We are so enthralled by our own brilliance in cryptography that we forget that most data at rest – tucked away inside databases – is unencrypted.
Case in point, a Skyhigh analysis of encryption controls found that 81.8% of cloud service providers encrypt data in transit using SSL or TLS but only 9.4% of providers encrypt data once it’s stored at rest in the cloud. That makes the growing number of organisations found to be offering unfettered access to cloud databases and AWS S3 storage buckets a nightmare waiting to happen.
The problem is that cryptography doesn’t completely protect our data, computer networks, and other digital systems. It protects data in flight and, if we’re lucky, at rest. It augments access control for critical systems. But the reality is that in order for the “networks” and the “systems” to process data and execute logic, it must be able to view data in plain, naked text. Organisations face a bigger risk from unprotected and unpatched applications than they do from digital peeping Toms.
This is ultimately why breaches continue to occur at increasing rates. Not because the data isn’t encrypted in flight or at rest, but because applications and APIs can’t process the data in its encrypted form. It must be unencrypted, at which point it is vulnerable to exposure. And vulnerabilities attract attackers.
The applications and APIs which interact and operate on that unencrypted data are a more significant threat to the security and privacy of data than that of cracking quantum-based cryptography. That’s one of the reasons they are so frequently targeted. In F5 Labs analysis across a decade of breaches “applications were the initial targets in 53% of breaches.” Not only are they the easiest route to data, they’re one of the only places left in the increasingly encrypted data path where data is unencrypted and readily usable by those seeking it.
We are nearly numb to breaches today because they happen with such alarming frequency that it is normal to see news of millions of records ripped from some database through an application today. This is in spite of efforts to force us to use encryption – to use HTTPS instead of HTTP. This is in spite of browsers enforcing cryptographic standards on the algorithms and key lengths used to encrypt data from “prying” eyes.
If today’s “cyberdefenses” truly do rely heavily on the strength of cryptography, then we are truly in trouble. Because it is not the strength of cryptography alone that prevents the breaches and exfiltration of data that plague our newsfeeds and clog our inboxes. It is the strength – and increasingly, the intelligence – with which we can recognise and prevent an attack that leads to the loss of data.
Encrypted malicious code is still malicious. Encrypted stolen credentials stuffed into application authentication systems are still stolen credentials. Eliminating middleboxes doesn’t eliminate the threat of a vulnerable web or application server executing an exploit to gain access to valuable, naked data.
It isn’t enough to gaze lovingly at our ability to strengthen encryption if it carries the attacks that threaten the exploitation of applications and APIs straight into the heart of our digital economy. Protecting our digital assets (applications) and the channels through which they are accessed (APIs) requires a more holistic approach to application protection that combines intelligence, identity, and detection of attacks in addition to strong cryptography.
Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?
It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.
Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.
When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.
That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.
In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.
The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.
Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.
“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.
“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”
Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.
In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.
* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
Robots coming to IFA
Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.
The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.
The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:
Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.
Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.
Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.
Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.
Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.
And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.
IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com