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Race for trust and time

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Technology has changed all aspects of our lives, including the way we transact. In our digital economy, money is not the only currency consumers place value in as they also see trust, time and treasure as important drivers, writes Intel’s TREVOR COETZEE.

In the conventional economy, money is the only currency. But we are increasingly inhabiting a world comprised of the cloud, mobility, the Internet of Things and an infinite number of goods and services that are exchanged online.

In this so-called Second Economy, money isn’t the only currency. In this technological and social realm, trust, time and treasure are the new currencies – and one of them is worth a lot more to cybercriminals than money.

Trust

The Second Economy is built on the psychological currency of trust. When we transact online, we trust that the company we’re dealing with will protect our information.

But trust is under relentless attack and is the prime casualty of cyber conflict. Hacktivists aren’t after money. Rather, they want to embarrass their targets and reduce their brand value by sowing mistrust. Each attack serves to erode the trust of customers in a company’s ability to withstand future breaches and protect their interests. And when trust is lost, it can do as much damage as lost funds, if not more.

A cyber defence focused primarily on protecting financial assets is therefore insufficient. The problem, however, is that public concern about personal data loss is falling despite a rise in data thefts. Also, breach victims are not typically penalised, even when their own negligence contributes, which suggests that breach costs should be evaluated in the Second Economy.

Time

In the Second Economy, time matters more than money.

On the one hand, cybercriminals, or black hats, have time on their side. They design their attacks at leisure, crafting carefully thought out and executed strategies that can sometimes go undetected within a network for months, even years.

They also use time to their advantage in ransomware attacks by attaching deadlines to ransom pay-outs for the safe return of data. Under such immense time pressures, victims are more likely to respond impulsively and pay the ransom.

On the other hand, victims, or white hats, are in a constant race against time and are always reacting under pressure. When a breach occurs, time is the ultimate weapon – detecting and remediating threats as quickly as possible becomes the goal in a race where every second counts and time most certainly is money.

The time it takes an organisation to respond to breaches depends on the tools, policies and political structures that are in place before the notion of a threat is even recognised.

But the status quo in most organisations is that separate divisions have separate security policies, which slows down their response times. An IT strategy that allows for new technology to be rapidly onboarded will ensure that new software releases will not hinder productivity and that software updates are not time-consuming.

Treasure

In the Second Economy, money – or profit – is not the only treasure that black hats are after. When it comes to sowing mistrust, cybercriminals could be motivated by principle – as it often seen in attacks by ‘hacktivist’ group, Anonymous – while nation-states identify targets to expand their province.

Whatever their treasure, black hats have clear incentives motivating their next move, and with each attack, the trust economy is ultimately corroded. These fast-moving, fast-adapting black hats govern the terms of cyber conflict and control the pace of innovation and the nature and timing of assaults. Organisations play a perpetual game of catch-up, yet they consistently ignore or rationalise the risk.

This must change.

Gaining the upper hand

Individual users cannot shirk responsibility for helping safeguard the Second Economy and, at the strategic level, today’s siloed, reactive, barely collaborative defence posture must yield to a new white hat paradigm that is adaptive, aggressive, proactive, newly generous on information-sharing and unpredictable.

If we are to secure the now indispensable, Interned-based Second Economy, we have to reject conventional defence paradigms in favour of radical new thinking. Where we have relied on old playbooks, we must be newly unpredictable; where we have hoarded information, we must become collaborative; where we have undervalued cyber defence, we must prioritise it.

A good start is at the organisational IT level through adopting technology platforms that accept new security software quickly and result in a better-aligned ecosystem. We need to develop a whole spectrum of response plays and not simply plan for an unlikely worst-case scenario.

No single solution can eradicate all threats. We need a superior platform that allows for swift on-boarding of new technologies, over an architecture backed by common tools and workflows, along with automation and orchestration capabilities – one that doesn’t multiply operational complexity for already overburdened staff. An integrated platform also offers the benefit of tapping into aggregate innovative capabilities of hundreds of potential players, all connected over the same infrastructure. This gives white hats a fighting chance at making time their ally.

Cyber security professionals with a more simplified back office infrastructure, as provided by fewer vendors in their environment, report experiencing fewer threats, better detection times and more confidence in their security posture than those with a more fragmented, multi-vendor approach.

There also needs to be organisational change. CEOs must advocate for more strategic, proactive defence while end-users must develop better security consciousness.

Finally, we need bold information sharing. By hoarding information, we make the Second Economy more vulnerable. Better defence depends on better sharing impulses. Bold, perhaps altruistic information sharing gestures by cyber defence organisations can change the culture.

Our economy is no longer a physical one but one of connected networks and systems where cybercriminals have put us on the defensive. We now live in a world where more than money is at stake and where we’re fighting against time and working to justify trust.

If we’re going to win the race, we need to abandon old security playbooks to become more unpredictable and collaborative and make cyber defence a priority.

* Trevor Coetzee, regional director, South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, Intel Security

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Samsung A51: Saviour of the mid-range

For a few years, Samsung has delivered some less than favourable mid-range devices compared to the competition. The Galaxy A51 is here to change all that, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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It’s not often one can look at a mid-range phone and mistake it for a flagship. That’s what you can expect to experience when taking the Galaxy A51 out into the open.

Samsung went back to the drawing board with its new range of devices, and it shows. The latest Galaxy A range features some of the highest quality, budget-friendly devices we’ve seen so far. The Samsung Galaxy A51 is one of the best phones we’ve seen in a while, not just aesthetically, but in what it packs into a sub-R7000 price tag.

Looking at the device briefly, it’s very easy to mistake it for a flagship. It features a four-camera array on the back, and an Infinity-O punch-hole display – both of which are features of the high-end Samsung devices. In fact, it features a similar camera array as the Galaxy Note10 Lite but features an additional lens in the array. The cameras line up in an L-shape, clearly avoiding looking like a stovetop.

Apart from the camera array, the back of the handset features a striking pattern called Prism Crush, a pattern of pastel shades that come in black, white, blue, and pink. For the review, we used the Prism Crush Blue colour and it looks really great. The feel is clearly plastic, which isn’t too surprising for a mid-range device, but the design is definitely something that will make users opt for a clear case. It’s also great to see a design pattern that deviates from the standard single iridescent colours many manufacturers have copied from Huawei’s design.

Along the sides, it features a metal-like frame, but again, it’s plastic. On the left side, we find a SIM and microSD card tray while the right side houses the power button and volume rocker. The bottom of the phone features a very welcome USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which isn’t too uncommon for mid-range phones.

On the front, the device is pretty much all screen, at an 87.4% screen-to-body ratio, thanks to a tiny chin at the bottom and the small punch hole for the camera. The earpiece has also been hidden inside the frame in attempts to maximise this screen-to-body ratio. When powered on, the 6.5-inch display looks vivid and sharp. That’s because Samsung opted to put a Super AMOLED display into this midrange unit, giving it a resolution of 1080 x 2400 (at 405 ppi) in a 20:9 format. This makes the display FullHD+, and perfect for consuming video content like Netflix and YouTube in HD.

Hidden underneath the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is very surprising to find in a mid-range device. While it is extremely accurate, it takes some getting used to because the sensor is so large that one needs to put one’s entire finger over the right part of the display to unlock it. Most other types of non-in-screen fingerprint sensors don’t mind a partial fingerprint. The display itself feels nothing like the back and that’s because it’s not plastic, but rather Gorilla Glass 3, to prevent the screen from shattering easily.

What’s interesting about this device is finding accessories which aren’t quite available in phone stores yet. When browsing online for screen protectors, one has to be on the lookout for screen protectors that are compatible with the in-screen fingerprint sensor. Make sure to check out the reviews of users before purchasing them.

In terms of software, Samsung has made a great deal of effort to make the experience slick. Gone are the days of TouchWiz (thank goodness) and now we have OneUI in its second version. OneUI makes the phone easier to use by putting most of the interaction on the bottom half of the screen and most of the view on the top part of the screen, where one’s thumbs don’t usually reach.

Out of the box, the device came with Android 10. This is a huge step forward in terms of commitment to running the latest software for major feature updates as well as for Android security patches to keep the device secure.

It also has most of the cool features from the flagship devices, like Samsung Pay, Bixby, and Link to Windows. Samsung Pay is an absolute pleasure to use, even if it still confuses the person taking your payments. From linking my cards, I have stopped taking my wallet out with me because all merchants that accept tap-to-pay will accept Samsung Pay on the A51.

Bixby is useful if you’re in the Samsung app ecosystem, especially for owners of SmartThings devices like Samsung TVs and SmartThings-enabled smart home devices. Otherwise, Google Assistant is still accessible for those who still want to use the standard Google experience.

Link to Windows is an interesting feature that started with the Galaxy Note10 and has since trickled down into the mid-range. It allows users to send SMS messages, view recently taken photos, and receive notifications from the phone, all on a Windows 10 PC. This can be enabled by going to the Your Phone app found in the start menu.

The rear camera is phenomenal for a mid-range device and features a 48MP wide sensor. The photos come out as 12MP images, which is a common trick of many manufacturers to achieve high-quality photography. It does this by combining 4 pixels into a single superpixel to get the best colours out of the picture, while still remaining sharp. It also performs surprisingly well in low light, which is not something we were expecting from a mid-range device.

The 12MP ultra-wide angle lens spans 123-degrees, which is very wide and also useful for getting shots in where one can’t move back further. It’s not as great as the main lens but does the trick for getting everyone in for a group photo in a galley kitchen.

The 5MP depth-sensing lens supplements the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo – the same lens as its predecessor, the Galaxy A50. It features a 32MP wide-angle selfie camera, which is perfect for fitting everyone into a large group selfie.

The processor is an Exynos 9611, which is an Octa-core processor. It performs well in most situations, and there is software built in to give games a boost, so it performs well with graphically intensive games too. In terms of RAM, there are 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB variants, so keep an eye out for which one you are trying. For the review, we had the 4GB, and it performs well with multitasking and day-to-day tasks.

For storage, it comes in a 128GB model on Samsung’s website, which seems to be the standard size. This is extremely welcome in the mid-range segment and is the largest we’ve seen for internal storage capacity as a starting point.

At a recommended selling price of R6,999, the Samsung Galaxy A51 marks the beginning of a great era for Samsung, because it provides a feature-rich handset at an affordable price.

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Prepare now for 2030

Traditional businesses are toast unless they start preparing for the future now, warns ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Don’t say you haven’t been warned. Various forecasts point to the likelihood that technologies using artificial intelligence will generate up to 15% of the world’s gross domestic product by 2030. PwC suggests that it will add $15.7-trillion to the global economy. 

That, in turn, will ensure that a sizeable proportion of the world’s business will be conducted on advanced digital platforms. In other words, the 15% is just the springboard for vast swathes of activity that will dominate business. Those that stick to the old way of doing things will simply be left out of the new economy.

This means traditional businesses are already toast, but only if they decide not to start preparing now.

“This future economy is something that should be on everybody’s mind and in every government’s strategy,” says Mohammed Amin, Dell Technologies senior vice president for Middle East, Russia, Africa and Turkey. During a visit to South Africa this week, he said it was no longer a matter of selling technology for its own sake.

“If you’re not part of this wagon to the future, you need to jump on it. The world’s IT companies are not pushing digital transformation and multi-cloud strategy just for the sake of selling technology. We’re doing it to optimise your business and to help make you part of the future.”

He says three primary trends need to be leveraged by business.

“I believe that artificial intelligence is the ship that is going to take us for the future. The fuel is going to be data. And infrastructure will be software-defined. You have to build an agile, dynamic infrastructure to thrive in this future.”

Amin, an Egyptian-Canadian, points to the sensation created by his late compatriot, the Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum, who died 45 years ago. Last year, she appeared in the world’s first hologram concert, at the World Youth Forum in Egypt. Then, in December, she performed – as a hologram – for paying audiences in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. 

“Imagine people paying for tickets to watch a hologram. It means the world is open to this. It is moving so fast, and we are in the heart of this.”

It is also an example of how technology companies are no longer focused only on technology but also on enhancing human lives. 

“We’re involved in so many projects, from healthcare to education. Education especially is very important, because it is shifting from ‘what to learn’ to ‘how to learn’. It’s an amazing shift. You need to know how to learn because you will need to experience and learn in so many fields to be qualified for the future.”

Amin does not believe doomsday prophecies of much of the world’s population being rendered jobless by robots and AI. However, some “straightforward” jobs will be readily replaceable. Even lawyers and general practice doctors, for example, could be replaced by smartphone apps.

“The job market will grow, but the profile required is going to change. Jobs will be available, but for certain profiles. By 2030, 85% of the job market will be for jobs we don’t know today. This is the challenge that education faces.” 

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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