Training Future Cybercrime Fighters to Protect Your Thermostat

By Cecily Joseph, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Symantec Corporation
Feb 5, 2014 2:55 PM ET

Training Future Cybercrime Fighters to Protect Your Thermostat

As we saw at CES this year, the "Internet of Things" is here to stay. With more and more platforms, social networks and search engines monitoring our actions and mining our data, questions around how we manage the ownership and distribution of this data are rising. We only have to look at the targeted ads in our Facebook feed or even consider Google's recent purchase of Nest, a home hardware tech startup, to see that personal data is already a hot commodity. So how do we deal with the challenge of data privacy? And not just the current threats that are out there, how do we prepare for the data breaches we can't even fathom yet? When we look at the rapidly changing world of data privacy and compare that to the skills gap that currently exists with our students (American students ranked 32 in the world in mathematics and 22nd in science), there is a possibility the future could leave us vulnerable. This is why we in the tech space and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focused industries need to continue to place a strong emphasis on investing in STEM education.

The idea of data security and data privacy is continuously expanding and changing. As Bloomberg pointed out in their coverage of the hacker economy, consumers can no longer limit their concerns to someone stealing their credit card. Cybercriminals are continuously looking for ways to benefit from hacking into people's personal data as its value grows, which is why an understanding of data management is so important. We need our next generation to not only think about data protection but how to manage the sharing of data, so we can continue to enjoy and embrace this connected world. Very simply, we must arm people with the right tools to build and protect this complex connected world of tomorrow. Combatting the declining numbers of STEM students and increasing the presence of women and minorities in the tech field is an important first step.

Attracting and engaging students from a wide range of backgrounds is essential to ensure we have the creativity and innovation needed to manage data connectivity in the future. One way to do that is to increase access to STEM resources or increase funding for STEM education. For example, at Symantec our education grantsprogram provides funds to non-profit organizations around the globe to help children and adults build their literacy in science and technology. GirlStart and the National Girls Collaborative Project are also great examples of programs focused not only on creating access to STEM studies, but increasing the number of women in these fields.

Yes, our increasing connectivity to the Internet of Things brings new levels of data exposure, and there are risks to having so many devices connected to the Internet. But it also creates an opportunity. The goal should not be to hinder the connected world but enable future generations to thrive on the information it creates.