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Digital trust must be protected

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Digital trust may appear to be a fairly meaningless buzzword, but it may prove to be the currency of the future, writes PAUL WILLIAMS, Country Manager for Southern Africa at Fortinet.

Digital trust, in a nutshell, is about the ability to protect the digital data shared across a vast digital ecosystem. This information, from social media sharing to private account information, exists in a dispersed and intangible environment, where it is at risk of being collated and used against individuals and organisations in very damaging ways. Yet, personal information must be shared in order for people to make use of the digital productivity tools and platforms available.

In an environment where data unlocks services, and where information is shared readily across multiple platforms, the custodians of that data must build digital trust in order to thrive.

Data is the fuel of the digital economy

The Internet of Things (IoT), heterogeneous data models, mobility, cloud solutions, and analytical tools are driving an inexorable proliferation of data.  Tremendous value and competitive edge is created through the effective use of data, and businesses across all industries are using it to transform themselves and generate new revenue streams. Data has become the fuel of the next generation business economy.

Established industries such as healthcare are now more data-driven than ever before. Data is disrupting businesses too: Uber, the world’s largest point-to-point passenger service, does not own any taxis.  AirBnB is one of the fastest-growing hospitality services without owning a single piece of property. Companies like Google and Facebook are using consumer data to create new revenue streams and deliver better customer experiences. Data has become an invaluable currency, and businesses depend on it to fuel growth and innovation.

Driving value creation  

A report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) titled Digital Globalization: The New Era of Global Flows  found that the flow of data between countries has brought the world closer together and made us all more productive. According to MGI’s analysis, “over a decade, all types of flows acting together have raised world GDP by 10.1 percent over what would have resulted in a world without any cross-border flows. This value amounted to some $7.8 trillion in 2014 alone, and data flows account for $2.8 trillion of this impact.”

Technology makes it possible to correlate, analyse and draw conclusions from data in ways never seen before. Every industry is looking for ways to monetize the data they uniquely own or can gather. Organizations MUST monetize data or they will be left behind.

The reality is that in order for data to fuel and transform businesses, information technology and security are the essential to underpin its value creation. IDC predicts that by the end of this year, revenue growth from information-based products will be double that of the rest of the product/service portfolio for one-third of all Fortune 500 companies.  By 2019, 40% of IT projects will create new digital services and revenue streams that monetize data.  And by 2020, 50% of the Forbes Global 2000 will see the majority of their business depend on their ability to create digitally-enhanced products, services, and experiences.  Clearly, the transformative potential of data is huge, giving data actual financial value. Unfortunately, criminals see the value in data as well.

Cybersecurity in a data-driven world

As cyber attacks worldwide increase in frequency and sophistication, an organisation’s ability to utilise its data is as important as its ability to protect it. Businesses experience value through additional or new revenue, lower costs, or faster time-to-market.  Customers experience value through new or better experiences, greater convenience, and lower cost.

But in order for data to flow freely, and for companies to use that data successfully, it must be protected, and the company must be trusted.  The more individuals believe that businesses will protect their data and use it for good, the more willing they are to provide it. The key to success in the digital economy is trust. Lose that trust, and the impact to your business can be crippling. The reality is that cybersecurity is a business-wide issue, as well as an opportunity to build digital trust which, in the long term, is good for business.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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