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Breach Index shows low SA data loss

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Gemalto’s latest Breach Level Index has revealed that data breaches increased 49 percent in 2014 to 1 billion data records compromised, with cybercriminals targeting identity theft as top breach category.

Gemalto has released its latest Breach Level Index, revealing that more than 1 500 data breaches led to one billion data records compromised worldwide during 2014.

According to the report, these numbers represent a 49% increase in data breaches and a 78% increase in data records that were either stolen or lost compared to 2013.

Of these, only four were reported from South Africa, none of which were major enough to single out as severe breaches.

Continuing with this benchmarking by SafeNet following its acquisition by Gemalto, the Breach Level Index (BLI) is a global database of data breaches as they happen. It provides a methodology for security professionals to score the severity of breaches and see where they rank among publicly disclosed breaches. The BLI calculates the severity of data breaches across multiple dimensions based on breach disclosure information.

According to data in the BLI originally developed by SafeNet, the main motivation for cybercriminals in 2014 was identity theft, with 54% of the all data breaches being identity theft-based. In addition, identity theft breaches also accounted for one-third of the most severe data breaches categorised by the BLI as either Catastrophic (with a BLI score of between 9 and 10) or Severe (7 to 8.9). Secure breaches, which involved breaches of perimeter security where compromised data was encrypted in full or in part, increased to 4% from 1%.

“We’re clearly seeing a shift in the tactics of cybercriminals, with long-term identity theft becoming more of a goal than the immediacy of stealing a credit card number,” said Tsion Gonen, Vice-President of Strategy for Identity and Data Protection at Gemalto. “Identity theft could lead to the opening of new fraudulent credit accounts, creating false identities for criminal enterprises, or a host of other serious crimes. As data breaches become more personal, we’re starting to see that the universe of risk exposure for the average person is expanding.”

In addition to the shift toward identity theft, breaches also became more severe last year with two-thirds of the 50 most severe breaches according to their BLI score having occurred in 2014. Also, the number of data breaches involving more than 100 million compromised data records doubled compared to 2013.

In terms of industries, retail and financial services experienced the most noticeable trends compared to other industry sectors in 2014. Retail experienced a slight increase in data breaches compared to last year, accounting for 11% of all data breaches in 2014. However, in terms of data records compromised, the retail industry saw its share increase to 55% compared to 29% last year due to an increased number of attacks that targeted point-of-sale systems. For the Financial Services sector, the number of data breaches remained relatively flat year over year, but the average number of records lost per breach increased ten-fold to 1.1 million from 112,000.

“Not only are data breach numbers rising, but the breaches are becoming more severe,” added Gonen. “Being breached is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’  Breach prevention and threat monitoring can only go so far and do not always keep the cyber criminals out. Companies need to adopt a data-centric view of digital threats starting with better identity and access control techniques such as multi-factor authentication and the use of encryption and key management to secure sensitive data. That way, if the data is stolen it is useless to the thieves.”

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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