Browsing Category: "Information Technology"

How Wearable Tech Could Spark A New Privacy Revolution

July 31st, 2021 | Posted in Information Technology, Technology, Uncategorized

Fears over privacy are nothing new. As users began to see the sheer availability of information online, and the amount of personal data being seen and used by tech companies, they became rightly concerned over how much information would be available to companies and individuals, and how that information would be used. The increasing stream of news about the scope and intensity of government-backed surveillance programs has only added to the paranoia.

As we enter a new era of technology marked bywearable devices like the Apple Watch and Google Glass, those fears — which have been simmering in the minds of consumers for years — may finally begin to boil over.

The Problem With Apps

When it comes to user privacy, there are two kinds of apps to worry about. The first kind is designed to gather information about a user. For example, social media apps go out of their way to draw as much information about their users as possible. This is advantageous for both users and companies — users get more involved with their networks, and companies get more information to sell to advertisers.

However, this can be concerning to users who do not wish their information to be sold or to be publicly available. The same is true for tracking-style apps like Xora, an app whose deletion prompted the recent firing of an employee who resented the idea of being tracked 24/7.

The second kind may seem counterintuitive: apps dedicated to preserving user privacy. Snapchat, an app supposedly dedicated to anonymity and user-data protection, was recently the victim of multiple information leaks. These types of apps are dangerous because they lull users into a sometimes-false sense of security, prompting them to allow more of their information to be used without realizing the finer details of each company’s unique privacy policy.

But the real problem with apps is in their nature. Because they’re installed on a device, and often running in the background, they can constantly draw in new information about a user. Compare this to a few generations back, when the Internet could only be accessed through a hard-wired machine for specific, designated periods of time.

Wearable devices exaggerate these problems in two ways. First, they’re increasing the popularity of apps over traditional web browsing experiences. Because wearable devices have smaller screens and more intuitive interfaces, users will begin relying on apps over any other type of function or service.

Second, they’re being used in real-time. Rather than relying on a stationary desktop device or occasionally checking in on a previous-generation mobile device, wearable devices are worn and used on the go. This means greater volumes of streaming information and fewer stopgaps for the end user.

Fears Already Manifesting

Wearable devices are already starting to worry some experts about the security of private user data. Every generation of technology opens the door to new possibilities, but also opens the door to new vulnerabilities. Security professionals argue that the Apple Watch is a relatively secure device, at least compared to comparable wearable devices currently on the market — but the potential vulnerabilities are still a major unknown.

The Chinese Army has already taken measures to ban the use of the Apple Watch entirely. While China’s acts of censorship and routine banishments of Western technologies aren’t exactly new, their take-no-chances stance reflects a very real, logical concern.

What This Means For The Future Of Users

As more people become aware of the privacy threats marked by wearable devices, there could be a very significant leap forward in security and user privacy in tech companies. Responding to public concerns, app developers can make greater efforts to secure their apps and clearly explain their privacy policies. Device makers like Apple and Google can go on record about the potential vulnerabilities of their devices and inform the public about the best ways to protect themselves.

Perhaps most importantly, government organizations can step in to create some much-needed regulations about user privacy and corporate privacy policies. Already, the European Union is stepping in to protect userprivacy concerns as they relate to Google’s search engine and core products — the next step would be formalizing those regulations across the board for any devices and technologies, and institute those regulations in countries throughout the world.

The trade-off is, of course, that increased regulations mean decreased liberties — both for individuals and corporations. While some will push for strict regulations and tighter privacyand security, others will maintain that personal freedoms are more important than a fleeting idea of safety.

What’s important here is not where the issue will settle, but the fact that the issue will soon be up for debate. Regardless of where these regulations and new approaches to privacyland, wearable devices are about to provoke a new revolution in user privacy.

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Here Is How To Address Car Hacking Threats

July 29th, 2021 | Posted in Communication, Information Technology, Uncategorized

When you connect a car to the Internet, it is no longer just a car: It is a computer on wheels.

For years, the security industry has asked itself, “When will cyberattacks affect the physical world?” The connected car is a clear example of where this manifests, especially as researchers release new information about vehicles’ vulnerabilities, such as my partner Marc Rogers’ and my deep dive into Tesla’s systems, or the recent Jeep Cherokee analysis, wherein researchers breached the vehicle’s drive systems from the Internet, slowing the vehicle to a crawl on a highway. Fiat Chrysler has since recalled more than one million vehicles as a result, and legislation aptly named the “Security and Privacy in your Car Act” is currently in consideration by Congress.

When a car can search Google, send tweets and be remotely accessed from a smartphone app, that car has more in common with your laptop than it does the Model T. Securing the next generation of connected automobiles means redefining what it means for a vehicle to be “road-ready.” The road-ready vehicle of the future needs cybersecurity measures beyond the traditional physical safety measures taken today.

It is inevitable that automobiles — alongside every other essential technology in our lives — become connected. Given how important cars and trucks are to both individuals and the world’s economy as a whole, it’s entirely expected that attackers will focus their energy on disrupting vehicles’ (hopefully) well-designed systems.

Thankfully, nothing catastrophic has happened yet, and the auto industry is in position to take necessary action to get ahead of this problem. However, it needs to learn from the software industry’s experience on the front lines of the Internet, something most auto manufacturers have yet to do.

For example, as part of its mission to reinvent the automobile, Tesla has taken a software-first approach to itscars. Knowing that the people will expect their car to be connected to the Internet, the conversation internally never was “when these cars become Internet-connected,” it always was “how can we build a great connected car?”

As with any software-driven product, cybersecurity must be a deliberate investment. Today, the auto industry can take three specific measures to dramatically improve the cybersecurity of its vehicles.

First, vehicles need over-the-air update systems to avoid expensive and lengthy recalls every time a security vulnerability is found. Second, manufacturers must separate infotainment systems and the critical drive systems, tightly controlling communication between them, just as commercial airliners isolate inflight Wi-Fi networks from critical avionics systems. Third, manufacturers must assume that some attacks will succeed and secure each individual software component in the vehicle, so that if an attacker compromises a single system they do not automatically get access to the entire vehicle.

While the state of automobile cybersecurity would be substantially improved if all manufacturers implemented these guidelines, they are just a start. It takes years for a company to develop a strong cybersecurity culture; even with a strong internal cybersecurity team, that team must be supported by and integrated into the organization as a whole.

Further, companies with experienced security teams look not just inside the company for support, but outside to the global community of security researchers identifying problems — and hoping to get them fixed — ahead of criminals. For example, Tesla launched a “Bug Bounty” program to encourage external security researchers to responsibly identify and help fix any security issues they uncover. I encourage all other manufacturers to follow a similar path.

Consider the consequences if the auto industry does not get security right: Manufacturers may need to issue a recall for every software vulnerability found. Recalls are a long process, and software vulnerabilities become a substantial personal safety issue, even a national security concern, if not fixed immediately. Further, if the frequency of software vulnerabilities in vehicles is anywhere near that of PCs — monthly and even weekly in some cases — recalls quickly become impractical.

I sincerely hope that all auto manufacturers proactively address cybersecurity, starting with the guidelines above, to make automobiles one of the most secure pieces of technology in our lives.

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A Simple Guide to Business Phone Systems and VoIP

July 5th, 2021 | Posted in Business, Information Technology, Uncategorized, VoIP

Hands up if you take your business phone system for granted.

If that’s the case, it’s time to take a look at what’s new in the world of business phone systems, what’s available and why they still matter.

Why do businesses need phone systems?

Unless you’re a sole trader with clients happy to contact you on your mobile, all businesses need a landline to meet customers expectations.

Luckily, a business landline can help:

  • A landline gives your business credibility.
  • If you get a high call volume, you can use features such as call management and call hold music scripts to manage expectations and prevent the dreaded ‘no answer’.
  • For businesses with a number of employees that clients may contact directly, voicemail is equally important so that customers know they have left a message with the correct person and that their enquiry will be dealt with quickly.
  • Customers expect businesses not to be sharing handsets between employees but to enjoy instant call transfer when required.
  • Customers are used to their calls being recorded, which is very useful for business training or complaint tracking.
  • Most customers now expect businesses to have an up to date account of their relationship with them. Integration with a CRM system is now par for the course with many businesses and allows staff to see every client’s communication history with the company.

So how does your phone system stack up against that?

The Role of the Internet

Access to high speed broadband has made it possible for businesses to put more and more of their business operations and processes online.

If you’re familiar with Cloud Computing, then you’ll already know about the ways it can save your business time and money. A Cloud Telephony solution such as VoIP can do likewise.

VoIP

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and is where calls are carried over the Internet and you don’t need a separate traditional phone line.

Advantages of Hosted VoIP

  • Considerably cheaper set-up costs, with a much shorter implementation time vs. a traditional phone system
  • Cheaper ongoing costs with no maintenance fees
  • No costly upgrades as all system maintenance and platform upgrades are included in the per user, per month cost#
  • Cheaper call rates, in most cases calls are inclusive of the per user, per month cost
  • Flexibility to add new users as the business grows with out expensive install installs or phone system expansion
  • Phone number flexibility, add direct dials and other geographical phone numbers to the system for free
  • Complete flexibility if you move premises, no need to change phone numbers or routing plans, simply plug in your Hosted VoIP handset at your new office and it will continue to work
  • Many advanced features to allow for future growth, like mobile applications, desktop integration and call recording
  • No hardware to maintain/move/upgrade, as Abica will provide free replacements for faulty handsets for the lifetime of our agreement

More Advantages…

  • All standard phone system features, hunt groups, call transfers, hold (with music), call waiting, call forwarding and much more
  • Use call recording for audit trails, training and compliance
  • Improve collaboration with instant group calls
  • Twin your mobile number, for a complete unified communication solution
  • Call Parking, allows you park the call and collect it on a different handset if you have to move desks during your call
  • Use Presence or Pre-set Availability Profiles to manage incoming calls
  • Scale up and down based on the requirements of your business
  • Use Call History to view all calls made, received and missed
  • Additional functionality including hot desking, desktop integration and inclusive call recording
  • Inclusive free calls to all UK Landlines

Hosted or Not Hosted?

Hosted VoIP simply means that your call calling capabilities sit on your supplier servers and will require an Internet connection to access them. Your supplier will handle all software updates and maintenance so that your organisation can simply take it for granted that it works with no system down periods.

On-Premise VoIP means that your business hosts the necessary hardware on an internal server and your IT department is responsible for the routine updates, software upgrades, regular maintenance, system backups and data monitoring.

For a more detailed review of your business phone system and whether VoIP is right for your business, give us a call on 0141 404 8008.

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