Posted by: qmaxim | February 10, 2011

IT – humungous innovation opportunity

Some time ago I opened an account with a medium sized bank
in India. Like almost all  banks in India nowadays, my new account  came
with usual facilities. These included debit card, phone banking, internet banking, etc. I opted for option of bank keeping me informed by SMS and e-mail every time there is a transaction in my account.

Last week, on the same day, I made three fairly large  deposits into my account. Instead of receiving three e-mails (& three SMSes)  informing me that money has indeed been  credited to my account I ended up receiving only one e-mail (& one SMS).
Having read about many news reports of internet / ATM scams wherein bank
systems failed  to inform the account holders about fraudulent withdrawals, I was alarmed. Though money was credited to my account, I decided to probe further. I called  up the bank’s help centre several times and  e-mailed  them  asking for explanation. After several fruitless tries no explanation was forthcoming. May be the banking software has
a bug or  configuration of the software was not up to the mark or  it is probably
a poorly set up manual process or somebody forgot to activate the sending
of  mail. I thought probably  they were too embarrassed
to admit any one of these.

Some time ago, I received a SMS reminding me about overdue
instalment of my vehicle loan. Nothing  unusual about such a communication except that
I had never taken a vehicle loan in first place. It is quite possible that the
person taking the vehicle loan had given out wrong cell number (deliberately or
otherwise) or loan giver has entered wrong information into the database.

Though one might argue that based on few such instances one
cannot generalise on the state of industry,  it is quite often gives
an indication of serious larger underlying problem.

In the  instances I quote here probably there was no malicious intent. It was merely a question of people being careless or software being sloppy. Most  Instances we read about daily are not so benign with Billions of US$ being stolen & highly secure systems getting compromised. Actors in  many cases are
not just criminal elements but also in some cases security services of various

With billions of connected devices coming on line every year,  protecting the security and privacy of the users is a huge and serious problem. This problem is going to assume gigantic proportions as the pace of computerisation accelerates and number of cheap interconnected devices explodes.

Securing the devices has been the concern of industry leaders
for many years now. Microsoft Windows 7 was supposed to be the most secure
version of Windows ever. Going by the Mega bytes of security updates windows
update service downloads every other day and number of breaches one reads about
they don’t seem to have met with much success. Intel’s new processors were
supposed to have built in security features. Going by their recent decision to
take over security company  McAfee Inc
they don’t seem to have made  much
headway either.

No company (not even these giants with  enormous technological / financial wherewithal)
has cracked this problem in a satisfactory way so far. Designing inherently
secure systems, securing multiple interconnected devices and writing code which
ensures that security and privacy are not compromised is  going to be humungous  innovation opportunity for the IT industry.No doubt, hundreds of highly competent engineers will be required to satisfy these needs.

I will be pleased to hear your views

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