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Security and AI: meteors coming at the business world

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By JON TULLETT, research manager for IT Services at IDC South Africa

The illicit proceeds of global cybercrime had reached $US1.5 trillion annually according to a 2018 study. Norton Security estimates that by 2023, a total of 33 billion records would be stolen each year. Internet of Things (IoT) attacks increased by 600% and Microsoft cloud user accounts saw a 300% increase in cyber-attacks, over the past year. It is, therefore, little wonder that worldwide spend on security-related hardware, software, and services are forecast, by IDC, to reach $US103.1 billion in 2019. There is a need for a new security paradigm that makes greater use of emergent technologies and is more agile and effective than in the past.

The security challenges and requirements for business 2.0 require far greater use of analytics and machine learning to identify the baseline behaviours of people, applications and infrastructure. This will allow for rapid responses to potential threats and makes better use of cloud technologies – both public and private – to build out an in-depth defense that is consistent with oversight within the organisation.

Incident response will always be a part of security, but the sad reality is that it is also always behind. That said, the next generation of cloud technologies and analytics can greatly improve security capabilities and help organisations overcome that sense of always being left behind. While there will be a new generation of threats loping casually beside – and ahead – of technology’s evolution, the measurements that assess the efficacy of a security system should be around response times. Did the business respond faster than it did in the past?

A much faster and more agile infrastructure needs new thinking about policies and compliance. Orders of magnitude increase in data transactions and volumes require different ways of thinking about protection and threat mitigation. This is further affected by the fluidity of on-demand applications and API access as they increase the number of unpredictable types of access to systems that were, in the past, easy to secure.

Going forward, security must place scale and agility at the centre of design thinking and planning. The security team must build capability that allows them to move faster and take more effective and decisive action with greater insight and confidence. Today’s security products aren’t ready for this. What’s needed is a next-generation set of thinking and tools that are in line with the technologies that preceded them.

This isn’t an incremental change. Most of today’s security tools and many of today’s security companies probably will not survive to see the next generation of business. The changes that are coming are going to have a disruptive impact on market, business and security thinking.

Of course, in the meteor shower of disruption, it’s hard to avoid the conversation of artificial intelligence (AI). Every organisation, and individual, wants to know what impact of this technology will have on them. The reality is that the changes it will make to life and business will be mundane.

It will offer better insights, efficiencies, and more confident decision-making. There will be outliers where an AI model will create a completely new business or achieve an unheard-of improvement, but they will be the black swans. There will also be some businesses that may be dramatically impacted by AI in the next five to ten years, but it will be limited within a niche. For most the future is mundane improvements, but for that niche, the disruption will be severe.

Perhaps the question isn’t the impact of AI but rather the impact of not investing in AI. Can the organisation afford not to make a move towards a technology that has proven results and delivers improvements to the bottom line?

If your competitors are improving their customer experience and gaining efficiencies, you must keep up. The good news is that a lot of AI won’t require separate investment. All the enterprise software vendors have a plan to leverage AI capabilities within their products so they will be a subscription service for most customers. And that will effectively answer both questions.


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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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