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Shadow IT make you wannacry

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The opinion of shadow IT, or the installation of unauthorised apps in an organisation is divided. Some believe that it answers the need for agile solutions, while others think in increases security risks. SIMEON TASSEV, MD and QSA at Galix Networking sets the record straight.

There are mixed opinions about implementing unauthorised, IT applications (apps) within the organisation, a practice known as Shadow IT. Opinion on Shadow IT is divided into two camps. Some believe that due to the fast pace of business, demands are exceeding IT capability, Shadow IT answers the need for fast, agile solutions and encourages innovative thinking. However, others suppose that Shadow IT causes a breakdown in traditional yet necessary processes, opening up the scope for risk.

While the market has driven the need for Shadow IT to play a role, the risks cannot be overstated. There has been a significant rise in cyber-crime activity over the last few months, with malware such as the WannaCry Ransomware, and the more recent Petya and NotPetya attacks, making news headlines due to the damage caused on a global scale.

Shadow IT, Ransomware and the missing link

Many businesses lost crippling sums of money and critical data due to these attacks, with some being forced to shut down for an extended period.  In an environment where malware can be introduced on any devices, businesses cannot afford not to be fully cognisant of everything that touches their network. So, does this mean Shadow IT is the cause by being the key that unlocks the door to virulent network attacks?

Today’s average user is far more technologically savvy than ever before. The range of apps available across a range of devices means that it is fairly simple for an employee to discover one which they believe addresses a business requirement better than what their current IT department provides. Often, employees are able to better understand what they need from a technology to improve productivity. In fact, Shadow IT may help users to more effectively do their jobs and, if formally introduced, could help businesses to innovate quicker.

However, in many cases where users implement applications or systems without permission, or notifying their IT department, these apps and systems cannot be effectively monitored or controlled. Data moving across these systems is therefore equally unmonitored. The business has no control over where their data is, who has access to it, and what the safety measures are around it. Ultimately, this can be very dangerous.

What can be done?

IT departments should ensure that they conduct regular audits for unauthorised applications and systems to ensure that the business remains secure. Once completed, any discovered (and unapproved) apps need to be discarded or integrated into the existing IT ecosystem, based on their benefits. The IT department should also educate users on the risks of Shadow IT.  Making them aware of their potential to unwittingly introduce malware such as ransomware or other cyber-threats.

Hooked on Shadow IT?

Users often become dependent on the apps and systems that are introduce independently. When the IT department becomes aware of their use, it may be too late to stop use of the app without negatively impacting productivity and functionality. In fact, employees usually search for these kinds of tools in order to boost their productivity in specific areas where the individual may slack. In addition, the tool or app used may not necessarily work for the business or other co-workers and cannot be implemented on a whim.

When the IT department, or the business, is unaware of systems and apps being used for business purposes, they are unable to apply the necessary threat prevention and other security measures that will ensure the safety of not only the business, but also the user. Thus, the user assumes responsibility for any security breach that may occur through their use of an unauthorised app.

A positive spin

Conversely, Shadow IT can only be helpful for the business, however, only if it is carried out in collaboration with the IT department. Users can be empowered to identify and recommend apps and systems which may ease common business pains, which also alleviates the pressure on IT departments while fast tracking innovation. Simultaneously, IT departments retain a say in what will or won’t work with existing infrastructure and security systems.

In conclusion, although Shadow IT can definitely open up the scope for risk within the business, the IT department within the organisation can collectively work with employees to mitigate security risks. The result is a solution that answers the needs of the user and the business, while still falling within the control of the IT department, and under their security umbrella. There are, therefore, no unidentified or insecure points for malware to enter the business’s systems and the responsibility for the protection of company data still resides with the IT department. Finally, IT should become involved in the assessment of these ‘Shadow IT’ apps and systems, and perhaps it should be touted as ‘Collaborative IT’.

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Samsung in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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