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Trust or bust for brands

Trading data is the new value exchange. Consumers are getting smarter at engaging in the interconnected world and where their data is shared. Yet, the rapid rise in cybercrime is fuelled by cybercriminals trying to exploit this data to sell for profit on the black market, writes MARTIN WALSHAW, SE Team Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa, at F5.

Apps are the gateway to vital information, so maintaining user identity is more important than ever. With changing attitudes towards cybersecurity and brand reputations at stake, many business leaders need to ask themselves an important question: Do customers today trust you to protect their data and will that brand loyalty remain in the future?

Data is the new value asset

A single hack can set reputations back as the magnitude of a cyber breach can result in severe losses to revenues. In recent times, large scale cyber-attacks have affected companies of all sizes across retail, banking, manufacturing, media and many other industries. Firms can no longer rely on traditional IT infrastructure because technological innovation and malicious hackers are exposing weaknesses in the system through sophisticated techniques, including malware and encryption. Companies need to rethink their security strategy and plan longer-term to safeguard customer loyalty.

Although innovative technology, such as the internet of things (IoT), has delivered tremendous progress, data breaches to inadequately protected devices and networks can quickly erode consumer confidence, which could take extensive resources to regain. A recent European report conducted by Opinium interviewed six thousand consumers covering the UK, Germany and France. The report revealed interesting findings, including two out of five people in the UK would not purchase smart technology for their home over hacking fears. The survey interviewed British citizens who expressed growing concerns over apps collecting their data and the platforms hackers are targeting today. In addition, almost half were most wary about leading social media sites collecting their data, whilst 58% believe it is the app that hackers will exploit to target them as consumers.

Attitudes towards being cyber-safe are changing rapidly. The Opinium survey also revealed that 74% of Brits now check their security measures when downloading apps, 88% check the security of banking apps and 90% with shopping apps, especially with concerns related to credit card fraud. As consumers become more discerning and vigilant about protecting their credentials, the demands on businesses will increase to prove that their service is robust, compliant and safe. It is quite conceivable that consumers will soon in the future differentiate brands based on their ability to protect data and whether they have the necessary security controls in place. The Opinium survey highlighted that over four fifths (82%) of German adults say they would be concerned about their financial data being hacked with half (51%) worried about their passport being hacked. In comparison, over four fifths (83%) of French adults say they would be concerned about their financial data being hacked with half (52%) worried about their National Insurance Number being hacked.

A company’s reputation will only survive and thrive if it understands consumer behaviour and implements a comprehensive security architecture to meet demands and safeguard sensitive information. Understanding risk, accessing, storing, processing, analysing, protecting and appropriately deleting customer data are mandatory for data compliance and demonstrating a strong security posture. It is essential for businesses to have the flexibility to quickly adapt to evolving trends, support new apps, accommodate a growing mobile community and maximise operational efficiency. In fact, studies have shown that the emotional state of users to network delays and data breaches for even very minor hiccups can cause stress and dissatisfaction. Looking ahead, consumers will know their data has intrinsic value and, as responsible cyber citizens, become more discerning about selecting services.

Getting smarter

In the future, data protection and identity preservation will be at the heart of people’s choices when purchasing goods on-line, selecting a banking investment and even sharing credentials with local authorities. The digital economy is driving increased reliance on application services and forward thinking companies are implementing integrated security ecosystems to mitigate cyberattacks and fraud. A failure to scale the security architecture, safeguard and successfully manage customer credentials will be detrimental to a brand’s reputation.

Now ask yourself another question considering digital economic trends: Does my business have the right applications security solutions, which can keep customers happy? Remember, the way organisations deal with data will be a commercial differentiator for consumers. Now is the time to secure the trust.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as end-of-support looms, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2008.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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