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It’s so much easier in a virtual environment

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Although a user sitting in front of a virtual computer won’t really notice the difference when it comes to performing day-to-day tasks, the administrator running the environment will surely notice how easy his day has suddenly become. Among other things, one of the biggest advantages he will notice will be that of installing patches says MERCIA OOSTHUIZEN, product manager for Wyse at Workgroup.

Most organisations considering a thin computing solution have already made significant investments in legacy hardware and software, such as PCs, servers and networking gear.

While much of this equipment can be leveraged for thin computing, some additional hard- and software may be necessary to reap the full benefits of the thin computing approach. Fortunately, the business and operational benefits are often considerable for end users and administrators alike.

Mercia Oosthuizen, product manager: Wyse at Workgroup, says that by deploying virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), the user is provided with a working environment no different than what they already use on a PC. Because each virtual machine is self contained, users logging into Windows XP are presented with their familiar Windows applications and customised desktop environment like wallpaper and colour schemes.

‚However, because the desktop session is now centralised, they gain the added capability of being able to access their desktop from anywhere and at any time ‚ including from another network connection at work or to catch up on work from home.‚

She says that, while end users may hardly notice the difference, an IT administrator has much to gain from the technical merits of VDI and, by extension, so does the overall business.

‚One of the biggest drains on maintenance budgets is the frequent need to patch the operating system and applications on PC’s in multiple locations. In a thin computing VDI environment, this task becomes easier as multiple files can be quickly updated on the server and this means patching and migrating a standard virtual machine image with common virtual hardware is fast, efficient and completely transparent to users.‚

While software developers find partitioning useful for building and testing systems under multiple environments, Oosthuizen says an even bigger benefit for many organisations is that each virtual desktop session is independent of the physical hardware and is therefore easy to move and scale. With encapsulation, each virtual machine is stored in a small set of files that are independent of the physical hardware.

She says that because everything is stored in one place ‚ including the hardware setup, BIOS configuration, memory state, disk state and CPU ‚ administrators can copy, save and move virtual machines wherever and whenever needed by simply manipulating a few files. As a result, the entire workgroup can be set up and configured in a matter of minutes.

Security is perhaps the most important benefit realised by IT managers deploying thin computing with VDI as virtual machines are isolated from one another, which mean a crash or failure in one virtual machine will not affect the other virtual machines on the same server.

‚Viruses and worms that somehow infect one partition are isolated to just that virtual machine. It’s the same as if each virtual machine were running on a separate physical box, which means an error on one VDI desktop will not affect any other desktop.

‚The last benefit realised by IT is that of vendor independence. A virtual machine can run on any x86 server without modification, breaking the ties between the OS, hardware and applications that have limited Its options in the past. Furthermore, any migration to new or different server platforms does not change the user experience.‚

In conclusion, thin computing VDI environments help reduce maintenance and support costs while users continue to enjoy the same desktop experience as with PCs. Using this approach, businesses can deliver secure, isolated desktops that are always on, accessible from anywhere and easy to set up and maintain.

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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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