Building the blocks around the smartest cryptocurrency on the market



We’re talking Blockchain – but it began with Bitcoin.

So what is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and a digital payment system.  Invented by an unknown programmer (or a group of programmers), it was released as open-source software in 2009. There is a market cap with Bitcoin.  The value of an individual Bitcoin has increased substantially during this time, every year more and more merchants and vendors accept bitcoin as payments for goods and services, and millions more unique users are using a cryptocurrency (digital) wallet.

Why is there a worry about Bitcoin?
There are many concerns related to Bitcoin, price volatility, doubts around legal status, tax and (lack of any) regulation, Bitcoin has been notorious in criminal activity, and is well renowned for the role it has in cyber-attacks like Ransomware.  But for believers, Bitcoin has huge upsides, de-centralised thus outside the control of a central authority, privacy, deflationary, low cost to transfer funds across borders, but most it is an attractive “store of value”.

Why is Bitcoin important?
Bitcoin is important because it requires a blockchain.  A blockchain is an undeniably ingenious invention, but since Bitcoin, blockchain has evolved into something greater.  And the main question every person is asking is – what is a blockchain?

So what is a blockchain?
The simplest explanation “Blockchain is to Bitcoin, what the internet is to email. A big electronic system, on top of which you can build applications. Currency is just one.”  Sally Davies, FT Technology Reporter.

How does blockchain work?
A blockchain is a distributed database that is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records, called ‘blocks’.   Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block. A blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retrospectively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and a collusion of the network majority.   Functionally, a Blockchain can serve as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way”.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016).

Blockchains are secure by design and are an example of a distributed computing system with high Byzantine fault tolerance.  Decentralised consensus has therefore been achieved with a Blockchain.  This makes Blockchains potentially suitable for the recording of events, medical records and other records management activities, such as Identity Management, transaction processing and documenting provenance.

The entire financial, legal, and record-keeping industries are being disrupted using this decentralised, secure, and inexpensive method. It has therefore caught the eye of the Bank of England plus other large organisations including Microsoft, IBM and Cisco have consequently started to take note of it.

In summary the opportunities are infinite.

People need to understand that “blockchain” is NOT the same thing as “Bitcoin”.

Bitcoin was the first blockchain system designed, but there have been a number of others since then which are very different, designed by different people, often for different purposes. These people are in the business of designing things for use by corporations to operate their businesses to drive a competitive edge. This is no different to what Amicus ITS has been doing for 30 years, problem solving and designing solutions that deliver business value as we look constantly to the horizon at future technologies.

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The Week’s Technology News – 12th December 2014

 

 

Have you planned IoT into your business strategy in 2015?
Increasingly it is now possible to connect any powered device to a network.   The Internet of Things (IoT) is an enormous technical development to comprehend let alone incorporate. However, from a business point of view, the real value in IoT will not just be in the connection of ‘things’, but the opportunity (if done properly), to manage the data and bring the customer needs into focus, alongside the product or services on offer.  This suddenly makes it a transformative technology applied through hardware and software and becomes highly interesting commercially.

Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group estimates that next year there will be around 25 billion connected devices, which will double to 50 billion by 2020 and Gartner recently suggested that IoT is peaking now in its ‘Hype Cycle’ of expectation around the subject.

If intelligent services are applied from the insights gathered from collated data and interrogated, this has the potential to radically improve customer experience and cost savings in the long run through prompt performance, increased trust and access (given the right security procedures and policies) and bond an existing relationship more more strongly between provider and customer.

Seen in practical terms, an IoT print-enabled supplier, could remotely monitor their customer’s ink levels to advise on re-supply, simultaneously run diagnostics for updates or repairs needed and advise, upsell improved models matching day-to-day needs and immediately have higher level feedback on how the customer is physically using the equipment in real-time.

From an MSP perspective applying three simple concepts, ‘connecting’, ‘managing’ and ‘engaging’ will create a proactive environment and a more bonded relationship attracting because of the intelligent assistance given.  To get there you have to have an agile infrastructure providing quick, simple and secure connections.  Some businesses worry about how to build the infrastructure to connect their devices. There are admittedly many aspects to consider ie. storage; messaging and routing protocols; security; directories; analysis; automation; and APIs to name a few.

According to a recent global KPMG survey of technology business leaders, 20% of businesses find the concept of implementing IoT too complex looked at from the outside without expert help.  However, by utilising ready-built networks, offering fast, secure and scalable connections alongside a range of tools provided as a Platform as a Service (PaaS), businesses can concentrate their efforts on creating innovative connected products.   Now that sounds like a plan!

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Sony hacked again – one week later

Last week Sony Pictures Entertainment was hit by a huge cyber-attack, leaking unreleased films and 47,000 personal records.

Since then even more data has been leaked including confidential E-mails between Sony Pictures Chair, Amy Pascal and well known Hollywood film producer Scott Rudin. The e-mails in question mock Barack Obama in an exchange of racist messages, with Pascal asking producer Scot Rudin what she should ask Obama at an upcoming event.  “Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended.”

This week a new attack aimed at Sony’s PSN (PlayStation Network) took the service down on Monday. The attack came in the form of a Distributed Denial-Of-service (DDOS). Although the timing comes hot off the heels from the Sony Pictures attack they did not come from the same source. The PSN attack came from a group called Lizard Squad who boasted about the attack on their Twitter account.

With fresh information still leaking, including plans for unannounced films, Sony may be playing damage control for some time.  These events only highlight the need for stringent malware protection and tightened defences against ever increasing DDoS attacks, as well as perhaps a pertinent reminder to staff about the appropriate use of email content, which in this case could have saved several blushes.

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Data breach red flags for 2015
Global information services company Experian have published their Second Annual Data Breach Industry Forecast for 2015 after reviewing cyber attacks of 3,000 organisations.  In their report, Experian details a change of attitude amongst business leaders when it comes to cybersecurity.  This will affect organisations and regulators in the year ahead.

Not only is reputation critically at stake alongside security and trust, but the demand by consumers for more communication, as well as remedies in restoring the status quo, whilst ‘data fatigue’ from an expectation of resolution against personal apathy for individuals to take more vigilant steps personally.  With almost 50% of businesses having suffered at least one data breach in 2014, the need to increase investment in security technologies and policy planning and guidelines around this is paramount and accountability goes right to the top of the Board.  A company now without a data breach response plan could be the first to fall largest victim to unscrupulous criminal targeting.

New trends are anticipated for 2015.   These are anticipated to include:
• New payment technology
• The continued rapid expansion of Cloud and e-commerce
• The consistently high value of healthcare data on the blackmarket
• Employees as one of biggest threats
• Internet of Things (IoT)

1. Payment technology   The deadline for retailers to adopt EMV (Chip and PIN) credit card technology is October 2015  if they want to accept Visa or MasterCard payments. As a result, breaches may increase as the window for hackers closes.

2. Cloud technology   With the increased adoption of Cloud technology, businesses can do much to ensure they protect theirs and their customer’s data, as the value of consumer online credentials continues to grow.  A great starting point is to take extra steps to safeguard passwords, as hackers will be seeking to target progressively more Cloud data as the volume of data explodes exponentially by companies in the Cloud.  This involves the capability and measures to re-set passwords on an enormous scale and to communicate with affected users to advise them to maintain transparency as part of maintaining trust in the relationship.

3. Healthcare data   In the US, the increased number of access points to Protected Health Information (PHI), sensitive data via electronic medical records and increasing popularity of wearable technology, makes the entire healthcare industry vulnerable and attractive for cybercriminals.  On top of this, the FBI reportedly sent a private notice in 2014 to the healthcare industry that their cyber security systems were lax compared to other sectors.  Given the budget constraints facing the healthcare sector in the UK, it would be remarkable given how many have legacy IT infrastructures and constant downward pressure on budgets, to be able to avoid breaches entirely.

4. Human error   One of the least reported issues is the impact from employee breach – either through human error or malicious endeavour.   They remain the leading cause of breaches, accounting for 59% of reported cases – and companies should therefore take the necessary steps to have policies in place to circumvent or minimise any impact.

5. Internet of Things   With the expansion of the Internet of Things, businesses will be seeking to benefit from reviewing data to optimise performance and consumerisation response.  So with more devices being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors that create the opportunity for everyday items eg. car keys, alarm system or wearable devices – these will relay confidential information over the Internet and communicate with each other. Cyber attacks will therefore likely increase via data accessed from third-party vendors.

Takeaway – so, what action is required?  There will be an expectation for Board members to have a better understanding of their organisation’s data breach response plan and comprehension of new technologies and security protocols in the workplace, along with a clearly defined chain of response should such a breach occur.  Currently less than 17% of Board executives surveyed knew if their organisation had suffered a breach in the previous 12 months. Alongside this, should be security awareness training for employees as legal and regulatory scrutiny is anticipated to increase in 2015.

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Sense and sensibility as collaboration wins over censure

In an increasingly litigious age, it is refreshing to hear that technology and communication giants Samsung and Cisco have chosen to engage in a 10 year patent cross-licence agreement. During this period they will promise not to sue each other.  Current and future patent portfolios will be shared between the two, opening the doors for greater innovation and future groundbreaking products, without the red tape and costly licence contracts. The agreement marks the third deal in recent weeks for the Korean company which has announced deals with Google and Ericsson to settle litigation and prevent . The join up will boost Samsung’s efforts with apps in the Connected Home, whilst Cisco’s network specialisation and dealings in the “Internet of Things” makes it a good marriage more than just on paper, although details are sketchy.

End of year report 2013

Power in the Clouds
Cisco has joined forces with VMware and Citrix to create a new cloud-based desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) aimed principally at service providers. Amazon’s recent entry into the DaaS market recently could signal more interesting market offerings to enterprise in 2014. With Cisco’s enhanced USC hardware with capacity for 252 cloud-based desktops on one UCS blade, users can choose virtual desktop software from Citrix or VMware (Deskton). Virtual desktop adoption has been slower with enterprises to date, however these developments bring higher performance and greater sophistication. Allied to the flexibility of cloud hosting use across devices, this could mark a sea change in enterprise policy and increase the emphasis on governance policies for MSPs.

An alternative way to climb smartphone supremacy?
Jolla – the Finnish company made up of ex-Nokia employees – has shipped its first smart phone, using its own Operating System (OS), “Sailfish”. Available to buy direct, Jolla is targeting a niche audience willing to gamble on a new player. CEO Tomi Pienimäki plans to enable users to download the Sailfish OS onto Android devices for free. The free download and support of a smartphone OS would be a first. This could be key for the small Finnish company to have a decent stab at climbing the smart phone OS market share ladder, currently dominated by tech giants Google and Apple. In addition Sailfish can download and run Android apps, avoiding the missing App situation Microsoft has been fighting with Windows Phone the last few years. Ultimately, even with a purely digital distribution method, Jolla is facing a David vs Goliath battle, but it is a good thing for the market.

Google sees a bright future in robotics
Google has been snapping up robotics companies with gusto recently, the latest being Boston Dynamics, creators of US funded military robots, which walk like animals and can cross harsh terrain including forests, snow, frozen ice and even water. So where is Google going with such advance robotics? Google’s own self-driving car programme may hold some answers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the driver. Having access to the minds who created these robotic balancing feats could benefit driverless cars and much beyond. Googles own services such as its mapping data could also benefit Boston Dynamic’s own creations. With Google’s history in both big data and programming, ‘Google AI’ doesn’t seem such a huge leap, creating a system that can power the robots of the future.

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This closes the Amicus ITS blog for 2013. We hope to bring you many more interesting stories and technological developments in 2014. Let us know what you want to hear about and we will research it. Send any comments or ideas to Lindsay.burden@amicusits.co.uk