ransomware tools and codes online enabled the proliferation of well-known malware variants such as Wannacry and NoPetya in 2017.

“While hackers did not reap very significant returns from ransomware attacks, they caused great inconvenience to corporations and governments through service interruption and data loss,” says Tim Liu, CTO, Hillstone Networks.

“Ransomware threats like Petya and WannaCry showed that measures reliant on traditional signature-based detection are no longer sufficient,” added Tan Kit Yong, SEA Business Leader, CenturyLink.