This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 18th October 2013

Beware The Great Firewall of China
Recent reports of interest from Chinese electronics company Lenovo in taking over Blackberry have aroused serious concern with US regulators. A preliminary consortium deal from Fairfax Holdings remains on the table, along with a second consortium bid being prepared by Blackberry co-founder Mike Lazaridis. A large number of US corporate and government customers use Blackberry’s platform, so proposed Chinese control would attract a high level of scrutiny and concern. Last year, the manufacture of telecom network equipment by two Chinese companies was deemed to pose a threat to national security. Blackberry has historically routed messages via their own datacentre before crossing the network. This would not be a welcome precedent if the company were to have a Chinese parent, given the lack of freedom for users currently in the dragon State and their draconian interest in data control.

Windows 8.1 is now Live
Microsoft has released its first big update to the latest and controversial OS Windows 8, Windows 8.1. Microsoft has listened to feedback and re-introduced the Start button, conjoining the Start menu and desktop once more. With personalization options, the ability to boot to desktop, disable ‘hot corners’ and includes 3D printer support etc. Arguably the most important addition is the new integrated tutorials which should solve a lot of confusion for new users. Free to upgrade from Windows 8 it is a no-brainer for those existing desktop and tablet users. Anyone who has held off upgrading to Windows 8, should re-evaluate their decision now, as with the ability to control the user experience, you get the best of both worlds AND the reassurance of being supported.

Where a good BYOD policy would avoid conflict
With a rigid imposition of security policies on US government workers, a survey of cyber security professionals and non-cyber workers has found that resentment of controls so high, that 31% of employees sought a workaround to the security protocols at least once a week, whilst 49% of federal security breaches were attributed to end user non-compliance. Workarounds might include staff using their own devices and network, or altering network settings. Whatever the means, strictures and policies were found to be too burdensome, time consuming and hindered productivity. Harmonising security policies with end user behaviour is a challenge for CIOs, but one which should deliver better results for security by working as a team not adversaries – and improve the spirit of shared responsibility.

UK Government gets up to speed
With the first overhaul of its security banding since World War II, the Government is finally catching up with the digital age and removing over-complicated systems. Six security classification levels will drop to three. Currently classifications are listed as: Unclassified, Protect, Restricted, Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. These will become: Official, Secret and Top Secret. Affecting over 700,000 civil servant users, this is a further part of the Civil Service Reform Programme. It follows the Government’s endorsement of an adoption of Cloud earlier this year. Following the move away from paper, it reflects the increased use of mobile devices providing greater flexibility for the workforce, whilst controlling the distribution of sensitive data and saving costs.