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In the Future Internet, security is everything

Head of the IIT-CNR research unit that deals with cybersecurity, Paolo Mori explains how to convince citizens and entrepreneurs to share their data

That data is the oil of the new millennium is now well established. When we talk about the value of data science and the potential (including economic) that is hidden in big data, we are not referring only to the Californian giants of social networks. For some years now, even the smallest companies, and which do not necessarily deal with technology in the strict sense, public administrations, and even individual citizens, are producers of data and, at the same time, look to the world of data analysis with great interest.

A value to share

“If we could use data from many different sources and process them together, we could extract the true value of the data”, begins Paolo Mori, head of the Trust, Security and Privacy research unit of the Institute of Informatics and Telematics . Mori and colleagues deal with cybersecurity, developing systems capable of protecting data and therefore creating trust for those who are called to share them.

“Sharing to enable collaborative processing is the basis for creating value from data. This does not always coincide with the favorable opinion of producers who, before sharing information, want to be sure that there is adequate protection”. The term “adequate” means that the sharing system must guarantee data producers that their security and privacy requirements are met. “Only in this way will people agree to make their precious wealth of information available”, Mori reflects.

This privacy-preserving technology of sharing is very useful in many application scenarios, such as smart homes, which produce a lot of potentially interesting data. However, to acquire real value, the data must be processed together with those of many other homes.

Security for Industry 4.0

Another area in which the subject of data protection is closely observed is undoubtedly that of industry. In fact, with the advent of Industry 4.0, the connected machines that are used in production processes are producers of huge amounts of data. Here too the same principle applies. From the sharing of data produced by multiple companies, it is possible to extract knowledge that is useful for everyone, which would not be possible to obtain using the data of a single enterprise.

“For example, by putting together data from machines from multiple industrial firms, cooperative predictive maintenance systems could be developed that would be much more effective and timely than those operating on individual industry data. These systems would be able to understand early enough when a machine in the production process is about to break down, in order to prevent failure and avoid production stoppage”.

Once again, to convince entrepreneurs to make their information available to potential competitors, maximum security must be ensured and their privacy preferences on such data should be respected.

And this is where Mori and his research group come in. “Our role is to produce software models and tools for the controlled sharing of data and the carrying out of collaborative analyzes, respecting the privacy preferences expressed by the producers.” That is, the sharing system that collects the data associates with each producer the privacy and security preferences that each data owner wishes to be respected, and applies them when the data is requested to perform a collaborative analysis. In this case, the use of a data item can be granted totally, partially or even completely denied. “The software tool that our research group has developed enables us to define very complex security and privacy policies which, in deciding whether to allow the use of a data, also take into account the characteristics of all the data processed”.

Projects in progress

Following the same principles, the IIT scientists are working on a project, E-Corridor, which concerns sustainable mobility. By combining data from multiple companies in the transport sector (railways, electric car rental, air transport, etc.), it is possible to recommend the best trip for the user’s needs, which may have a maximum budget or a preference for a particular means of transport. “In this study, our role is to enable the algorithm to work on the largest possible database. In this way we make sure that the companies participating in the experiments have the freedom to choose which data to share and with which other competing companies,” says Mori.

In the Trust, Security and Privacy research unit there are also researchers who study the vulnerability of electronic systems mounted on our cars and others who deal with the analysis of fakes on the net, from the now famous fake news to paid reviews that artificially inflate the popularity of some products.

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