Archive for May 2019

Your Latest IT News Update

SurveyMonkey Goes to Ireland

California-based online survey software company SurveyMonkey has opened a datacentre in Dublin with a view to attracting enterprise customers in the EMEA region.

<More>

The World Of Ethical Hackers And Bug Bounties

The fact that big tech companies are willing to pay big bucks in ‘bug bounties’ is one of the main reasons why becoming an ethical hacker / ethical security tester is increasingly attractive to many people with a variety of technical skills.

<More>

Survey Shows Half Of UK Firms Have No Cyber Resilience Plan

A survey commissioned by email security firm Mimecast and conducted by Vanson Bourne has revealed that even after GDPR’s introduction, more than half of UK firms have no Cyber Resilience Plan.

<More>

Google AR Glasses Enterprise Edition For Workers

Six years on from the launch of the first Google glasses, Google has announced the introduction of Google Glass 2 Enterprise Edition, glasses incorporating a wraparound camera and AR and designed to help workers by providing instant hands-free access to key information.

<More>

Microbe Grown Headphones Offer Hope In Fight Against Plastic Waste

Finnish design house Aivan has shown how its ‘Korvaa’ headphones can be made from natural, microbe-grown, biodegradable materials, thereby offering hope in reducing the amount of plastic waste that goes to landfill or litters the natural world.

<More>

Tech Tip – Using Your Windows Clipboard History

You may not have tried it, but if you need to clip up to 10 or more things to your windows clipboard (copy) and come back to them later, the clipboard that’s built-in to Windows 10 allows you to do this quickly and easily.

<More>

SurveyMonkey Goes to Ireland

California-based online survey software company SurveyMonkey has opened a datacentre in Dublin with a view to attracting enterprise customers in the EMEA region.

SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey, which was established in Portland by Ryan and Chris Finley, has more than 750 employees globally and is estimated to have more than 600,000 paying users across more than 300,000 organisational domains.  190 countries and territories use the SurveyMonkey platform which is a cloud-based, online survey tool that is offered for free, or SaaS.

The company now has offices in San Mateo, Portland, Seattle, Dublin, Ottawa, and Sydney.  The Irish office was opened in 2014 and currently has around 50 employees.  SurveyMonkey went public in 2018.

Why A Datacentre In Dublin?

There are several good reasons for the move to Dublin coupled with a focus on wooing EMEA enterprise customers, such as:

  • 16% of SurveyMonkey’s revenue during the first quarter of 2019 came from sales to the enterprise sector.
  • More than one-third of SurveyMonkey’s business revenue comes from outside the US, with the majority in Europe.
  • There is a huge opportunity for growth that’s offered by companies where SurveyMonkey has been adopted (as the free version) through back-door ‘shadow IT’, and where those enterprises can be encouraged to legitimately adopt the use of the software as company-wide deployments by being reassured that the data they collect is stored in a European data centre (Dublin). This has been termed a ‘land and expand’ strategy.
  • Dublin is ranked as one of the best places to work in Ireland and offers many benefits to tech companies and start-ups.

Phased Approach

SurveyMonkey’s strategy, of which the Dublin datacentre is a part, is a phased one with the first phase being to acquire new customers, and phase two focusing on migrating customers who already have a lot of data stored in their SurveyMonkey accounts.

In addition to expanding across Europe, SurveyMonkey will also be looking at making customers aware of the other services that it offers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

SurveyMonkey knows that the Europe /  EMEA region already delivers plenty of revenue and that there’s a great opportunity to expand further. Placing a datacentre in Europe may be very attractive to (and reduce risk for) enterprise customers who must be very careful about where their data is stored (refer GDPR) and who always want to reduce complexity about data storage.

This story also shows how the ‘shadow IT’ use of software has provided a way in and can be part of a successful strategy for growth and expansion.

The World Of Ethical Hackers And Bug Bounties

The fact that big tech companies are willing to pay big bucks in ‘bug bounties’ is one of the main reasons why becoming an ethical hacker / ethical security tester is increasingly attractive to many people with a variety of technical skills.

What Is An Ethical Hacker?

An ethical hacker / white hat hacker/ ethical security tester is someone who is employed by an organisation and given permission by that organisation to penetrate their computer system, network or computing resource in order to find (and fix) security vulnerabilities before real hackers have the opportunity use those vulnerabilities as a way in.

Certified

In the US, for example, a person can obtain a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) qualification by using the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker, but in a lawful and legitimate manner to assess the security posture of a system.  CEH exams test a candidate’s skills in applying techniques and using penetration (‘pen’) testing tools to compromise various simulated systems within a virtual environment.

Who?

Ethical hackers can find work, for example, with organisations that run bug bounty programmes on behalf of companies e.g. Hacker One, Bug Crowd, Synack, or they can choose to work freelance.

What Are Bug Bounties?

Bug bounties are monetary rewards offered to those who have identified errors or vulnerabilities in a computer program or system. Companies like HackerOne, for example, offer guidance as to the amounts to set as bug bounties e.g. anywhere from $150 to $1000 for low severity vulnerabilities, and anywhere from $2000 to $10,000 for critical severity vulnerabilities.

Examples of bug bounties include:

  • The ‘Hack The Pentagon’ three-year initiative run by HackerOne which has so far (since 2016) paid $75,000 to those who have found software vulnerabilities in the Defence Department’s public facing websites.
  • Google’s ongoing VRB program which offers varying rewards ranging from $100 to $31,337 depending on the type of vulnerabilities found.
  • Facebook’s Whitehat program, running since 2011, and offering a minimum reward of $500 with over $1 million paid out so far. The largest single reward is reported to be $20,000.

Motivation

Money is often not the only motivation for those involved in ethical hacking.  Many are interested in the challenge of solving the problems, getting into the industry, and getting recognition from their peers.

Training

The UK has a tech skills shortage, but some schemes do exist to help the next generation of cyber-security experts gain their knowledge and skills.  One example is the UK’s Cyber Discovery scheme which had more than 25,000 school children take part in its first year.  The scheme turns finding security loopholes into engaging games while getting children familiar with the tools that many cyber-pros use.  Top performers can then attend residential courses to help them hone their skills further.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Ethical hackers play an important penetration testing role in ensuring that systems and networks are as secure as possible against the known methods employed by real hackers. It is not uncommon, particularly for large companies that are popular hacking targets, to offer ongoing bug bounty programs as a way to keep testing for vulnerabilities and the rewards paid to the ethical hackers are well worth it when you consider the damage that is done to companies and their customers when a breach takes place.

Running government programs such as Cyber Discovery could, therefore, be an important way to encourage, spot, and help develop a home-grown army of cyber-security professionals which is a win/win for companies wanting to improve their security, individuals looking for careers in the cyber-security and tech industries, and filling a skills gap in the UK.

Survey Shows Half OF UK Firms Have No Cyber Resilience Plan

A survey commissioned by email security firm Mimecast and conducted by Vanson Bourne has revealed that even after GDPR’s introduction, more than half of UK firms have no Cyber Resilience Plan.

What Is A Cyber Resilience Plan?

An organisation’s cyber resilience is its ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from cyber-attacks, and a Cyber Resilience Plan details how an organisation intends to do this.  Most organisations now accept that the evolving nature of cyber-crime means that it’s no longer a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’ they will suffer a cyber-attack.  It is with this perspective in mind that a strategy should be developed to minimise the impact of any cyber-attack (financial, brand and reputational), meet legal and regulatory requirements (NIS and GDPR), improve the organisation’s culture and processes, protect customers and stakeholders, and enable the organisation to survive beyond an attack and its fallout.

More Than Half Without

Mimecast’s survey shows that even though 51% of IT decision-makers polled in the UK say they believe it is likely or inevitable they’ll suffer a negative business impact from an email-borne cyber-attack in the next 12 months, 52% still don’t have a cyber resilience plan in place.

Email Focus

Email is a critical part of the infrastructure of most organisations and yet it is the most common point of attack. It is with this in mind that the Mimecast survey has focused on the challenges that managing the security aspects of email present in terms of cyber resilience and in achieving compliance with GDPR.

E-Mail Archiving

One potential weakness that the survey revealed is that only 37% of UK IT decision-makers said that email archiving and e-discovery are included in their organisation’s cyber resilience strategy.  When you consider that email contains a great deal of personal and sensitive company data, it’s protection should really be at the core of any cyber resilience strategy.

Also, for example, in relation to GDPR, not having powerful archiving systems to enable emails to be found and deleted quickly upon a user’s request could pose a compliance challenge.

Human Error

Human error in terms of not being able to spot or know how to deal with suspicious emails is a common weakness that is exploited by cyber-criminals.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If the results of this survey reflect a true picture of what’s happening in many businesses, then it indicates that cyber resilience urgently needs to be given greater priority, particularly since it is now a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ a cyber attack will occur.  Also, the risks of not addressing the situation could be huge in terms of risks to customers and stakeholders and the survival of the business itself, particularly with the huge potential fines with GDPR for breaches.

E-mail, and particularly email archiving (what’s stored, where and how well and quickly it can be searched) poses a serious challenge. Businesses should reassess whether their email archiving strategy is effective and safe enough and security should go beyond archive encryption to guard against impersonation attacks and malicious links.

Bearing in mind the role that human error so regularly plays in enabling attacks via email, education and training in this area alongside having clearly communicated company policy and best practice in managing email safely should form an important part of a company’s cyber resilience

Google AR Glasses Enterprise Edition For Workers

Six years on from the launch of the first Google glasses, Google has announced the introduction of Google Glass 2 Enterprise Edition, glasses incorporating a wraparound camera and AR and designed to help workers by providing instant hands-free access to key information.

Improved

Following on from the original introduction of Google’s ‘Glass’, followed by the last Enterprise Edition back in 2017 which suffered from poor take-up due to an apparent lack of applications, Glass 2 Enterprise Edition is an upgraded version with a clearer target market, and a marketplace more educated to its benefits.

Who?

Google’s shorthand definition of its target market for Google 2 is those working in manufacturing, field service and healthcare, primarily because it has development experience, success stories, and easy to transmit benefits in these areas.  For example, Google has worked with several partners in the marketplace to develop Glass 2 and to help hone the glasses and give them maximum value in Enterprise settings in the target markets and beyond.  For example, Google has worked with partners including AGCO, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Sutter Health, and H.B. Fuller.

What and How?

Glass 2 is essentially a hands-free, wearable device for “smarter and faster” hands-on work that provides the information that an employee needs in the periphery of their line of sight.  This means that workers, all of whom have limited time and resources, only one pair of hands, and need to be in one particular place to complete their work can get immediate, safe access to expert advice around the world.

In this way, Google Glass can:

  • Help improve efficiency and client relationships e.g. health care professionals don’t have to spend as much time in front of a computer screen and can spend more time in front of their patients. For example, the technology reportedly saves (on average) two hours of doctors’ time per day.
  • Help reduce processing and training time e.g. in manufacturing and field servicing.  For example, DHL is reported to have seen a 15% jump in operational efficiency in item picking because employees can use Google Glass (2) to receive real-time item picking instructions while on the warehouse floor.

Upgrades

The upgrades in Glass 2 compared to the last Enterprise Edition include:

  • A more powerful multicore CPU (central processing unit) and a new artificial intelligence engine to improve performance and support for vision.
  • Glass-compatible safety frames to help in different types of demanding work environments.
  • Improved camera performance and quality.
  • The inclusion of an SB-C port that supports faster charging and increased overall battery life.
  • The fact that it’s built on Android, so it’s easier to deploy, develop and improve.

Price

The price tag for Glass 2 is reported to be $999.

Criticism

Google’s Glass products have suffered criticism in the past over concerns about privacy, functionality and safety e.g. possibly reducing peripheral vision while driving.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Wearables and AR are both finding many value-adding real-world applications in multiple industries, and with Google’s Glass 2 being a combination of the two it has the huge potential that it always had, but this time with some technical improvements, a clearer marketing focus, and some real business world success stories to help back it up and provide the social proof and ROI information that businesses may be looking for.  The high price tag could, therefore, be offset by the potential efficiency savings, and added employee and customer benefits that could result from enterprise adoption of Glass 2.

Microbe Grown Headphones Offer Hope In Fight Against Plastic Waste

Finnish design house Aivan has shown how its ‘Korvaa’ headphones can be made from natural, microbe-grown, biodegradable materials, thereby offering hope in reducing the amount of plastic waste that goes to landfill or litters the natural world.

Natural Prototype

Although the headphones don’t actually work, the concept that has been created shows how a mixture of fungus, bioplastics, and other natural materials could provide an eco-friendly and equally as functional replacement for the kinds of non-biodegradable toxic plastics and materials that in a throwaway society would end up polluting the environment long into the future.

Design house Avia worked with scientists from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Aalto University, to show how a three-dimensional object that’s familiar to consumers and contains a variety of materials could be made from natural and biodegradable materials.

Made of What?

Aivan’s concept for headphones shows how the main structure for the crown and cup shell can be made from a 3D-printed bioplastic that is a by-product of yeast processing lactic acid.

The padded earpieces can be made from the ‘hydrophobi’ protein which acts like foam because it has bubbles produced by a fungus and reinforced with plant cellulose. The padding can be covered with a fungus-derived mycelium that provides an alternative leathery and flexible material.  A mesh, made from synthetic spider silk can then be placed over the top of the speakers in the headphones

Synthetic Biology

The Korvaa prototype headphones, which took 6 months to develop and used materials which had to be grown rather than simply made in a chemical process are an example of synthetic biology/synbio which is a technology and discipline that fuses engineering with biology to fabricate materials, produce energy and treat illness.

On Display

The Korvaa team’s headphones will be displayed at Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale 2019 (19 May to 19 September), and at Helsinki Design Week 2019 from 5-15 September 2019.

Others

There are companies already marketing eco-friendlier and more sustainable tech and music hardware products such as House of Marley speakers made from natural materials (alongside recycled metals and plastic), as well as ‘LSTN’ and ‘Thinksound’, both of which use wood in their headphones.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Even though the Korvaa headphones don’t work, they do show how microbially grown materials can have a real-life, value-adding application in terms of providing the same functionality as plastic counterparts, but without the long-term environmental risk.  Also, with more research and development, these types of new materials with improved properties could replace plastics in the future, thereby helping to tackle a major environmental issue.  This may of course take time, and there are likely to be cost and other implications for producing goods of this kind.  Nevertheless, it is likely that today’s consumer will find biodegradable goods of this kind an attractive option if they provide equivalent benefits and performance to the existing options, at a price that isn’t prohibitive.

Tech Tip – Using Your Windows Clipboard History

You may not have tried it, but if you need to clip up to 10 or more things to your windows clipboard (copy) and come back to them later, the clipboard that’s built-in to Windows 10 allows you to do this quickly and easily.

Here’s how to get the most out of the clipboard:

In the first instance, hit the Windows key + v.  This will give you the option to turn the clipboard function on.

Once turned on, hit Windows key + v.  You’ll be shown a list of the items currently on your clipboard e.g. text segments you’ve copied. Click on an item to paste it into your current page.

The icons (top right) also give you the option to delete or pin clipboard items i.e. keep them when you clear your clipboard history or when restart your PC.

In Settings, you can also choose to turn the feature off or choose to sync your clipboard across your other Windows devices so your desktop and laptop can share a clipboard history.

Your Latest IT News Update

Trust Challenge For Online Sharing Services

The Global Trust Survey from service provider Jumio has revealed that a quarter of adults feel unsafe using online sharing services.

<More>

Low Launch Share Price For Uber

Uber made its trading debut at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) recently, but the opening share price was much lower than had been expected at only $45 per share.

<More>

Serious Security Flaws Discovered In Popular GPS Tracker

Researchers at UK cyber-security company, Fidus Information Security, say that they have found security flaws in a popular Chinese-manufactured white-label location tracker that could be serious enough to warrant a recall.

<More>

Old Routers Are Targets For Hackers

Internet security experts are warning that old routers are targets for cyber-criminals who find them an easy hacking option.

<More>

Could Biometric Regulations Be On The Way Soon?

A written parliamentary question from MP Luciana Berger about the possibility of bringing forward legislation to regulate the use of facial recognition technology has led the Home Office to hint that the legislation (and more) may be on the way soon.

<More>

Tech Tip – Lightbeam Screen-Sharing App

If you’d like an app that enables you to easily share mobile screens with a friend or colleague, for work or leisure, Lightbeam is a new, free, cross-platform app which does just that.

<More>

Trust Challenge For Online Sharing Services

The Global Trust Survey from service provider Jumio has revealed that a quarter of adults feel unsafe using online sharing services.

What Are Online Sharing Services?

Online sharing services refers to companies like Uber and Airbnb where multiple users can use technology to book and consume a shared offering (car and room sharing), and where those offering the service can increase the utilisation of an asset – both parties get value from the exchange. The so-called “sharing economy” also includes services such as crowdfunding, personal services, and video and audio streaming.

The Sharing Economy

The sharing economy is expected to grow to a massive $335 billion by 2020. For example, in just 11 years, Airbnb has grown from nothing to becoming a $30bn firm listing more than six million rooms, flats and houses in more than 81,000 cities across the globe. Figures show that, on average, two million people use an Airbnb property each night.

Trust Challenge Revealed

Jumio’s Global Trust Survey showed that even though online sharing services are growing, and have been with us for some time now, in the 30 days prior to the survey taking place, over 80% of UK adults said that they hadn’t used an online sharing service, and 25% of UK adults said that they felt “somewhat unsafe” or “not at all safe” when using online sharing services.

A key element in making shared services successful is trust, and recent global from PwC confirmed this where 89% of consumers agreed that the sharing economy marketplace is based on trust between providers and users.

Identity Verification Vital

One area uncovered by the Global Trust and Safety Survey which appears to be a challenge for shared services is proving and verifying identity.  For example, the survey found that 60% of users believe it is either ‘somewhat important’ or ‘very important’ for new users to undergo an identity check to prove that they are who they claim to be.

This is the reason why companies such as Lyft are rolling out continuous background checks and enhanced identity verification, and why Uber is updating its app to give an alert to riders to check the license plate, make, and model of the vehicle, and to confirm the name and picture of the driver.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Trust is something that takes a long time for a business to build, and it is a vital element in the success of shared services such as those where considerable risk (financial and, critically, personal risk) is involved. Trust is also something that can be very easily lost, sometimes in an instant or through one high profile incident involving that service e.g. the recent murder in the US of a student by a man posing as an Uber driver.

The results of the Global Trust Survey help to remind businesses that offer shared services that consumers need and want a layer of safety to help them feel comfortable in trying and using those services.  Companies can, therefore, help create an ecosystem of trust through the process of identity verification.

Low Launch Share Price For Uber

Uber made its trading debut at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) last week, but the opening share price was much lower than had been expected at only $45 per share.

$45 Per Share

Ride-hailing (and now scooter and bike hire) company Uber had raised $28.5 billion as a private company from 166 different backers and was last valued at a still very impressive $75 billion. Even though banks and analysts had hinted at a projected figure of $120 billion that Uber looked set to raise in its public share offering, the actual figure turned out to be considerably less – a final valuation of $82.4 billion, selling 180 million shares at $45/share.

Nevertheless, this figure still marks Uber, the dominant player in the market for on-demand transportation, as one of the most valuable tech firms.

Vast

Uber is reported as having 93 million active platform consumers (that’s up from 70 million only a year ago), making 17 million trips per day across 700 cities on six continents.

Co-Founder Not On The Balcony at Stock Exchange

At the event, where the NYSE bell was rung while key members of Uber stood on the balcony, the co-founder of Uber did not join the public display (although he did attend the event).  Travis Kalanick had to step down from Uber (even though the billionaire still sits on the board with an 8.6% stake) over controversies about business practices.  This followed a four-month investigation, with 20 sackings, culminating in Kalanick stepping down.

Competitors

Even though Uber is the dominant company in its field it is now not without competitors.  For example, Lyft, Gett, Heetch, MyTaxi, and Bolt are all now gaining in popularity.  In fact, the biggest competitor Lyft, which has a similar business model to Uber, is currently trading at $55 which is below its debut of $78.29 on March 29.

Woes

Even though the event at NYSE was supposed to be a triumphant and positive one, some of Uber’s high-profile woes surfaced outside in the form of protests about the alleged treatment of drivers and the impact on cities by Uber. In recent times, Uber has been the subject of driver protests, lawsuits, questions about business practices, and the need to pay attention to regulatory pressures.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Uber’s rise to this moment appears to have been meteoric and huge, although investment commentators have noted that going on the pure metric of profit and loss, Uber has been posting losses e.g. a loss of some $1 billion in the last quarter on revenues of $3 billion-$3.1 billion.  Uber has faced a lot of controversies, and now has some strong competition, and all of these factors have perhaps been reflected in the lower than expected value per share.

Some market analysts are still concerned about how Uber can turn things around and how patient investors are likely to be although leadership under the current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, looks promising.