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R&D moves to software

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By 2020, companies will have shifted the majority of their R&D spending away from product-based offerings to software and service offerings, according to the 2016 Global Innovation 1000 Study from Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business.

The need to stay competitive is the top reason why companies cited a shift in their R&D budgets towards software and services, and for good reason – according to the study, companies who reported faster revenue growth relative to key competitors allocated 25 percent more of their R&D budgets to software offerings than companies who reported slower revenue growth.

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  • The average allocation of R&D spending for software and services increased from 54% to 59% between 2010 and 2015 and is expected to grow to 63% by 2020.
  •  Meanwhile, the average allocation of R&D spending dedicated to product-based offerings fell to 41 percent (from 46% in 2010), and is expected to fall to 37% by 2020 (an overall decrease of 19% this decade)
  •  Average allocation of R&D spending on software offerings alone will increase by 43% by the end of this decade and R&D spending on services will gradually overtake investment in product-based innovation (39% vs. 37% by 2020).
  • Global R&D spending on software offerings has increased by 65% between 2010-2015, from US $86 billion to $142 billion.

“In this year’s Global Innovation 1000 study we focused on the transformation that R & D is undergoing as companies strengthen their software and service offerings. The shift is increasingly being driven by the significant improvement in what software can do and the growing use of embedded software and sensors in products, customers, and suppliers via the Internet of Things and the availability of cloud-based data storage. Most of all, it is being driven by increasing customer expectations,” says Liesbeth Botha, Strategic Digital Transformation Leader, PwC Africa.

Only one South African company –chemical and energy giant, Sasol (No. 714) – was listed on the 1000 Companies List for R&D spend and R&D intensity.

According to PwC’s Africa Business Agenda, 2015 report almost 90% of CEOs saw digital technologies and innovations as vital to their success and that will transform their businesses over the next five years. In addition, new advancements and breakthroughs in frontiers of R&D are opening up more opportunities for businesses across the African continent. Adds Botha: “African corporates together with the Government have the opportunity to drive more domestic R&D investment into innovation and digital transformation to build an economy that is recognised for its talent, skills and knowledge.”

For the seventh year running, Apple and Alphabet (formerly Google) continue to lead the most innovative list. Google continues to make waves with initiatives such as its self-driving project, while Apple focuses on its capabilities in gaining customer insights to improve popular products such as the iPhone.

PwC’s strategic partnership with Google is illustrative of its own investment in, and commitment to innovation, comments Botha.

Companies will recruit less mechanical engineers and more data and software engineers to build their capabilities

To support the development of software and services offerings, fewer companies will focus their R&D spending on the electrical and mechanical field. By 2020, the number of companies reporting that electrical engineers are their top employed engineering specialty will fall by 35 percent and the proportion of companies who expect that data engineers will represent their largest group of employed engineers will double from 8% to 16%.

Regionally, companies in North America are making the strongest shift to software offerings—from 15 percent of total R&D spending in 2010 to 24 percent in 2020. While Asia remains the most product-centric region, with 44 percent of R&D allocated to product offerings in 2010, only falling to 40 percent in 2020. The automotive and industrial sectors are making the most aggressive push towards developing new software offerings.

Among companies that made an acquisition during the past five years, the vast majority – 71 percent – were made to enhance capabilities in software (33%) or services (38%)

Strategy&’s annual analysis of the world’s 1000 largest R&D spenders also found the following:

By 2018, the healthcare sector will surpass computing and electronics to become the largest R&D spending industry globally (US$165 billion v. US$159 billion), and the software and internet industry will leap ahead of the automotive sector.

·         (US$129 billion v. US$105 billion); Industrials rounds out the Top 5 R&D industries by spend.

·         For the first time in the study’s history, the number of Global Innovation 1000 companies headquartered in the US grew, up 9.5% year over year.

·         Volkswagen, Samsung, Amazon, Alphabet (Google) and Intel round out the Top 5 R&D Spenders, with Amazon and Google making bold moves up the list (+4 and +2 positions, respectively).

·         Global innovation professionals responding to a 2016 survey have ranked Apple, Alphabet (Google), and 3M as the three Most Innovative Companies in the world.

·         The 10 Most Innovative Companies continue to outperform the Top 10 R&D Spenders on key performance metrics, as has been the case for each of the past seven years.

2016 Ranking: The 10 Most Innovative Companies vs. Top 10 R&D spenders

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Crouching Yeti strikes

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Kaspersky Lab has uncovered infrastructure used by the Russian-speaking APT group Crouching Yeti, also known as Energetic Bear, which includes compromised servers across the world.

According to the research, numerous servers in different countries were hit since 2016, sometimes in order to gain access to other resources. Others, including those hosting Russian websites, were used as watering holes.

Crouching Yeti is a Russian-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) group that Kaspersky Lab has been tracking since 2010. It is best known for targeting industrial sectors around the world, with a primary focus on energy facilities, for the main purpose of stealing valuable data from victim systems. One of the techniques the group has been widely using is through watering hole attacks: the attackers injected websites with a link redirecting visitors to a malicious server.

Recently Kaspersky Lab has discovered a number of servers, compromised by the group, belonging to different organisations based in Russia, the U.S., Turkey and European countries, and not limited to industrial companies. According to researchers, they were hit in 2016 and 2017 with different purposes. Thus, besides watering hole, in some cases they were used as intermediaries to conduct attacks on other resources.

In the process of analysing infected servers, researchers identified numerous websites and servers used by organisations in Russia, U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that the attackers had scanned with various tools, possibly to find a server that could be used to establish a foothold for hosting the attackers’ tools and to subsequently develop an attack. Some of the sites scanned may have been of interest to the attackers as candidates for waterhole. The range of websites and servers that captured the attention of the intruders is extensive. Kaspersky Lab researchers found that the attackers had scanned numerous websites of different types, including online stores and services, public organisations, NGOs, manufacturing, etc.

Also, experts found that the group used publicly available malicious tools, designed for analyzing servers, and for seeking out and collecting information. In addition, a modified sshd file with a preinstalled backdoor was discovered. This was used to replace the original file and could be authorised with a ‘master password’.

“Crouching Yeti is a notorious Russian-speaking group that has been active for many years and is still successfully targeting industrial organisations through watering hole attacks, among other techniques. Our findings show that the group compromised servers not only for establishing watering holes, but also for further scanning, and they actively used open-sourced tools that made it much harder to identify them afterwards,” said Vladimir Dashchenko, Head of Vulnerability Research Group at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT.

“The group’s activities, such as initial data collection, the theft of authentication data, and the scanning of resources, are used to launch further attacks. The diversity of infected servers and scanned resources suggests the group may operate in the interests of the third parties,” he added.

Kaspersky Lab recommends that organisations implement a comprehensive framework against advanced threats comprising of dedicated security solutions for targeted attack detection and incident response, along with expert services and threat intelligence. As a part of Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense, our anti-targeted attack platform detects an attack at early stages by analysing suspicious network activity, while Kaspersky EDR brings improved endpoint visibility, investigation capabilities and response automation. These are enhanced with global threat intelligence and Kaspersky Lab’s expert services with specialisation in threat hunting and incident response.

More details on this recent Crouching Yeti activity can be found on the Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT website.

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R5m in software fines

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South African companies paid almost R5.2 million in damages for using unlicensed software in 2017 up from R3.6 million in 2016.

This is according to data from BSA | The Software Alliance, a non-profit, global trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners.

The significant increase in unlicensed software payments – which includes settlements as well as the cost of acquiring new software to become compliant – is the result of more accurate leads from informers, says Darren Olivier, Partner at Adams & Adams, legal counsel for BSA. In 2017 BSA received 281 reports in South Africa alleging the use of unlicensed software products of BSA member companies – this up considerably up from 230 leads in 2016.

“BSA’s recent social media campaign also helped to create awareness among local companies about the need to comply with existing legislation in order to avoid legal action,” Olivier says.

The result has been a 13% increase in settlements paid in 2017, with the settlements total reaching almost R2.5 million.

While the average settlement paid by companies in 2017 was around R36 094, in some cases the amount owed was far greater, as is evidenced by Shereno Printers, a print and design company based in Gauteng, which ended up paying a hefty settlement amount of R260 000 last year in an out of court settlement.

The company’s case was in line with a broader trend, which saw the print and design industry as a whole rank among the top sectors plagued by unlicensed software.

Aside from settlements, companies also paid more than R2.6 million in licenses purchased to legalise their unlicensed software.

And the ramifications of software piracy extend beyond financial implications. “It also results in potential job losses and loss in tax revenue. This is not to mention the financial and reputational damage brought about by security breaches and lost data,” comments Olivier.

As unlicensed software has not been updated with the latest security features, it leaves businesses vulnerable to cyberattack, he explains.

This is a particular problem for companies operating in South Africa where economic crime has recently reached record levels, according to the Global Economic Crime Survey. Indeed, 77% of South African organisations have experienced some form of economic crime. What’s more, instances of cybercrime totalled 29% of economic crimes reported.

This in turn, raises questions around government policy and the adequacy of existing copyright legislation, which only enables the registration of copyright in films, but not in computer programs.

Olivier notes that it is likely the percentage of unlicensed software on South African computers has increased over the past year. “We received many more leads this year, which is an indicator that the amount of pirated software is greater than in previous years,” he comments.

Often unlicensed software is not so much a case of deliberate piracy as it is a result of poor software asset management (SAM).

“For this reason, the BSA encourages all businesses to ensure they have effective SAM practices in place. Companies should be able to confirm what software they are using and are licensed to use – this will help them to identify unlicensed software and can also bring about cost savings. Even the most basic SAM practices such as regular inventories and software use policies can help,” says Chair of the BSA SA Committee, Billa Coetsee.

With this in mind the BSA offers a range of SAM solutions, not only to help organisations reduce legal and security risks, but also to create business value.

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