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Prepare now for 2025

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A recently published book written by STEPH VERMEULEN, takes a look at if we are ready to embrace some of the exponential changes over the next decade or if we will be thrust out of our comfort zones into a world of uncertainty.

In 2015 a diverse range of thinkers – known as the London Futurists – met to ponder the exponential change likely to take place over the next decade.  The book –  Anticipating 2025: A guide to the radical changes that may lie ahead, whether or not we’re ready – is a compilation of their papers.  The book leaves one questioning whether we’re ready to embrace such extraordinary changes in citizenship or are we so caught in the present that these shifts will thrust us right out of our comfort zones?

Some roadblocks:

To take advantage of the scientific marvels to come, a reboot will be necessary in the economic, political and social systems that run commerce, education, healthcare and human wellbeing. We know change is inevitable so the million-dollar question is; will global institutions shift by evolution or will they rapidly be made redundant through disruptive revolution?

The catalyst:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already changing everything.  Not only is this being felt in business – and in the way we work – but it’s also blurring the lines between human and machine.  Instead of using devices, we will soon be able to answer complex questions in our heads by silently interacting with information sources; it could be how we end up relating to one another too.  Although full AI-human interface is unlikely by 2025, progress will make us all a lot smarter and – potentially – these deep changes could lead to ‘superintelligence’ determining the future of humanity.

Redesigning humanity:

Disruption in medicine will provide quick personalised and cheap alternatives to today’s expensive choices making health an option for the poor.  The combined potential of the Internet of Things (where everything is smart and connected), data collecting wearable tech, AI, robotics and virtual healthcare – such as a diagnostic ‘Doc in your Pocket’ – will soon make today’s hi-tech medical practices appear old and outdated.

 

  • Designer genes:  The building blocks of life are nano-sized and advances in nanomedicine allow scientists to target treatment at a molecular level providing the ultimate in personalised care. Wellness is likely to be exponentially improved by the following: self-editing genomes (DNA) that fine-tune our genetic inheritance; biosensing for diagnosis and biomedicine for treatment; surgical nanorobotics (built from DNA but can be programmed like a computer), bionic limbs that are operated by our nervous system; medical computer chips embedded in our heads and – if what you’ve got is incurable – cryonics is becoming sophisticated enough to preserve you in a frozen state until a cure becomes available.
  • Prolongevity:  Aging itself will not be slowed but the physical wear-and-tear can be mended making us more youthful and healthier as we age.  At a nano level, scientists understand in principle how to remove, repair and replace damaged cellular ‘machinery’.  Popping some ‘refurb’ capsules containing such nano-bots could delay experiencing the effects of aging of a 60-year-old to 90.  If the same process is repeated at 90, the aging experienced at 60 potentially could be delayed until we’re 150 years old.  This will mean having to rescript retirement and ‘work’ will involve sandwiching periods of productive contribution with periods of learning.  Breakthroughs in speed-learning will assist us to keep up with the speedy pace of progress.

 

Social Futurism:

Our traditional socio-political and economic systems are incapable of solving many of the world’s serious problems and – right now – we’re at the crossroads of unprecedented promise or total catastrophe.

  • Politics: A shift towards group problem solving could move us from competitive power-driven political hierarchies (á la DJ Trump) to more collaborative Ubuntu-style social structures where democratic, decentralised institutions will evolve naturally from mutual support networks.  Could it be that governments will end up having no greater power than administrating the money generated by these collaborative structures?
  • Economics: Capitalism is the only system not grounded in natural principles which is well illustrated by the gross inequality of 1% of the population holding the same amount of wealth as the remaining 99%. To avert catastrophe, calls for a universal basic income echo those made by many presidents, philosophers and economists since the 1600s.  If you’re concerned about producing idleness, then take note of economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s question: “why is leisure uniformly bad for the poor but uniformly good for the well-to-do?”
  • EmPowerment:  Poor people’s income and time are consumed by fuel – either gathering wood or buying it. On average, kerosene (paraffin) costs $8 per kilowatt hour while Brits pay only 20c for the electrical equivalent. Solar power makes sense on a continent awash in sunshine as the extra time and incremental money saved can be used to make an income.  Mass literacy initiatives using digital media will also give people access to information so expect an explosion of creativity from Africa and Asia as people find new, appropriate solutions to their pressing problems.
  • Environment: The other side of the coin is the extraordinarily high level of consumerism needed to sustain capitalism.  99% of materials used in the US end up in landfills six weeks after production.  3D printing could relieve some of this environmental pressure and it could also put an end to cargo-based trade. Instead of end-products, trade will involve moving the raw materials needed to feed 3D printers.

These massive social shifts will in turn have implications for our financial future and it is predicted that disruption will wipe out and/or replace most of today’s more traditional investments.

Survival kit:

Using our imagination creatively is what’s needed to see beyond the restraints of the known and having a mindset of lifelong learning will help us stay healthy and sane.  With many jobs being taken over by machines, it is anticipated that by 2025 most of us will occupy ourselves providing services to some of the planets 8 billion or so inhabitants – much of this will involve helping people to manage change.

Oh… and there’s just one last thing:  it won’t be too long before robots will be so convincing that many people will choose a relationship with a robot over a human partner… and, when we’ve programmed the ‘bot to our liking, we may even marry them.

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Which IoT horse should you back?

The emerging IoT is evolving at a rapid pace with more companies entering the market. The development of new product and communication systems is likely to continue to grow over the next few years, after which we could begin to see a few dominant players emerge, says DARREN OXLEE, CTOf of Utility Systems.

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But in the interim, many companies face a dilemma because, in such a new industry, there are so many unknowns about its trajectory. With the variety of options available (particularly regarding the medium of communication), there’s the a question of which horse to back.

Many players also haven’t fully come to grips with the commercial models in IoT (specifically, how much it costs to run these systems).

Which communication protocol should you consider for your IoT application? Depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a summary of the main low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) communications options that are currently available, along with their applicability:

SIGFOX 

SigFox has what is arguably the most traction in the LPWAN space, thanks to its successful marketing campaigns in Europe. It also has strong support from vendors including Texas Instruments, Silicon Labs, and Axom.

It’s a relatively simple technology, ultra-narrowband (100 Hz), and sends very small data (12 bytes) very slowly (300 bps). So it’s perfect for applications where systems need to send small, infrequent bursts of data. Its lack of downlink capabilities, however, could make it unsuitable for applications that require two-way communication.

LORA 

LoRaWAN is a standard governed by the LoRa Alliance. It’s not open because the underlying chipset is only available through Semtech – though this should change in future.

Its functionality is like SigFox: it’s primarily intended for uplink-only applications with multiple nodes, although downlink messages are possible. But unlike SigFox, LoRa uses multiple frequency channels and data rates with coded messages. These are less likely to interfere with one another, increasing the concentrator capacity.

RPMA 

Ingenu Technology Solutions has developed a proprietary technology called Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) in the 2.4 GHz band. Due to its architecture, it’s said to have a superior uplink and downlink capacity compared to other models.

It also claims to have better doppler, scheduling, and interference characteristics, as well as a better link budget of 177 dB compared to LoRa’s 157 dB and SigFox’s 149 dB. Plus, it operates in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, which is globally available for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so there are no regional architecture changes needed – unlike SigFox and LoRa.

LTE-M 

LTE-M (LTE Cat-M1) is a cellular technology that has gained traction in the United States and is specifically designed for IoT or machine‑to‑machine (M2M) communications.

It’s a low‑power wide‑area (LPWA) interface that connects IoT and M2M devices with medium data rate requirements (375 kb/s upload and download speeds in half duplex mode). It also enables longer battery lifecycles and greater in‑building range compared to standard cellular technologies like 2G, 3G, or LTE Cat 1.

Key features include:

·       Voice functionality via VoLTE

·       Full mobility and in‑vehicle hand‑over

·       Low power consumption

·       Extended in‑building range

NB-IOT 

Narrowband IoT (NB‑IoT or LTE Cat NB1) is part of the same 3GPP Release 13 standard3 that defined LTE Cat M1 – both are licensed as LPWAN technologies that work virtually anywhere. NB-IoT connects devices simply and efficiently on already established mobile networks and handles small amounts of infrequent two‑way data securely and reliably.

NB‑IoT is well suited for applications like gas and water meters through regular and small data transmissions, as network coverage is a key issue in smart metering rollouts. Meters also tend to be in difficult locations like cellars, deep underground, or in remote areas. NB‑IoT has excellent coverage and penetration to address this.

MY FORECAST

The LPWAN technology stack is fluid, so I foresee it evolving more over the coming years. During this time, I suspect that we’ll see:

1.     Different markets adopting different technologies based on factors like dominant technology players and local regulations

2.     The technologies diverging for a period and then converging with a few key players, which I think will be SigFox, LoRa, and the two LTE-based technologies

3.     A significant technological shift in 3-5 years, which will disrupt this space again

So, which horse should you back?

I don’t believe it’s prudent to pick a single technology now; lock-in could cause serious restrictions in the long-term. A modular, agile approach to implementing the correct communications mechanism for your requirements carries less risk.

The commercial model is also hugely important. The cellular and telecommunications companies will understandably want to maximise their returns and you’ll want to position yourself to share an equitable part of the revenue.

So: do your homework. And good luck!

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Ms Office hack attacks up 4X

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Exploits, software that takes advantage of a bug or vulnerability, for Microsoft Office in-the-wild hit the list of cyber headaches in Q1 2018. Overall, the number of users attacked with malicious Office documents rose more than four times compared with Q1 2017. In just three months, its share of exploits used in attacks grew to almost 50% – this is double the average share of exploits for Microsoft Office across 2017. These are the main findings from Kaspersky Lab’s Q1 IT threat evolution report.

Attacks based on exploits are considered to be very powerful, as they do not require any additional interactions with the user and can deliver their dangerous code discreetly. They are therefore widely used; both by cybercriminals looking for profit and by more sophisticated nation-backed state actors for their malicious purposes.

The first quarter of 2018 experienced a massive inflow of these exploits, targeting popular Microsoft Office software. According to Kaspersky Lab experts, this is likely to be the peak of a longer trend, as at least ten in-the-wild exploits for Microsoft Office software were identified in 2017-2018 – compared to two zero-day exploits for Adobe Flash player used in-the-wild during the same time period.

The share of the latter in the distribution of exploits used in attacks is decreasing as expected (accounting for slightly less than 3% in the first quarter) – Adobe and Microsoft have put a lot of effort into making it difficult to exploit Flash Player.

After cybercriminals find out about a vulnerability, they prepare a ready-to-go exploit. They then frequently use spear-phishing as the infection vector, compromising users and companies through emails with malicious attachments. Worse still, such spear-phishing attack vectors are usually discreet and very actively used in sophisticated targeted attacks – there were many examples of this in the last six months alone.

For instance, in late 2017, Kaspersky Lab’s advanced exploit prevention systems identified a new Adobe Flash zero-day exploit used in-the-wild against our customers. The exploit was delivered through a Microsoft Office document and the final payload was the latest version of FinSpy malware. Analysis of the payload enabled researchers to confidently link this attack to a sophisticated actor known as ‘BlackOasis’. The same month, Kaspersky Lab’s experts published a detailed analysis of СVE-2017-11826, a critical zero-day vulnerability used to launch targeted attacks in all versions of Microsoft Office. The exploit for this vulnerability is an RTF document containing a DOCX document that exploits СVE-2017-11826 in the Office Open XML parser. Finally, just a couple of days ago, information on Internet Explorer zero day CVE-2018-8174 was published. This vulnerability was also used in targeted attacks.

“The threat landscape in the first quarter again shows us that a lack of attention to patch management is one of the most significant cyber-dangers. While vendors usually issue patches for the vulnerabilities, users often can’t update their products in time, which results in waves of discreet and highly effective attacks once the vulnerabilities have been exposed to the broad cybercriminal community,” notes Alexander Liskin, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Other online threat statistics from the Q1, 2018 report include:

  • Kaspersky Lab solutions detected and repelled 796,806,112 malicious attacks from online resources located in 194 countries around the world.
  • 282,807,433 unique URLs were recognised as malicious by web antivirus components.
  • Attempted infections by malware that aims to steal money via online access to bank accounts were registered on 204,448 user computers.
  • Kaspersky Lab’s file antivirus detected a total of 187,597,494 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
  • Kaspersky Lab mobile security products also detected:
    • 1,322,578 malicious installation packages.
    • 18,912 mobile banking Trojans (installation packages).

To reduce the risk of infection, users are advised to:

  • Keep the software installed on your PC up to date, and enable the auto-update feature if it is available.
  • Wherever possible, choose a software vendor that demonstrates a responsible approach to a vulnerability problem. Check if the software vendor has its own bug bounty program.

·         Use robust security solutions , which have special features to protect against exploits, such as Automatic Exploit Prevention.

·         Regularly run a system scan to check for possible infections and make sure you keep all software up to date.

  • Businesses should use a security solution that provides vulnerability, patch management and exploit prevention components, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business. The patch management feature automatically eliminates vulnerabilities and proactively patches them. The exploit prevention component monitors suspicious actions of applications and blocks malicious files executions.
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