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E-crime fight must go unconventional

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Both the private and public sector must engage out-of-the-box complex systems and more holistic security models to protect themselves from the increasing threat posed by online and cyber-related crimes, says MICHIEL JONKER.

“Due to the complex nature of cyberspace, whereby billions of users and infinite systems and networks are intertwined, it has now become virtually impossible to control the ecosystem,” he says.  “Security therefore could not be treated in isolation but effective security management should employ a 360-degree complex systems philosophy that engages multiple conventional and unconventional (e.g. futuristic) models of security assessment.”

While statistics are not readily available in South Africa, numerous breaches have been recorded over the past few years. In 2013 Bloomberg reported that South African banks had lost tens of millions of rands to an international organisation that hacked the bank card details of fast-food restaurant customers. Based on data from the Payments Association of SA, the report found that every South African bank had been affected.

“Recent breaches, including JP Morgan Chase, The White House, Sony and even South African government website hacking incidents, have called into question the future of cyberspace as a means of safe transaction. Cybercrime holds potentially catastrophic consequences for businesses and government – not to mention the security of nation states. 2014 was a watershed year for cyberspace security and in 2015 the issues will become even more noticeable,” Jonker said.

“The current model of applying ‘best practices’ addresses many aspects of cyber security but is not enough. A new approach designed to deal with threats requires more than standard analytical IT frameworks because we are steadily losing the war against cyber criminals, like hackers and information thieves,” said Jonker.

He said that in addition to legislation, such as the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) partly enacted last year, and best practice guides, it is now imperative that measures be scaled up. The POPI Act, which was gazetted in November 2013, and which is currently awaiting an effective enactment date, provides strict guidelines, among other things, on what data can be obtained, how that data can be used, and the requirement that it should be kept up-to-date.

In a recent Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) survey, for the first quarter of 2015, SA businesses were asked if their current business strategy plans included breaches to IT security as a potential threat to the future of the business.

“It is encouraging to note that 72% of the 150 SA business executives who were asked this question responded that their strategies DO include plans to prevent IT security breaches,” says Jonker. “One very important measure needed and which is often overlooked, is the thorough testing of systems by skilled individuals whose sole purpose would be to find compromising points of entry into the system. Ironically, the majority of cyber criminals do not have formal IT qualifications.”

Jonker suggested a holistic approach incorporating the futuristic concept of “exploration-discovery.”

“The IT security industry has to change its recruitment policies. There is a need for certain IT security personnel to come from non-formal education, those who employ outside-of-the-box thinking. These persons tend to think more in systemic ways – while formally educated IT professionals traditionally think analytically. We need to have conventional and unconventional IT skills in place that will test for infiltration by those whose sole purpose is to exploit the weaknesses of IT and online systems.”

He said the concept of “exploration-discovery” in systems development practice is not new. For example, when testing new systems, software companies will often monitor how children interact with the system – with the aim of detecting any unforeseen failures not picked up by standard testing procedures.

“A similar methodology in devising security for cyberspace would allow private and public sector organisations to view their systems as an outsider, or specifically as a criminal (i.e. to ‘think or explore/discover like a criminal’). This creates a vastly improved context for security as it not only allows mitigating the rational threats but the anticipation of those systemic threats for intentional nefarious purposes,” Jonker concluded.

* Michiel Jonker, Director: IT Advisory at Grant Thornton Johannesburg. 

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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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How Quantum computing will change … everything?

Research labs, government agencies (NASA) and tech giants like Microsoft, IBM and Google are all focused on developing quantum theories first put forward in the 1970s. What’s more, a growing start-up quantum computing ecosystem is attracting hundreds of millions of investor dollars. Given this scenario, Forrester believes it is time for IT leaders to pay attention.

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“We expect CIOs in life sciences, energy, defence, and manufacturing to see a deluge of hype from vendors and the media in the coming months,” says Forrester’s Brian Hopkins, VP, principal analyst serving CIOs and lead author of a report: A First Look at Quantum Computing. “Financial services, supply-chain, and healthcare firms will feel some of this as well. We see a market emerging, media interest on the rise, and client interest trickling in. It’s time for CIOs to take notice.”

The Forrester report gives some practical applications for quantum computing which helps contextualise its potential: 

  • Security could massively benefit from quantum computing. Factoring very large integers could break RSA-encrypted data, but could also be used to protect systems against malicious attempts. 
  • Supply chain managers could use quantum computing to gather and act on price information using minute-by-minute fluctuations in supply and demand 
  • Robotics engineers could determine the best parameters to use in deep-learning models that recognise and react to objects in computer vision
  • Quantum computing could be used to discover revolutionary new molecules making use of the petabytes of data that studies are now producing. This would significantly benefit many organisations in the material and life sciences verticals – particularly those trying to create more cost-effective electric car batteries which still depend on expensive and rare materials. 

Continue reading to find out how Quantum computing differs.

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