2011 was a fun year in computer security..

Now this sounds like an interesting BCS event covering cyber-security with Gareth Lapworth from De Montfort University, clearly surveying the collateral damage with an expert eye. Should be epic!

“2011 was a fun year in computer security. The term “epic” doesn’t quite do it enough justice, but it’s the best term we’ve got. The lulz were had by the bad guys, the overtime was pocketed by the good guys and it was gripping for those sitting on the sidelines.

“One of the most public and explosive attacks of the year was aimed directly at the Sony corporation, not just once, but at least four different times. In order to solve their problems they simply laid off a significant number of their security team. Epic.

“2011 also saw a rise in malware related attacks. Whilst most computer users were worried about receiving viruses and attempting to solve that problem, computer security dudes in the power and water industries were trying to secure centrifuges and utility supplies. They failed. Miserably. Epic.

“It was a win for those that did manage to secure their computer systems, but not those that chose Symantec anti virus. We found out recently that the bad guys had access to the source code of some versions of this software. Of course, the same bad guys helped the world by uncovering that the Indian government requested that Apple, RIM and Nokia placed back doors in their hardware/software solutions. It’s always pleasing to know that a government has access to all of your private data. Epic.

“Don’t have nightmares, though. William Hague wants you to know that we’ll strike first in any cyber war. Super Epic.

“This lecture discusses some cyber security related activities and gives a taste of things yet to come in the next 12 months. It is hoped that you will walk away from this lecture with a feeling of helplessness and fear that will instil in you the correct level of paranoia when conducting yourself online.”

It appears Gareth has left out the FBI arrest of 16 suspected ‘Anonymous’ hackers in July, not long after the PayPal Twitter account was hacked. Which in turn came not long after news that PayPal had dropped online banking for WikiLeaks.

Also see ‘Six security forecasts for 2012’ written by the BCS’s David Lacey, starting with Space weather creates concern: “…increased solar activity will probably cause a few minor annoyances to GPS users. The larger concern, however, is that it might take out mobile communications, power supplies or perhaps anything with a GPS chip. Not quite Y2K in impact, but longer, less predictable and much less researched and publicised”.

Is the threat from mobile price comparison apps over-hyped?

I’ve picked up on a few articles recently in the likes of WSJ and TechCrunch in particular, suggesting that the rise of mobile price comparison apps has finally come of age:

“How brick and mortar stores are going to be able to personalize and make the in-store shopping experience unique is through data, in my opinion. It’s no longer about creating a mobile web site or offering coupons; the experience centralizes around making customers feel as if they are being treated like a VIP just by walking into a store. And how brick and mortar stores are going to do that is the same way Amazon was able to create a business out of personalized e-commerce.

“Some retailers are attempting to use video and heatmaps to try to see how people shop, what they are buying and more. But this data is limiting because while stores can figure out what is working when it comes to placement, advertising, and marketing of products in-store, retailers still don’t know who is buying and how to get them to return.

“Personalization really gets interesting with transaction data. Shopkick recently teamed up with Visa to allow consumers a way to receive rewards points for retailers at the point of sale when they use their Visa credit cards. This is part of closing the redemption loop...Thus far start-ups, tech companies and credit card companies have started to use transaction data as a way to close the redemption loop and drive future purchases but this is relatively new to brick and mortar retailers.”

And of course Bay’s PayPal are getting in on the act by teaming up with high street retailers “to create a suite of tools and technologies that help use technologies to level the playing field when it comes to data” according to PayPal’s Anuj Nayar.

So much for the TechCrunch view of the subject. To add value to their answer I asked the question ‘Is the threat from mobile price comparison apps over-hyped?’ on the G+ community. Here are a few edited responses to date that have come in which underline that this trend is certainly something to watch out for in 2012, hyped or not:

  • “In my opinion there is more a trend than a threat, the search for better pricing and offers for all kind of items either by the web or any other means.” Daniel Suzuki, Consultor, Bufete Tecnologico Latinoamericano, S. C.
  • “Retailers also need to understand what other value streams the act of ‘scanning’ has within a retail environment. If 500 products are all tagged appropriately, retailers can gain insight to what was scanned, when, and where (sometimes even by who.)” Barry Hurd, Managing Director, 123 Social Media
  • “For all high ticket items, anything over $100, consumers already do price comparisons on the internet before they even go to a retail store. So, if they are in the store, looking at a product they have a high interest factor and their mobile app will only make them a more educated consumer.  They can then use this knowledge to ensure they are getting a good/fair deal from the Main Street retailer.  It is up to the retailer to ensure that they don’t lose a willing and able consumer.” David Lieber, Staff Product Manager, Qualcomm
  • “..the better question is how does the high street respond to a marketplace with reduced overheads, reduced staffing costs and easy access for a significant proportion of the populace FRONTED by comparison sites that direct the consumer to the best place to get the cheapest deal.” Michael Strefford, Director, JoinedUp Consultancy
  • “Mobile based purchasing more than doubled this holiday and was over 10% of the online purchase on several days, so the question of impact is not over hyped as this is now ongoing..this is part of the broader effect of easy access to price and product information. We have now seen the effect in the strong pricing stance of retailers such as Walmart and Best Buy who both went out of their way to ensure that their offline pricing was “in the top box” when compared online, or else fled to exclusive and therefore non-comparable sale items.” Robert Heiblim, Co-Founder & Principal,  BlueSalve Professional Consulting