Nokia purchase marks a move to bigger Cloud strategy

Nokia has announced it will be acquiring French global telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent for the sum of $15.6 billion, under the banner Nokia Corporation. They plan to tackle 5G technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the increased reliance on Cloud services.

The acquisition gives insight into what Nokia’s future direction might be, following the selling of its Devices and Services arm to Microsoft in late 2013. The focus is clearly aimed at providing a platform for the technical fundamentals for not only traditional mobile telecoms and its evolution into 5G, but also newer and emerging technologies.

Recently rumors have emerged that Nokia are considering selling their large mapping business called ‘HERE’ and the Alcatel-Lucent acquisition adds credence to this, putting full concentration into their very profitable Nokia Networks division.

Nokia may no longer be a name consumers hear about as the company transitions from phone maker to platform supplier, however it will very much likely be Nokia that is providing the data network for their future mobile device.

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This week’s technology news – 13th February 2015

HP’s doomsday cyber forecast

HP’s CTO Andrzej Kawalec, speaking at the European Information Security Summit in London on 10th February, has predicted a ‘catastrophic cyber attack’ in the next five years.   Before people settle back comfortably and think it is ‘just another cyber attack on a brand’, think again.  Kawalec foresees this as far more serious: “We expect an attack that will cause significant and lasting damage to a major world economy through physical and economic impacts”.

Kawalec acknowledges the enormous challenges around creating a resilient single digital online identity.  Much of the blame he identifies as being a lack of common standards amongst social media platforms, the cloud and devices connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Kawalec identifies a tricky balance to be struck between managing regulatory and privacy concerns and the potential impact on cross-border trade, or exposing industry to financial risk – which must be avoided.

HP have therefore identified three areas of cyber security in 2015 that they will urgently focus on:
• Spending more time and effort understanding our adversaries and how to disrupt them at every step.
• Understand and identify risk to ourselves to ascertain how best to protect, as well as enable information assets.
• The need for businesses to collaborate more – and share information with each other to get a unified view of the threats and extend cyber security capabilities beyond one organisation (as our adversaries have stolen the march on this – and THEY collaborate faster and more efficiently, without being weighed down by any legislation.

On a technical note, Kawalec noted the need to improve management of open-source software within organisations.   He also flagged the need to address security vulnerabilities within supply chains (referring to the 2nd largest US attack on retailer Target in December 2013 which hit 40m payment card users and was the result of a compromise via their air-conditioning supplier).  This highlights the need to change the way organisations deal with their suppliers – and finally, Kawalec impressed on the audience the need to improve securing the end user and the data.

Ultimately, alternatives to password-based authentication will evolve he sees – with greater focus on protecting data.  This, he said, was all part of “understanding our information environments better, see how they work and find better ways of making them secure”.

Amicus ITS has joined the UK Cyber Security Forum, echoing these sentiments that shared knowledge of enterprise security specialists will help create greater strength and unity in 2015.  To find out more click on http://ukcybersecurityforum.com/

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IoT revenue opportunity vs business cost
The latest report by technology research marketing company Beecham Research has identified that IoT security could present a revenue opportunity, with security and data management for the internet of things (IoT) a big value-add revenue opportunity for service providers, instead of it being seen as a business cost.

With the growth and complexity of the myriad applications of IoT and emerging smart lifestyles, Beecham Forrester see this will be accompanied by an urgent need to manage connecting devices which use short-range wireless and fixed-line technologies.

Principal analyst and report author, Saverio Romeo anticipates, “Companies will increasingly rely on outsourcing and we expect that revenues from device authentication, device management, data management, billing and security will exceed $3bn by 2020. Out of these, we see security and data management services generating some $1.8bn alone”.

Data management for IoT remains currently a small market, however Beecham Research believes it has the most potential for high gross margins, with IoT security as the most strategic, across the network, device and services domains.  Romeo commented:  “…we see IoT security providers offering high-value, end-to-end security to service and application providers”.

This follows their last report 5 months ago urging industry to take decisive action to secure IoT devices which should be managed over their entire lifecycle (with resets an option, to enable remote remediation to rebuild and extend security capabilities over time).

As with the cyber security story above, this report has highlighted the need for industry players to unite and enable the securing of IoT devices end to end (from silicon semiconductor manufacturers to network operators and systems integrators), with particular attention to the identification, authentication and authorisation of devices and people in IoT systems.

A strong pattern is thus emerging for 2015 in the technology industry with security themes dominating. Where the core value of security is shared by organisations, there is surely a compelling argument for the different businesses to come together, share knowledge and give the end user assurance that they are safe using such devices. This can surely only result in one result:  greater take up in the long term and profitability for all involved.

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Value of IT outsourcing review

Figures out by Business Process Outsourcing analysts (BPO), Nelson Hall, regarding UK spend in 2014 on outsourcing and IT totalled £6.65bn, with IT outsourcing accounting for £3.44bn.

New business deals accounted for 55.5% of those signed, up from 33% in 2013. 66% of those deals were fully onshore by UK suppliers, with the remainder having an offshore element and 8% delivered exclusively from offshore locations.

The drive by organisations to digitise through Cloud and software development (DevOps) saw a substantial rise in private and hybrid cloud transformation.  However, the desire for many businesses to transform their business IT infrastructure environment and the costs involved, meant that many could not fully migrate and so a transactional and usage-based pricing model in contracts emerged.

• Private enterprise accounted for 63% of the spending.
• Local government saw 15% increase in average contract values rise to £30.3m.

• The financial services industry spend was £1.1bn in 2014.
• With energy and utilities companies accounting for 187% growth in IT spending (the fastest growing, which reached £1.07bn).

MSPs which can offer a comprehensive array of IT services and on top of this can apply a flexible approach to their customers with fully secured Cloud solutions and 24×7 support will be the beneficiaries of this increasing trend as 2015 gets underway.

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Keeping your keys out of the Box

Cloud storage provider Box has announced a new service that could be a first in the file storage arena. The new service is currently in Beta and allows organisations to hold their own encryption keys for their data. This differs from the traditional approach where the service provider tightly guards everyone’s encryption keys.

This new service called Enterprise Key Management (EKM) will appeal to highly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, government and the legal sector. EKM will also appeal to those worried about hackers, government requests for data and Cloud providers’ own employees having access to their data.

EKM essentially gives you control over the one master key for your data.  But, it also gives you FULL responsibility. You may no longer need to worry about the threat of hackers getting to your data through your service provider but this should only alleviate concerns if you believe your own security is sturdier.

If you do consider EKM, the most important consideration will be the storage of the encryption key itself.  Of course it will need to be resilient enough to survive hardware or site failure, but the strategy to make sure it is backed up, specifically regarding access to it and backups, will need to careful consideration. Whilst EKM does solve many of the issues some have with Cloud storage solutions today it also comes with its own set of new unique challenges and should only be chosen after great consideration.

 

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Ever Greener Apple

Apple is no stranger to being green. Not only does the company promote their own products with an environmental check-list on launch, the iPhone producer also uses renewable energies like solar to power their services.

Apple has detailed plans to spend $850 million on a new solar farm in California. This deal marks the largest ever supply of ‘clean power’ to a commercial user. The farm itself will cover 2,900 acres and will have the equivalent to power 60,000 Californian homes. The power from the new farm will be split with 130-megawatts going to Apple to power buildings such as its future campus, while the remaining 150 megawatts is being sold to the Pacific Gas & Energy’s grid.

This huge spend continues Apple’s commitment to use 100% clean energy – and if successful could be used as the blueprint for many other clean energy driven enterprises going forwards.

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The Week’s Technology News – 12th December 2014

 

 

Have you planned IoT into your business strategy in 2015?
Increasingly it is now possible to connect any powered device to a network.   The Internet of Things (IoT) is an enormous technical development to comprehend let alone incorporate. However, from a business point of view, the real value in IoT will not just be in the connection of ‘things’, but the opportunity (if done properly), to manage the data and bring the customer needs into focus, alongside the product or services on offer.  This suddenly makes it a transformative technology applied through hardware and software and becomes highly interesting commercially.

Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group estimates that next year there will be around 25 billion connected devices, which will double to 50 billion by 2020 and Gartner recently suggested that IoT is peaking now in its ‘Hype Cycle’ of expectation around the subject.

If intelligent services are applied from the insights gathered from collated data and interrogated, this has the potential to radically improve customer experience and cost savings in the long run through prompt performance, increased trust and access (given the right security procedures and policies) and bond an existing relationship more more strongly between provider and customer.

Seen in practical terms, an IoT print-enabled supplier, could remotely monitor their customer’s ink levels to advise on re-supply, simultaneously run diagnostics for updates or repairs needed and advise, upsell improved models matching day-to-day needs and immediately have higher level feedback on how the customer is physically using the equipment in real-time.

From an MSP perspective applying three simple concepts, ‘connecting’, ‘managing’ and ‘engaging’ will create a proactive environment and a more bonded relationship attracting because of the intelligent assistance given.  To get there you have to have an agile infrastructure providing quick, simple and secure connections.  Some businesses worry about how to build the infrastructure to connect their devices. There are admittedly many aspects to consider ie. storage; messaging and routing protocols; security; directories; analysis; automation; and APIs to name a few.

According to a recent global KPMG survey of technology business leaders, 20% of businesses find the concept of implementing IoT too complex looked at from the outside without expert help.  However, by utilising ready-built networks, offering fast, secure and scalable connections alongside a range of tools provided as a Platform as a Service (PaaS), businesses can concentrate their efforts on creating innovative connected products.   Now that sounds like a plan!

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Sony hacked again – one week later

Last week Sony Pictures Entertainment was hit by a huge cyber-attack, leaking unreleased films and 47,000 personal records.

Since then even more data has been leaked including confidential E-mails between Sony Pictures Chair, Amy Pascal and well known Hollywood film producer Scott Rudin. The e-mails in question mock Barack Obama in an exchange of racist messages, with Pascal asking producer Scot Rudin what she should ask Obama at an upcoming event.  “Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended.”

This week a new attack aimed at Sony’s PSN (PlayStation Network) took the service down on Monday. The attack came in the form of a Distributed Denial-Of-service (DDOS). Although the timing comes hot off the heels from the Sony Pictures attack they did not come from the same source. The PSN attack came from a group called Lizard Squad who boasted about the attack on their Twitter account.

With fresh information still leaking, including plans for unannounced films, Sony may be playing damage control for some time.  These events only highlight the need for stringent malware protection and tightened defences against ever increasing DDoS attacks, as well as perhaps a pertinent reminder to staff about the appropriate use of email content, which in this case could have saved several blushes.

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Data breach red flags for 2015
Global information services company Experian have published their Second Annual Data Breach Industry Forecast for 2015 after reviewing cyber attacks of 3,000 organisations.  In their report, Experian details a change of attitude amongst business leaders when it comes to cybersecurity.  This will affect organisations and regulators in the year ahead.

Not only is reputation critically at stake alongside security and trust, but the demand by consumers for more communication, as well as remedies in restoring the status quo, whilst ‘data fatigue’ from an expectation of resolution against personal apathy for individuals to take more vigilant steps personally.  With almost 50% of businesses having suffered at least one data breach in 2014, the need to increase investment in security technologies and policy planning and guidelines around this is paramount and accountability goes right to the top of the Board.  A company now without a data breach response plan could be the first to fall largest victim to unscrupulous criminal targeting.

New trends are anticipated for 2015.   These are anticipated to include:
• New payment technology
• The continued rapid expansion of Cloud and e-commerce
• The consistently high value of healthcare data on the blackmarket
• Employees as one of biggest threats
• Internet of Things (IoT)

1. Payment technology   The deadline for retailers to adopt EMV (Chip and PIN) credit card technology is October 2015  if they want to accept Visa or MasterCard payments. As a result, breaches may increase as the window for hackers closes.

2. Cloud technology   With the increased adoption of Cloud technology, businesses can do much to ensure they protect theirs and their customer’s data, as the value of consumer online credentials continues to grow.  A great starting point is to take extra steps to safeguard passwords, as hackers will be seeking to target progressively more Cloud data as the volume of data explodes exponentially by companies in the Cloud.  This involves the capability and measures to re-set passwords on an enormous scale and to communicate with affected users to advise them to maintain transparency as part of maintaining trust in the relationship.

3. Healthcare data   In the US, the increased number of access points to Protected Health Information (PHI), sensitive data via electronic medical records and increasing popularity of wearable technology, makes the entire healthcare industry vulnerable and attractive for cybercriminals.  On top of this, the FBI reportedly sent a private notice in 2014 to the healthcare industry that their cyber security systems were lax compared to other sectors.  Given the budget constraints facing the healthcare sector in the UK, it would be remarkable given how many have legacy IT infrastructures and constant downward pressure on budgets, to be able to avoid breaches entirely.

4. Human error   One of the least reported issues is the impact from employee breach – either through human error or malicious endeavour.   They remain the leading cause of breaches, accounting for 59% of reported cases – and companies should therefore take the necessary steps to have policies in place to circumvent or minimise any impact.

5. Internet of Things   With the expansion of the Internet of Things, businesses will be seeking to benefit from reviewing data to optimise performance and consumerisation response.  So with more devices being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors that create the opportunity for everyday items eg. car keys, alarm system or wearable devices – these will relay confidential information over the Internet and communicate with each other. Cyber attacks will therefore likely increase via data accessed from third-party vendors.

Takeaway – so, what action is required?  There will be an expectation for Board members to have a better understanding of their organisation’s data breach response plan and comprehension of new technologies and security protocols in the workplace, along with a clearly defined chain of response should such a breach occur.  Currently less than 17% of Board executives surveyed knew if their organisation had suffered a breach in the previous 12 months. Alongside this, should be security awareness training for employees as legal and regulatory scrutiny is anticipated to increase in 2015.

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The Week’s Technology News – 5th December 2014

Outsourcing priorities changing
The latest Forrester Research report across 435 Europe-based IT decision makers has found that whilst 60% of European businesses are satisfied with IT infrastructure service providers, there is a subtle shift in focus from simple cost reduction desire (66%) to businesses offering  services to help increase sales and improve customer experience (71%).

The overall feedback stats should give serious food for thought to MSPs when marketing and servicing their offerings:
• 34% said cost savings were lower than expected
• 29% said service quality or delivery was inconsistent or poor
• 26% said there is a lack of innovation and/or continuous service-level improvements
• 23% said there is a lack of flexibility in changing volume, scope, business needs or pricing models
• 22% said service providers lacked a fully developed and functioning global delivery model.

“Faced with this customer demand for better, faster and more cost-effective infrastructure services, and increased competition from emerging and India-centric suppliers, Europe’s leading providers are forced to bring new offerings and delivery models to the market,” said Forrester analyst Wolfgang Benkel. “The good news is some of them are finally listening to their customers.”

Businesses which have moved to cloud services are benefiting from accessing more flexible services and MSPs need to ensure that to deliver the most for their clients they have a) the right technical skill set b) the business skills to think strategically around the business objectives of their clients and c) the experience, diligence and ability to adapt to create a more innovative approach with their offerings, in order to stand out from the crowd.

The Euro responses indicate that just meeting an SLA is no longer what is needed in the MSP marketplace and that evidencing and thinking about all ones added values will be the key to retaining customers and winning new business in 2015.

Modular mobile phone developments and corporate tailored opportunities
Google was first out of the gate with a modular mobile phone announcement with Project Ara, planned for release in 2015, but not without competition. Finland based Circular Devices has announced its own plans to create and sell a modular smart phone called Puzzlephone next year.

The Puzzlephone approach is a simpler one with the smart phone being detachable into 3 parts; the spine (the main structure including the screen), the Heart (a large piece that slots into the bottom half of the back – this includes the battery and secondary electronics) and finally the Brain (This slots into the top half of the back – includes the processor and camera).   Google’s Project Ara approach is a lot more customisable with prototypes having 8 smaller, changeable parts – compared to Circular Devices larger 3.  However, it is possible that the simpler solution could win out with users finding Project Ara a bit too complex to get their head around.

With two companies now in preparations for a modular phone launch next year, making reality from the concept is s significant step closer. These devices should appeal to tech enthusiasts and organisations.  The potential for modular phones in the workplace is huge. Organisations would be able to create their tailored smartphone using selected prioritised modules according to their business need and deploy to employees. This would both have the benefit of cutting costs on unneeded or unused features but also being able to add in requested features such as larger capacity batteries or fingerprint scanners.   Another advantage of the modular approach is when things go wrong. Currently if a particular part of a phone fails, the whole unit has to be replaced or sent off to be repaired.  With a standard modular build, fixing future issues could be as simple as swapping the faulty part with stock.   Modular phones will be arriving next year, but their success will be dependent not only the cost of the phone and its modules, but how well the platform is supported by manufacturers providing unique hardware.  Over then to the android market and the likes of Samsung, HTC and Sony for part two of this evolving story…

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Sony hacked again – leaking unreleased films and 47,000 personal records
Sony is no stranger to data breaches, infamously having to pull down their Playstation network in 2011 for 3 weeks after 77 million customers were potentially compromised, later to be fined by the ICO.

Now Sony Picture Entertainment is the next division to fall under cyber-attack. The attack itself appears to be malware and has been used not only to steal data, but also wipe machines at Sony.  With hugely damaging commercial potential, four unreleased films have been leaked online pre-launch with personal details of 47,000 people including Hollywood stars such as Sylvestor Stallone exposed.

Since the Sony attack, the FBI has sent an alert out to US businesses warning them of malicious software that matches up with reports from the Sony Pictures attack. The report warns of malware that overrides all data on a computer’s hard drive including the master boor record, preventing booting up successfully afterwards.  The geographical origin of the attack remains unknown, but a group calling itself Guardians of Peace is claiming responsibility.     With both the risk of data leaks and data deletion, the importance of both a truly secure infrastructure and multiple data stores is more important than ever. For Sony this is another huge wake up call for a household name, swiftly becoming synonymous with susceptibility to cyber-attacks.

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Radio heads up some surgical changes for 5G
The race is on to deliver the fifth generation of our mobile network.  The build in excitement around 5G may in fact be wholly worthy of the buzz, if the latest news on this joined-up superfast technology pans out, as vaunted by Professor Rahim Tafazolli of Surrey University’s 5G Innovation Centre.  This means the opportunity for properly connected smart cities, remote medical surgery, driverless cars and the “internet of things”.  The thought of stalling videos and apps and load delays becoming a mere footnote in tech history would be thrilling news.  Prof Rahim Tafazolli says, “5G will be a dramatic overhaul and harmonisation of the radio spectrum”.

The difference comes from the 5G networks transmitting data via uninterrupted radio waves bouncing off small masts with improved antenna technology.  The waves split into bands (frequencies) with each band reserved for different communications ie.  one for TV broadcast, one for mobile data, one for aeronautical signals etc.  The system has got messy with new technologies squeezed into the gaps.  Now, the regulators, the International Telecommunications Union (ITG) are restructuring parts of the radio network used to transmit data to make more space whilst simultaneously creating efficiencies in the traffic flow, whilst 3G and 4G use carries on.  The network which scientists hope will kick in by 2020, will need to cope with vastly increased levels of communication. Through The Internet of Things (IoT), devices will ‘smarten’ and dynamically switch between three TBC ‘lanes’ (bandwidths) in order to avoid frequency overload and will rely on lower latencies (timelag between action initiation and response).  Ericsson predict that 5G’s latency will be around one millisecond – unperceivable to a human and about 50 times faster than 4G.

So what?  Well 5G is anticipated to run faster, much faster. In 2013 when Samsung announced it was testing 5G at 1Gbps, journalists reported that a high-definition movie could be downloaded in less than half a minute.  A speed of 800Gbps would equate to downloading 33 HD films – in a single second. This is 100 times faster.  To do this, it will need capacity – and lots of it.  By 2020 it is thought that 50 billion to 100 billion devices will be connected to the internet.

Whilst there is great competition between the giants Ericsson and Huawei, both are investing hugely in this research phase and despite the obvious rivalry and associated costs, each is co-operating with the other to bring on the technology to enable product development to advance.   Samsung hopes to launch a temporary trial 5G network in time for 2018’s Winter Olympic Games, whilst Huawei is racing to implement a version for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow. For Managed Service Providers and businesses alike the vast potential of 5G is a major game changer, but harnessing and directing opportunity to create an ‘intelligent’ and more intuitive commercial response for customers will be the real game changer for business.

Barclays seeks (again) to improve customer experience
Barclays is leading the way again in banking technology by seeking to deliver a more personal form of assistance to its customers.  Barclays Beacon service called ‘Barclays Access’ is being trialled in Sheffied and will work through an iPhone app.  iBeacon which uses Bluetooth to detect when a person using the app enters the branch will trap personal details, information on their requirements, plus the option of a photo, to assist with speedy ID on arrival.  An iPad at the front desk picks up the alert.  All of these touch points can then alert bank staff to react promptly, discretely and courteously when a customer with an assistance need arrives at the branch to improve the overall customer experience.

Previously, Barclays pioneered customer banking transfers using only a mobile number, plus enabling some businesses to swap PINs, passwords and authentication codes for fingerprint scanners.  Technological advances have not by themselves caused massive behavioural changes to get customers to switch or stay loyal, but a combination of technology and personal intervention with insight creates a whole new level of customer care.

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This week’s technology news – 29th August 2014

Progress with IoT – But Security Concerns Still Dominate Public Opinion
The likelihood of The Internet of Things (IoT) becoming a reality, seems to be gathering pace and fast if public opinion is anything to go by.  According to a recent global report “Internet of Things: Connected Home,” 1,800 20-50 year old tech savvy consumers across 11 countries (including US, Australia, China, Germany, India, and the UK) were polled.  61% thought IoT, in which seamless connections between appliances and electronics are connected to the internet could happen, was “extremely likely” to happen in next five years (with 84% conclusion in China).

The IoT market is expected to grow to US$7.1 trillion over the next six years.  Is it all good news, well no.  Not surprisingly, the greatest concern was the risk of sensitive data being exposed as a result of IoT.

70% of those surveyed said they were either “extremely concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the risk of data breaches or personal information being compromised.

60% stated that “privacy is important to me and I do not trust how this type of data may be used”.

67% of those in the US advised that if personal data was accessed without their knowledge or consent, they would “feel violated and extremely angry to the point where (they) would take action”.  The majority of those surveyed suggested that their government should regulate how data is collected and what vendors are allowed to do and not do with the collected data.

The risk of losing public trust by not having well through through security and governance protocols in place from the start is too great for governments and network administrators to ignore.
In the UK, the Government has invested a further £1.6m on wireless project HyperCat, a thin interoperability layer which allows devices using different communication platforms to exchange data.  This is part of a £6.4 million package of public funding into IoT. The Government’s contribution to this non-profit making project provides a degree of independent assurance and secure interoperability.  Whilst Qualcomm, Microsoft, Cisco, HTC and Symantec are behind a similar “AllSeen Alliance” and Apple creates its own proprietary IoT standard called “HomeKit”, in the UK, 40+ technology companies including ARM, BT and KPMG are investing £45 million in the hope that their synchronised wireless communication standards version will become the globally accepted international standard, published through the British Standards Institute (BSI).

With the spec for Hypercat due to be published in 2015, for organisations everywhere, the advice is to treat IoT with care and fully consider the value of any data gathered and the potential impact of any breach.  As the volume of data in circulation increases and its storage and mining carries ever greater personal and commercial significance, the way in which business handles corporate responsibility and public may determine loyalty and their bottom line.

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The good and evil of 3D printing

Since the development of 3D printing technology, there have been a myriad of different uses coming to market. Two have recently been brought into public focus this week – and they could not be more polar opposites.

The first (good use) is a 3D printed vertebra which has been successfully implanted in a 12 year-old boy with cancer in his spinal cord. The benefits of 3D printing the required part is that it could be specifically designed to match the child’s original vertebra.  The design also includes small holes that let the natural bone grow inside. This makes the 3D printed vertebra a permanent part of the spine which will not need adjustment in the future as the child grows.

On the negative side, like the 3D printed gun before it, not all uses of 3D printing technology we are destined to see will be for the good.   A new “bump key” has been invented using the technology.  A combination of locksmith know-how and 3D printing equipment has resulted in locks you can open without having the original key.   Happily, it is never as simple as it sounds.   First a photo of the lock itself has to be taken to assist in the printing of the “bump key”.  Then with the bump key in the lock it has to be hit with a special mallet at several points of the key turn.   If done correctly, the mechanism will unlock without damage to the lock itself.

As 3D printing equipment costs fall, ever more uses for the printing technology will be discovered. It has the potential to be a disruptive technology and so markets, law enforcers and regulators will need to keep an eye on developments in order to safeguard or counter its good use.

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Shocking jailbreak for prison data
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has been fined £180,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for “serious failings” following the loss of a hard drive containing confidential details of 3,000 prisoners at Erlestoke Prison in Wiltshire in 2013.  The data included information on organised crime, prisoners’ health and drug misuse, along with details about offenders’ victims and visitors.  Central to the severity of the breach was the fact that the disk had not been encrypted.

When a similar incident took place back in 2011, this triggered the issue of new back-up drives across the Prison Service which could be encrypted. However, the upgraded process was flawed from the start, as The Prison Service failed to provide instructions to employees to activate the encryption option which had to be done manually.

The ICO’s Head of Enforcement, Stephen Eckersley did not mince words in his damning report:   “The fact that a government department with security oversight for prisons can supply equipment to 75 prisons throughout England and Wales without properly understanding, let alone telling them how to use it, beggars belief”.  The sensitive information for prisoners, the public and victims remained insecure for over a year.  A spokeswoman for the MOJ advised that this had now been replaced with a secure centralised system.

The lesson for organisations to take from this shocker is simple, to have technology is one thing, to understand and implement the relevant security measures to safeguard the data is the fundamental partner in the equation for good gatekeeping and providing a safe pair of hands.


Questionable use of results from data collection of wearables

Wearables are out in the wild collecting metrics of user’s daily lives where users can see and track their own data. However, it can be tricky to visualise this without example of what the benefit of all this information has on a larger scale.

Jawbone, producers of some wearable fitness technology, published a report showing some live trends which arose following an earthquake this week in South Napa, San Francisco.   People wearing the devices in the vicinity were monitored and the results recorded those who awoke when it struck at 3.20am local time and who got up (90%). This is against those who carried on sleeping, having been located further away from the quake’s epicentre.

This on its own is interesting, but not remarkable.  However, Jawbone’s publication of its data findings from region to region, flags up the notable concern that how personal data is to be used can often be hidden in the small print of terms of conditions. Whilst data is frequently used anonymously, as wearables become more adopted – and especially when being infused with existing technology such as smart phones, this type of data collection will need to become a lot more transparent to prevent consumer backlash.

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The Internet of Things – what’s in store for IT employees in 2014?

What of IoT automating our lives? Firstly, the IoT creates layers of digital connectivity on top of existing infrastructure and objects (ie. the intelligent fridge) so machine can talk to machine – and why Google has just paid $3.2 bn for thermostat startup Nest. Secondly, there is Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID) (tiny traceable chips which can be scanned wirelessly, produced in their billions and capable of being connected to the internet). Together, the impact of IoT is however far wider reaching and starting to impact beyond mere consumer modifications.  Recent US research confirms a pattern that innovation and profitability is continuing to drive IT leaders. This search for cost savings will lead to demands for a more adaptable and flexible workforce as outsourcing increases.  With MSPs able to automate their services and offer increasingly more sophisticated monitoring to customers, the trend for downsizing in the industry looks set to continue.  Not a popular prediction, but neither something either that enterprise CIOs can afford to ignore.