Education

Harrisburg University - Smart Data

Written by witf.org, | Sep 21, 2018 4:07 PM
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Andrew Hacker is the cyber security expert in residence at Harrisburg University. He is always trying to find new ways to keep data safe from unauthorized users. In Andrew's mind, the best solution is to make data smarter.

Typically, computer data doesn't do anything on its own. Information files wait for a computer's operating system to tell them what to do. Andrew believes he has come up with a method to introduce logic into data files that changes the way data works.

"All of this data kind of sits there and it doesn't move. It doesn't act. It just waits for something to happen to it. So, what we're doing is we're encasing it with this logic that tells it what it can do."

As an example, Andrew explains how financial data and healthcare data are simply data in the eyes of a computer. With his smart data, those files would be branded for specific tasks and users and protected from unauthorized use throughout their life cycle.

"The basic idea is taking ordinary data, wrapping it in logic that protects it, encrypts it, and also ensures that the data is in the right place at the right time. For example, some insurance company has 10 million records of patient health information. We basically encrypt that with smart data. If someone tries to break in and steal that information and take it to some foreign country, that piece of smart data would say, "Hey, I'm healthcare information. I'm supposed to be in the United States and I can tell by this router device that this is physically in a different country. My logic says send off an alarm because I shouldn't be here."

Other responses could be programmed if desired, one to notify authorities or to tell the data to self-destruct.

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When he initially came up with the idea, Andrew was sure smart data would be a significant asset, not only for banking and healthcare, but for everywhere that data security is important. He also knew he would need good technical resources and a skilled team to help him develop his concept. That's when he approached Harrisburg University for help.

University officials thought Andrew's idea had merit. They helped him secure financial support and offered him access to student software developers. The opportunity to work on a real-world problem and develop a new kind of smart data proved to be a very exciting learning opportunity for the HU Students, even those with no professional coding experience.

"Finding good development and software resource is difficult even for larger corporations. It's very competitive. The really good talent is always in high demand. Being able to find that development expertise, and even if it's someone who doesn't necessarily have the experience but is very intelligent, learns quickly, that's extremely valuable. They're not bringing with them ways of doing things from some other company. They're kind of growing with us, which is great!"

Andrew was encouraged to share his idea with other Harrisburg University staff. Many HU professors are world renown experts in big data analytics and artificial intelligence.

"Being able to bounce the ideas of what we're doing in the company against what they know from industry and from academia, it was very helpful."

Harrisburg University also provided a work space and helped Andrew make connections with companies in healthcare, transportation, and industry where he could learn more about the specific security needs of potential clients.  With every connection he became more convinced he was onto an idea worth developing. 

"It's always very valuable to have outside folks, whether it's professors or other companies, that can say, we believe that this can help solve our problems or solves a particular issue for us. That's huge."

A lot of the groundwork is already in place. Andrew's team continues to work hard to form smart data into a product ready for global market.


Transcript:

Today's computers and mobile devices generate information on just about everything: our health, our finances, even our schedules.

Andrew Hacker wondered if he could make that data more secure, by limiting where the information could go and who could use it. 

Andrew Hacker: The basic idea is taking ordinary data wrapping it in logic that protects it, encrypts it, and also ensures that that data you know, is in the right place at the right time.

With Smart Data, healthcare information can only be used by your doctor. Banking data can only be used by your bank.  If Smart Data detects it's in the wrong place, or wrong hands, it generates a kind of alarm...

Andrew Hacker: And we can set up all kinds of conditions with that. We can say, you know, notify somebody. Notify United States federal authorities. We can even say self-destruct.

...which would render stolen information useless.

Harrisburg University's Accelerator Program helped Andrew to create a business model and find potential investors. Now Andrew's company offers HU interns real-world experience and he hires graduates to help develop this innovative technology. It's a win-win situation.


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Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Professor Andrew Hacker

Find more information about Smart Data at http://harrisburgu.edu/hu-professor-launches-start-up-that-makes-data-intelligent/

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The Harrisburg University of Science and Technology offers innovative academic and research programs in science and technology that respond to local and global needs. The institution fosters a diverse community of learners, provides access and support to students who want to pursue a career in science and technology, and supports business creation and economic development.

Learn more about Harrisburg University at http://harrisburgu.edu/

Support for Innovation U comes from PNC.

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Innovation U is a project from WITF, where we share stories of entrepreneurs and Pennsylvania universities who are working together to make new ideas come to life.  Learn more at witf.org/innovation

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