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CIO must go beyond IT

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As the business world changes to suit a new era of connected customers, the role of the Chief Information Officer has changed. PATRICK SHIELDS of Software AG explains that the challenge for CIOs today is to be able to extend their area of influence outside of just running IT processes.

In South Africa specifically, business decision makers are taking a serious look at the impact of digital on their organisations.

Patrick Shields, Chief Technology Officer Africa at Software AG explains that the challenge for CIOs today is to be able to extend their area of influence outside of just running IT processes and maintenance in a business, and shift their focus to incorporate the overseeing of innovation. “This doesn’t mean that the CIO’s original responsibilities are negated – making technology decisions and overseeing the administrative IT duties to ensure the effectiveness and efficiencies of IT infrastructure – the CIO now needs to also take on a leading role within the business to bring it into the digital era.” IT research and advisory,Gartner shows that this trend will continue to gain pace, indicating a fundamental shift in how businesses operate, and what part of the process a CIO role should fill.

However guiding a business into the digital era does not mean simply digitising processes. “Technology and the right tools can be used to transform a business, and even dictate the future of a company. From both a global and local perspective, there has been a fundamental shift in how businesses today need to operate to remain competitive.”

Software AG’s Digital Business Platform, the first one worldwide, allows companies to incorporate new digital capabilities, while seamlessly integrating with current operations, which will avoid disruption of the existing investment and backlog of any kind.

“This allows for the continued use of existing systems and infrastructure, which companies have already invested heavily in, as well as the capability to analyse these platforms, and strategise ways to enhance and extend them – while at the same time embracing new capabilities. Using the Digital Business Platform, these various systems are linked through a customisable integration layer which connects new and existing systems to a central point of monitoring and management.” This system is agile and operational in real time, allowing CIOs to quickly automate and manage certain business processes, implement new processes, extract valuable data insights and gain real-time operational visibility through simple, practical dashboards.

“A CIO who is able to focus on the two different development aspects of a business – both the business side and the innovation side – will be able to effectively ensure that a business is bi-modal,” says Shields. “This phrase, coined by Gartner, means that a business has both the rigor, uniformity and discipline required for efficient development and maintenance of core IT systems, as well as the quicker, more agile and adaptable capabilities required for innovation.”

Shields explains that to effectively implement these two elements at the same time, it is crucial for CIOs to organise their teams to manage these aspects in a well-balanced way. “The CIO’s organisational model will need to be designed to work for that specific company’s needs. For example, when it comes to suppliers and partners, some may settle on one or two primary vendors, while others may decide that a multi-sourcing approach – with a broader mix of vendors based on the application needs, will be the best solution. At the same time, some IT elements of a business may be run on premises, and some through the cloud. Some businesses require a CIO to oversee both elements of the business’ IT needs, while other split these roles between the CIO and, for example, a Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Digital Officer. These complexities, while challenging, also provide a lot more opportunity for a CIO to provide tangible value to the business.”

“When it comes to embracing new technologies and capabilities, in South Africa – as in any environment – you have early adopters, fast followers, and the slow to adopt,” Shields says. “These challenges are not unique to South Africa, however, challenges such as the availability of infrastructure and the required skills are major concerns. For this reason, it is critical to select vendors who are able to provide strong and capable support, as well as reliable strategic planning tools.” Shields goes on to say that the more complex the IT and business environment gets, the more businesses need suppliers to really partner with them – working together towards mutual success.

While the role of the CIO is far more complex today than ever before, the swiftly changing business environment means the role is also up for definition – an acute opportunity for CIOs to solidify their value. “It is crucial to understand how the CIO role can support the business mission – rather than just managing IT – playing a critical part in the business’ success,” he concludes.

* Patrick Shields, Chief Technology Officer Africa at Software AG.

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Wannacry still alive

One and a half years after its epidemic, WannaCry ransomware tops the list of the most widespread cryptor families and the ransomware has attacked 74,621 unique users worldwide.

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These attacks accounted for 28.72% of all users targeted by cryptors in Q3 2018. The percentage has risen over the last year, demonstrating more than two thirds growth against Q3 2017, when its share in cryptor attacks was 16.78%. This is just one of the main findings from Kaspersky Lab’s Q3 IT threat evolution report. 

A series of cyberattacks with WannaCry cryptor occurred in May 2017 and is still considered to be one of the biggest ransomware epidemics in history. Even though Windows released a patch for its operating system to close the vulnerability exploited by EternalBlue 2 months prior to the start of the attacks, WannaCry still affected hundreds of thousands devices around the globe. As cryptors do, WannaCry turned files on victims’ computers into encrypted data and demanded ransom for decryption keys (created by threat actors to decipher the files and transform them back into the original data) making it impossible to operate the infected device.

The consequences of the WannaCry epidemic were devastating: as the victims were mainly organisations with networked systems – the work of businesses, factories and hospitals was paralysed. Even though this case demonstrated the dangers cryptors pose, and most of PCs around the world have been updated to resist the EternalBlue exploit, the statistics show that criminals still try to exploit those computers that weren’t patched and there are still plenty of them around the globe.

Overall, Kaspersky Lab security solution protected 259,867 unique users from cryptors attacks, showing a substantial rise of 39% since Q2 2018, when the figure was 158,921. The growth was rapid yet steady, with a monthly observed increase in the number of users.

The rising share of WannaCry attacks is another reminder that epidemics don’t end as fast as they start – there are always long-running consequences. In the case of cryptors, attacks can be so severe that it is necessary to take preventive measures and patch the device, rather than deal with encrypted files later,” said Fedor Sinitsyn, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

 To reduce the risk of infection by WannaCry and other cryptors, users are advised to:

  • Always update your operating system to eliminate recent vulnerabilities and use a robust security solution with updated databases. It is also important to use the security solution that has specialised technologies to protect your data from ransomware, as Kaspersky Lab’s solutions do. Even if the newest yet unknown malware does manage to sneak through, Kaspersky Lab’s System Watcher technology is able to block and roll back all malicious changes made on a device, including the encryption of files.
  • If you have bad luck and all your files are encrypted with cryptomalware, it is not recommended to pay cybercriminals, as it encourages them to continue their dirty business and infect more people’s devices. It is better to find a decryptor on the Internet – some of them are available for free here: https://noransom.kaspersky.com/

·         It is also important to always have fresh backup copies of your files to be able to replace them in case they are lost (e.g. due to malware or a broken device), and store them not only on the physical object but also in cloud storage for greater reliability (don’t forget to protect your cloud storage with strong hack-proof password!)

·         If you’re a business, enhance your preferred third-party security solution with the newest version of the free Kaspersky Anti-Ransomware Tool.

·         To protect the corporate environment, educate your employees and IT teams, keep sensitive data separate, restrict access, and always back up everything.

·         Use a dedicated security solution, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business that is powered by behaviour detection and able to roll back malicious actions. It should also include Vulnerability and Patch management features that automatically eliminates vulnerabilities and installs updates. This reduces the risk of vulnerabilities in popular software being used by cybercriminals.

·         Last, but not least, remember that ransomware is a criminal offence. You shouldn’t pay. If you become a victim, report it to your local law enforcement agency.

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Nokia 6.1 gets slice of Pie

HMD Global has announced that the Nokia 6.1 will start receiving Android 9 Pie – the second smartphone in the portfolio to receive the latest version of Android less than a month after the update arrived on the Nokia 7 plus.

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Packed with Google’s newest software and building on the features of Android 8.0 Oreo, Android 9 Pie’s focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning gives owners a more customised and tailored experience.

Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 Mobile Platform, the Nokia 6.1 is over 60% faster than its predecessor. Also, now offering enhanced Dual-Sight, ZEISS optics, USB-C fast-charging, Nokia spatial audio and pure, secure and up-to-date Android Oreo.

The Nokia 6.1 has been selected by Google to join the Android One family and therefore users get exclusive access to Apps Actions – a feature only available to Android One and Google Pixel devices.  App Actions helps users get things done faster by predicting their next move and displaying the right action on right away.

Now with Android 9 Pie, the Nokia 6.1’s already impressive battery life is further complimented with the introduction of Adaptive Battery, an update that uses deep learning to understand usage patterns and prioritise battery power on the most important apps.

Other key features of Android 9

·       Slices – Identifies relevant information on favourite apps to make them more easily accessible when needed

·       Adaptive Brightness – Automatically adapts phone brightness by learning from interactions with different settings

·       New system navigation – Features a single home button that provides intelligent predictions and suggestions (user enabled)

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