This week’s technology news – 22nd August 2014

Cloud savings for all

Cloud storage has always had its advantages over traditional options but price was often a premium. Thanks to heavy competition from providers both big and small, the cost per GB has been falling steadily over the last few years with some sharper drops being made recently. With price options now a relatively non-issue, the balance of pros and cons to cloud storage now sit very comfortably on the pro side of the scale.  Non-cloud setups now have one less obstacle to worry about when moving to Cloud, whether completely replacing their existing solution or as a hybrid.

With less focus on cost therefore, it is now much easier to have a clear discussion on the true flexibility and benefits Cloud can offer over traditional storage solutions. As adoption increases, so will employee expectations of having their data available via the web and mobile, but most importantly, securely. With a lower bar of entry, cloud adoption is likely to be boosted. Gartner predicts half of large enterprises will be using hybrid cloud deployments by 2017.

So the question that needs to be asked is – if you are not on cloud yet, why not?

US healthcare data hacking on vast scale revealed

Community Health Systems (CHS), the second largest hospital chain in the US running 206 hospitals in 29 states,  confirmed this week it had been hacked with a systems breach and the theft of personal data for 4.5 million people as a result of the Heartbleed flaw.  The open SSL code run by Jupiter for CHS which would normally scramble sensitive data proved ineffective against Heartbleed and despite fixes being issued, proved too late to stop what appears to be one of the largest known worldwide data breaches.

Back in April, UK’s Mumsnet had 1.5 million members details exposed whilst the Canadian tax authority, The Canada Revenue Agency, had 900 people’s social insurance numbers stolen and these two incidents were the previous “world record holders”.  The Heartbleed bug allowed names, phone numbers, addresses, and social security numbers to be stolen.

It is understood that the same malicious players have been targeting companies in the healthcare and medical device industry to gather intellectual property data.  A new report by Gartner has shown that worldwide spending on information security is estimated to reach US$71.1 billion in 2014, an increase of 7.9% over 2013 as organizations adapt to the growing threat of cybercrime. This is expected to rise further to 8.2% in 2015 and reach $76.9 billion, with a greater reliance on mobile, cloud and social platforms with greater reliance on mobile, cloud and social platforms. Gartner estimates that more than 30% of security controls used by small or mid size organisations will be Cloud based by 2015 and drive the use of security technology through 2016 and beyond.

Fixing this healthcare breach (believed to have originated in China) is one thing, fixing the trust with the patients involved is another and whilst neither medical nor financial data is believed to have been accessed, it once again highlights the imperatives for organisations to ensure their data is secured and protected as the sheer volume of bits of data to be managed, wherever it is held, increases exponentially year on year.

Met Police want lock down on phones

The Met in London are seeking pre-set pin locks from manufacturers to secure mobile phones, installed pre-sale at the factory, as a deterrent to the high numbers of mobile thefts.   Their research reveals that three in five people do not set a pin code lock of any kind on their phone. This leaves a user exposed to the theft of personal (or corporate data depending on the use of the device), plus the potential for expensive bills to be run up from web downloads without them knowing.  If factory set, it would also ensure that devices bought online vs from high street retailers would similarly benefit from the security layer.  Apple’s Activation Lock has produced results which show direct falls in crime as a result of its activation.  Whilst hopefully a factory code would be randomised already, the UK Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) comment that they would encourage users to set their own memorable personal code thereafter (though not a generic ie. 1234 or 1111).   Previously, such lazy security enabled journalists from the News of the World to hack data of celeb mobiles as well as listen to their voicemails.  Opting-out vs opting-in is always going to be a better route to maintaining adoption for security measures – and anything that thwarts unauthorised use exposing consumers and companies to risk is to be lauded.

Don’t just miniaturize for mobile

When creating content for smart phones it can be easy to think; “Let’s take what we have on PC and shrink it down to fit on Smartphones” but this approach is rarely the best. Whether it is a website or an app, taking a step back to re-think how to best display content is key.   True, smartphones have a lot smaller displays than PCs but they also pack their own tricks often not seen on their bigger brothers such as GPS location, cameras, touch screen, accelerometers and more.

Mobile users often have lots of frequently used Apps installed on their device so breaking this behaviour to add your own app into their stable can be challenging. The key is not to replicate, but to create something unique for the platform, redesign your user interface (so all vital info can be seen once the app is launched) – and don’t be afraid to use sensors such as GPS to detect a device’s location and deliver relevant information (this can also be combined with a QR code scanner in-app to quickly load relevant information of a product or service).

As smart as you can make your app by taking advantage of the devices smart features, it can also be too easy to go overboard.  One area in particular where having restraint will be appreciated by your users is push-notifications. Don’t bombard your users with pop-up messages – or they are likely to delete your app, no matter how smart, instead of turning the feature off.

Google Glass gets The Minority Report feel

One of the main obstacles to wider adoption of Google Glass has been the awkward control methods, however that may be in the past with the introduction by US Thalmic Labs of muscle sensor armbands to the technology. The new enterprise has integrated its clever wearable sensors with Google Glass, Epson Moverio and Recon Jet. The net effect is that users can quickly flick through documents, contacts and apps with subtle hand and finger gestures vs tapping the Glasses at the side of the head and fiddling with a tiny trackpad.  With this practical physical change, wider adoption by industry could be faster than anticipated and could make wearable technologies a relied on technology vs a curiosity at present.