Hacking as a Service in Business Intelligence

By Chris Orwa
Data Science Lab
  Published 29 Feb 2016
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By Michael Loki

As words like big data, Internet of Things, virtual reality, cloud computing, customer journeys, electronic commerce…among others, are lingering around the IT corridors, one thing is for sure. All these technological changes are too rapid for businesses to keep up with. However, there remains one service provider who is always seated at the helm of the prism of these changes. A hacker.

Hacking as a Service has been around for quite some time through underground 'dark Web' markets. If you have watched movies such as – Hackers by Angelina Jolie’s (1995) and Hackers Game (2015) you will realize that the concept of HaaS has been practiced for over 20 years.

In the past, providers of this kind of service have focused on assistance that makes it easier for cyber criminals to hack into systems for financial gain. But the addition of new services signals the consumerization of hacking services, because they can now be employed by people with motives outside of financial gain, including revenge and personal vendettas.

The consumerization of cyber-crime began with tools like spyware for phones and laptops that allow anyone to track a victim. An outcome of this is an entire underground economy has emerged around cyber-crime over the last few years. Therefore, the evolution of that economy to include this type of activity should not surprise anyone.

Why HaaS?

  1. Business Intelligence and Analysis (BI &A) - As more software and embedded intelligence are integrated in industrial products and systems, predictive technologies can further intertwine intelligent algorithms with electronics and tether-free intelligence. In today’s competitive business environment, companies are facing challenges in dealing with big data issues of rapid decision-making for improved productivity. Many manufacturing systems are not ready to manage big data due to the lack of smart analytic tools.

  2. Business/ Government competition –  a few years back companies used to worry about inbound internet threats and would ask, “Why are they targeting me?” to which the answer would often have been “Because you're a soft target and high profile too.” In today's evolving threat landscape, however, the answer would probably be, “Why wouldn't they include your company in their attacks?". It is therefore becoming normal for corporate entities to hire the services of hackers to monitor their security and intelligence aspects while eavesdropping at their competitor’s moves and strategies.   

  3. Complexity of systems – Internet of Things has brought about unprecedented complexity of systems. This has seen e-commerce platforms and the banking industry losing billions of monies through online transactions. A famous quote that says ‘set a thief to catch a thief’ forms necessary application to online identity thieves, and any other kind of a system attack. These attacks camouflage rapidly hence the need for a similar thinker. Perhaps a question then arises, how do you know which hacker to trust? This is addressed next…

  4. Hacking as a career - Integration of ethics in hacking has seen a surge of training and certification on ‘Security+’, ‘cyber security’ and ‘certified ethical hacking’ (CeH) being offered by IT industry top key players all the way down. The need to counter a black hacker calls a white hat hacker operating within policies and guidelines.

  5. Inherent growing need for hackers – How does the job market look like for ethical hackers? Extremely good! The IT market overall continues to grow despite the current economic turmoil. Research firm Gartner estimates that worldwide enterprise IT spending grew by 5.9 percent between 2009 and 2010, to a total of $2.7 trillion. At the same time, security is becoming a more pressing concern. Gartner expects to see an increase of nearly 40 percent in spending on worldwide security services during the five-year period from 2011 to 2015, eventually surpassing $49.1 billion.

  6. 5V’s Challenge - Volume, Velocity, Variety, Veracity and Value which are key drivers of business strategies need to be addressed by people with an extra ordinary eye and capability on analysis. Customer journeys and trends analysis based on streaming data is not exactly covered within course outlines and yet every growing business needs it. Custom services are a natural next step for businesses, and it's likely that these services will continue to evolve as long as there are people willing to pay for them.

  7. The internet immune system – it is said that ‘whatever goes to the internet belongs to the internet’. This presents web 2.0 as a hub for social media, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), emails, electronic data interchange (EDIs) among other internet services. With so much happening in such a widely unsupervised array, hackers are unknowingly and un-expressly given the policemen job over the internet for instance, full disclosure for vulnerabilities is commonly practiced on open-source platforms.

I know that I might get hacked for writing this article, but I will need another person with limitless potential on their fingertips to rectify the damage that will have been done!

Image courtesy of blog.malwarebytes.org

Michael Loki is a doctoral student at JKUAT studying Data Mining algorithms and currently on a fellowship program with iHub Research's Data Lab.

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