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Fighting pain of moving messaging

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In the past, migrating a messaging platform was a daunting task. But, CHRIS HATHAWAY, Director at Soarsoft Africa says with Cloud computing and regular refresh cycles from major vendors like Microsoft, the process is becoming a lot easier and is gaining momentum.

The mere thought of a messaging platform migration has sent many operational managers and IT administrators running for the hills. Messaging is the lifeblood of the organisation and in the past, it impacted every corner of the business and was a highly risky and challenging initiative to ensure everyday business operations were unaffected. However, this notion has changed somewhat. With the advent of cloud computing and the regular version refresh cycles for vendors like Microsoft that embrace new collaboration methods and cloud based options, it is gathering a new momentum due to a unique combination of business and technology drivers.

In fact, organisations that run leading platforms like Microsoft’s Flagship Exchange solution, should no longer see migrations as a once-off event, but rather as a continuous process that is aligned with commercial, organisational and technology business needs.

Cloud and hybrid deployments are also driving the need for a shift in how migrations are performed, perceived and managed by organisations which are rethinking how email should be actualised in a public or private cloud. However, it is often only when the process is in motion that they realise that the most efficient or cost effective deployment model could be a “hybrid”” cloud deployment.

Hybrid deployments enable organisations to optimise where they host their user mailboxes. Often large numbers of users are external or remote “”desk-less”” resources and their mailboxes are more suitable for a cloud environment, whilst other users are best to be hosted on site. The key to a successful email migration is to manage it as a transformation cycle, applying best practice methodologies and proven technology, combined with a knowledgeable practised advisor.

Today, businesses must adopt an approach to email migration that will provide a repeatable formula for success via a single investment rather than viewing the process as a once-off event. With Binary Tree’s experience spanning 20 years, they have developed a SMART Exchange Migration strategy, which combines technology and guidance with the right formula for successfully managing the Microsoft Exchange transformation life cycle.

The SMART approach dictates the use of superior, proven technologies and partners to ensure that the migration is started with proper discussion and planning. This is followed by messaging, the most basic and critical component of an organisations’ infrastructure and together with a trusted advisor, companies are able to select the most suited platform and benchmarks for what constitutes a successful migration.

Therein lies the rub. There must be a thorough analysis of the messaging infrastructure to establish what is the most important to the business. This comprehensive collection will illustrate the complex and unique nature of the messaging environment, consisting of users, servers, policies, workflow and content.

The most important phase of Binary Tree’s SMART methodology is deciding on what to migrate where, when and how. This rationalisation comes from mapping the results of the comprehensive analysis of the business requirements and promotes the optimisation of the migration process.

By employing the SMART methodology, businesses are automatically transforming the way they approach future migrations. As messaging platforms continue to evolve and the technologies supporting them continue to shift, it will become more advantageous for companies to adopt the ability to continuously transform their infrastructures. Maintaining a competitive edge is at the centre of what makes companies leaders, and innovation is traditionally what drives the evolution of messaging platforms to deliver the capabilities that keep users happy, productive and mobile.

In closing, many view Exchange and other messaging platforms as a commodity that operate on their own with limited administration and do not need special attention, but this is not the case. The ultimate key to success of an on-going Messaging administration, transformation and evolution is a combination of complementary methodology and technology which enables an organisation to collect, analyse, rationalise and execute. This incorporates the collection of information that must be based on well-defined technical, organisational and financial rules to ensure that the execution is precise, and importantly a success.

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Prepare for deepfake impact

Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper

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Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt. 

deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.

New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.

In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.

Fooling the naked eye

We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?

There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.

recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.

To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.

Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.

Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.

Heading off the very real threat

So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.

Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.

Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees

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The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit  http://www.explore-datascience.net.

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