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Game Changers

VTech hack in Hong Kong sees industry experts urge firms to lean more on big data to boost cybersecurity

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 2015, 5:58pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 December, 2015, 6:18pm

Experts see big data as a means to boost information security among Hong Kong companies, an issue that has come to the fore in the wake of a huge data breach at local toymaker VTech.

VTech said Monday that its database was hacked, exposing five million customer accounts, mostly belonging to parents, and the profiles of nearly 6.4 million kids worldwide.

The cybersecurity breach - the biggest in the city for at least five years - highlighted the indifference that companies in Hong Kong adopt towards cybersecurity .

But experts say that firms can harness big data to further protect people's privacy by taking into account patterns produced by their information technology equipment. This would minimise the unnecessary storage of data and make less data anonymous, they claim.

READ MORE: ‘Who owns it is almost secondary’: Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs share tips on ways of monetising big data

Data centre equipment, databases, software programmes and even email services are constantly producing logs that keep track of the activity and movement of data, said Ronald Raffensperger, chief technology officer for data centre solutions at Chinese smartphone and electronics maker Huawei.

“Nobody ever has time to look at them. But if you take all of these files into a big data environment, you can utilise the insights you get,” Raffensperger said at the South China Morning Post’s fourth Game Changers event in Hong Kong on Thursday.

“You can start seeing when people are doing things that they shouldn’t,” he said.

“And you can find out who is accessing that information and raise flags.”

Howard Kwong, chief technology officer for Delivery Republic, a Hong Kong-based business-to-business food delivery start-up, said his company can guarantee data privacy.

“In food delivery, we know how much you ordered, how frequently, and how much you spend,” said Kwong.

“But by anonymising this data and using it to [identify] trends, it [resolves the privacy issue],” he added.

Kwong said it is important to set clear parameters of what companies are permitted to do with the data in order to protect people’s privacy.

Mark Chan, managing partner of digital marketing firm CMRS Digital Solutions, said his company ensures security by crossing various data sets to create a different set of data points. This new data is then assessed in real-time rather than stored on the company’s database.