Behind the scenes: data science meets cyber security

Featuring a computer-savvy kid and Cold War intrigue, the 1980s movie War Games inspired more than one generation of STEM graduates. Sean Dyer is one Gen X’er who credits the movie for sending him on a path to where he is today as a cyber security data scientist.

As the fog lifts in San Francisco on February 29, SAS will join tens of thousands of information and network security professionals for the 2016 RSA Conference. While we gear up for our second year of participation at RSA, it seems appropriate to get to know some of the SAS experts like Sean that are changing the way this $77 billion market looks at analytics.

In a few brief minutes of listening to Sean talk about data science, I could feel his passion and excitement for his work. Catch a glimpse of how Sean’s contributions offer a continuous picture of the most serious threats to our customers’ data.

Sean Dyer

Outside of SAS, Sean Dyer spends time working on Software Defined Radio projects with his amateur radio license. He also enjoys hiking with his wife and looks forward to an upcoming vacation to Ireland.

Sean’s background
I’m a life-long SAS user, starting with learning to code in graduate school at Southern Illinois University. After a lot of data and analysis, I figured out I couldn’t crack the lottery code. True story. So I took my love of problem solving and began working in statistics for insurance and later defense contracting. The opportunity to work for SAS in the advanced analytics team was a natural career progression and I’ve been here since.

Why cyberanalytics?
I’d like to think that the seed of my interest in cyber security was sewn with the movie WarGames. When working with the SAS Federal Government team, I had the opportunity to dream with some of my colleagues about what was possible using analytics for defending the US against hackers. We gave a blue-sky style presentation at a national labs’ IT conference on how analytics could solve growing security problems. When we finished the presentation, there were a line of customers that wanted to talk. That kind of encouragement from the people that do this work every day fueled a fire that eventually led us to develop SAS® Cybersecurity. Read More »

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Need data for school? The SAS Communities Library has a stash

As many as 2,000 new users are registering each month to partake of -- and contribute to -- collective SAS wisdom in the SAS Support Communities.

If you’re beginning your journey to learn SAS, make a habit of stopping by SAS Communities Library to tap a growing treasure trove of fascinating open-source data.

Dig in! open-data

So, where is this data?

Need data for teaching or learning? Get it here!, a library article started by former Analytics U Community Manager Jennifer Scott (and that I now maintain), aggregates links to open data sources from around the world.

The easiest way to find all articles about data sources is to type "Data for learning" in the search field  on the communities home page. The search will return everything we have. Read More »

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Will Paul DePodesta + sports analytics = improved safety for NFL Players?

Shocking headlines to start the new year: Paul DePodesta is leaving the New York Mets and Major League Baseball (MLB) to take a top office position at the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL).

Not so shocked? You don’t care? Who’s Paul De Podesta? Well for those of you who don’t go all übergeeky over baseball statistics, Paul is the guy played by Jonas Hill in the film Moneyball (he was Brad Pitt’s top analyst). Check this out:

I get goosebumps on this quote EVERY SINGLE TIME: “People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws: Age, appearance, personality. Bill James and mathematics cut right through that.” (Ok, I confess, I’m partial to melodrama, sue me).

But now Paul DePodesta is defecting. He’s leaving behind the clear statistics and discrete events of MLB to join the brutish, and more-difficult-to-quantify real value realm of the NFL. Is that betraying his past? Is he a Judas? Like Bob Dylan when he went electric?

Read More »

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Major electrical utility challenges for 2016 (and how analytics can help)

I recently read an article about the major challenges electric utilities are facing in 2016, and I thought: "Wow, those challenges can be answered in so many ways..." Utilities are dealing with an Utility2onslaught of issues which can no longer be ignored or put off because they're all high priority and interrelated. But you've got to start somewhere, so here are the ones that must be addressed sooner rather than later:

It's a good thing that analytics can help with all of these issues. As I mentioned in a previous post, analytics are the ultimate renewable resource: Applying analytics can help solve not just these issues, but a whole lot of other utility and energy-related business issues and processes as well.

Stop by the Intel Booth #1055 and the OSIsoft booth #808 at DistribuTECH in Orlando, February 9-10 to learn more about how analytics can help your utility.

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How to make universities even smarter

Universities using data is a topic close to SAS’ heart, and in a recent blog we talked about the specific challenges that UK universities face in attracting and keeping students, and how data can help universities better understand the student lifecycle.

The first Universities and College Admissions Services (UCAS) deadline for undergraduate course choices has just passed, so student recruitment is front-of-mind for the higher education sector. I recently hosted a webinar to delve further into how universities can use data to make smarter choices. Effective data analytics can help education institutions to:

University lecture

  • Improve recruiting and admissions
  • Tackle student retention
  • Understand the profitability of courses and research
  • Forecast intake and finances
  • Increase donations and philanthropic activities
  • Track and improve REF research funding (REF being the framework that calculates funding for UK higher education)

Achieving these goals requires informed decision making, effective resource planning, and a commitment to optimising student success across a wide range of university departments. Read More »

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SAS brings real-time sensors and analytics to 2016 DistribuTECH

The Internet of Things (IoT), sensors and connected devices are all the buzz leading up to DistribuTECH (Feb 9-11), so I sat down with one of our IoT specialists, Lorry Hardt to learn more. Lorry will be at DistribuTECH to support our joint demonstration with Intel and gave me the inside scoop on what he's planning to showcase at the conference.

First off, what “sensors” are you taking to the conference?

Lorry: You can think of the sensor as a low-cost computer that can be programmed. The device looks like a circuit board, but we used a 3-D printer to make a durable case so that we can easily transport it without affecting the wiring inside.

In the education world, these “development boards” may be found inside a middle school robot, or a high school science project about synthesizers.image1

Because of their flexibility and low-cost, companies use them in lots of different ways. We chose to use this device as our sensor, which collects and aggregates multiple environmental readings (temp, humidity, light, motion and sound). Our partner, Intel, provides an Arduino-compatible board called Galileo. Read More »

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Performance-based funding in education

How do public higher education institutions get funded? In the past, state funding was tied to enrollment, but now more states are tying funding to institutional performance. State Legislatures want more accountability for money spent on higher education and have turned to performance-based funding (also called outcomes-based funding). As such, state funding is now tied to metrics like degrees awarded, course completion rates, time to degree, etc.

As such, administrators need to understand how well their courses and departments are performing and how they contribute to overall success. They need to drill down to the individual course level to evaluate course performance. Then they need analyze it further to determine what factors contribute to a well-performing course -- and how to apply that knowledge to improve underperforming courses. They must repeat the process for degrees awarded, transfer rates, etc. And they need to have this information at their fingertips for detailed analysis in order to effectively correct anything that's not working efficiently. Read More »

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Data readiness: Step one to a successful pricing journey

Close up of sales tags hanging off clothesAre you drowning in data? Do you feel overwhelmed -- or underwhelmed -- with the myriad of options available to deal with your data problems? (especially in the area of pricing?)

It's the era of big data, and many retailers are discovering that hope is found through new technologies like event stream processing or Hadoop.

However, as I head off to The Big Show - NRF 2016, I'd like to expound upon step one of the four steps to a successful pricing journey - data readiness.  Not only does this step require courage, but it serves as a testimony to the prudence of building the best possible foundational layer.

Data readiness is all about preparation. This preparation will help you find meaning and purpose in the heart of your data like never before. Like the completion of a weekend project (and like weekend projects -- it never really ends), you'll soon discover that hard work and patience does pay greater dividends. Read More »

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Energy savings programs can generate unintended consequences

LightsA successful energy savings program is a good thing for utilities, right? The truth is, that success can result in unintended consequences.

One of our utility customers shared this example with me recently: "Let’s say we offer a free LED light bulb to every customer, and everyone removes an old bulb that used 75 watts and replaces it with the new bulb that only uses 15 watts. That's great, right? Think about the how much electricity that would save just in one city!"

But he went on to explain, that while customers may be happy because they save a little bit on their bill now, the utility has less overall revenue, which may cause them to ask for a rate increase, which may wipe out their customers' savings -- and result in unhappy customers. Read More »

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Who were retail's winners and losers in 2015?

While 2015 was an unpredictable and often difficult year for many UK retailers, their customers have certainly prospered. The Christmas season, in particular, saw increased discounts for the fifth year in a row. This followed a period when changing weather patterns and price deflation had already offset predicted sales, both in-store and online. So, who were the winners and losers of 2015, and why?

Supermarket price wars continueSupermarket
Supermarkets represent a microcosm of the many highs and lows retailers faced this past year. Sales have been on the decline for the likes of Asda, Tesco and Morrisons, with Asda losing 16.2 per cent of its market share in the last three months of 2015. Yet, the likes of Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Lidl managed to improve sales and increase market share in the same period. It’s true that Aldi and Lidl managed this through increasing discounts, which many of the major supermarkets are unable to keep up with, but Sainsbury’s cited strong trade results in more premium products, a feat mirrored by Waitrose.

The difference here comes with knowing what the customer wants. The successful supermarket chains have a clear identity, customers have a particular affinity to these brands, and they know what they’re getting when they buy from these stores. These are the winners. Read More »

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