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How to avoid ‘Shadow IT’

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Shadow IT, or devices that have not been approved by an organisation can allow ransomware to invade an organisation’s network. BRENDAN MCARAVEY, Country Manager at Citrix SA offers some tips on how one can avoid these shady devices.

What is Shadow IT? It is technology used within an organisation without explicit approval — could be aptly terms as the modern Trojan horse! Since these technologies are not IT approved, they have the potential to allow ransomware and malware to invade an organisation’s network, cause data leaks and even introduce compliance risks.

It is critically important to fightback the malware, here are five easy ways to avoid shadow IT:

1. Understand the risks

Part of what makes the threat of shadow IT so insidious is a common lack of knowledge about the problem. More often than not, employees use unsanctioned technology, not for malicious reasons but rather because they are trying to find an intuitive solution for common business tasks. If a company’s existing technology solutions fail to address the needs of its employees, they will be forced to look to consumer-facing products.

It is integral to prevent that from happening and the response should be twofold:

·         Organisations must educate all employees about the risks of shadow IT, and there needs to be an enterprise-level solution that offers ease-of-use as well as advanced cybersecurity protections.

·         IT managers and business owners should develop a plan to pinpoint where employees implement non-IT-approved technology, then develop a strategy for eradicating the problem.

2. Boost your cybersecurity

It seems like nearly every day there’s a fresh headline about a major cyber-attack on a corporation or government office. The most recent local security breach reported was about sensitive information of 30 million South Africans being stolen from the credit bureau. And, prior to that more than six million accounts were at risk when the Ster-Kinekor’s website was hacked.

It is integral for an organisation to have a strategy for security technology that encompasses the virtualisation of applications, desktops and networks, as well as the centralisation of data to avoid exposure to risk at end points. Additionally, layered security and controlled access to mission-critical documents should become a priority.

3. Find replacements for shadow IT

To keep employee productivity levels high, organisations need to be able to access critical documents from any device, at any time. The modern business world waits for no one, and client expectations for timely delivery of services are on the rise.

Bring-your-own-device plans should follow secure-by-design protocols that allows for flexibility and mobility while ensuring that sensitive business information remains protected and private. Utilising enterprise-level file sharing solutions with consumer-grade UI and UX is one of the best ways to ensure employees remain productive and protected. When an organisations IT-approved solutions are easy to understand and use, employees will be less likely to turn to shadow IT.

4. Deploy additional security measures

Modern businesses cannot work within a vacuum. To be most effective, your data needs to travel – between employees, contractors, executives and other stakeholders. However, the more your data moves, the more opportunities there are for data loss and theft.

In recent years, data loss prevention (DLP) solutions have become more robust, taking advantage of new technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and behaviour analytics. A scalable DLP suite is a good solution for small to medium businesses because it can grow with your company.

Information rights management (IRM) is another highly useful tactic IT managers can rein in data when it goes for a walk. IRM can apply file-level encryption and authorization controls, so you can control who has access to sensitive information. For instance, documents can be restricted to view-only, view- and print-only or fully editable.

5. Develop a preventive strategy

Preventing ransomware and malware attacks is nearly impossible. Walling off employees within a proxy network and deploying firewalls may prevent unskilled attackers from successfully breaching an organisation, but those solutions aren’t enough anymore. Your business needs to be prepared for the worst.

Investing in responsive strategies is the only way to deal with security breaches as they happen. Organisations need to utilise solutions designed to rapidly detect, identify and respond to cyber-attacks as they happen.

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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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