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Consumers pass on privacy responsibility

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Consumers put responsibility for protecting their personal data firmly at the hands of the organisations holding their data, according to the 2016 Data Breaches and Customer Loyalty report released by Gemalto. 

According to the 9 000 consumers surveyed in across the world, 70% of the responsibility for protecting and securing customer data lies with companies and only 30% of the responsibility with themselves. Yet, less than a third (29%) of consumers believe companies are taking protection of their personal data very seriously. This comes as consumers become increasingly fearful of their data being stolen, with 58% believing it will happen to them in the future. Over 4.8 billion data records have been exposed since 2013, with identity theft being the leading type of data breach accounting for 64% of all data breaches.

Where consumers see most risk

Despite becoming more aware of the threats posed to them online, only one in 10 (11%) believe there are no apps or websites out there that pose great risk to them – and consumers are not changing their behaviour as a result:

  • 80% use social media, despite 59% believing these networks pose a great risk
  • 87% use online or mobile banking, with 34% believing they leave them vulnerable to cybercriminals
  • Consumers are also more likely to shop online during busy commercial periods such as Black Friday and Christmas (2% increase online versus -2% decrease in store), despite 21% admitting the threat of cybercrime increases significantly during these periods

Consumers attitudes on data breaches

Nearly six in 10 (58%) consumers believe they will be a victim of a breach at some point, and organisations need to be prepared for the loss of business such incidents may cause. The majority of consumers who currently use the following, say they would stop using a retailer (60%), bank (58%) or social media site (56%) if it suffered a breach, while 66% say they would be unlikely to do business with an organisation that experienced a breach where their financial and sensitive information was stolen.

How data breaches affect consumers

The study found that fraudulent use of financial information has affected 21% of consumers, with others experiencing fraudulent use of their personal details (15%) and identity theft (14%). Over a third (36%) of those who have been a victim of a breach attribute this to a fraudulent website. Clicking a bad link (34%) and phishing (33%) were the next highest methods consumers have been caught by. In keeping with the theme of blaming organisations, over a quarter (27%) attributed their breach to the company’s data security solutions failing.

Lack of security measures influence consumer confidence

The lack of consumer confidence could be due to the lack of strong security measures being implemented by businesses. Within online banking, passwords are still the most common authentication methods – used by 84% for online and 82% for mobile banking, and more advanced transaction security the next highest for both (50% and 48% respectively). Solutions like two-factor authentication (43% online and 42% mobile) and data encryption (31% online and 27% mobile) trail behind.

Similar results can be seen in both the retail space, with only 25% of respondents who use online retail accounts claiming two-factor authentication is used on all their apps and websites, and in social media, with only 21% using the authentication for all platforms. Only 16% of all respondents admitted to having a complete understanding of what data encryption is and does.

“Consumers have clearly made the decision that they are prepared to take risks when it comes to their security, but should anything go wrong they will blame the business,” says Jason Hart, CTO, Data Protection at Gemalto. “The modern-day consumer is all about convenience and they expect businesses to provide this, while also keeping their data safe. With the potential threat of consumers taking legal action against companies, businesses need to educate consumers about the steps they are taking to protect their data. Implementing and educating about advanced protocols like two-factor authentication and encryption solutions will show consumers that the protection of their personal data is being taken very seriously.”

Neil Cosser, Identity and Data Protection Manager for Africa at Gemalto, notes that the results mirror trends that Gemalto is seeing in the South African market, “As data breaches and threats become local realities, consumers are starting to take security and the protection of their sensitive data more seriously. This is making them increasingly critical of the measures put in place to protect them and their data. With cyber threats expected to increase and become more sophisticated in 2017, companies have to ensure they have robust effective solutions in place – to protect not only customer data, but also their own reputations,” he says.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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