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Back-up tips for SMEs in era of loadshedding

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Although the South African power crisis is being addressed, the local market can still expect the possibility of load shedding, creating a challenge for businesses to say the least. DAWIE BLOOMBERG, MD of Green Apple IT outline five tips that SMEs can follow to keep their data safe during these power outages.

Aside from the disruptions that these outages can cause, there is also the possible resultant damage to sensitive electronic equipment, such as hard disk drives and servers, which can cause data corruption and loss. This can pose serious problems, particularly in the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) market, where the ability to recover quickly from data issues is critical to the sustainability of the business. In light of this, backups are now more important than ever, and with advances in technology, there are backup solutions that make financial sense to the SME.

Having an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) installed is only part of the solution, enabling a stateful shutdown of equipment. Backups form the other part of a successful load shedding survival strategy, ensuring that data is always stored somewhere safe and can be easily restored in case of a problem. These five backup tips for SMEs will help smaller businesses protect themselves from data loss and the resulting consequences to business that this can cause.

1. Use built-in backup solutions

Many Operating Systems (OS) feature standard backup software as part of the package, and these solutions are proven to work. An example of this is Apple Time Machine, a standard backup solution on all Mac computers. They are also an affordable option for the SME market, and do not require much in the way of investment. Purchasing an inexpensive external hard drive to perform backups to will also provide a level of protection. However, this does not necessarily solve the problem of power outages, as external drives often require an external power source. This is where a UPS comes in, as it can be connected to the external drive to ensure it can be shut down safely in the event of an outage.

2. Ensure rotational backup systems are in place

Having one backup these days is simply not sufficient, because of the critical nature of business data and the consequences of losing this valuable information. It is therefore essential to ensure that you have more than one backup hard drive and that these drives are rotated regularly, minimising the risk should one of the hard drives fail. External hard drives are fairly inexpensive, and the initial outlay of purchasing an additional hard drive is minimal compared to the cost should the sole backup drive fail.

3. Keep your backup off-site (or in the cloud)

Rotational backups enable one drive to be kept on premises and another one to be stored offsite. The saying ‚’don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket’ is applicable here there is no point having three copies of your data if they are all stored in one place, as should the office be burgled, or be subject to fire, flooding or other disaster, all copies of the data are likely to be lost. When using rotational backups, ensure one drive is always locked away safely at another site. Another option is to use cloud-based backup solutions. Many of these are available for free, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, which offer a limited amount of storage space, with additional space available for a nominal fee. Once a cloud backup has been conducted, it can then be incrementally updated, saving bandwidth costs. Cloud backups ensure that no matter what happens on site, a copy of data is always stored somewhere else, and can be easily accessed from anywhere using a web portal.

4. Ensure you can do a bare metal restore

Specifically in server environments, it is not only important files and folders that are stored, but also applications, settings and configurations specific to the OS environment. Should the server crash, getting back up and running quickly relies on the ability to do what is known as a ‚’bare metal restore’, which allows you to restore an entire computer system. Using bare metal restore capabilities, the backed up data includes the necessary OS applications and data components to rebuild or restore the backed up system to an entirely separate piece of hardware. This ensures that you can get back up and running on new hardware, with a server that is in the original state as at the last backup.

5. Test your backups

Having a backup in place is all very well, but if this backup cannot be used to successfully restore data, it is practically useless. It is therefore important to understand how your backup works, so that you can test to see whether it is being performed correctly and that your data can be restored should this be necessary. One way of doing this is to schedule a routine recovery on the system to make sure that all data is being backed up. Many of today’s backup solutions come with a wizard-drive file recovery for data restoration, however, often restoration is a more complex process, and it is recommended to use your IT partner to assist with advanced system recovery.

Protect your business and your data

Time and time again, it has been proven that backups save businesses. The increased risk of load shedding in the coming months highlights this need. When power is suddenly cut, hard drives do not shut down properly, and there is a high risk of the disk crashing and losing or corrupting data. Following these five backup tips will ensure that, in the event of drive failure, data can be easily restored with minimal disruption to business. Aside from the risk of load shedding, having adequate backup is also sound business practice, as disk failure is a common occurrence. No business can afford to be without their data, and therefore no business can afford not to have adequate data backup.

* Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Prepare for deepfake impact

Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper

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Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt. 

deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.

New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.

In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.

Fooling the naked eye

We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?

There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.

recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.

To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.

Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.

Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.

Heading off the very real threat

So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.

Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.

Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees

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The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit  http://www.explore-datascience.net.

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