Archive for IT Infrastructure

‘Moore’s Law’ and Business Innovation Challenged By Slow-Down In Rate of Processing Power Growth

Many tech commentators have noted a stagnation or slow-down period in computing related to ‘Moore’s Law’ being challenged, but has the shrinking of transistors within computer chips really hit a wall and what could drive innovation further?

What Is Moore’s Law?

Moore’s Law, named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, is based on his observation from 1965 that transistors were shrinking so quickly that twice as many would be able to fit into a micro-chip every year, which he later amended to a doubling every two years.  In essence, this Law should mean that processing power for computers doubles every two years.

The Challenge

The challenge to this Law that many tech commentators have noted is that technology companies may be reaching their limit in terms of fitting ever-smaller silicon transistors into ever-smaller spaces, thereby leading to a general slowing of the growth of processing power.  The knock-on effect of this appears slowing of computer innovation that some say could have a detrimental effect on new, growing industry sectors such as self-driving cars.

What’s Been Happening?

Big computer chip manufacturers like Intel have delayed the next generation of smaller transistor technology and increased the time between introducing the future generations of their chips. Back in 2016 for example, Intel found that it could shrink chips to as little as 14 nanometres, but 10 nanometres is going to be a challenge that would take longer to achieve.

The effect has not only been a challenge to Moore’s Law, and a challenge to how the big tech companies can keep improving their data centres, but also how computers are able to work for (and keep up with) the demands of business.

Mobile devices, which use chips other than Intel’s may also have the brakes put on them slightly as they now also rely, to a large extent, on the data-centres to run the apps that their users value.

What About Supercomputers?

Some experts have also noted that the rate of improvement of supercomputers has been slowing in recent years and this may have had a negative impact on the research programs that use them.

That said, the cloud means that IBM is now able to offer quantum computing to tens of thousands of users, thereby empowering what it calls “an emerging quantum community of educators, researchers, and software developers that share a passion for revolutionising computing”.  It is doing this by opening a Quantum Computation Centre in New York which will bring the world’s largest fleet of quantum computing systems online, including the new 53-Qubit Quantum System for broad use in the cloud.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Many smaller businesses that are less directly reliant upon the most-up-to-date computers may not be particularly concerned at the present time about the challenge to Moore’s Law,  but all businesses are likely to be indirectly affected as their tech giant suppliers struggle to keep improving the capacity of their data-centres.

Many see AI and machine learning as the gateway to finding innovative solutions to improving computing power, but these also rely on data-centres and other areas of computing that have been challenged by the pressure on Moore’s Law.

A more likely way forward may be that chip designs will need to be improved and highly specialised versions will need to be produced, and Microsoft and Intel have already made a start on this by working on reconfigurable chips.  Also, the big tech companies may need to collaborate on their R &D in order to find the way forward in increasing the rate of improvement of computing power that can ensure that businesses can drive their products, services and innovation forward.

New Law To Advance Fast Broadband Roll-Out Announced

Amendments to the UK’s Electronic Communications Code will give broadband operators compulsory rights to install their apparatus on another person’s property, thereby getting around the problem of landlords not responding to requests for access to blocks of flats and apartments.

The Challenge

The challenge that has prompted the government to seek changes to the current legislation has been a claim by broadband operators that 40% of their requests for access to blocks of flats and apartments have routinely received no response. This has been blamed for slowing down the UK government’s plans to deliver the target of national full-fibre coverage by 2025 and develop the kind of digital infrastructure that could boost growth and boost productivity.

The Law

Prior to 2017, the UK law that applied to relations between landlords and telecoms operators in respect installing and maintaining electronic communications apparatus on land and buildings was the Telecommunications Code in the Telecommunications Act 1984 (amended by the Communications Act 2003). This Telecommunications Code has now been replaced by the new Electronic Communications Code (as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017). The new code means that a broadband operator can now apply for compulsory rights to install apparatus on another person’s property.

It is thought this change to the law will mean that an extra 3,000 (estimated) residential buildings (flats and apartments) per year can now have modern broadband installed.

Rural Challenge

The government still faces a considerable challenge in getting more rural areas connected in order to meet its broadband and mobile network roll-out targets, and there is currently a digital divide between urban and rural areas of the UK.  The government has recently announced, however, that £5bn new funding will be made available to bring gigabit-capable broadband to harder-to-reach, rural parts of the UK as well as a change in planning rules to help the roll-out of 5G.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Now that operators don’t have to wait for responses from landlords, this could make the chance of the government meeting its broadband targets a little more likely and could help boost the economy.

Broadband is an essential service for business and despite this positive change in the law, many UK business owners still know that broadband services in the UK can sometimes be patchy and often expensive, while ‘Which?’ research shows that the UK ranks only 31st in the world for average broadband speeds. Those businesses in rural areas are also finding themselves facing the challenge of a growing digital divide between rural and urban that is adversely affecting their competitiveness.

Even with this change in the law, being able to meet the target of national full-fibre coverage by 2025 is a big ask and it is estimated that the UK may only have 7% full-fibre coverage by 2020.

Windows Virtual Desktop Generally Available Now

Microsoft has announced that its Windows Virtual Desktop is now generally available worldwide on Azure and will include Windows 7 free Extended Security Updates for up to three years.

Windows Virtual Desktop

Windows Virtual Desktop from Microsoft, which was announced last September but has just been made generally available worldwide, is a Cloud-based ‘virtual’ version of Windows that can be accessed by employees from any device from anywhere, provides full multi-session, and is always up to date.  The Virtual Desktop has been designed with modern working practice in mind where not all employees sit in an office, use just one device or work from secure locations.

According to Microsoft, Windows Virtual Desktop is the only virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that can provide simplified management, multi-session Windows 10, optimizations for Office 365 ProPlus, as well as and support for Remote Desktop Services (RDS) environments.

The Virtual Desktop enables Windows desktops and apps to be deployed and scaled on Microsoft’s Azure portal in minutes, and it includes built-in security and compliance features.

Supported Transition to Windows 10

One key sweetener of the new service for those companies facing the end of support for their old Windows 7 deployments is that it offers free extended security updates for the Windows 7 virtual desktop including more support options for previous app versions while users transition to Windows 10.

Migrate

Microsoft is keen to emphasise that its Virtual Desktop can work with your current Remote Desktop Services (RDS), and can therefore easily be migrated on Azure.

Trust

Microsoft is also keen to emphasise that businesses can trust the new Windows Virtual Desktop not least because Microsoft invests more than USD $1 billion annually on cybersecurity research and development, employs 3,500+ security experts, and Azure has more compliance certifications than any other cloud provider.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

With Virtual Desktop, Microsoft is hoping to capitalise on the fact that many businesses have workers in multiple locations with multiple devices who need to have convenient and secure access to a constantly updated version of their desktop.  Microsoft also knows that companies are getting more confident about moving more of their infrastructure to the Cloud, and want a secure, scalable ‘as-as-Service’ offering where they don’t need to worry about having the expertise in-house.

The easy migration aspect of the service and the offer of extended Windows 7 support may be of value to businesses looking to make a leveraged move forward to Windows 10 and may help Microsoft retain valuable business customers.

Report Says Public Cloud May Double In Just Four Years

The new cloud market report from the Synergy Research Group shows that cloud-associated markets, such as the public cloud, are growing at rates ranging from 10% to over 40% and the annual spending on the cloud may double in four years.

IaaS & PaaS Biggest Growth

Synergy’s half-yearly report shows that, across the seven key cloud service and infrastructure market segments, revenues for operator and vendors in the first half of 2019 exceeded $150 billion, which is a rise in growth of 24% from the first half of 2018.

The biggest area of growth in the cloud infrastructure sector was in the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) market segments where there was a massive 44% growth rate.  IaaS is online, virtualised computing resources over the internet, and PaaS is where a provider hosts the hardware and software on its own infrastructure with PaaS products enabling developers to build custom applications online without having to worry about data serving, storage, and management.

The Synergy report also showed growth rates of enterprise SaaS at 27%, UCaaS at 23% and hosted private cloud infrastructure services at 20%.  The report also shows that spending on cloud services is now much greater than spending on supporting data centre infrastructure.

Infrastructure Investments

In the first half of 2019, cloud service provides spent $55 billion on the hardware and software used to build cloud infrastructure (evenly split between public and private clouds).  These infrastructure investments helped cloud service providers to generate over $90 billion in revenues from their cloud infrastructure services (IaaS, PaaS, hosted private cloud services) and enterprise SaaS.

Leaders

The Synergy report shows that the leaders in the IaaS and PaaS segments in the first half of 2019 are Microsoft, Amazon/AWS, Dell EMC, Cisco, HPE and Google.  Back in February, Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) reported a massive 45% growth in the revenue of the fourth quarter, mostly fuelled by big profits in its public cloud arm.

Other big names in that market segment include Salesforce, Adobe, VMware, IBM, Digital Realty, Equinix and Rackspace.

All these big players together account for over half of all cloud-related revenues.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The public cloud is being embraced by businesses as they seek to outsource and ditch traditional capital investment and maintenance problems and costs while reaping the benefits of having the pay-as-you-go scalability, security, and outsourced expertise that allows them to free up more of their own resources.  Cloud service providers are now investing heavily to win large slices of the cloud market with Amazon and Microsoft as market leaders, and as the Synergy report shows, this investment is delivering big revenues and impressive growth rates, particularly in the IaaS and PaaS market segments.

Major Workforce Changes Over The Next Five Years

A new global Forrester Consulting study predicts major changes in their service workforce over the next five years, including replacing call centre and customer service centre staff with automated dispatch notification.

The Study

The “From Grease To Code: What Drives Digital Service Transformation” study, commissioned by cloud-based software for service execution management company ServiceMax, highlights the opinions of 675 digital transformation decision-makers across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, that are undergoing or have completed much of their digital transformation.

The Findings

The report predicts disruptive and major changes to service workforces globally in the next five years as companies make their digital transformation and where actionable intelligence becomes an important factor for competition and growth.

Changes

Predictions of the kinds of key changes that will take place with digital service transformation according to those surveyed for the study include:

  • Within just five years, asset equipment will outlive the working life of the engineers who service them (72 percent of respondents).
  • Technology will completely automate service technician dispatch, thereby replacing call centre and customer service centre staff (62 percent of respondents). This means that as soon as customer service systems identify a fault, the nearest appropriate field technician can be sent the job details directly, thereby cutting out the need for call centre staff.
  • Self-healing equipment and remote monitoring will mean that field service technicians can focus on more complex specialist tasks (85 percent of respondents). This is why just over half of firms are already investing or planning to invest in condition-based maintenance within the next two to three years.

Digital Transformation A Challenge To Many Companies

However, as noted by John Meacock, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Deloitte on the Global Economic forum website, many companies have found reaping the true benefits of digital transformation a real challenge, not least because becoming a digital enterprise requires comprehensive, systemic change and not just a new website or mobile strategy.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The rapidly evolving business environment has put a lot of pressure on businesses to innovate and to prioritise digital transformation in order to compete.  The results of this survey predict big changes in a relatively short period of time, and should alert businesses to the need to look at how they need to change, and ensure that they can incorporate digital solutions to help them deliver the best levels of service to customers i.e. making sure that organisational workforce strategy maps to the service data strategy.

If companies can make a good job of their digital transformation, this may bring them the benefits of being able to use their service data to make better operational decisions around predictive maintenance and customer service, and to extend the working life of capital equipment.  Also, getting to grips with the kind of systemic changes that can lead to a shift to as-a-service delivery models can help businesses to dramatically improve how they schedule, dispatch and maximize the value from their technical service talent.

Predictions of automation at the expense of jobs, and the introduction of AI into more aspects of business do appear to be becoming reality, and organisations need to consider how automation and AI could bring them new strengths and opportunities.

France Says ‘Non’ To Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency

France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire has said that the development of Facebook’s new Libra cryptocurrency will be blocked in Europe unless concerns over risks to consumers and to the monetary systems of countries can be addressed.

Libra – Announced in June

Announced in June this year and due to be launched in 2020, Libra is Facebook’s cryptocurrency which will enable payments to be made by a special phone app and by messaging services such as WhatsApp so that spending the new currency could be as easy and fast as texting.  Management of the currency, units of which can be purchased via Libra’s platforms and stored it in a digital wallet called “Calibra”.

In addition to Facebook, the Association has 27 other members/partners, all of whom will most likely have to accept Libra, including Mastercard, PayPal, eBay, Spotify, Uber, Vodafone, and a variety of charities such as Women’s World Banking.

For Use By The ‘Unbanked’

Facebook has promoted Libra as being targeted mainly at the 1.7 billion adults worldwide who do not have a bank account, and who use services such as payday loans although 1 million plus of these already have a smartphone, thereby enabling them to use the apps through which Libra can be operated.  This “unbanked” segment of the potential market contains mainly people from developing countries, a large proportion of which are women.

Why Does France Object?

In Bruno Le Maire’s speech at the OECD Global Blockchain Policy Forum 2019 he identified several reasons why France would consider blocking Libra in Europe, the main one being that monetary sovereignty of countries may be at stake from a possible privatisation of money e.g. because Facebook is a sole actor (company) with more than 2 billion users on the planet. Mr Le Maire also expressed concern that Libra’s digital credits could facilitate money laundering and terrorism.

Other concerns about Libra’s introduction include:

  • Possible risks to consumers (their personal data) in the light of Facebook’s sharing of user data with Cambridge Analytica.
  • Consumers may turn to cryptocurrencies like Libra during a time of national crisis, which could make it more difficult for governments to stabilise their economies, thereby making matters worse.
  • The need for Libra to meet regulations for consumer protection, money laundering and financing terrorism.
  • Libra uses blockchain, which many banks still consider to be an emerging technology that should be approached with caution.

Highlights The Need To Work Together

According to the head of policy and communications at the Libra Association, the concerns expressed by Bruno Le Maire highlight the need for the project’s backers to work together with regulators to make the implementation of the Libra project safe, transparent and consumer focused.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Facebook, Libra is an opportunity to monetise another of its services, and an opportunity to diversify.  Even though Facebook has promoted Libra as a currency for use by the 1.7 billion people without bank accounts, it is more likely that Libra will gain more users with bank accounts in developed countries more quickly.  Also, some more sceptical commentators have noted that Libra may be less about money and blockchain but more about gathering more information about the identity of clients.

Even though Libra users are not intended to be businesses, if Libra does help the ‘unbanked’ this could have a knock-on effect in helping that segment of society to buy more goods and services, thereby helping businesses and the economy.

Libra looks set to face more scrutiny and attempts to make sure that it meets the regulation of countries that are worried by the possible shift in control from governments and central banks to big business that Libra could bring. This shift in control could have a number of effects on the business environment and the economies of countries if Libra proves to be popular.

Record Levels of Investment in UK AI

A Tech Nation Report has shown that AI investment in the UK reached record levels in the first six months of the year making it the third biggest market in the world for AI investment, just behind the US and China.

Surge

Crunchbase figures show that AI investment in the UK reached £859.29m in just the first six months of this year, compared to £825.85m for the whole of last year.

This latest surge in AI investment marks five years of consecutive growth and a massive six-fold increase between 2014 and 2018.

Also, AI start-ups in the UK raised almost double the amount of those in the rest of Europe combined.

Why The High Investment Levels?

The AI investment growth can be attributed to several factors, not least:

  • A rise in the number of start-ups with 50 or fewer employees.  These account for 89% of the UK’s AI companies.
  • The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) £1bn AI sector deal to put the UK at the forefront of the AI industry, including almost £300m of new private sector investment, as part of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy (announced November 2017).  This initiative was intended to establish partnerships between government and industry in order to increase productivity.

Challenges

Even though the figures show that the investment trend is going in the right direction, UK-based companies hoping to make the most of AI face some clear challenges including:

  • A tech skills shortage and a so-called “brain drain” in the UK and across Europe as top university tech students are tempted to work further afield e.g. in the U.S.  Also, Brexit fears in the UK have deterred some European specialist tech workers from staying.
  • Challenges in scaling up their businesses so that they can become competitive in the global market.

Small Pool

These challenges to the growth of AI companies mean that there is only a relatively small pool of UK AI-focused companies that have been able to make the step to scaling-up and competing on the world stage.  AI companies in other countries such as China, by contrast, tend to have larger workforces e.g. 53% have more than 50 employees.

There is also a relatively small pool of people in the world who can contribute to cutting-edge AI research.

Benefits and Threats of AI

AI offers many benefits to businesses such as cost and time savings (greater productivity and reduction in errors), the ability to make better use of resources (AI handles repetitive jobs and bots handle common questions).

Many people are, however, concerned that the growth in AI will mean a loss of jobs e.g. Gartner figures show that AI could eliminate 1.8 million jobs.  It should also be remembered that AI could create 2.3 million jobs by 2020 (Gartner) and that if the large-scale introduction of AI follows the pattern of temporary job losses followed by recovery and business transformation, the combination of human and artificial intelligence could provide exciting news competitive advantages for businesses.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The investment in AI within the UK is promising for the tech sector, the economy, and for the future of the UK in the global tech market, provided that UK-based AI companies can tackle the challenges of being able to scale-up and successfully find the human tech talent at a time of skills shortages.

AI may cost jobs in the shorter term, but it may also bring new strengths and opportunities to businesses and could transform the way we are able to work for the better.

London Gets 10 Million New Landline Numbers

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced the introduction of 10 million new 0204 landline numbers for London in a move to keep up with a growing demand fuelled by Broadband connections.

Running Out

There are only 500,000 of the 30 million (020)3, (020)7 and (020)8 numbers left to be handed out and Ofcom says that these remaining numbers are being allocated at a rate of 30,000 each week!

Broadband

In addition to the fact that numbers from the existing groups will be used up within the year, the new numbers have been created to help feed demand for fixed-line broadband.

For example, an ISPreview survey from last year showed that only 14.5% of respondents still used a landline phone service for making most of their calls and 67.2% said they’d get rid of it if the service if it wasn’t still needed by ISPs for home broadband.

It is still very difficult in the UK to avoid paying for line rental as part of a broadband service. This is because most broadband connections are ADSL which requires the use of Openreach phone lines to transmit data.

Full fibre broadband, however, does not require a phone line but it is not widely available, and some providers will still ask you to take a landline as part of the package.

Data Usage

Landlines have been used more in recent times for data.  For example, Ofcom figures show that in 2018, the average household used 240GB of data through fixed broadband, compared to 23GB in 2012.

Landline Calls In Decline

Even though landline calls are in decline, Ofcom says that UK customers still spend 44 billion minutes making landline calls every year.

Growth

Allocating new numbers for London is not new.  For example, the 01 code for London, which lasted from 1958 to 1990 was replaced by 071 (inner London) and 081 (outer), which then became 0171 and 0181 five years later.  In 2000 the inner and outer codes for London were replaced by the number 020 for both.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

London is the commercial centre, as well as the capital of the UK and its continuous growth coupled with the advance of communications technology, has necessitated the addition of several different codes over the years.  With the current speed of allocation of the existing number business and households need news codes soon, and the first blocks of ‘(020) 4’ numbers will be allocated to telecoms providers in the autumn, after which the new numbers will be issued to other customers by the end of next year.

One-Third of Major VPNs Owned By Chinese

A recent survey by VPNpro has revealed that almost one-third of the most popular VPN services are secretly owned by Chinese companies that may be subject to weak privacy laws.

VPN

A ‘Virtual Private Network’ (VPN) is used to keep internet activity private, evade censorship / maintain net neutrality and use public Wi-Fi securely e.g. avoid threats such as ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks.  A VPN achieves this by diverting a user’s traffic via a remote server in order to replace their IP address while offering the user a secure, encrypted connection (like a secure tunnel) between the user’s device and the VPN service.

Based In China

The VPNpro research found that the top 97 VPNs are run by only 23 parent companies and that although 6 of these companies are based in China and offer 29 VPN services between them, information on their parent company is often hidden to users.

Metric Labs Research Last Year

The results of the VPNPro research support the findings of an investigation by Metric Labs last year which found that of the top free VPN (Virtual Private Network) apps in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, more than half are run by companies with Chinese ownership.

What’s The Problem?

The worry about VPN services being based in China is that China not only tightly controls access to the Internet from within the country, but has clamped down on VPN services, and many of the free VPN services with links to China, for example, offer little or no privacy protection and no user support.  Weak privacy laws in China, coupled with strong state control could mean that data held by VPN providers could be accessed and could enable governments or other organisations to identify users and their activity online, thereby putting human rights activists, privacy advocates, investigative journalists, whistle-blowers, and anyone criticising the state in danger.  For other users of China-based VPN services, it could also simply mean that they could more easily be subject to a range of privacy and security risks such as having their personal data stolen to be used in other criminal activity or could even be subject to industrial espionage.

China, Russia, Pakistan and other states whose activities are causing concerns to Western governments all appear to be less trusted when it comes to hosting VPN services or redirecting Internet traffic through their countries.  For example, in February this year, US Senators Marco Rubio (Republican) and Ron Wyden (Democrat) asked the Department of Homeland Security to investigate governmental employees’ use of VPNs because of concerns that many VPNs that use foreign servers to redirect traffic through China and Russia could intercept sensitive US data.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The reason for using a VPN is to ensure privacy and security in communications so it’s a little worrying that some of the top VPN services are based in countries that have weaker privacy laws than the UK and are known for strong state control of communications.

Fears about security and privacy of our data and communications have been heightened by reports of Russia’s interference in the last US election and the UK referendum, and by the current poor relations between the Trump administration (which the UK has intelligence links with) and warnings about possible espionage, privacy and security threats from the use of equipment from Chinese communications company Huawei in western communications infrastructure.   Also, in the UK, there is a need by businesses and organisations to remain GDPR compliant, part of which involves ensuring that personal data is stored on servers based in places that can ensure privacy and security.

It appears, therefore, that for businesses and organisations seeking VPN services, some more desk research needs to be done to ensure that those services have all the signs of offering the highest possible levels of security and privacy i.e. opting for a trusted paid-for service that isn’t owned by or a subsidiary of a company in a state that has weak privacy laws.

Criminal Secrets Of The Dark Net Revealed

Recent Surrey University research, ‘Web Of Profit’ commissioned by virtualisation-based security firm Bromium has shown that cyber-criminals are moving to their own invisible Internet on the so-called ‘dark net’ to allow them to communicate and trade beyond the view of the authorities.

What Is The Dark Net?

The dark net describes parts of the Internet which are closed to public view or hidden networks and are associated with the encrypted part of the Internet called the ‘Tor’ network where illicit trading takes place.  The dark net is not accessible to search engines and requires special software installed or network configurations made to access it e.g. Tor, which can be accessed via a customised browser from Vidalia.

Deeper

Infiltration and closing down of some of the dark net marketplaces by the authorities are now believed to have led to cyber-criminals moving to a more secure, invisible part of the dark net in order to continue communicating and trading.

How?

Much of the communication about possible targets and tactics between cyber-criminals now takes place on secure apps, forums and chatrooms.  For example, cyber-criminals communicate using the encrypted app ‘Telegram’ because it offers security, anonymity, and encrypted channels for the sale of prohibited goods.

Diverse Dark Net Marketplace

Posing as customers and getting first-hand information from hackers about the costs a range of cyber-attacks, the researchers were able to obtain shocking details such as:

  • Access to corporate networks is being sold openly, with 60% of the sellers offering access to more than 10 business networks at a time. Prices for remote logins for corporate networks ranged from only £1.50-£24, and targeted attacks on companies were offered at a price of £3,500.
  • Phishing kits are available for as little as $40, as are fake Amazon receipts and invoices for $52.
  • Targeted attacks on individuals can be purchased for $2,000, and even Espionage and insider trading are up for sale from $1,000 to $15,000.

Corporations Targeted

One thing that was very clear from the research is that cyber-criminals are very much focusing on corporations as targets with listings for attacks on enterprises having grown by 20% since 2016. The kinds of things being sold include credentials for accessing business email accounts.

Specific Industries

The research also showed that cyber-criminals are moving away from commodity malware and now prefer to tailor tools such as bespoke versions of malware as a way of targeting specific industries or organisations.  For example, the researchers found that 40% of their attempts to request dark net hacking services targeting companies in the Fortune 500 or FTSE 100 received positive responses from sellers, and that the services on offer even come with service plans for conducting the hack, and price tags ranging from $150 to $10,000, depending on the company to be targeted.

The industries that are most frequently targeted using malware tools that are being traded on the dark net include banking (34%), e-commerce (20%), healthcare (15%) and even education (12%).

Researchers also uncovered evidence that vendors are now acting on behalf of clients to hack organisations, obtain IP and trade secrets and disrupt operations.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The dark net is not new, but some commentators believe that the heavy-handed nature of some of the police work to catch criminals on the dark net is responsible for pushing criminal communication and trading activity further underground into their own invisible areas.  End-to-end encrypted communications tools such as Telegram mean that cyber-criminals can carry on communicating beyond the reach of the authorities.

The research should show businesses that there is now real cause for concern about the sensitive, informed and finely tuned approach that cyber-criminals are taking in their targeting of organisations, right from the biggest companies down to SME’s.  This should be a reminder that cyber-security should be given priority, especially when it comes to defending against phishing campaigns, which are one of the most successful ways that criminals gain access to company networks.

Law enforcement agencies also need to do more now to infiltrate, gather intelligence, and try to deter and stop the use of different forums, channels and other areas of the dark net in order to at least prevent some of the more open trading of hacking services and tools.