Notes from the Iowa Technology Summit
Anders Sörman-Nilsson was a lawyer before he became an internationally-known futurist, author and public speaker on the TEDGlobal circuit. His mother, who still runs the family menswear business in Stockholm, Sweden, still thinks of him as a “glorified astrologer,” Sörman-Nilsson told the audience at this week’s Iowa Technology Summit during the keynote.
“There’s no one like your parents to tell you what you truly do,” he noted wryly.
Sörman-Nilsson’s mum ended up playing a big role as he addressed Iowa businesses, technologists and college students at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center on Tuesday. Birgitta Sörman-Nilsson is the third generation managing the 103-year-old Georg Sörman storefront in downtown Stockholm, and by Anders Sörman-Nilsson’s account, she is not at all pleased by development of digital commerce as she watches customers try clothes on in the showroom and leave to order their final purchase on Amazon.
“This has been brutalizing my mum’s business model for the last 10 or 15 years,” Sörman-Nilsson said. “She thinks of this new technologically-enabled, cyborg-style of consumer as a cyber terrorist. This is literally what she calls the new tech-enabled consumer.”
What it takes for a business like Georg Sörman to adapt is to transition from thinking like an old industry – a menswear company – and to start planning like a technology company.
“Mum started realizing that maybe these two worlds of the analog and the digital are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing,” Sörman-Nilsson said. “My mum doesn’t always get this right, by the way … but she still listens to that old Swedish mantra, ‘just smile.’ We’re all just new at this stuff. It’s not change, it’s just learning.”
IoT in Business
Counterfeit devices have become a problem across the market for so-called internet of things (IoT) devices – internet-enabled devices that can be remotely controlled, such as Google Home, a Ring Video Doorbell, a Roomba or the various internet-enabled refrigerators, coffee machines, TVs and more.
“You’re utilizing systems that aren’t battle-hardened, that haven’t been tested. You have a lot of security vulnerabilities, and we’ve got people taking advantage of that,” said Alan Grau, vice president of IoT and embedded solutions for Sectigo.
Nokia’s 2019 Threat Intelligence Report found botnet activity using IoT devices accounted for 78% of malware detection events in communication service provider (CSP) networks in 2018 – a sharp rise from 33% in 2016, when IoT botnets were first meaningfully tracked.
Criminals target unsecure IoT devices to create botnets, computer systems infected with malware that can be controlled by a single computer for cyberattacks and other malicious tasks.
“We can no longer rely on a security perimeter. We really have to start looking at how we build security in the device if we’re going to have secure devices,” Grau said.
The Gig Economy
Sörman-Nilsson sat down with Wellmark Chief Technology Officer Paul Hlivko for a Q&A session after Sörman-Nilson’s keynote address Tuesday morning.
“Some economists would say back to the older days of turning up on a work site and hoping that someone would throw you work for the day … that can be disempowering or taken advantage of people who maybe don’t fit into the formal economy,” Sörman-Nilson said.
Sörman-Nilson pointed to Uber’s partnership with the robo-adviser startup Betterment to offer Uber drivers a no-fee retirement account plan and added that the part-time flexibility of rideshare driving is part of Uber’s attraction.
“They’re actually digitally democratizing things that maybe wouldn’t have been possible in yesteryear,” Sörman-Nilson said. “I think the future of jobs is such that it’s more about making your job for the future, as opposed to slotting into pre-existing notions.”
Beware the Chronic Clicker
No matter how big or small, organizations looking to strengthen their resiliency against cybercrime face a nearly impossible obstacle, FBI Agent Jeff Huber and Twin State Technical Services founder Beth Tinsman told attendees.
The chronic clicker – that one staff member who opens every attachment on every email – puts businesses of any size at risk of malware or other criminal intrusion if they can’t get control of their own habits. Seventy percent of all cybercrime in the U.S. is attributed to “social engineering” methods, including phishing attacks over email.
The stakes for an employee to break a bad habit are high: Huber estimated that between 70-90% of his case workload in a year started with business email compromise (BEC). The average cost of a single lost file held by ransomware is about $360 – when multiple records are stolen, those costs add up fast.
Huber and Tinsman recommend organizations invest in employee training on secure digital business practices – many cyber security firms will set up simulated BEC attack emails, and can track the rate of which employees open a phishy-looking email. Businesses can file a complaint of an incident to the FBI or learn more about digital fraud practices at www.ic3.gov.