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5 ways to keep IoT safe

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As more devices connect to the Internet, so too does the chance of each of them being compromised. ERNST WITTMANN, Regional Manager for Southern Africa at Alcatel, gives some tips on how to protect these devices and ultimately yourselves.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly taking off as people and businesses connect everything from their cars, to their home automation systems, and to the Internet. These devices are starting to change how we live and work – allowing us to track our heart rates and calories with a fitness tracker, monitor and improve our driving habits via a vehicle telematics device, and so much more.

Yet connecting a device to the Internet exposes it to a range of information security threats. We have already seen hackers create botnets using connected fridges, webcams, smart DVRs and other IoT devices  and launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. And as we store more personal data – for example, health or payment information – on IoT devices, the risks of data theft and loss will multiply.

As we use the IoT for convenience, we must not treat privacy and security as an afterthought. The IoT devices could be the most vulnerable point in your home or office network. Here are five simple ways recommended by Alcatel, to improve the security of your information as you start to introduce more and more connected devices into your home or small business.

Don’t connect a device to the Internet unless there is a clear benefit for doing so

The most secure device is one that isn’t connected to the Internet in the first place. Ask yourself whether there’s really any benefit to connecting your fridge or your baby monitor to the Internet before you do it. And when you’re not using a device, consider disconnecting it from your network.

Create a separate guest network for IoT devices

Many Wi-Fi routers will allow you to set up multiple networks so that you can, for example, allow guests in your home or customers at your office to browse the Internet. Consider connecting your IoT devices to a separate Wi-Fi network to the one you use for your personal PC and mobile devices. This means that if someone gains access to the IoT device they won’t be able to use it to get to your other devices and information.

Use strong passwords for each device

You do use strong passwords to secure your PC and the many online services and applications you use, don’t you? Apply the same principle to any IoT devices you connect to the Internet. In addition to picking a strong password, it’s wise to pick different passwords for each device and different ones to the ones you use for email, online banking, social media and so on.

A hacker who gets a password and login name for one of your IoT devices will probably try it on other online services and devices. Using different details for each service and device means a hacker won’t have a skeleton key for all of your accounts and devices if he or she manages to break into your smoke detector or your media streaming device.

Bonus tip: Remember to change the password and login name for your router and all other devices when you first connect it to the Internet. Many people leave the default password and login in place – something like ‘admin’ – and make life easy for the criminals.

Stay updated with the latest firmware

When makers of IoT devices identify security vulnerabilities in their devices, they will usually release software updates to fix them. Installing the latest security patches for your devices’ firmware will help you reduce the chances of a successful attack. Check for updates every three months or so, or configure your devices to automatically download the latest patches.

Protect your smartphone, tablet and PC

It goes without saying that you should take all sensible steps to secure your PCs, tablets and smartphones since these are the devices you’ll usually use to log in to your router and your IoT gadgets. This includes ensuring you have up-to-date antimalware software, using strong passwords and so on.

You’ll often access your IoT devices, mobile banking, and many other services from a mobile app, so take good care of your smartphone. Secure access to the device behind a PIN or password when the screen is locked and set your phone up so you can remotely track its location and wipe your data if it gets lost or stolen.

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Data gives coaches new eyes in sports

Collecting and analysing data is entering a new era as it transforms both coaching and strategy across sports ranging from rugby to Formula 1, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Coaches and managers have always been among the stars of any sports. They become household names as much as the sports heroes that populate their teams. Now, thanks to the power of data collection and analysis, they are about to raise their game to unprecedented levels.

The evolution of data for fine-tuning sports performance has already been experienced in Formula 1 racing, baseball and American football. All are known for the massive amount of statistic they produce. Typically, however, these were jealously guarded by coaches trying to get an edge over their rivals. Thanks to the science of “big data”, that has changed dramatically.

“American baseball has the most sophisticated data science analytics of any sports in the world because baseball has this long history of stats,” said Ariel Kelman, vice president of worldwide marketing at Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing giant that is working closely with sports teams and leagues around the world. “It’s an incredibly opaque world. I’ve tried for many years to try and get the teams to talk about it, but it’s their secret sauce and some of these teams have eight, nine or ten data scientist.”

In an interview during the AWS Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas last week, Kelman said that this statistical advantage was not lost on other sports, where forward-thinking coaches fully understood the benefits. In particular, American football, through the National Football League there, was coming on board in a big way.

“The reason they were behind is they didn’t have the player tracking data until recently in in the NFL. They only had the player tracking data three years ago. Now the teams are really investing in it. We did an announcement with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this week; they chose us as their machine learning, data science and cloud provider to do this kind of analysis to help figure out their game strategy. 

“They are building models predicting the other teams and looking at players and also evaluating all their practices. They are setting up computer vision systems so that they can track the performance of the players during their practices and have that inform some of the game strategies. The teams then even talk about using it for player evaluation, for example trying to figure out how much should we pay this player.”

Illustrating the trend, during Re:Invent, Kelman hosted a panel discussion featuring Rob Smedley, a technicalconsultant to Formula 1, Cris Collinsworth, a former professional footballer in the NFL and now a renowned broadcaster, and Jason Healy, performance analytics managerat New Zealand Rugby.

Healey in particular represents the extent to which data analysis has crosses sporting codes. He has spent four yearswith All Blacks, after 10 years with the New Zealand Olympic Committee, helping athletes prepare for the OlympicGames. 

“The game of rugby is chaos,” he told the audience. “There’s a lot of a lot of things going on. There’s a lot of trauma and violence and it can be difficult to work out the load management of each player. So data collection is a big piece of the technical understanding of the game.

“A problem for us in rugby is the ability to recall what happened. We have to identify what’s situational and what’s systemic. The situational thing that happens, which is very unlikely to be replicated, gets a lot of attention in rugby. That’s the sensational big moment in the game that gets talked about. But it’s the systemic plays and the systemic actions of players that lies underneath the performance. That’s where the big data starts to really provide some powerful answers. 

“Coaches have to move away from those sensational andsituational moments. We’re trying to get them to learn what is happening at that systemic level, what is actually happening in the game. How do we adjust? How do we make our decisions? What technical and defensive strategies need to change according to the data?”

Healey said AWS was providing platforms for tracking players and analysing patterns, but the challenge was to bring people on this technology journey.

“We’re asking our coaching staff to change the way they have traditionally worked, by realising that this data does give insights into how they make their decisions.”

Kelman agreed this was an obstacle, not just in sport, but in all sectors.

“Across all of our customers, in all industries, one of the things that’s often underestimated the most is that getting the technology working is only the first step. You have to figure out how to integrate it with the processes that us humans, who dislike change, work with. The vast majority of it is about building knowledge. There’s ways to transfer that learning to performance.”

Of course, data analytics does not assure any side of victory, as the All Blacks discovered during the recent Rugby World Cup, when they were knocked out in the semi-finals, and South Africa went on to win. We asked Healey how the data-poor South Africans succeeded where the data-rich All Blacks couldn’t.

“You have to look at how analytics and insights and all thesetechnologies are available to all the coaches these days,” he said. The piece that often gets missed is the people piece. It’s the transformation of learning that goes into the player’sactual performance on the field. We’re providing them with a platform and the information, but the players have to make the decisions.. We can’t say that this particular piece of technology played a role in winning or losing. It’s simply just a tool.”

The same challenge faces motor racing, which generates massive amounts of data through numerous sensors and cameras mounted in vehicles. Rob Smedley, who spent 25 years working in engineering roles for Formula 1 teams, quipped that his sport had a  “big data” problem before the phrase was invented. 

“We’ve always been very obsessive about data. Take car telemetry, where we’ve got something like 200 to 300 sensors on the car itself. And that goes into something like two to three thousand data channels. So we’re taking about around 600 Gigabytes of data generated every single lap, per car. 

“On top of that, where we’ve also got all the time data and GPS data. The teams are using it for performance advantage. We’re into such marginal gains now because there are no bad teams in Formula 1 anymore. Data analytics provide those marginal gains.”

• 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 faces 5-year gap

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In five years, the world will have more than 40 billion devices. Locally, IoT specialist,Eseye, says that South African CIOs are recognising IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (Machine to Machine) technologies as strategic imperatives, but the journey is still in its infancy.

“As legacy systems start to reach end of life, digital shifts will become inevitable. This, coupled with an increasing demand for improved bottom line results from existing and new markets, makes IoT a more viable option over the next five years. This is particularly prevalent in manufacturing, especially where time to market and product diversification has become necessary for business survival,” says Jeremy Potgieter, Regional Director – Africa, Eseye.

He says that within this sector one thing matters – output: “Fulfilling the product to market lifecycle is what makes a manufacturer successful. Addressing this functionality and production optimisation through technology is becoming more critical as they focus on increasing output and reducing downtime. By monitoring machinery and components in the production line, any concerns that arise, which impacts both the manufacturer and consumers alike, will be more efficiently dealt with by using an IoT approach.”

Potgieter says that there is also the growing strategic approach to increase the bottom line through new markets. As manufacturers seek new revenue streams, Eseye is encouraging the use of rapid IoT enabled device product development : “By addressing the connectivity aspects required at deployment, manufacturers are immediately diversifying their portfolios. Eseye, as an enabler, assists by providing market ready SIMs, which can be embedded into IoT connected devices at OEM level, connecting them to a plethora of services (as designed for) upon entry to market, anywhere in the world.”

In addition, Potgieter says that organisations are increasingly looking towards IoT connectivity managed services to capitalise on specialist expertise and ensure the devices are proactively monitored and managed to ensure maximum uptime, while reducing data costs.

Impacting IoT adoption though, is undoubtedly the network infrastructure required. Potgieter says that this varies significantly and will depend on criteria such as sensor types and corresponding measurements, the overall communication protocols, data volume, response time, and analytics required: “While the majority of IoT implementations can be enabled using cloud-based IoT platform solutions, the infrastructure required still remains important. A cloud platform will simplify infrastructure design and enable easy scaling capability, while also reducing security and data analytics implementation issues.”

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