Is blockchain the antidote to all cybersecurity woes?

Blockchain has been turning heads since it was first unveiled in 2008 to become the backbone of then relatively unknown cryptocurrency, bitcoin. Since then, blockchain and Bitcoin have skyrocketed in public awareness, with the latter becoming the most successful cryptocurrency in history. A large portion of bitcoin's success is due to its blockchain infrastructure, which prevents the duplication of funds (preventing double-spending) and automatically time-stamps every transaction.

The developer (or developers) behind blockchain created the software to be resistant to alteration or hacking, making it one of the more inherently secure systems that companies can use to manage secure infrastructures. Some have heralded blockchain as the ultimate tool to promote cybersecurity and reduce the risk of data breaches.

Then bitcoin, in addition to several other cryptocurrencies, were hacked. According to CNN, the attack erased the equivalent of billions of dollars and sent the value of the affected cryptocurrencies plunging. The incident has many questioning just how secure blockchain is and whether the software was simply a temporary fix, like so many others, against the ever-present threat of cyberattacks.

"Blockchain can give each registered device a specific SSL certificate for authentication."

The case for blockchain
While buzzwords are common in the tech industry, there are several legitimate reasons why blockchain has been celebrated as a secure platform. According to Info Security Magazine, one of blockchain's primary appeals is its decentralized data storage. While users can access blockchain data on a computer or mobile device, the program itself is typically stored throughout the network.

If one access point – or block – is targeted by hackers, then the other blocks will react to it. The attempted cyberattack will likely alter the data on the block in a way that is immediately noticeable by the rest of the chain. This block will then simply be disconnected, isolating the malicious data before it can impact the system.

Another helpful advantage of blockchain is its effectiveness against dedicated denial of service attacks. These cyberattacks target the domain name system, flooding it with so much data traffic that it essentially shuts down. Using blockchain software would allow the DNS to spread its contents to more nodes, reducing the effectiveness of the DDoS attack before it reaches a crippling stage.

Networks using a blockchain infrastructure can also bypass the need for passwords in certain situations. Instead of using the human-oriented password system, blockchain can give each registered device a specific SSL certificate. This mode of authentication is a lot more difficult for outside sources to access, reducing the likelihood of a hack.

Removing dependence on passwords may sound less secure but it is actually seen as an improvement. Employees can be careless with their login information or choose passwords that can be easily deduced by third parties. Eliminating the human factor from authentication actually goes a long way by removing one of the most common exploit points.

However, no system is 100 percent secure.

The McAfee Report
While many companies preach the value of blockchain, global computer security software company McAfee recently released a critical report on the software, stating that industries have every reason to expect cyberattacks. McAfee looked at early blockchain adapters, namely cryptocurrencies, and studied the types of cyberattacks still occurring within these companies.

The report identified four primary attack types: implementation exploits, malware, phishing and general technology vulnerabilities. Certain cryptocurrencies themselves have been used to help the spread of advanced malware, including ransomware. Coin miner malware alone grew by 629 percent in the first quarter of 2018, according to McAfee data.

Cybercriminals have also been using cryptocurrencies to mask their identities, taking advantage of blockchain's secure features to help them evade the law.

Blockchain builds its infrastructure securely, but not in a manner that is invulnerable. Blockchain builds its infrastructure securely, but not in a manner that is invulnerable.

What companies can learn from the cryptocurrency attack
Lastly, however, the attack of the cryptocurrencies themselves should highlight the limitations of blockchain. While the program may be innately secure, it is not an excuse to abandon other forms of caution. Technology is spreading at a rapid pace with information security specialists struggling to catch up.

In short, blockchain should be seen as just another tool and not a cure-all for cyberattacks. Its architecture can be helpful but must be implemented in a thorough, professional manner. Even then, it should also be paired with other programs and employee training to best reduce the risk of cybercrime.

How cloud infrastructure can help the retail sector

Cloud computing has caught on in a big way. A recent report from Right Scale found that 81 percent of the enterprise sector has adopted a multi-cloud system in at least some way. Public cloud adoption rates have continued to climb, as well, with the report noting that 92 percent of users now employ cloud technology (up from 89 percent in 2017). Across the board, cloud networks are gaining usership due to its improved interfacing, less dependence on in-house technical teams and flexible program structure.

However, some industry verticals continue to lag behind. The latest international Bitglass survey found that the retail sector has been slow to adopt cloud infrastructure. Only 47.8 percent of responding retail organizations had deployed the often-used Microsoft Office 365 suite, and Amazon Web Services – the most popular cloud system – was only used by 9 percent.

In short, retail is being left behind, and that lag is a serious problem for the industry – in part because retail is a sector that can profit immensely from successful cloud integration. However, cybersecurity concerns and technical knowledge limitations may be slowing down the adoption rate.

Taking advantage of mobile hardware
Almost everyone has a smartphone, that’s not an exaggeration. According to Pew research data, 77 percent of Americans have this hardware, and that number has been climbing steadily. Since smartphones are becoming cheaper and more user friendly, it is unlikely to think this device will be replaced in the near future.

Because smartphones are so ubiquitous and convenient, consumers are using them for a wide variety of tasks, including shopping. OuterBox found that, as of early 2018, precisely 62 percent of shoppers had made a purchase through their phones within the last six months. Another 80 percent had used their smartphones to compare products and deals while inside a store.

With a cloud infrastructure, retailers can better take advantage of this mobile world. Successful retail locations should consider maintaining at least two online networks – one for customers and another for employees. This setup will prevent bandwidth lag and help keep the consumer away from sensitive information. In addition, creating a mobile experience that is user friendly and seamlessly interwoven with the physical shopping experience is paramount.

Rather than building such a system from the ground up, retailers can take advantage of the numerous infrastructure-as-a-service cloud options available, leveraging a reliable third party rather than an in-house IT team.

Shoppers are already augmenting their experience with external online information. Shoppers are already augmenting their experiences with external online information.

Getting ahead of the latest trends
Data drives business intelligence, this is true in every enterprise sector. In retail, housing the right products can mean the difference between turning a profit and going out of business. However, retailers still using traditional sales reporting will be slow to react to shopping trends, as these reports can take months to compile.

Data analytics is the actionable side of big data. In retail, customers convey valuable information about shopping habits before they even enter the store, but if this data is not being captured, it is essentially useless. Bringing in an encompassing data analytics solution, which can read information such as store purchases, response to sales and even social media reaction, can provide retailers with extra information to make actionable decisions.

“This analysis removes the guesswork about what will sell and which styles will flop on the shelves,” Roman Kirsch, CEO of fashion outlet Lesara, stated in an interview with Inc. “We don’t just know which new styles are popular, we can also identify retro trends that are making comebacks, which styles are on the way out, and that helps us to precisely manage our production.”

Improving inventory management
In addition, data analytics can be paired with a responsive inventory management program. Retail-as-a-service solutions exist and can be used to track stock availability, shipping orders and in-store details. With this software, retail companies can get a real-time image of how well products and even entire locations are performing.

These solutions can prevent item shortages before they occur and give retail chains a greater understanding of performance at every location.

Using inventory management solutions can help retailers maximize their shipping profits. They can ship either directly to the customer or to the retail location most in need. Using inventory management solutions can help retailers maximize their shipping profits. They can ship directly to the customer or to the retail location most in need.

Concerning cybersecurity
Perhaps one of the factors slowing the adoption of cloud technology in the retail sector is cybersecurity. Retail organizations process multitudes of consumer credit information by the day, and the fallout from a data breach can be fatal in this sector. When faced with using cloud technology or in-house data center solutions, retail executives may believe that the safest hands are still their own.

However, this may not be the case. Research firm Gartner predicted that through 2022, 95 percent of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault, meaning that issues will not come from a software defect but through poor implementation. The firm also concluded that cloud structures will see as much as 60 percent fewer cyberattacks than those businesses with in-house servers.

Cloud infrastructure is secure but must be installed and operated properly. The only thing that retail agencies have to fear when it comes to this new solution is technological ignorance, but many cloud providers and third-party services stand ready to aid in the installation process.

Should companies embrace wearables?

 

Technology has gotten far more mobile within the last decade. The laptop was already allowing employees to maintain productivity on the go, but this device got augmented by the arrival of the commercial smartphone, tablet and, now, wearables. Each new hardware unveiling has increased the amount of work that can be done while mobile. This shift is leading some in the enterprise space to rethink office structure and workflow.

However, should businesses be embracing innovation at this pace? Rapid adoption of any new technology has downsides and, with cybersecurity concerns on the rise, utilizing innovative hardware can have serious repercussions. Since wearables represent the newest hardware and software infrastructure hitting industries, the question becomes: Should companies embrace this technology or exercise caution until it has become more mainstream?

“Mobile workplaces lead to improved employee retention.”

The advantages of workplace mobility
A mobile workplace strategy provides several advantages. Many of these benefits, such as the greater likelihood for increased collaboration among employees, are straightforward. The more data that workers can store on their person, the less they’ll have to retreat to their desks to retrieve information.

Another benefit that may not be so apparent is how mobile workplaces lead to improved employee retention. Workers who sit at their desks all day are likely busy but may not be engaged in the workplace or its culture. This sentiment makes the task just another job, and, eventually, the employee may leave to find another that pays better or offers superior benefits. According to Deloitte data, however, engaged employees are 87 percent more likely to remain at their companies.

Mobile workflow allows workers to get up, be more flexible and do more, all of which can lead to higher levels of productivity and revenue for a business. In some ways, wearables represent the pinnacle of mobile workplace technology. With a device like augmented reality glasses, workers don’t even have to glance down at a screen to see data. This flexibility means employees can update one another in real time with the most relevant data.

How to embrace BYOD  for wearables
It feels strange to say now, but the smartphone did not begin with the iPhone. Blackberries and other enterprise devices existed for years prior to Apple’s launch. However, within less than a decade, Apple and Samsung overthrew the Blackberry and are enjoying immense adoption rates. What’s the reason? People liked using the tech.

Likewise, workers brought this hardware to the office before many organizations had concrete “bring your own device” policies in place. Some businesses still resist given the information security concerns associated with BYOD. However, rejecting BYOD can be just as perilous because many employees will still use personal devices anyway.

The better option is to embrace the mobile nature of this new hardware and work to develop a comprehensive BYOD policy that reflects and monitors every device. According to Tenable, many companies make BYOD available to all (40 percent) or some (32 percent) of employees, so the goal is design a strategy that reflects each employee’s device usage.

Pew Research found that, unsurprisingly, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Another 53 percent own a tablet. Wearables are newer, so their device distribution is much lower. Even relatively common devices like Fitbit have not reached the level of tablets. Wearable glasses have yet to have their “iPhone moment,” where one consumer device connects and enjoys wide commercial appeal.

That said, a lower number of these devices does not mean companies can ignore them. Valuable data can be stored on a smartwatch as easily as it can on a laptop. Companies using BYOD should plan for wearables now before the devices become mainstream, allowing IT teams to create and deploy a strategy that will be safe.

Most wearables are linked to a smartphone, meaning they share the same data library. Most wearables are linked to a smartphone, meaning they share the same data library.

The problematic nature of cybersecurity
Cybersecurity has been struggling to keep pace with the internet of things in general and, unfortunately, wearables are no exception. A product examination conducted by HP Fortify found no hardware with two-factor authentication but noticed that all tested smartwatches stored confidential information that could be used for identity theft. These devices also received limited security updates.

Wearables will likely be driven by the same commercial appeal that spurs other recent technology, meaning that the two factors that will be stressed above all else will be price and usability. While this focus will make employees happy, it can create fits for an IT team or chief information security officer.

To help improve the cybersecurity of these devices, businesses can treat them similar to smartphones by placing them on a different network with less compromising information. Organizations can also look to implement custom multi-step authorization software whenever possible.

Augmented reality glasses often have live feeds meaning that, if hacked, outside sources can see operating data. Augmented reality glasses often have live feeds meaning that, if hacked, outside sources can see worker operations.

Know which wearables can make an impact
Lastly, businesses should not presume that all wearable technology will be viable in an enterprise setting. For instance, AR glasses will need a battery life of at least eight hours to last a full day of work, and smartwatches will have to be durable enough to withstand occasional bumps, even in an office environment.

Before investing in any official company-sanctioned hardware, thoroughly research and test devices to be sure they perform well in a typical environment. Wearables are cutting-edge technology, and many products now are designed for only niche markets rather than the mainstream.

So while companies can adopt wearables now, it makes sense to first have a policy in place. This isn’t the iPhone. Businesses have a chance to get ahead of mass wearable adoption and create policies that make sense rather than reacting to the latest tech trend.

Cybersecurity tips at a glance: Managing IoT devices

As the realm of the internet of things grows, it is important to understand all aspects of the technology's performance. Companies and industries that see only the benefits open themselves up to data breaches, public embarrassment and even legal action. IoT technology can boost productivity when done right but lead to costly and unnecessary expenses if utilized without proper foresight.

The possible downsides of exercise wearables
Employee wellness is a trend that is sweeping across industries. These initiatives have shown positive results, such as increasing worker morale and promoting healthy behaviors. One study from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine even found that employee wellness diet programs can reduce health risks.

To this end, exercise wearables, such as Fitbit, appear to make sense. These devices can track heart rate, body temperature, calorie consumption and sleep quality. Many come with a social aspect, as well, allowing co-workers to engage in friendly competition to see who is the most active within the office.

For many industries, these wearables have no real downside. However, employers should know that the data gathered by many fitness wearables can be used to track employee location. This vulnerability has been problematic, especially for those working for the U.S. armed forces. According to The Washington Post, several previously secret military bases were revealed when data gathered by GPS tracking company Strava was made public.

The U.S. army had been using these fitness wearables for their advantages without fully understanding how the technology could be exploited. Most commercial hardware is designed for ease of use and cost affordability. These traits are in part the reason why IoT has famously encountered cybersecurity concerns over the past several years.

For enterprises working with sensitive and classified materials, IoT wearables may have a downside. Outside parties, benign and malicious, can track employee movement, knowing more about workers than may be deemed safe.

Augmented reality glasses can also potentially leak vital secrets, as they see and record all the employee does. Augmented reality glasses can also potentially leak vital secrets, as they see and record all the employee does.

Know where backup data is stored
Many IoT devices provide extra "eyes" on the field. Drones have been performing various types of reconnaissance missions for decades, whether for government contractors or farmers wishing to understand more about their soil. These unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are built to capture, transmit and store data.

While useful, drones have several serious cybersecurity concerns. They can be intercepted, and if so, their data is easily accessible. This risk is especially a problem for devices that back up information into themselves. A report from Syracuse University indicates that there are concerns that data stored on Chinese manufactured drones could be accessed by their government and would be out of U.S. control. 

Using IoT devices has many advantages, but executives must always consider the full picture before implementation.

How cave fish may help prevent IoT jamming

Jamming is a potential crippling blow to internet of things-enabled hardware. It can bring down drones from the sky, disrupt network connections and lead to economic downtime. In the cybersecurity arena, jamming is more commonly known as dedicated denial of service attacks. According to a CORERO DDoS trend report, this method of cyberattack increased by an incredible 91 percent in 2017.

IoT devices are behind this surge in DDoS attacks, as many lack comprehensive cybersecurity protocols and can be easily jammed. While this deterrent is not enough to slow the pace of IoT adoption, enterprises hoping to make use of mass IoT market penetration must be aware of the risks, as well as what is being done to prevent IoT jamming.

Luckily, a recent study published in Optics Express gives some hope against rampant DDoS cybercrime. As with many technological innovations, the potential salvation is inspired by a system that already works inside the animal kingdom.

Studying the Eigenmannia
The Eigenmannia are a species of cave fish that exist in total darkness. Without light, these creatures need another way to hunt, communicate and otherwise "see" within the perpetual darkness. The researchers studying these fish discovered that they emitted an electric field to sense the environment and communicate with other fish.

Because two or more of these animals could emit the field near one another, the species had to have a way to stop the signal from getting disrupted, otherwise the fish couldn't thrive. The scientists learned the Eigenmannia have the ability to alter their signals. This capability is due to a unique neural algorithm in their brain activity. The purpose and function of the field remains in tact, but its frequency is changed just enough to avoid confusion.

This same trait can be harnessed to help create a light-based jamming avoidance response device.

Drones if jammed run the risk of damaging hardware and products. If jammed, drones run the risk of damaging hardware and products.

Creating a jamming avoidance response device
When two IoT devices operating on the same frequency come close to each other, the fields become crossed, and jamming occurs. The closer the two pieces of hardware drift, the more the disruption intensifies.

However, with a JAR device, similar to the natural solution used by Eigenmannia, these IoT components could adjust their frequency, preserving the function of the signal while avoiding jamming. Using a light-based system would enable IoT devices to shift through a wide range of frequencies.

The resulting machine, created by the research team, shows promise.

"This could allow a smarter and more dynamic way to use our wireless communication systems without the need for the complicated coordination processes that currently prevent jamming, by reserving whole sections of bandwidth for specific phone carriers or users such as the military," said team lead Mable P. Fok.

While it won't single-handedly eliminate the threat of DDoS attacks, JAR device usage on a large scale has some advantages. Essentially, it is a low-cost solution for any agency that utilizes a plethora of IoT content. In addition to the aforementioned military use case, health care facilities like hospitals, air traffic control towers and even educational institutions could find immediate value in this technology.

Since a JAR device would likely lower the bandwidth needed for IoT hardware interaction, DDoS attacks could become less expensive. As these attacks continue to become more prevalent, the value of this research will likely increase. Designing IoT devices on software that can shift frequency will reduce costs and, hopefully, a more secure IoT landscape.

The potential of Project Kinect for Azure

When Microsoft first debuted its Kinect hardware in 2010, the product had nothing to do with edge computing, AI or machine learning. The Kinect served as a controller interface for Microsoft's Xbox 360 video game console. (Later versions were released for Windows PC and Xbox One.) Using cameras and sensors, it registered a player's body movements and inputted these gestures as controls. While it was innovative, Kinect struggled to gain a footing.

Despite going through various upgrades, it was fully discontinued as a consumer project in 2017. However, Microsoft did not fully abandon its Kinect hardware. At this year's Build developer's conference the company revealed a new use for its one-time video game accessory: edge computing.

Specifically, the new Kinect project factors into the greater themes of Build 2018, namely combining cognitive computing, AI and edge computing. 

"Microsoft has ambitious plans to bring its Cognitive Services software to Azure IoT Edge."

Microsoft at Build 2018
Edge computing is at the forefront of technological innovation. Capitalizing on the internet of things, this method of data processing de-emphasizes a central hub. Remote sensors receive computer processing power to analyze the data near its source before sending it back, greatly reducing bandwidth needs. This system is also more dependable because the sensors store the data, at least for a limited time span. Network outages or dropped connections won't result in lost or fragmented information.

However, these sensors are, at the moment, fairly basic equipment. Microsoft aims to change that. At Build 2018, the company announced ambitious plans to bring its Cognitive Services software to its edge computing solution, Azure IoT Edge. According to TechCrunch, the first of these programs will be the Custom Vision service.

Implementation of this software with Azure IoT Edge can allow unmanned aerial vehicles, such as drones, to perform more complex tasks without direct control from a central data source. It will give these devices the ability to "see" and understand the environment around them, analyzing new visual data streams. This technology can also be used to improve advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles and industrial machines.

This advanced method of machine learning can increase productivity because all of these devices will be able to continue to perform complicated, vision-based tasks even with network connection disruptions.

Microsoft has also partnered with Qualcomm to bring cognitive vision developer's tools to devices like home assistants, security cameras and other smart devices.

However, this technology, Qualcomm and its Custom Vision service, while useful only work with devices equipped with sensors and cameras that can process visual data. To increase the variety of edge sensors that can benefit from these new tools and software services, Microsoft resurrected the Kinect. 

Allowing advanced robotics to "see" will enable them to perform far more complex actions, even without a constant relay of instructions. Allowing advanced robotics to "see" will enable them to perform far more complex actions, even without a constant relay of instructions.

The power of the Kinect 
In an introduction on LinkedIn, Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman discussed Project Kinect for Azure. In his piece, Kipman outlined the company's reasoning for opting to return to the commercial failure. First, Kinect has a number of impressive features that make it ideal as a sensor.

These benefits include its 1024×1024 megapixel resolution, which is the highest among any sensor camera. Kinect also comes with a global shutter that will help the device record accurately when in sunlight. Its cameras capture images with automatic per pixel gain selection. This functionality allows the Kinect to capture objects at various ranges cleanly and without distortion. It features multiphase depth calculation to further improve its image accuracy, even when dealing with power supply variation and the presence of lasers. Lastly, the Kinect is a low-power piece of hardware thanks to its high modulation frequency and contrast.

Utilizing the Kinect sensors for cognitive computing makes sense. When looking at the product history, Microsoft had already developed more than half the specifications needed to create an effective sensor. The Kinect was designed to track and process human movement, differentiate users from animals or spectators in the room and operate in numerous real-world settings. It was also made to endure drops and other household accidents. Essentially, the Kinect was a hardy specialized sensor interface a market where it had to compete with precise button pressing.

In an industrial space, Kinect can fair far better. Augmenting existing data collection sensors with this visual aid will increase the amount of actionable data that is recorded. The Kinect brings with it a set of "eyes" for any machine. This advantage will let developers and engineers get creative as they seek to create the advanced edge computing networks of the future.

How a holistic approach to data analytics benefits cybersecurity

 

Almost everyone, regardless of industry, recognizes the growing importance of cybersecurity. Cyberattacks are on the rise and growing increasingly varied and sophisticated. According to data collected by Cybersecurity Ventures, the annual cost of cybercrime is estimated to reach roughly $6 trillion by 2021. An effective information security policy is, in many cases, the only thing standing between companies and possible financial ruin.

The danger is especially real for small- to medium-sized businesses. Data from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission found that only slightly more than a third of SMBs (40 percent) survive for longer than six months after a successful data breach. For these types of organizations, cybersecurity is literally a matter of life and death.

The good news: Many businesses recognize the need for effective cybersecurity strategies and are investing heavily in personnel and software solutions. The bad news: Many of these same companies are only reacting, not thinking about how to best deploy this protective framework. Effective cybersecurity isn’t as simple as applying a bandage to a cut.

It can be better equated to introducing a new nutritional supplement to the diet. The whole procedure is vastly more effective if integrated into every meal. To best use modern cybersecurity practices, businesses must rethink their approaches to corporate data structure. Data analytics is a vital tool in providing the best in information protection.

“Segmenting data spells disaster for an effective cybersecurity policy.”

Siloed data is unread data
As organizations grow, there is a tendency to segment. New branches develop, managers are appointed to oversee departments – in general, these groups tend to work on their projects and trust that other arenas of the company are also doing their jobs. The responsibility is divided and thus, easier to handle.

While this setup may make the day-to-day routine of the business easier on executives, it spells disaster for an effective cybersecurity policy. This division process creates siloed or segmented data pools. While a department may be very aware of what it is doing, it has far less knowledge of other corporate branches.

Many organizations may figure that an in-house IT team or chief information security officer can oversee everything, keeping the company running at full-tilt. However, this assumption is only half-true. While these staff members can and do oversee the vast majority of business operations, they will lack the data to make comprehensive decisions. A report from the Ponemon Institute found that 70 percent of cybersecurity decision-makers felt they couldn’t effectively act because of a surplus of jumbled, incoherent data.

Data analytics, or the study of (typically big) data, provides facts behind reasoning. To gather this information, companies need systems and software that talk to one another. Having the best-rated cybersecurity software won’t make a difference if it can’t easily communicate with the company’s primary OS or reach data from several remote branches.

CISOs or other qualified individuals can make practical, often less-expensive strategies with a clear view of the entire company. Without this type of solution, a business, no matter its resources or personnel, will essentially be operating its cybersecurity strategy through guesswork.

Separated data creates bubbles where information can be misplaced or duplicated, resulting in a slower data analysis process. Separated data creates bubbles where information can be misplaced or duplicated, resulting in a slower data analysis process.

Centralized businesses may miss real-time updates
Businesses face another challenge as they expand. Data collection has, in the past, slowed with remote locations. Before IoT and Industry 4.0, organizations were bound with paper and email communications. Remote branches typically grouped data reports into weeks or, more likely, months.

This approach meant that the central location effectively made decisions with month-old information. When it comes to minimizing the damage from data breaches, every hour matters. Luckily, many institutions can now provide data streaming in real time. Those that can’t must prioritize improving information flow immediately. Cybercrime looks for the weakest aspect within a company and tries to exploit the deficiency.

For data analytics to work properly, businesses need access to the full breadth of internal data. The more consistent and up to date this information is, the better CISOs and IT departments can make coherent and sensible decisions.

Visibility may not sound like the answer to fighting cyberattacks, but it is a crucial component. Companies need to be able to look within and adapt at a moment’s notice. This strategy requires not just the ability to see but also the power to make quick, actionable adjustments. Those organizations that still segment data will find this procedure difficult and time consuming.

As cybercrime becomes an expected aspect of business operations, those who still think in siloed brackets must change their mindsets or face expensive consequences.

Is a hybrid cloud solution right for your company?

Over the last decade, many companies have been shifting IT responsibilities to the cloud, a solution that allows various users and hardware to share data over vast distances. Cloud programs frequently take the form of infrastructure as a service. A company that can't afford in-house servers or a full-sized IT team can use cloud solutions to replace these hardware and personnel limitations.

Large companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all behind cloud services, propelling the space forward and innovating constantly. However, there are still limitations when it comes to cloud adoption. For as convenient as theses services are, they are designed for ubiquitous usage. Organizations that specialize in certain tasks may find a cloud solution limited in its capabilities.

Those businesses wishing to support service-oriented architecture may wish to consider a hybrid cloud solution, a new service becoming widespread throughout various enterprise application. As its name suggests, a hybrid cloud solution combines the power of a third-party cloud provider with the versatility of in-house software. While this sounds like an all-around positive, these solutions are not for every organization.

"Before businesses discuss a hybrid solution, they need three separate components."

Why technical prowess matters for hybrid cloud adoption
TechTarget listed three essentials for any company attempting to implement a hybrid cloud solution. Organizations must:

  1. Have on-premise private cloud hardware, including servers, or else a signed agreement with a private cloud provider.
  2. Support a strong and stable wide area network connection.
  3. Have purchased an agreement with a public cloud platform such as AWS, Azure or Google Cloud.

Essentially, before businesses can discuss a hybrid solution, they need all the separate components. An office with its own server room will still struggle with a hybrid cloud solution if its WAN cannot reliably link the private system with the third party cloud provider. And here is the crutch. Companies without skilled IT staffs need to think long and hard about what that connection would entail.

Compatibility is a crucial issue. Businesses can have the most sophisticated, tailored in-house cloud solution in the world but, if it doesn't work with the desired third party cloud software, the application will be next to useless. It isn't just a matter of software. Before a hybrid cloud solution can be considered feasible, equipment like servers, load balancers and a local area network all need to be examined to see how well they will function with the proposed solution.

After this preparation is complete, organizations will need to create a hypervisor to maintain virtual machine functionality. Once this is accomplished, a private cloud software layer will be needed to empower many essential cloud capabilities. Then the whole interface will need to be reworked with the average user in mind to create a seamless experience.

In short: in-house, skilled IT staff are essential to successfully utilizing a hybrid cloud solution. If businesses doubt the capabilities of any department, or question whether they have enough personnel to begin with, it may be better to hold off on hybrid cloud adoption.

Without being properly installed, a poorly implemented solution could cause delays, lost data and, worse of all, potentially disastrous network data breaches.

Cloud technology has been designed to keep business data secure. Poorly installing a hybrid solution could weaken this stability.Cloud technology has been designed to keep business data secure. Poorly installing a hybrid solution could weaken this stability.

The potential benefits of the hybrid cloud
However, if created the right way, a hybrid cloud solution brings a wide array of advantages to many enterprises, particularly those working with big data. According to the Harvard Business Review, hybrid cloud platforms can bring the best of both solutions, including unified visibility into resource utilization. This improved overview will empower companies to track precisely which employees are using what and for how long. Workload analysis reports and cost optimization will ultimately be improved as organizations can better direct internal resources and prioritize workers with stronger performances.

Overall platform features and computing needs will also be fully visible, allowing businesses to scale with greater flexibility. This is especially helpful for enterprises that see "rush periods" near the end of quarter/year. As the need rises, the solution can flex right along with it.

Hybrid cloud services are also easier to manage. If implemented properly, IT teams can harmonize the two infrastructures into one consistent interface. This will mean that employees only need to become familiar with one system, rather than learning different apps individually.

Companies processing big data can segment processing needs, according to the TechTarget report. Information like accumulated sales, test and business data can be retained privately while the third party solution runs analytical models, which can scale larger data collections without compromising in-office network performance.

As The Practical Guide to Hybrid Cloud Computing noted, this type of solution allows businesses to tailor their capabilities and services in a way that directly aligns with desired company objectives, all while ensuring that such goals remain within budget.

Organizations with skilled, fully formed IT teams should consider hybrid cloud solutions. While not every agency needs this specialized, flexible data infrastructure, many businesses stand ready to reap considerable rewards from the hybrid cloud.

Exploring the true value of a CISO

As cybersecurity issues become more prevalent, one position within the corporate ladder is gaining new attention: the chief information security officer. The financial burden of data breaches continues to rise. One recent report from Accenture stated that the average global cost of cybercime reached $11.7 million in 2017. This was a 27.4 percent raise from $9.5 million in 2016.

Along with the rising expenses of cyberattacks, companies have been spending more on protection, primarily on CISOs. Security Current data indicated that the overall average salary for an CISO was $273,033 by end of 2016 and this number is only expected to have increased. As organizations continue to pay more for CISO expertise, the question becomes: What value do CISOs truly bring to the organizations they serve?  

Distilling decision-making to one person
Cybercriminals have certain inherent advantages over the companies they target. For one, their anonymity. Hackers typically research an organization's staff as this aids with spear phishing and other data breach initiatives. By contrast, businesses have no certainty they're even being targeted until they've been attacked.

Another crucial advantage on the side of hackers is that many corporations, especially those small- to medium-sized businesses, don't have CISOs. This means that all cybersecurity policies and initiatives must go through the IT department or other group. When a chief technology officer has to deal with cybersecurity on top of other duties, the initiatives can be slowed, in some cases encountering month-long delays or more.

Cybercriminals are constantly adapting and incorporating new malicious software into their arsenals. In order to keep pace with this rapid innovation, one person within the organization must function as the hacker's opposite, keeping the company cybersecurity policies fluid and responsive. As Helpnet  Security pointed, CISOs must not only be leaders but also serve as the link between innovation and defense. A single, dedicated person can do this much more effectively than a distracted team.

Having a leader creates a clear, authoritative flow for decision making. Having a leader creates a clear, authoritative flow for decision-making.

Presenting a single, unified cybersecurity vision
Likewise, a C-level executive is typically the only class of employee capable of making real, impactful decisions within a corporate structure. Unfortunately, many executives and decision-makers remain uneducated about issues of cybersecurity. A BAE Systems survey found only 42 percent of executives felt they were very or extremely knowledgeable about their company's cybersecurity policies.

In order to create comprehensive, overarching information security standards, businesses need a respected voice in the room who can articulate and educate other executives on the need for cybersecurity initiatives. CISOs have this presence and, unlike CTOs, they are not hindered by distractions that can occur in other business segments. 

"Think in terms of 'when' instead of 'if.'"

Creating and updating corporate response strategy
Experts agree that companies that develop cyberattack response strategies minimize losses and more quickly seal breach points. While it is nice to hope that your organization will never be affected, the far more prudent strategy is to think in terms of "when" instead of "if." When a cyberattack occurs, organizations must have a clear, itemized response plan.

According to Risk Management, the best plans are proactive; changing biannually or even quarterly to adapt to new methods of cyberattack. A comprehensive plan includes steps like workforce education, breach detection tools, consumer alerts and legal recourse tools.

Once a data incursion occurs, the CISO and his or her team must be able to detect it immediately. With cyberattacks, the longer they go unnoticed, the worse they are. Placing a CISO in charge of maintaining and updating this response plan will ensure that it gets done and comes from a point of clear authority.

When a data breach occurs, the last thing that decision-makers want or need is to be arguing about what to do and who should do it.

Allowing the IT team to focus
IT teams within companies are frequently overburdened. In addition to maintaining and updating company software, IT personnel regularly respond to the daily crises of other employees. Every hardware, email or other type of problem distracts IT groups from performing their primary duties.

While typical employees tend not to notice whether or not an operating system is updated, it is these performance checks that ultimately help keep company networks safe from unauthorized access.

Bringing in a CISO allows the IT group more time to focus on their core responsibilities. The CISO may even operate alongside regular IT staff during certain times, however, it is best not to overlap duties too much. CISOs can handle red flags, such as phishing emails and imbedded malware that may otherwise escape detection or occupy IT manpower.

CISOs don't need to be paid a quarter million dollars a year to be valuable. Essentially, they act as a point person in  the realm of cybersecurity, a clear head that can dictate commands and formulate strategy. Too often, companies take a relaxed approach to cybersecurity, which almost always results in lost income and damaged reputation.

For organizations that cannot afford to keep a full-time CISO, other options remain. Cloud solutions tend to be more secure than in-office networks and some managed IT providers offer the same level of oversight and proactive planning. Regardless of who or what is in charge of information security, companies must prioritize all compliance and protection development as crucial issues.

How will the GDPR affect your business?

After two years of preparation, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation is set to go into effect May 25, 2018. Designed to replace the Data Protection Directive of 1995, this legal framework will provide substantial protection for EU citizen's data by imposing heavy fines on any company found to be in violation of the GDPR.

While large companies within the EU have been bracing themselves for impact, many organizations feel unprepared. A report from information security provider Varonis found that 55 percent of businesses worldwide were worried about incurring fines for a GDPR violation. Given that these penalties can be severe – with a maximum fine of €20 million or 4 percent of annual worldwide turnover – organizations may have reason for alarm.

However, arguably the group most at risk are smaller businesses not based in the EU, or companies that don't primarily deal with data. After all, the GDPR is all about regulating data privacy. Yet these organizations may be in the crossfire. Any business that collects data, any amount of it, from an EU citizen or the EU market must fully comply with GDPR standards.

Who needs to comply with the GDPR?
According to the New York University School of Law, any U.S. organization possessing an entity or any kind (person or office) should ascertain if they will be required to follow the new GDPR policy. GDPR standards will apply to all businesses that process any amount of "personal data" from individuals located in, or protected by, the EU.

The definition here of personal data is broad. According to the initiative, personal data is now any information, not just personally identifying information, that relates to a natural person, identified or identifiable. These new standards apply to log-in information, vehicle ID numbers and IP addresses.

"Any operation or set of operations which is performed on personal data or on sets of personal data" will be regulated by the new standard, according to the articles of the GDPR. These broad definitions and regulations have been purposely worded to incorporate not just companies within the EU but global organizations as well. While the GDPR is a Euro-centric law, its implications may create a new global standard of internet data security.

Businesses with remote employees who are citizens of the EU should investigate whether they will be bound to GDPR policy. Businesses with remote employees who are citizens of the EU should investigate whether they will be bound to GDPR policy.

How prepared generally is the U.S.?
Unfortunately, many businesses in the U.S. simply are not sufficiently informed regarding the coming measure. The Varonis report found that U.S. awareness of the GDPR was only at 65 percent, below the overall average of 79 percent. Only 30 percent of U.S. respondents reported being in full compliance with the upcoming laws. Over 10 percent of organizations still didn't know whether the bill would affect them.

When looking at overall measure compliance completion, the majority of U.S. companies affected by the GDPR have re-evaluated data breach detection procedures, as the GDPR mandates that any EU citizen affected by a breach must be notified within 72 hours of its detection. A little less than 60 percent of U.S. organizations have also conducted a comprehensive assessment of personal data stored within their organization.

This procedure is highly recommended for all companies that may even remotely store some sort of personal data from the EU. It is only after such an assessment has been performed that an organization can be sure whether or not it will be affected by the GDPR.

About 7 percent of U.S. businesses had completed no significant measures to comply with the GDPR.

"About 7 percent of U.S. businesses had completed no significant measures to comply with the GDPR."

What does the GDPR mean for data collection?
Personal data collection will become more transparent under GDPR guidelines. Everyone, personally and professionally, is familiar with user agreements, popular on social media sites like Facebook and Google. These documents have been full of dense legalese designed to disguise their intentions and limit consumer knowledge of the websites' activities.

Under the GDPR, these wordy documents will be made illegal, replaced by concise, comprehensible wording that will alert the "data subject" of exactly what information is being taken. The individual will reserve the right to leave said data contract anytime with no negative repercussions allowed. In short, the naive early days are over and the GDPR will arm at least EU consumers will the tools needed to determine what, if any, information they allow to be shared for commercial purposes.

Data protection by design will also be mandated. Companies will have to factor in information security at every stage of data collection software collection, instead of regulating it to outside software or hardware.

How the GDPR will impact overall data collection remains to be seen. However, what is clear now is that many organizations still have work to do before May 25. With such steep penalties for failure to comply, businesses cannot afford to be asleep on this issue, or even to drag their feet. The fundamental nature of information security could well change from this act. Hopefully, it will be for a better, more secure data privacy marketplace.