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You’re not that private!

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Images, locations and health issues are just some of the bits of data that are sent to the cloud – sometimes out of our control. But, have you wondered who has access to this data? VINCE RESENTE of Intel explores these issues an how we can address them.

You’re watching your son play a school soccer match. Your camera is ready when he scores the winning goal, taking his team to victory. You’re so proud; you can’t wait to share the news. Along with the picture, you write: “The goal that made Sunny Hills Primary School winners today; well done, Peter!”

A few hours later, you get this message: “I saw Peter’s goal for Sunny Hills – amazing! I was on the other side; you have to see this angle.” You probably won’t think twice about clicking on the link in the message – obviously the person sending the message was there, how else would he know your son’s name, his school and that he scored the winning goal?

Two months later, you can’t understand why you’ve been blacklisted and the bank won’t grant you a personal loan.

Hackers are using social engineering methods such as these, which prey on our willingness to share our lives online, to access our personal information. They trick us into following links that give them access to our phones, which these days store everything from our social media profiles, which are always logged in, to our GPS apps that have our home addresses already saved. It’s become almost too easy to steal someone’s identity.

IoT?

With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), we’ll soon be sending a lot more personal information to the cloud. Wearable devices that monitor our heart rates, blood pressure and glucose levels are becoming as common as regular wristwatches, while apps like Waze and Foursquare let anyone know where we are – and when we’re not at home, which is practically an invitation to burglars.

Where is all this information going and who has access to it? At the moment, too many people.

I don’t mind if my doctor can see my health data, but I have a problem with my medical insurance company using it to hike my premiums because my heart rate never goes past resting. And I certainly don’t want hackers getting their hands on it.

By default, our IoT DNA should be locked down in a virtual vault for which only we have the password. Only we should decide who can access what information – like an opt-in system – and block access to everyone else.

But passwords are inherently insecure, especially when we use the same one for multiple accounts. Anti-virus software and firewalls don’t offer sufficient protection as they’re easily breached and rely on users to regularly update them.

My eyes only

Everyone in the value chain has a responsibility to protect users’ information, from the users themselves and device manufacturers, to software creators and security providers.

We’re already seeing promising developments in the security industry. Soon, our faces or fingerprints will be our passwords, while password repositories will store passwords for the sites we use most often, and will only allow us to access those sites once we’ve supplied a ‘master’ password.

Device manufacturers and software vendors are also addressing flaws in existing security systems. Intel Security (previously known as McAfee), for example, is no longer just concerned with viruses and firewalls. It now checks multiple entries for infiltration and records common patterns. Anything out of the ordinary – if your computer pings every other PC on the network, for example – will get blocked and reported.

Soon we won’t need anti-virus software because the processor will be doing the smart thinking to flag suspicious behaviour. Every PC will be equipped with a software appliance that will operate as the firewall instead of having to load software onto an operating system.

In the past, we could walk the streets at night and not continually look over our shoulders. Today, we jump at every sound and take precautions to protect ourselves. We’ve adapted to changes in our physical security; we need to apply that same vigilance to cyber security.

* Vince Resente, Enterprise Technology Specialist at Intel Corporation

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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