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Data as strategic asset

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Time is money, but nowadays so is a company’s data. That is why protecting data should be a major priority, especially when it comes to customer’s requirement, says JOHAN SCHEEPERS, Systems Engineer Director – MESAT at Commvault.

In an increasingly digital world where it is no longer only time that is money, but information as well, data has become the equivalent of a new currency. Protecting this data is a top priority for businesses of all sizes. However, in tandem with the growing importance of data, we are also witnessing an ongoing data explosion, with huge data volumes created at high velocity. This is changing customers’ requirements when it comes to data protection and data management, and organisations need to adopt a comprehensive approach to data protection for today and into the future. Data is a strategic business asset, and should be treated as such with effective data backup, protection, recovery and management solutions designed to address new data challenges.

Data backup and recovery has become a business imperative, and the importance of implementing effective solutions cannot be overstated. In fact, data is top of mind for the majority of organisations. According to analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) in the 2014 annual IT Spending Intentions report, the top three most important IT priorities for 2015 centred on data. The top priority for businesses according to the report was information security initiatives, with improving data backup and recovery coming in second, and managing data growth at number three. In addition, business continuity and disaster recovery were the eighth priority for respondents.

The bigger picture of these statistics is that protecting data is of vital importance, even more so than investment into solutions such as the cloud and other production-enabling deployments. Backup remains one of the most significant IT investments, because the reliance of business on data and IT systems is ever on the increase. This means that any downtime or data loss could be detrimental to business operations. In addition, legacy approaches to backup simply cannot meet the diverse and evolving needs of modern IT platforms, necessitating continued investment into backup solutions. However, backup alone is no longer sufficient. Organisations need to increase the agility of data protection infrastructure by incorporating supplementary data protection capabilities such as snapshots, replicas and archiving as well as high availability, disaster recovery and business continuity.

These data protection mechanisms each provide a different type of agility that compliments backups rather than replacing them, ensuring a comprehensive solution to data recoverability. However, it is also important to bear in mind that it may not be necessary to apply these various mechanisms with a blanket approach across the entire organisation. For example, while backup is essential across the board, snapshots, replicas and archives are only necessary for business critical data. Given the increasing volumes of data being generated and the cost of implementing new solutions, it is important to apply data protection mechanisms based on the value of data to the business as well as the requirement for availability.

This hybrid approach to data protection is highly effective in today’s world. However, where many organisations go wrong is in attempting to address each of these mechanisms with a separate, disconnected technology. The end result is typically significantly higher cost along with increased complexity. In addition, often such disparate solutions fail to meet the business’ need for comprehensive, improved protection and agility of data recovery, because they simply cannot integrate effectively. Organisations should look for integrated solutions that incorporate multiple mechanisms of data protection within a single platform. This ensures a single point of management, while providing one overall data protection strategy that aligns with the recovery and data needs of the business. By treating data as a strategic asset and protecting it as such, organisations can ensure their data is available and managed today and in the future.

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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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By 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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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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