Posts Tagged ‘spearfishing’

A Blockchain Feast

January 6, 2020

Hope everybody had wonderful holidays and feasted to your heart’s content.  Did you, by chance, think about the data involved in that feast? No, not the calories you consumed but the data that tracked the food you consumed from the farm or ranch through numerous processing and shipping steps to finally arrive at your table.  Well, maybe next time.

Apple Pie: Courtesy of IBM

The IBM Food Trust, which is built on blockchain, enables sellers and consumers to trace their food from farm to warehouse to kitchen, explains IBM. For more eco- and safety-conscious diners, IBM continues, this information is crucial for ensuring a safer, smarter, more transparent and sustainable food ecosystem. The company, unfortunately, hasn’t yet said anything about  Food Trust counting calories consumed.

As IBM describes it, the Food Trust is a collaborative network of growers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers, and others, enhancing visibility and accountability across the food supply chain. Built on IBM Blockchain, this solution connects participants through a permissioned, immutable, and shared record of food provenance, transaction data, processing details, and more.

To date, IBM reports more than 200 companies participate in Food Trust, the first network of its kind to connect participants across the food supply chain through a permanent and shared record of data. The result, according to the company,  is a suite of solutions that improve food safety and freshness, unlock supply chain efficiencies, minimize waste, and empower consumers who care about where their food comes from. 

Take chicken, for example, if you can  shop at the European grocery chain Carrefour, where chicken is being tracked by IBM Food Trust alongside a mix of other foods, like eggs, milk, oranges, pork and cheese.  This selection of foods will grow by more than 100 over the next year, says the company, but so popular is the blockchain-tracked chicken, claims IBM, that the grocer reports sales growth exceeding that of non-blockchain poultry.

Carrefour shoppers just use their smartphones to scan QR codes on the chicken’s packaging. What they will find is information on the livestock’s date of birth, nutrition information and packing date. Sounds interesting until my wife feels obligated to send the chicken a birthday gift.  Customers also learn about the food’s journey from farm to store, providing additional transparency about the life and times of this chicken. It said nothing, however, about whether it lived a wild youth.

Maybe you wonder if your seafood is correctly labeled and sustainably caught. IBM is turning to  blockchain to bring more trust and transparency to the supply chain of the fish and seafood we consume.  Specifically, the sustainable Shrimp Partnership now uses blockchain to trace the journey of Ecuadorian farmed shrimp and attest to the highest social and environmental standards. 

Similarly, the seafood industry in Massachusetts is tracing the provenance of fresh scallops. It also allows consumers in restaurants to use a QR code to learn about the seafood’s quality and origin. That’s something I might actually do. Finally, the National Fisheries Institute has joined the Food Trust Network in an effort to trace multiple seafood species.

IBM is trying to do the same with coffee, pasta, mashed potatoes, and more. This is something that I might actually grow to rely on if it were readily available and dead simple. One question is how accessible this information will be when a shopper or diner really needs it. OK, we can all use QR codes as long as they are right in front of us. But beyond that, as a diner I’m too impatient to bother to do much more.

This blog has periodically been following blockchain for years, always expecting the technology to take off imminently.  Maybe with Food Trust the technology will finally pick up some traction.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at 

Data and Analytics—Key to Security at IBM Edge 2013

June 13, 2013

A well planned global bank robbery netted $45 million in one day without anyone setting foot in a bank. As reported in the New York Times, the robbers manipulated financial information with the stroke of a few keys and used that information to loot automated teller machines. To stop this kind of crime you need data security and analytics, not cops with guns drawn.

Forty-five million dollars disappeared, said IBM Fellow and VP, Innovation Bernie Meyerson, and nobody even noticed! Eventually they noticed and a few people—those visiting ATM machines—were arrested, but they weren’t the brains of the operation.

The lesson from this caper: you have to monitor data patterns and recognize abnormalities. No system picked up the fact that a handful of ATM access numbers were being used at the same time at widely dispersed locations. This goes beyond IT perimeter defense.

The solution, said Meyerson, is an agile defense based on real-time analytics. Then you can look for a variety of behaviors and attributes and stop an attack almost as soon as it is underway. Better yet, you might predict an attack before it starts.

For example, you can baseline normal behavior and use analytics to identify behavior outside the baseline. Or, you can profile an individual based on the files he or she normally views and the websites the person usually visits. Activities outside normal behavior would trigger an alarm that merits further exploration.

This kind of IT security goes beyond today’s standard IT security best practices built around perimeter protection, user identification and authorization, anti-virus, intrusion detection, and such. Rather, it is based on collecting a wide range of data in real-time and analyzing it to determine if it is outside the norm for that person. A bit Big Brother, yes, but it’s a dangerous world out there.

IBM brings a slew of products and services to this battle, including cognitive computing. In this case Watson, the Jeopardy winning IBM system, represents your biggest gun. Watson, which is smart and fast to begin with, also can learn. What, asks Meyerson, if cognitive systems like Watson could see the big picture and understand the context? Well, you can be pretty confident that $45 million wouldn’t disappear globally in hours without being noticed

Although most IT managers aren’t worrying about losing $45 million to theft in one day that doesn’t mean they don’t face complex and demanding security challenges. Cloud computing and mobile, especially with the added demand for BYOD,  is complicating what many previously considered good security blocking and tackling. Add to that Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)—slowly developing threats over an extended duration—spearfishing (different from phishing, another threat), zero-day attacks, SQL insertion, and attackers operating under the auspices of nation states; IT managers simply cannot relax their guard.

At Edge 2013 the IBM security team laid out its comprehensive security program that entails tools to automate security hygiene, manage security incidents through analytics, combat mobile threats, control network access, manage identity and third-party security, and address cloud and virtualization security. In short, the IBM program offers defense in depth.

IBM security experts at Edge 2013 also offered a variety of security tips: Begin with the assumption your organization has experienced attacks and already is infected to some extent, whether aware of it or not. A vulnerability analysis is a good place to start.

Understand how attackers work, such as by using social media to identify the weak points they can use to lure individually targeted managers—especially those who may have higher levels of system authorization—into opening an infected email. Pause before you click anything new.

Also avoid, replace, or update un-patched legacy systems, software, and systems with insecure configurations. That’s inviting trouble.

Finally, once the bad guy is in, you need a response strategy to move fast to isolate the problem and stop any spread while trying not to tip the bad guys off that you’re on to them. Resist the mad scramble to recover because it can ruin the evidence. Instead, follow your methodical response plan. You do have one, right?

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