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Shadow IT make you wannacry

The opinion of shadow IT, or the installation of unauthorised apps in an organisation is divided. Some believe that it answers the need for agile solutions, while others think in increases security risks. SIMEON TASSEV, MD and QSA at Galix Networking sets the record straight.

There are mixed opinions about implementing unauthorised, IT applications (apps) within the organisation, a practice known as Shadow IT. Opinion on Shadow IT is divided into two camps. Some believe that due to the fast pace of business, demands are exceeding IT capability, Shadow IT answers the need for fast, agile solutions and encourages innovative thinking. However, others suppose that Shadow IT causes a breakdown in traditional yet necessary processes, opening up the scope for risk.

While the market has driven the need for Shadow IT to play a role, the risks cannot be overstated. There has been a significant rise in cyber-crime activity over the last few months, with malware such as the WannaCry Ransomware, and the more recent Petya and NotPetya attacks, making news headlines due to the damage caused on a global scale.

Shadow IT, Ransomware and the missing link

Many businesses lost crippling sums of money and critical data due to these attacks, with some being forced to shut down for an extended period.  In an environment where malware can be introduced on any devices, businesses cannot afford not to be fully cognisant of everything that touches their network. So, does this mean Shadow IT is the cause by being the key that unlocks the door to virulent network attacks?

Today’s average user is far more technologically savvy than ever before. The range of apps available across a range of devices means that it is fairly simple for an employee to discover one which they believe addresses a business requirement better than what their current IT department provides. Often, employees are able to better understand what they need from a technology to improve productivity. In fact, Shadow IT may help users to more effectively do their jobs and, if formally introduced, could help businesses to innovate quicker.

However, in many cases where users implement applications or systems without permission, or notifying their IT department, these apps and systems cannot be effectively monitored or controlled. Data moving across these systems is therefore equally unmonitored. The business has no control over where their data is, who has access to it, and what the safety measures are around it. Ultimately, this can be very dangerous.

What can be done?

IT departments should ensure that they conduct regular audits for unauthorised applications and systems to ensure that the business remains secure. Once completed, any discovered (and unapproved) apps need to be discarded or integrated into the existing IT ecosystem, based on their benefits. The IT department should also educate users on the risks of Shadow IT.  Making them aware of their potential to unwittingly introduce malware such as ransomware or other cyber-threats.

Hooked on Shadow IT?

Users often become dependent on the apps and systems that are introduce independently. When the IT department becomes aware of their use, it may be too late to stop use of the app without negatively impacting productivity and functionality. In fact, employees usually search for these kinds of tools in order to boost their productivity in specific areas where the individual may slack. In addition, the tool or app used may not necessarily work for the business or other co-workers and cannot be implemented on a whim.

When the IT department, or the business, is unaware of systems and apps being used for business purposes, they are unable to apply the necessary threat prevention and other security measures that will ensure the safety of not only the business, but also the user. Thus, the user assumes responsibility for any security breach that may occur through their use of an unauthorised app.

A positive spin

Conversely, Shadow IT can only be helpful for the business, however, only if it is carried out in collaboration with the IT department. Users can be empowered to identify and recommend apps and systems which may ease common business pains, which also alleviates the pressure on IT departments while fast tracking innovation. Simultaneously, IT departments retain a say in what will or won’t work with existing infrastructure and security systems.

In conclusion, although Shadow IT can definitely open up the scope for risk within the business, the IT department within the organisation can collectively work with employees to mitigate security risks. The result is a solution that answers the needs of the user and the business, while still falling within the control of the IT department, and under their security umbrella. There are, therefore, no unidentified or insecure points for malware to enter the business’s systems and the responsibility for the protection of company data still resides with the IT department. Finally, IT should become involved in the assessment of these ‘Shadow IT’ apps and systems, and perhaps it should be touted as ‘Collaborative IT’.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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