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Beware of WhatsApp flaw

WhatsApp has recently partnered with Google Drive, to release a new back up facility whereby WhatsApp users will get unlimited storage to back up chats, photos, and other media. While the new feature is great for space-saving, there is concern that it could leave WhatsApp chats and the data contained within them vulnerable to hackers.

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With the creation of business-related WhatsApp groups becoming something of a norm in today’s digitally-connected society, Simone Dickson, Director within the Technology and Sourcing practice at commercial law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, says that businesses need to be especially aware of the inherent data security risks associated with using these social platforms.

“As is the case with any social media platform today, businesses and their employees need to exercise discretion in what information is shared and made available, also ensuring that the host or provider of the social media platform has taken security measures acceptable to the business and appropriate to the risk. Awareness of who the business is actually engaging with is critical.”

Cyber breaches are a real risk, she explains, referring to the World Economic Forum 2018 Global Risks Report, which ranks large scale cyberattacks and major data breaches or fraud among top five most likely risks in next 10 years. “On an international level, UK market research company, Ipsos MORI undertook a cyber-security breaches survey in 2017 and identified that 46% of UK business experienced cybersecurity breaches in the last 12 months.

“There have also been a number of data breaches either in South Africa or affecting South African users which have hit the headlines as of late,” she adds. “The potential risks to businesses affected include damage to reputation, loss of shareholder and customer confidence, business interruption, loss of competitive edge, loss or damage to technology and infrastructure, possible regulatory scrutiny, fines and penalties and costs to remedy the breach.”

When asked what legal recourse is currently available locally, Dickson says that businesses would generally need to rely on common law remedies in the event of a breach, although this would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. “Whilst the Protection of Personal Information Act, No. 4 of 2013 (POPI) and Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill (Bill) do introduce statutory measures which will assist businesses in legal recourse in the event of cyber breaches, neither of these are fully in effect as yet.”

As such, she urges business owners to undertake effective due diligence on service providers providing them with social media platforms and online services. “This includes assessing levels of data security and deciding whether the platform is appropriate in the context for which it is going to be used.

“In the context of WhatsApp in particular, whilst this may be used effectively as a business tool, it is still ultimately user-based and not centrally controlled by the business itself. Accordingly, the rules of engagement and employee policies must be clearly established upfront. It is also essential to determine where data is to be hosted to consider which data protection laws are in place in the relevant jurisdiction.

“Where sensitive business data is shared via a social media platform (including any backups of such data), this should be subject to stringent security measures. Due to the prevalence of cybersecurity risk, this should be a board level agenda item with a dedicated focus. Businesses should also formulate a breach response plan in order to be fully prepared in the event of a data breach so as to allow for pro-active management rather than crisis driven responses,” Dickson explains.

She adds that data breaches are unfortunately inevitable and it is up to business to be aware of inherent risks and take pro-active steps to mitigate these risks. “Awareness and education is critical,” she says.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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