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.

Click here to read our White Paper

IBM launches Cloud Security Enforcer to counter risks from BYOD

IBM

The BYOD trend remains as strong as ever according to IBM’s recent security study.  Their research returned feedback indicating that over 30% of Fortune 1000 employees share and upload corporate data on third-party cloud apps, despite increasing awareness over the last few years of the risks of ‘shadow IT’.

The stubbornness and secrecy of Senate politician and presidential candidate Hilary Clinton in running dual public and private communications systems has certainly thrown the spotlight on cloud security risks – which affect the public sector as much as the private sector.  This has been a trigger for IBM to launch their new Cloud Security Enforcer (“CSE”).   Added to this, 25% of those surveyed link to cloud apps using a corporate log-in and password.

IBM’s new corporate protection device using their host IBM Cloud, aims to counter this by combining cloud identity management (“Identity-as-a-Service”), with the ability to discover any outside apps employees are using (including those on their mobile devices to make access more secure).

1.    CSE enables detection of unauthorised cloud app usage, followed by secure configuration of the apps as well as managing, viewing and directing how employees can use them.

2.    Can determine and enforce which data owned by an organisation can or cannot be shared by employees via specific third-party cloud apps.

3.    Security-focused connectors can connect employees to third-party cloud apps which include automatically assigned sophisticated passwords to help alleviate security breaches from human error.

4.    Finally CSE employs its global X-Force Exchange threat intelligence network to protect against employee-induced and cloud-based threats by analysing real-time threat data.  These involve scans of the internet and analysis of more than 20 billion global security events daily as a safeguard.

With connectors into Box’s cloud-based content management; a collaboration platform with Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce.com + other popular enterprise software, IBM’s broad view on seeking to secure and manage the wilder risks from cloud to business should resonate in the marketplace, though as of yet the price point for Cloud Security Enforcer has yet to be published, but it is certainly indicating of intelligent packing for enterprise organisations.  As long as users retain the freedom to use their personal devices without interference from their organisations and equally, that enterprise has the ability to securely ringfence company data, then the two can sit comfortably side by side and it’s a good package.

 

 

IBM and Ponemon Institute count the true cost of data breaches

IBM in conjunction with US independent data protection and security organisation The Ponemon Institute have published that the per-record cost of a data breach reached $154 in 2015, up 12% from $145 in 2014.  Aggregated, this amounted to an average total cost of a single data breach of $3.79 million.  The survey reviewed 350 companies across 11 countries, each of which had suffered a breach.

Prior to this, technology and communications giant Verizon had estimated the per record cost to be a scant 54 cents. However Ponemon Institute Chairman Larry Ponemon noted this was based on a small sample of 191 reports from cyber insurance claims and represented only around 10% of the insurance coverage for the cost of the breach and ignored the indirect costs or loss of resulting business.

Target’s latest breach was estimated to cost the company over $1 billion, but it was only insured for $100 million. Ponemon added:  “Companies generally buy enough insurance to cover 50% of the value of their fixed assets, but only 12% of the value of their digital assets”.

Loss of business is a growing part of the total cost of a data breach, with an increased trend of customer churn, with reputation and goodwill adding up to $1.57 million per company cost (up from $1.33 million the previous year).

VP at IBM Security, Caleb Barlow commented:  “At a minimum, a company with a data breach has to send out letters notifying customers that they were breached pay for credit monitoring”.

Data breach costs reportedly varied substantially in different industries and geographies, with healthcare having the highest costs due to its long shelf life, at an average of $363 per record and the US with the highest per-record cost at $217, followed by Germany at $211, with India the lowest at $56 per record.

Healthcare records are especially valuable due to the volume of personal information, Social Security numbers and insurance details which can be used to create credit records or for identify fraud in 10-15 years.

Cyber breach cost reductions:
• Companies with incident response teams reduced the costs per record by $12.60 because of their ability to swiftly respond
• Using encryption reduced costs by $12.
• Employee training reduced costs by $8.
• If business continuity management personnel were part of the incident response team, costs fell by $7.10.
• CISO leadership lowered costs by $5.60
• Board involvement lowered costs by $5.50
• Cyber insurance lowered costs by $4.40.

Having an assured and well prepared management response has a definite impact on the bottom line cost of any cyber security breach.  As Caleb Barlow darkly warned:  “You don’t have days to respond.  You don’t even have hours. You have minutes to get your act together.”

Cyber breach cost increases:
• Bringing in outside consultants added $4.50 per record.
• Lost or stolen devices added $9 per record on average.
• Third party involvement as the cause of a breach increased the average per-record breach cost by $16 (from $154 to $170).

Factoring in time to respond to end cost proved significant too:
• Respondents took 256 days on average to spot a breach caused by a malicious attacker – and 82 days to contain it.
• Breaches caused by system glitches took 173 days to spot – and 60 days to contain.
• Human error breaches took an average of 158 days to notice – and 57 days to contain.

With cyber security a major thorn in the side of business and an increasingly sophisticated route to damaging trust and reputation, no organisation of any size can afford a) not to have reviewed the security of its estate and b) taken steps to develop relevant and up to date policies and measures to safeguard its digital assets – and share this regularly with the Board.

Additionally and crucially, as our Head of Technology & Governance, JP Norman reminds us, “The reputational and financial losses quoted are without the EU Data Directive changes on the way which will enable fines of up to 5% of global turnover. CIO’s need to ensure their boards are aware of the potential financial risks that are likely to be in place by late 2016”.

Ponemon

 

IBM in race to be fastest data transfer

IBM

IBM has developed a new silicon photonic technology which will significantly speed up data transfers. The technology can produce speeds of 100Gbps in tests using pulses of light over a distance of 2km. The silicon photonics technology has been in development for a decade and utilises 4 different colour channels over a single fibre and is aimed at data centres.

With greatly increased data transfer speeds between servers, large processor demanding tasks such as big data analytics and machine learning will be able to be performed much quicker and more efficiently.

Silicon photonics technologies amplified speed could also be the key to dividing up a servers’ core components:  processor, memory and storage. In this fashion the processor can be handled a lot like storage is today by bringing extra flexibility ie. taking advantage of additional available processors when needed.  The decoupling of each component could reduce costs by combining fans and power supplies for each.

IBM is not alone in the race for superfast super servers.   Intel also has their own silicon photonic chip, but recently delayed shipment till 2016.  IBM’s chip is supposedly more manufacturable with a simple integrated silicon structure – and will be cheaper to produce.

IBM has yet to confirm when their silicon photonics chips will reach the market so the race is on!   However, the money is on IBM.   More importantly when both are deployed in real world data centres, we can then review which is truly the fastest and most reliable technology.   Either way Cloud will soon be becoming a lot smarter than it is today.

IBM and Apple monitor our health

We first reported IBM and Apple’s JV partnership in our blog of 18th July 2014 with AppleCare for enterprises.

The boom in fitness trackers and health apps has prompted the tech giants to make commercial inroads on the opportunities arising from analytic technologies.  IBM has set up a new health unit to create “a secure, cloud-based data sharing hub” as part of their “employee health and wellness management solutions” with the aim that it will provide diagnoses or health alerts for GPs, carers and insurers in future, with the user’s permission.

IBM aspires to offer greater individual insights into people’s health and to advance this strategy, has bought Explorys (which owns one of the largest healthcare databases in the world) and healthcare specialist Phytel (which works with digital medical record systems to reduce hospital readmissions and automate communications).  Added to this, Apple iPhones provide ResearchKit, free software for gathering health data, which Apple states has already been used to develop apps to study asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

US consumer technology and wearables supplier Jawbone is trying to engage businesses with its fitness trackers as a way to monitor the health of a company’s workforce.  How does this leave the end user/employee?  For a start, if a company sought to monitor the health of an employee, consent has to be given freely, with the ability to withdraw that consent at any time.

Insurers are also keen to get in on the act, with companies like UK’s Vitality offering rewards to policy holders for undergoing certain activities whilst wearing their devices.  Are we reaching the point though where data analytics lead ultimately to cover being withheld, other than premiums going up or down.

The latest UK Government stats show that 61.9% of adults and 28% of children aged between 2 and 15 are overweight with a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.  The cost of health problems associated with being overweight and obese is estimated to cost the NHS more than £5billion every year.

For GPs, gathering data which gives a broader and more accurate picture of exercise undertaken and calories consumed, could alter health directives on the amount of sleep we need, or which exercises are most effective.

Gazing into the NHS’ future, a carrot and stick approach accompanied by bold education messaging for health reform of UK citizens may be the tough approach needed by the next Government.  However, to succeed, with an NHS in crisis on funding and struggling to hold onto its GPs through which the future frontline is directed, many parts of its processes and systems will have to go digital. This comes back to having data shared securely with privacy maintained and strict governance on who it is share by – and that is a big promise to keep.

gsmarena_001

 

 

This week’s technology news – 18th July 2014

IBM, Apple and exclusive Apps

In the consumer market the war for a dominant victor has been decided, at least for now, Google comfortably holds the biggest share worldwide but for the workplace it is very much up for grabs. IBM and Apple have announced a new partnership to help each other tackle corporate mobility. IBM will be focusing on the software, creating new iOS apps, porting more than 100 of its existing applications over. IBM will also be selling iPads and iPhones direct, and teaming with apple to provide AppleCare for enterprises. 

 

This all makes for a strong business case, albeit a pricey one. The investment to work on so many end-to-end mobile solutions is impressive, however with such a partnership you must wonder if this is IBM taking a stand and making the bulk of these exclusive to Apple’s ecosystem, for mobiles at least. Application support has definitely helped sway the battle for phone manufacturers before, so why not use that same approach for businesses?

 

This could potentially be dangerous territory, an iPhone doesn’t make the most sense from a cost or support perspective to all. Of course this is not the first case of platform specific exclusive apps but with the size of the players involved, it could spur similar deals with others. This highlights an important consideration when deciding or reviewing your device standard of choice. Beyond what come pre-installed, are the necessary apps you need available? And are they implemented in away employees will be able to best benefit on the go? And how will they incorporate into your own existing infrastructure?

FBI on catch up with driverless car technology

An internal report by the FBI disclosed by the Guardian reveals their fear that the evolution of driverless cars such as those being developed by Google (and Volvo as reported in our 9 May 2014 blog), could create lethal weapons.   For law enforcers, their fear is that the automated cars present a perfect opportunity for criminals to focus their attention on shooting at officers, rather than having to keep their eyes on the road as well during a chase.   One counter to this is the advantage to the emergency services whose paths could be automatically cleared ahead of them as traffic moves aside.

 

With Google’s potential to have an approved car on the road in five to seven years and the British government already clearing the way for the legality of driverless cars on UK roads with the highway code being re-written, there is clearly a split in the debate.  Nonetheless the producers themselves are keen to promote that the anticipated increased safety will ultimately result in driver error becoming eradicated.  Whether this will also stem the traditional derisory comments between passengers and their driver about the skills on display may take a little longer to change.

A case of helpful hacking

Finding out a hacker has breached your network security is a major headache for companies. In the case of Sony, who infamously were hacked back in April 2011 had to close down their public facing media network for 24 days as it was rebuilt, admitting personal and credit card information was possibly compromised for up to 77 million users account. This instance can stand as a good case study on network and infrastructure security.

 

Google is taking a more direct approach and hiring the same hacker; George Hotz to assist with their new Project Zero initiative to identify problems with software. Controversial? Sure but the above does read as an impressive resume in the aim of finding flaws in large systems and applications. The Google project is not just self-beneficial. The new Team will also investigate other company’s software. Vulnerabilities found will be placed into a public database, with information on how long companies took to plug these after being alerted.

 

Google are not the only ones in the vulnerability finding game, Both Microsoft and Facebook have ‘bug bounty’ programmes, paying hackers for find system vulnerabilities. No matter how big or small, you may be surprised what someone outside your company walls could see in, if they really wanted too. Make sure your own system has had an additional teams eyes review the security, beyond the team that implemented it. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is all that’s needed to find that overlooked flaw.

Google’s diabetes smart lens looks good

The future of wearable technology and advances in digital health have taken what appears to be a solid step forward, following the deal struck between pharmco giant Novartis and Google to produce Google’s diabetes ‘smart’ contact lens.  With 1 in 10 people in the world forecast to have diabetes by 2035, this is canny commercial advance in healthcare.  The lens, utilising a tiny wireless chip with miniaturised glucose senses embedded in the lens, will help diabetics monitor their glucose levels through the tears in the sufferer’s eyes.  The results are then communicated to a mobile phone or computer.

 

With the prototype revealed in January, Novartis believe the technology had “the potential to transform eye care”.  The enthusiasm of Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin to use technology “to help improve the quality of life for millions of people”, may still be some way off.  However, with the increase in incidence of the disease, such innovative technologies would likely prove popular to consumers, whilst enabling healthcare experts to continue their monitoring role and make a difference to the management of the disease.

google smart lens