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See the light in dark data

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Dark data, or big data that has not been sorted or used can still help companies, all it needs is to be brought to the front with analytics, sharing and the correct implementation process, writes BRYAN BALFE of Commvault.

Dark data is a relatively new term to the industry, defined by Gartner “as the information assets organisations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes (for example, analytics, business relationships and

direct monetising).” Almost all organisations have volumes of dark data stored away in dusty vaults and off-site storage facilities, historically unaccounted for, unmanaged, and undervalued.  However, modern day information sharing with analytics is bringing the reign of

dark data into the spotlight – mobility trends mean that users can create and share at will through a range of devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Many organisations are discovering that they lack both the policy and technology needed to efficiently manage data outside of the corporate data centre.  Additionally, the growth of data – and big data especially – is causing enterprise to finally look to address the issue of dark data, if only to curb mounting storage costs.

Stepping into the light

Tackling dark data can be intimidating – even to the most accomplished of Chief Information Officers (CIOs). Organisations have very little awareness of the location, volume, composition, ownership, risk, and business value of their unstructured data..  Based on the complexity associated with managing dark data, Gartner recommends that

“organisations should review the scope of their unstructured data problems by using File Analysis (FA) tools to understand where dark unstructured data resides and who has access to it.”  FA differs from traditional storage reporting tools because the technology doesn’t

just report on simple file attributes, but can also provide critical contextual information; with the ability to analyse, index, search, track, report on file mega data and even content.

Reducing the risk of the unknown

FA tools applied to dark data provide business value in a number of ways, one of which is by helping organisations reduce risk. By identifying which files reside where, and who has access to them, FA tools introduce an element of control. They can also help organisations make more informed decisions around prioritising their unstructured data management needs for classification and information governance, providing insights in setting retention policies for data movement. Many FA tools also offer reporting capabilities that help define these retention policies; according to Gartner, “The value of reports in FA tools is that they can be used to determine policy and strategy in areas such as access, retention and location.”

The real cost of keeping everything

IT administrators often struggle with having little to no insight into what data is being created; limited control over how it is being stored; and almost no understanding of its business value.  When it comes to information lifecycle governance, more often than not, organisations choose to lean on cold storage tape vaults to keep every scrap of data due to a paralysing fear that they may throw away something of value. Recent studies suggest that 69 percent of a

company’s stored data has absolutely no value to the organisation.  In essence this means that organisations could be spending up to 20 percent of their annual budget on storing data that has gone stale, with virtually no Return on Investment (ROI) . When it comes to getting to grips with the mammoth task of dark data, FA tools deliver enterprises with the information required to ‘clean up’ legacy and current data, by identifying which data can moved to lower cost storage, and others which can be deleted.

Defining the value of business data

The key to satisfying the need to hoard information, as well as those who might leverage it for the business, is to first identify what data has value for which part of the organisation, and for how long, so that it can be leveraged.   Once data has been evaluated and indexed properly, organisations can better determine how and where to store that data – whether it’s locally, in the cloud, or using a combination of solutions. The classification process, enabled by FA tools, can also support a well-defined data strategy and used to enforce information governance policies. Although, as Gartner highlights, less than 1 percent of organisations manage their unstructured data today, by 2018 that figure is expected to increase up to 25 percent . Budget implications will drive the need for data management policy and data classification. Automated classification will play an increasingly integral role in the implementation of data classification policies, which will ultimately lead to a more streamlined approach and cost savings.

* Bryan Balfe, Enterprise Account Manager at Commvault

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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