This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 26th July 2013

M15 & GCHQ chase corporates for gaps in security
Security chiefs wrote to all FTSE 350 chairmen to take part in a “cyber governance health check”. Alarmingly, the FT/ICSA Boardroom Bellweather survey found that 4 out of 5 of the UK’s biggest quoted companies were NOT prepared for cyber attacks. Further, only 1 in 8 companies confirmed to the FT that they had read and acted on the warning. The seriousness of Government concern is such that they are now seeking questionnaire responses at Chairmen level only at the next audit this Autumn to avoid overlooking internal vulnerabilities linked to governance. Whatever the size of your organisation or however many resources you have at your disposal – you just need to be proactive and consider the wider aspects of your company’s security now and not trust to chance.

What iPhones declining market share tells us about Apple
Apple’s iPhone may hold significant mindshare when people think smartphone, but the statistics beg to differ. Q2 figures just released show Apple lost another 3% in smartphone market share, bringing the iPhone down to 13.6% worldwide. Apple is ignoring modern trends such as cheaper, specialist and larger screened phones. The high device profit margins within their streamlined portfolio is their priority rather than just winning the most popular smartphone race. Apple’s App Store may make them over $1 billion a year but the iPhone hardware division makes over $80 billion. For Apple it seems the money is in individual hardware sales, over services – the complete opposite to its nearest platform competitor Google.

SIM card security threat
Perhaps surprisingly, it has taken 20 years for the SIM card to be hacked. Now though, German cryptographer Karsten Nohl reports a hacking win. Sending binary code over SMS to a device using a SIM with DES, the code was rejected. However the phone’s SIM sent back an error code carrying its own 56 bit private key, which could be decrypted using cracking techniques. Mainly of threat to older SIM cards: calls can be listened to and costly purchases made. With 7Bn SIM cards in use worldwide, businesses need to consider the stringency of their BYOD security as devices could face attack via a remote exploit from which patching and protection from a central location could be difficult. Given that large corporates and central government will not have the benefit of new technology rolled out everywhere, they could be most at risk.

Google has another go at taking over your TV
On Wednesday Google announced the Chromecast, a tiny device that plugs into your TV giving you another way to access the internet. The $35 price tag makes it perhaps the cheapest and easiest way to watch Netflix or YouTube on your TV screen. The device gets power from the HDMI port so doesn’t need its own power plug. Chromecast does not come with a remote. It is controlled by a smart phone, tablet or PC. You can even transfer a video you’re watching on your PC in Chrome to the TV with a single click. Even with the cheap price tag, the ‘TV internet services’ market is already overcrowded. Newer Smart TVs have the functionality built in, game consoles have been doing this for a while and everyone from internet providers to Apple have joined in too. It seems we have a long way to go before Google can seek to monopolise the internet TV services market.

This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 19th July 2013

NHS penalty for loose disposal of data
NHS Surrey has been issued with a £200,000 fine by the ICO for failing to clear patient records off decommissioned computers sold on through an auction site. The hospital used a 3rd party trust to handle the data destruction, which promised to wipe sensitive data from hard drives before selling on. One PC had 3,000 patient records on it and records for equipment passed for destruction in a 12 month period had been lost. No formal contract, guidelines or monitoring were in place to explain the provider’s legal requirements under the Data Protection Act. The data destruction company was unable to trace computers or confirm how many might still contain personal data. Effective management and regulated control mechanisms extending during and beyond the lifecycle of a company device is critical in order to maintain confidence and commercial credibility.

HP vs Lenovo
Last week for the first time Lenovo de-throned HP in global PC sales. Although all PC vendors saw shrinking sales, HP’s drop of 4.8% was enough to bring them below Lenovo by 200,000 units. An HP spokesman has commented “We don’t like being number two and we don’t plan to stay there”. HP has been caught off guard while restructuring it business, recently losing some large government contracts to Lenovo. Gartner predicts HP will be back at the top after Q4 thanks to the consumer holiday season, an area in which Lenovo currently struggles. With declining PC sales across the board and mobile devices fiercely on the rise, it will be the company who can successfully create the next mass market consumer tablet that will secure dominance going forwards.

Microsoft risky re-organisation
Steve Ballmer has announced plans for a massive restructuring of Microsoft. The product groups are being dissolved, with devices and services divisions in their place. Everything is now aligned around engineering rather than products with four key areas: operation systems, applications, cloud and devices. One division will handle all of Microsoft’s operation systems instead of different teams depending on the product. The objective is to create a cohesive experience for users across the full portfolio from Windows Server to Windows Phone. The danger here is throwing away a corporate model that has made Microsoft the world’s largest software company and a money making power house. Will Ballmer’s risky bet will pay off? We will have to wait a few years to find out.

Broadband in space
Nature report that NASA and the ESA are bringing broadband to space using lasers by creating a much needed data link speed increase between satellites, spacecraft and Earth using laser beams. ESA launches Alphasat on 25th July communicating at 300 Mbps. Separately, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer will launch on 5th September. Using an atmosphere penetrating AM-style infrared laser beam and eight ground telescopes, the lasers will avoid radio interference and bring 6 times faster data link speed from the moon. How long it will take for these benefits to impact on consumers has yet to be determined.


This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 12th July 2013

GCHQ Monitoring Increased Infrastructure Cyber Threats
GCHQ has thrown up a warning flag to highlight the potential threats from cyber attack to the UK’s national infrastructure. A suspected incident relating to the electrical grid prior to the Olympic Games in 2012, triggered the research. The report has revealed that technical reconnaissances have occurred across the UK’s infrastructure. An increased reliance on the internet by utilities makes security a national priority. In March 2013, the Government set up a Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership to help businesses and Government share information in real time. However, when 80% of utility organisations in the UK are run by the private sector, enforcing security governance around data requires a pro-active approach and is a wake up call for all businesses to review their data policies.

Google’s slapped wrist
The UK’s privacy watchdog the ICO has joined data protection authorities in several European countries in criticising Google after the internet giant’s privacy policy failed to comply with the UK Data Protection Act. UK users of Google’s services do not currently have a clear definition of how their data is collected and used across their products. Google bundled 60 privacy policies into one agreement and hoped this would absolve them from criticism. However, the lack of response from Google as to what it is using personal data for, and how long it is held, has led to various actions against them. Google faces penalties from the CIO if it does not rewrite its policy by 20 September 2013. It is important for business that this is resolved satisfactorily given the number of employees using the internet.

Huge Android security-hole discovered
Last week Bluebox Security uncovered a security flaw with Android phones and tablets, potentially affecting up to 900 million devices. An App downloaded outside the official Google Play store, could modify a pre-existing system App on devices. The flaw uses the special permissions for malicious purposes. Google stated this week that the bug has been caught and they are urgently working with their partners to push out correct patches. The key lessons for information security governance are to stick to official App stores and keep devices up to date with the latest software updates to keep information protected.

Nokia’s 41 megapixel monster
On Thursday Nokia held their ‘Zoom Reinvented’ event where they announced the arrival of the Lumia 1020, a smartphone with a whopping 41 megapixel (MP) camera, powered by Windows Phone 8. In comparison the iPhone 5 has a camera of 8 MP and the Galaxy S4 is 13MP. In addition to staggering image quality the advantage of such a high megapixel is the ability to zoom in to a picture even after the moment is captured. Such a leap over the competition in this field, makes choice simple for anyone whose top priority is the camera in a smartphone. Microsoft must be happy about the partnership they have built with Nokia, as it is exclusive flagship phones such as the Lumia 1020 that will build Windows Phone market share worldwide.


This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 5th July 2013


Mobile video on the up for business
Gartner reports that video use at work will be the next big adoption for businesses, governments and MSPs to get to grips with. It is anticipated that by 2015 60% of information workers will interact with content applications via a mobile device. This will force MSPs to respond with strategies supporting video on employee or company owned devices . Heterogeneity as well as mobility will be required, whilst the demand on bandwidth will likely require workers to use it at select times to cope with variable bandwidth.

Technology changing policing
A new report confirms that the police are actively adopting a range of new technologies to turn data into real time intelligence. These include: electronic notebooks on scene, sensor networks for tracking, crowd behaviour software, GPS to track offenders (and even dementia patients) and miniature drones with sensors to help capture criminals. Added to this is the use of social network sites (Greater Manchester Police tweet each incident for transparency to show crime volume and type of work). Cost savings are a main driver for these changes. Ultimately, choosing the right technology to give flexibility to a business and managing it securely will provide the best business solution in this technological age.

The future of touchscreens
Microsoft is developing a new type of touchscreen in-house that allows the user to feel the texture of objects being displayed on screen. The same technology can also apply resistance to moving around virtual objects on screen. Virtual objects can be heavier, and thus like in real life will take more effort to swipe around. California-based Tactus has developed a touch screen that uses fluid channels which can morph the shape of the screen on the fly. This has been demoed to show how it can provide tactile feedback when using an on-screen keyboard by pushing the keys out of the screen. Both of these technologies tackle the current issues of a touchscreen-only device with uses in medical and corporate sectors.

Nokia buys Siemens’ half of the Nokia Siemens Networks for $2.2 Billion
Nokia Corporation and Siemens have announced that Nokia will acquire Siemens’ 50% stake in their joint venture, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN). The cost of total ownership is $2.2 Billion. NSN has established itself as a clear leader of LTE (4G) technology which provides an attractive growth opportunity as LTE continues to roll-out worldwide. Although Nokia is taking a large financial hit, the purchase is actually a very smart move as it simplifies their finances after making NSN a profitable venture last year which helped get Nokia back into the black, thanks to early LTE deals.