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Why Your Business Needs Non-Stop Software Security

software security

Have you ever lost 30 minutes of creative works on your computer? Or has it suddenly occurred to you that you have a great piece of data that will augment a business proposal, only to discover that the data is missing? Oh – how frustrating!

Data loss occurs for various reasons

  • 78 percent – Hardware or system malfunction
  • 11 percent – Human error
  • 7 percent – Software corruption or program malfunction
  • 2 percent – Computer viruses
  • 1 percent – Natural disasters
  • 1 percent – Other acts.

Impact of critical data loss across global enterprises

Meanwhile, research reveals that global enterprises lose a whopping sum of 1.7 Trillion dollars due to data loss and downtime. And this excludes disruption of business activities, the loss of productivity, the diminished customers’ loyalty, the break of investor’s confidence, the cost of time spent on reconfiguration, and lots more.

While it may be difficult to establish a precise impact of data loss and downtime on organizations, it’s obvious that it would, sure, have a radical negative effect.

With a seamless increase in web adoption and constant acceptance of new technologies, both small and large scale businesses have been able to share important data as regards their products and services — using the web-as-a-service, Waas.

Hackers can compromise corporate networks

Meanwhile, hackers are seriously looking for ways to compromise the corporate network of several industries. As a matter of fact, the Verizon Data Breach Report reveals that 15.4 percent of reported incidents were related to malware and web application attacks.

Also, many of the most fatal breaches that covered the media in the past few years were caused by web-application and software security vulnerabilities. A very good example is the Equifax breach.

Simply put, “business websites possess the greatest threat to organizational security.�

Watch your data loss due to website and software patches

A sizable number of business sectors have experienced (or will experience) data loss due to website and software patches. This has reduced the efficiency and productivity of these organizations to the barest minimum. Little wonder why 70 percent of firms that experience data loss run out of business within one year of the attack. (DTI)

You may not know when the next attack could occur, but taking proper precautions can hamper or completely abolish a hacker’s attempt at gaining access to your business website.

Why your business website needs software security programs

1. Monitoring and detection

How satisfying will it be to have effective and efficient protection of your business website against the worst threat ever?

Using a software security program means your business web is on the watch, and any single vulnerability will be detected on the spot.

Software security companies provide website security scanners that check your website at predetermined intervals to detect any malicious action. You can rest assured that you’ll receive an alert as well as the next line of action when this happens.

Not only does website security monitoring protect you and your customers, but it protects your website’s rankings by checking a variety of different blacklists, and notifying you if you have been placed on one.

2. Performance optimization

Do you know that Google, Bing, and other search engines, use site speed as a ranking factor?

We live in a world where nobody is ready to wait for anything. We have become accustomed to business websites and apps working instantly and perfectly. As a matter of fact, a study reveals that 47 percent of customers abandon business websites that take more than 3 seconds to load!

Performance optimization is a major reason why your business website needs software security programs. Besides SEO, a site performance typically revolves around reducing the overall size of web pages. This includes the size of the files and perhaps, more importantly, the number of them.

3. Fast disaster or data recovery

In an age where data is king, the idea that data can be lost so easily should be enough to encourage businesses to take steps to protect it.

The U.S National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of companies are unable to sustain their businesses over six months after a data breach.

According to the Ponemon Institute, the average price for small businesses to clean up after their businesses have been hacked stands at $690,000; and, for mid-sized businesses, it’s over $1 million.

Recent events have proven that nobody is safe from the threat of data breach — not large corporations, small businesses, startups, government agencies or even presidential candidates.

When a crisis occurs, there would be one of the two scenarios:

  1. You run a licensed app/piece of software and the vendor is responsible enough to issue an update/patch when issues are reported.
  1. You run a custom software delivered by your software development company and you ask for the software to be enhanced. That is going to take just as little time but chances are your custom software will ever be hacked is drastically lower. Just because the hacker would need to spend even more time looking for vulnerabilities than the AQ department of your software developer.

Even if your website is secure, a misconfiguration or simple mistake can lead to data loss. Only a sure backup plan can save you if your custom files are overwritten or tampered with.

A website security provider can offer secure remote storage, automatic backup scheduling, and an easy recovery process without disturbing your workflow. Decent software companies offer a fast and easy way to recover all the files you need in a very short time.

4. Regular software update

A software update, also known as a service pack is a periodically released update to software from a manufacturer, consisting of requested enhancements and fixes for known bugs. A software update is mainly to present security vulnerabilities in their existing items.

You may think that you do not have anything to protect on your business website but the reality is that security software gives protection for your data. Data is valuable for the sustenance of your business. Top software security programs keep your data secure by providing regular updates to keep you safe from malicious attempts.

Summing It Up:

Since 60 percent of businesses that are affected by a breach in business websites or data will shut down in 6 months, cybersecurity experts, thereby, recommend that you have an effective software security program to save yourself and your business from this calamity.

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Data and Security IoT Tech

The Importance of Cybersecurity for the Investment Banking Industry

cybersecurity for investment banking

Digitalization is visible across most, if not all, spheres of our professional and personal lives. While it offers a number of undeniable advantages, it brings along the need for security, especially cybersecurity. Consider the following:

  • An increasing number of devices are interconnected, communicating via the Internet
  • Digitalization brings convenience but also collects data, with the potential for misuse

Implications of interconnected devices for companies.

This brings along implications for companies. They must protect themselves from cyberattacks, or else – for instance – hackers could take control of Internet-connected medical devices. This is but one example, and the vulnerable lot includes financial services firms, including those in the investment banking industry.

A good cybersecurity setup for this sector is difficult to determine.

Cybersecurity is hard to determine considering the constantly changing threat landscape, plus the effect of shifting business priorities and exponential technology forces on how organizations approach cyber risk management.

There is no denying, though, that the cloud, data and analytics, and social media are top of the list of technology items requiring attention at large firms.

Look what large enterprise banking spend on cybersecurity

The criticality of cybersecurity is borne out by budgets for the same. The largest budgets of course belong to Fortune 500 companies. Within the Fortune 500, financial institutions appear to have the deepest pockets. JP Morgan Chase & Co, as per a 2018 letter to its shareholders, spends roughly USD 600 million annually on cybersecurity. They also employ around 3,000 IT security people.

Media reports have suggested that Bank of America spends roughly the same amount on cybersecurity.

It is thus no surprise to see the number of financial institutions posting job ads for cybersecurity positions. Given how cybersecurity covers a broad range of issues and security breaches are quite common, the pool of investment banking professionals must also include tech-savvy information security personnel to protect their online systems.

Why are banks a cybersecurity risk?

Why, though, is Wall Street at such risk? According to Moody’s, the capital markets businesses of banks “are an appealing target for cybercriminals attempting large-scale theft or launching sophisticated attacks to create operational disruption.�

Companies in the investment banking industry also house other attractive “targets�, such as payment and cash management systems, and data of their high-net-worth clients and retail banking private clients. Cyberattacks have many purposes:

  • Stealing money
  • Extorting ransoms
  • Stealing or manipulating data
  • Creating significant operational disruption
  • Generating negative publicity

The attacks themselves can take many forms across a wide range of channels. A typical attack is perpetrated by a criminal in a remote, safe location, trying to get into the systems of a bank or of its clients. Other attacks include attempts to divert payments into the accounts of criminals.

Fraud is very closely linked with cybercrime, and so are the methods employed by investment banking professionals to fight the two.

Investment Banking

Because of the nature of its work, the investment banking industry offers a number of targets for attacks and fraud. These include the following:

  • Pending mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions: Business negotiations for M&A deals include some very valuable information attractive for attackers, especially for industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medicine.
  • Mobile computing devices: Given how many activities of investment banks happen through such devices, they are often targeted to get unauthorized access to client or management accounts.
  • Insider trading: The fact that people working at investment banks are privy to confidential information means they can also facilitate cybersecurity breaches. Interestingly, some analysts also speculate there could be a correlation between such institutions hiring cybersecurity professionals and the increased instances of breaches and insider trading attacks a few months later.

What does a successful cyber attack do?

The impact of a successful cyberattack could be wide-ranging for the work of investment banking professionals, with effects in financial, regulatory, and reputation terms. A challenge in this regard comes from the number of ‘false positives’ that could arise and unfortunately, are not possible to eradicate completely.

The only way out is to keep working on rules to detect such instances and thereby reduce their occurrence. The rules need to become more accurate and efficient, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) could be of great help hereby, for instance, scanning for a change in client behavior or for suspicious IP addresses.

Compromised data can also affect the bottom line. Details of an ongoing deal could be manipulated or transferred, thereby damaging share prices of involved companies involved.

New cybersecurity technology

The solution is for the investment banking industry to invest in new cybersecurity technologies. Investment banks must encourage proper procedures to remove human errors, negligence, or failure to follow security protocols. Some key aspects are as below:

  • Huge amounts of data: With larger amounts of data being collected, processed and analyzed for decision-making, every aspect of data collection and management must be secured.
  • Autonomous devices: Do not miss out on security for sensors and smart meters. Watch out for physical tampering, unauthorized access, and other attempts to affect data integrity.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) security: Data assurance programs must establish end-to-end security for IoT data.
  • Hire the right people: This implies hiring sufficient staff to implement and monitor security measures, as well as ensuring they are trustworthy.
  • Keep clients and staff informed: These entities must be informed about the risks of phishing attacks, social engineering, and others.

The way ahead is clear. Security measures and awareness along with effective regulation are imperatives to mitigate the risks and effects of cyberattacks in an industry as critical as investment banking. Given the sensitivity of information here, the monetary and reputation damages could otherwise be very serious for the business.

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Connect getting online Hotspot Internet Internet access IoT Mobile Tethering wifi

Four Ways to Get Online from Anywhere

get online from anywhere

The Internet is an integral part of our lives – some of us are probably more dependent on it than we would like to be. Fortunately, the market offers plenty of ways to access the Internet anywhere — either through a travel modem, a satellite dish, or a free public hotspot. Of course, these options are not really interchangeable, with each occupying its own niche. Below is a close look at the popular ways of getting online, along with highlights of their strengths and weaknesses.

How to Get Internet Anywhere in the World?

Strictly speaking, the only way to get online from anywhere is through a satellite Internet connection. The satellite method has been a media darling for the last few years thanks to the still ongoing Starlink project. However, satellite Internet providers have actually been on the market for quite some time now.

The biggest advantage of this option is availability. With satellites, there’s no need for laying trunk lines or having a massive tower — all you need is the sky above (so yes, it often doesn’t work in a cave — at least without an antenna). A satellite makes it a perfect match for remote areas and regions with underdeveloped communication infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the sky is not exactly an industry-grade data transfer medium and will create interference by simply acting like nature. Various forms of precipitation and other weather conditions can deteriorate the quality of the satellite signal.

And the drawbacks do not end there. Getting a satellite signal, let alone sending data yourself, requires much larger equipment than a portable WiFi device — think a sizeable dish plus a satellite modem. In other words, this is by no means an easy portable solution.

WiFi Everywhere You Go: Public Hotspots

A more realistic way of getting wireless Internet anywhere is by connecting to an available WiFi hotspot. Such hotspots come in two varieties — free WiFi provided by various amenities and services that offer connection for a fee.

The former is a familiar option that can be found at your local Starbucks or in the airport. However, while it is free, it rarely works at decent speeds sufficient only for simple activities like messaging and checking mail. More importantly, to get a secure Internet connection from a cafe, you are expected to know how to stay safe on public WiFi. Even with all the precautions, you’ll still be better off using a travel modem for sensitive operations like online banking.

The second option is somewhat more intricate. Recently, several startups came up with the idea of a service that lets users rent unused Internet bandwidth. This is actually a clever idea that, theoretically, should benefit everyone. Unfortunately, it is still in its infancy, so the coverage is quite scarce. Cost-efficiency is also far from optimal – sometimes, the Internet comes at a higher price than simply using your own WiFi anywhere device. In other words, it is a promising direction to look into but not a reliable method as of now.

Hotspot for Laptop: Mobile Tethering

It may not have occurred to you, but you are already carrying around a pocket WiFi — your phone. You can turn it into a WiFi hotspot for your laptop or any other device that works with the wireless network protocol by using mobile tethering. This can be especially handy if you can’t accomplish the task through the phone directly — for example, when you have software on your PC that you need to communicate with a server.

Modern phones also support several simultaneous connections, so you can share the Internet with several friends or co-workers.

Keep in mind, however, that it comes at a cost. For starters, it requires a working mobile connection, so it’s not exactly an international pocket WiFi. Even with no roaming involved, the total bandwidth of such a connection will be limited by your data plan.

On top of that, mobile tethering is taxing for the device, so be ready for a drained battery after prolonged use. In other words, it is a handy backup plan but not a particularly universal one.

Devices to Get Internet Anywhere: Mobile Modems

Perhaps the most versatile and convenient solution for going online from anywhere is a portable WiFi device. In broad terms, it is a middle ground between a satellite modem and a tethered connection. A modern travel modem is a lightweight, energy-efficient device that supports multiple connections, works with several data plans, and may come with integrated security measures like a built-in VPN.

Of course, it is still limited by its data plan’s bandwidth and connection speed. However, a dedicated travel WiFi device will probably offer several options to choose from. It will also not work without cellular coverage, which may be an issue for sparsely populated areas. Otherwise, when it comes to using WiFi internationally, it strikes a balance between convenience and reliability.

Wrapping Up

There is no shortage of ways to get online nowadays, with new creative options emerging nearly every year. Some are suitable for casual browsing, while others require industry-grade equipment. It is totally reasonable to expect that in the near future, we will have services that are more secure, convenient, affordable, and powerful than anything we have now.

However, even today, it is possible to choose the one that suits you perfectly — you just need to know what you are looking for.

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Big Data edge computing IoT ReadWrite

Why the Edge is Key to Unlocking IoT’s Full Potential

edge unlocking IoT

To IoT’s great benefit, edge computing is about to take the spotlight. Consider that each day billions of devices connected to the Internet of Things come online. As they do, they generate mountains of information. One estimate predicts the amount of data will soar to 79.4 zettabyes within five years. Imagine storing 80 zettabytes on DVDs. All those DVDs would circle the Earth more than 100 times.

In other words, a whole lot of data.

Indeed, thanks to the IoT, a dramatic shift is underway. More enterprise-generated data is being created and processed outside of traditional, centralized data centers and clouds. And unless we make a course correction, the forecasts could come unglued. We must make better use of edge computing to deal more effectively with this ocean of data,

Network Latency

If we do this right, our infrastructure should be able to handle this data flow in a way that maximizes efficiency and security. The system would let organizations benefit from instantaneous response times. It would allow them to use the new data at their disposal to make smarter decisions and — most importantly — make them in real-time.

That’s not what we have nowadays.

In fact, when IoT devices ship their data back to the cloud for processing, transmissions are both slow and expensive. Too few devices are taking advantage of the edge.

Traffic Jam: The Cloud

Instead, many route data to the cloud. In that case, you’re going to encounter network latency measuring around 25 milliseconds. And that’s in best-case scenarios. Often, the lag time is a lot worse.  If you have to feed data through a server network and the cloud to get anything done, that’s going to take a long time and a ton of bandwidth.

An IP network can’t guarantee delivery in any particular time frame. Minutes might pass before you realize that something has gone wrong. At that point, you’re at the mercy of the system.

Data Hoarding 

Until now, technologists have approached Big Data from the perspective that the collection and storage of tons of it is a good thing. No surprise, given how the cloud computing model is very oriented toward large data sets.

The default behavior is to want to keep all that data. But think about how you collect and store all that information. There is simply too much data to push it all around the cloud. So why not work at the edge instead?

Cameras Drive Tons of Data – Not All of Which We Need

Consider, for example, what happens to the imagery collected by the millions of cameras in public and private. What happens once that data winds up in transit? In many – and perhaps most – instances, we don’t need to store those images in the cloud.

Let’s say that you measure ambient temperature settings that produce a reading once a second. The temperature reading in a house or office doesn’t usually change on a second-by-second basis. So why keep it?  And why spend all the money to move it somewhere else?

Obviously, there are cases where it will be practical and valuable to store massive amounts of data. A manufacturer might want to retain all the data it collects to tune plant processes. But in the majority of instances where organizations collect tons of data, they actually need very little of it. And that’s where the edge comes in handy.

Use the Edge to Avoid Costly Cloud Bills

The edge also can save you tons of money. We used to work with a company that collected consumption data for power management sites and office buildings. They kept all that data in the cloud. That worked well until they got a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars from Amazon.

Edge computing and the broader concept of distributed architecture offers a far better solution.

Edge Helps IoT Flourish in the era of Big Data

Some people treat the edge as if it were a foreign, mystical environment. It’s not.

Think of the edge as a commodity compute resource. Better yet, it is located relatively close to the IoT and its devices. Its usefulness is precisely due to its being a “commodity� resource rather than some specialized compute resource. That most likely takes the form of a resource that supports containerized applications. These hide the specific details of the edge environment.

The Edge Environment and Its Benefits

In that sort of edge environment, we can easily imagine a distributed systems architecture where some parts of the system are deployed to the edge. At the edge, they can provide real-time, local data analysis.

Systems architects can dynamically decide which components of the system should run at the edge. Other components would remain deployed in regional or centralized processing locations. By configuring the system dynamically, the system is optimized for execution in edge environments with different topologies.

With this kind of edge environment, we can expect lower latencies. We also achieve better security and privacy with local processing.

Some of this is already getting done now on a one-off basis. But it hasn’t yet been systematized. That means organizations must figure this out on their own by assuming the role of a systems integrator. Instead, they must embrace the edge and help make IoT hum.

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IoT Millennials ReadWrite

Take a Bow Millennials: The IoT is a Reality Thanks to You

iot millennials

It’s not that millennials came up with the idea of IoT. If we look at the history of IoT, we were tinkering with connected machines from the early nineties. Aside from a few precocious tweens, most millennials were still learning at school rather than making waves in IoT. “IoT is a realityâ€� — this trend is finally becoming true. Dreamed of by computer nerds everywhere for decades, we’re finally seeing a fully connected world. And, while millennials take a lot of flack for other things, here they get all the credit.

Let’s Understand the History

However, the technology at the time was hopelessly inadequate. No one could’ve made those now-antiquated systems operable. Do you remember Cellnet? Probably not. Hardly anyone does. Compared to today’s technology, it was low in bandwidth and completely insecure. Even a baby boomer could hack those networks today.

What sets millennials apart here, however, is that they grew up knowing that the IoT would be a reality. Baby Boomers watched sci-fi shows like Star Trek, and these sparked some ideas, perhaps. At the end of the day, everyone knew that such technologies belonged to the realm of science fiction.

Millennials, on the other hand, grew up as Trekkies started to make some of those futuristic creations a reality. The Star Trek crew walked around with hand-held or touch-activated communicators and scanners. You could locate someone using their communicators. The medical team would use the scanners to read biometric data.

We all carry a similar, albeit more basic, form of this technology in our mobile phones and biometric scanners today. Baby boomers were the dreamers. Millennials saw the fruition of some of those dreams and so became believers.

And while IoT adoption was slower than most believed, the big players committed to improving the infrastructure. Dell pledged $1 billion in 2017 to the future of the IoT to become a reality. Google, Amazon, and Apple also all invested heavily in IoT at the time.

The Situation As It Stands Now

Just three years later, the situation is very different. We now have smart speakers, thermostats, security systems, cars, and many more smart devices.

According to industry projections at the end of 2019, the reality of IoT is one of the new decade’s tech booms. The number of connected devices should hit the 50 billion mark by 2030.

IoT is a reality

Source: Statista

That’s an average of seven devices for every person globally, and a stark rise from the 2018 average of about three per person.

There’s a buzz around the IoT, and it’s not going away anytime soon. And we have millennials to thank for that.

Why Millennials?

Representing 75% of the global workforce by 2025</a>, millennials are the force to be reckoned with.

They were the early adopters and chose to stay connected. This generation was the one hardest hit by the subprime lending crisis in 2008. They’ve learned the value of a shared economy.

They’re now one of the primary economic forces globally. And that means they’re in a prime position to ensure that their IoT goals are met. They’re the ones that are driving many of the SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS solutions that we see today.

The IoT is a big part of the new sharing economy, so it’ll endure.

IoT Reality-How the Sharing Economy Is Changing the World

Another example of the sharing economy is asset accumulation. For the baby boomers, owning your car and house was a status symbol to achieve.

Today’s nouveau riche prefers to pay for what they use rather than acquire an asset outright. They buy assets that they can earn an income through. They no longer, however, invest in depreciating assets any longer.

IoT plays an essential role in the pay as you use model. Someone running an Airbnb property, for example, can use digital locks. They provide the password to the new users. When the person leaves, they generate a new code.

Up-and-coming young people may also choose the pay-as-you-go model for service reasons. IoT technologies built into a vehicle, for example, may monitor driving performance. Those that drive more carefully might receive preferable rates going forward.

Owners may track vehicles and detect when there’s a break-down or collision. They could dispatch emergency services or roadside assistance immediately. These are little things that provide additional benefits. The system may remind them to stop at a gas station or report for a maintenance check.

Naturally, there are concessions to make. Should they drive poorly, they’ll pay extra for your rental.

Still, considering the immediate drop-off in value when you buy a brand-new car, it might be worthwhile. With a pay as you go model, upgrades are easier than with an owned vehicle.

These are just some examples of how the sharing economy and IoT work hand in hand to improve service delivery. It’s not all sunshine and roses, however.

The Loss of Privacy

This, again, might be something that we have millennials to thank for. They’ve grown up in an environment where privacy takes on a whole new meaning. Many share everything online, It’s a culture that, by its nature, means any information is up for grabs.

In all fairness to them, they were among the first generations to fully embrace social media. At the time, no one could foresee the long-term consequences of such a pairing. Twenty years ago, the idea that commenting on a public forum might lose you your job was ludicrous. Today IoT is a reality.

The misuse of technology was inevitable. Even so, who could have foreseen something such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal?

Recap of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal

In 2014, the free Facebook app, “This Is Your Digital Life,� was released. A few hundred thousand people downloaded the fun app. It didn’t seem like a big hit. It was, however, ideal for the developers. The app allowed them to harvest the app users’ data. It also gave them access to the data of anyone connected to them on Facebook.

An investigative reporter broke the story a year later. It was too late -the damage was done. As it turned out, the information harvested was used in developing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

There have been several scandals since that made this one seem tame. But it’s fair to say that the Cambridge Analytica scandal was the one that shocked the world into a realization of the dangers of sharing data.

In this instance, the information wasn’t collected for malicious reasons. The researchers didn’t use it to commit identity theft or any equally nefarious purposes. However, they did use it to influence the outcome of politics within one of the world’s superpowers. That’s frightening.

We’ve singled out social media here, but the sharing economy enables most companies to harvest data from their clients. There are several other instances that we could cite here.

Other Surreptitious Data Shares

Take a smart thermostat, for example. It’s convenient and links into a phone app for ease of control. What users seldom realize is that many models also transmit usage data back to the manufacturer.

The companies collect this information to understand their client needs better. They use it to improve their product offerings. Is there a massive outcry over this kind of monitoring? It seems not. Many users accept the tradeoff if they perceive better service delivery.

Another sterling example is the free antivirus software, Avast. Last year, the firm got caught out and confirmed that it tracked 400 million users’ browsing habits. It then “de-identified� those users.

What did it do with the information? IT sold it off through its Jumpshot division.

According to Avast, the company sold no personally-identifying information. Experts, however, questioned the efficiency of the process used to strip the data.

The revelation didn’t destroy the firm, which is a testament to how little we value our privacy. Instead, it saw a 7.93% rise in adjusted earnings. It seems that consumers accept that real privacy is a thing of the past. Many are willing to let it go if they feel adequately rewarded.

Naturally, they feel somewhat differently about when that information is used to their detriment. That brings us to the next project for our creative millennials – securing the IoT.

Securing the IoT

The IoT is in use in almost every aspect of our daily lives. Everyone with a smart device is part of the collective. That brings with it enormous possibilities. It also puts a higher burden of care on these devices’ manufacturers.

Let’s look at a simple office environment. Firms may have smart printers, screens, tablets, desktops, laptops, smartphones, bulbs, thermostats, and even coffee machines. They all form part of the IoT reality. Each unit is a potential access point to the company’s online systems.

In case you think we’re a little paranoid, think again. Forbes recently reported that Martin Hron, a researcher at Avast, conducted a little experiment. Hron decided to see how secure the coffee maker in the office was.

It sounds ridiculous, but it was child’s play for him. The device had no in-built encryption. He was able to read the firmware. It took him minutes to take control. The router didn’t protect against the attack because the device acted as a Wi-Fi point on its own.

You may wonder what the point of this exercise was. After all, a coffee maker won’t lead you to world domination. Hron, however, proved that it could make a handy ransomware tool. He ran several cycles of the machine. Each cycle created a noisy distraction in the office.

The office workers’ only option was to disconnect the device. If they powered it up, the problems started all over again. Hron was in a position to demand a ransom to call off the attack.

It seems like a stupid issue. The firm would be more likely to buy a new coffee maker than pay the ransom. What happens, however, if it’s a busy coffee shop with a machine worth thousands?

Is a Simple Device a Backdoor?

More importantly, what if other devices in the network are equally vulnerable? It’s also worth considering that the machine can link to the company’s router. Could it give a determined hacker access to the firm’s sensitive data? Could it help them take down the server?

It’s a valid concern. Most people will have heard of a DDoS attack. This is where a hacker uses a bot army to crash a company’s servers. With the internet of things, that bot army might well be lurking in the firm’s offices.

We’ve listed the number of smart devices that firms might use. Should a hacker gain control of those devices, they may pull off a simple denial-of-service attack. During such an attack, the company’s own network’s tools flood the server with service requests.

The results might well be deadly. Each device on the network is authorized to operate within it, so the requests won’t trigger alarms. At best, the server’s performance will slow. At worst, it’ll crash.

A determined hacker could demand a ransom to halt the attack. They might also earn money by working for a company’s competition.

It seems incredible that a smart bulb might be a cybersecurity threat. It’s something to consider in our increasingly connected environment.

Encryption protocols are typically used to protect data. If the device doesn’t contain data, the manufacturer might see no reason for such security.

Regulators in the United States and worldwide have already noted this threat. They’re currently working on ways to improve the overall security of such devices.

In the interim, it’s something that our millennial friends need to put their minds to as well. We’re sure that they’ll come up with workable solutions.

Final Notes

The IoT was an idea born decades before its time. Now that its time is here, we find that it has almost limitless promise. It’s hard to deny, however, that there are some serious security concerns to overcome.

Being continuously connected leaves us vulnerable to cybersecurity threats that no one saw coming. Who’d have thought that a simple coffee maker could become the center of such a debate? Still, the generation that is responsible for the reason why IoT is a reality today could well be the one to solve the potential security issues.

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AI data and doctors Healthcare IoT social media and healthcare

AI is Neutral Technology: What May Be Harmful in Social Media Can Help Healthcare

social media healthcare

Netflix’s new “The Social Dilemmaâ€� documentary has been eye-opening for millions of viewers (see in: hundustantimes, dotcom), sparking conversation — and concern — about how the algorithms used by social media platforms manipulate human behavior.

Here is: “AI is Neutral Technology: What May be Harmful in Social Media Can Help Healthcare — By Dr. Darren Schulte, MD is Chief Executive Officer at Apixio.

By leveraging artificial intelligence that has become shockingly good at analyzing, predicting, and influencing user behavior. The film asserts that the resulting unintended consequences have created real-life dystopian implications: excessive screen time that causes real-world relationships to suffer, addictive behavior, alarming societal divisiveness, and even higher rates of depression, self-harm, and suicide.

These consequences as users look to social media for validation. Big tech corporations profit enormously by harvesting and analyzing their user data and manipulating their behavior to benefit advertisers.

While the film appears to give machine learning algorithms a bad rap, these algorithms aren’t inherently evil. It all depends upon what the algorithms are trained to do.

In fact, the use of AI algorithms in healthcare has tremendous potential to transform health care by improving individual patient outcomes and overall population health, enabling more personalized medicine, reducing waste and costs, and accelerating the discovery of new treatment and preventative measures.

The same type of algorithms showcased in the Social Dilemma can be trained to analyze data generated by patients, care providers, and devices (like wearables). 

The algorithms can even use surveillance of body functions (like lab tests and vital signs) to provide deeper and more accurate insight into individual health, health-related habits, and behaviors over time.

By combining that individual data with anonymous, aggregated population data, we can discover better treatments, refine clinical guidelines, and discover new therapies to improve overall population health.

Let’s consider these 11 ways AI can benefit health care applications.

  • Improve response to emergent diseases like COVID-19. One of the problems we’ve had with effectively treating COVID-19 patients is that there’s been a lot of experimentation and trial-and-error. However, even the data on the results of those therapies has been slow to propagate across the global medical community.

Hospitals and physicians only have data on the patients that they are treating themselves. With no cohesive system for sharing patient data. Providers in America, for example, have not been able to benefit quickly enough from the knowledge and experience of providers in Asia and Europe — where the virus spread first.

By leveraging AI to mine aggregated medical records from millions of individuals, we could see what treatments have been most effective for specific patient cohorts.

Even further, we could analyze the characteristics of those already infected to see which attributes make one more likely to develop the most severe symptoms. By identifying vulnerable populations faster, we can then take targeted steps to prevent infection and implement the most effective treatments.

As we have seen, the analysis and exchange of this data manually, takes far too long, contributing to the propagation and death toll. With AI, we can surface this knowledge much faster and potentially reduce the impact of the next novel disease.

  • Provide better patient surveillance. Identifying how – and how fast – COVID-19 spreads has also been a significant challenge. Scientists traditionally use a metric called R0 (pronounced “R naughtâ€�), a measure of the average number of people infected by one infectious individual.

Using R0 to predict COVID-19’s spread has been problematic for several reasons, including the fact that different groups use different models and data, and asymptomatic individuals can spread the disease without knowing that they are infected.

AI can help resolve this issue to improve patient surveillance by analyzing both medical records of patients who tested positive alongside contact tracing data that indicates the potential for infection. By combining this data and analyzing it at scale, medical authorities can use this insight to determine where to implement aggressive testing programs and more restrictive shelter-in-place measures to slow the spread of disease.

  • Improve the quality of care. Health care providers want to deliver the best quality of care to their patients. But one of the challenges they face is measuring quality and patient outcomes with empirical evidence. With patient data scattered across different sources like electronic health records (EHRs), lab results, imaging studies, it is difficult to aggregate and analyze.

By implementing systems that consolidate this data and allow providers to use AI to mine it for insights, physician practices and hospitals can identify trends among patients and implement quality improvement programs.

For example, if they see that individuals with certain characteristics fail to follow-up on important health concerns, providers can intervene with appointment reminders, transportation resources, provide telehealth options, or other interventions to keep patients engaged in their own care.

On the flip side, insurers are also concerned about care quality and ensuring patients get the best possible outcome at the lowest possible cost.

AI can help insurers track and measure patient outcomes as they move through the care system—from a primary care provider to a specialist to a hospital for surgery and into a rehab facility, for example—and identify providers or treatment protocols that may not be delivering optimal results. Insurers can then work with providers to implement new approaches to improve success rates and overall patient outcomes.

  • Identify and mitigate concerning trends. During a typical patient encounter, doctors only have access to the medical information for the patient in front of them. Consulting their patient history provides a limited view of factors that might indicate declining health. With data scattered across different systems, doctors do not always have all the data they need at hand.

AI can help surface broader indicators that a patient’s health may be declining over time.

By analyzing aggregate data across a large population, AI can show that patients with certain vital signs or trends in their data might be headed toward developing certain conditions, like diabetes or heart disease.

Physicians can use this information as a predictor of potential trouble and begin implementing preventative action. Some solutions can alert physicians to these insights as notifications within the Electronic Health Record (EHR) during the patient encounter. This allows physicians to take swift action to prevent disease progression.

  • Enable personalized medicine. The health care industry has been moving toward personalized medicine for years, aiming to transform the “one-size-fits-allâ€� approach to care into a customized plan for each individual. But this is practically impossible without access to aggregated data and insights that only AI can provide.

Consider the AI social media companies use to create and leverage personas to prompt engagement and drive advertising dollars. If we were to apply the same technique to build health care personas for each person, we could then provide this information to providers (with the patient’s permission).

Providers could then use tools like notifications, nudges, cues, or other communication (just like social media) to elicit positive behavior for better health.

For example, providers could target at-risk patients with prescription reminders, diet recommendations, or other resources relevant to their specific health situation.

  • Reduce diagnostic and treatment errors. Even the best providers can overlook important details and make mistakes, especially with the pressure they are under to squeeze more patients into a typical day.

Just as algorithms can help social platforms surface insights about their audience to woo advertisers, physicians can use algorithms to surface insights to diagnose and treat conditions accurately. For example, AI can highlight confounding conditions or risk factors for patients, allowing doctors to consider the individual’s entire health profile when making decisions.

AI can also aid in surfacing potential drug interactions that could put patients at risk. All of this can substantially lower the risk of errors that cause patients harm, not to mention reduce the risk of malpractice accusations.

The same way algorithms can identify Facebook users who might be interested in a new lawnmower and serve up an appropriate ad; they can help providers identify high-risk patients before they develop costly care needs. By culling through data to identify risk factors, AI allows providers to implement preventative and early intervention strategies.

For example, an algorithm might spot a specific obesity indicator that correlates with the risk for Type II diabetes or identify patients with high blood pressure that are at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease.

These insights can be delivered at the point of care, even during a patient encounter. If a patient displays a specific set of symptoms, as the data is entered into the EHR, the physician is alerted to the risk and can review trends in disease progression or confounding conditions to plot the best course of action.

  • Identify optimal treatment pathways through data-based referrals. Traditionally, when a patient needed to see a specialist, for surgery or physical therapy, for example, physicians typically referred to providers with whom they have existing relationships.

Unfortunately for patients, this does not always mean they get the best care for their unique situation. Does the provider have experience working with patients with co-morbidities? Do they specialize in complex surgeries or more typical procedures?

AI allows providers to refer to the best provider for each patient’s unique needs based on hard evidence of success and proven outcomes, rather than simply based on existing ties.

For example, if a patient with diabetes needs a knee replacement, AI can help primary care providers to identify orthopedic specialists and rehabilitation providers with proven, demonstrably better results in handling patients with this co-existing condition.

  • Reduce spending waste. About 30% of healthcare spending is considered “waste,â€� totaling up to $935 billion. Nearly $80 billion alone can be attributed to overtreatment or low-value care.

In other words, providers order more tests, services, and procedures that aren’t necessarily the best option—or even necessary at all—mostly in an effort to protect themselves against being accused of not doing enough and to meet insurer’s requirements (e.g., ordering x-rays before an MRI when an injury is clearly soft tissue related or sending patients for multiple repeat mammograms before conducting an ultrasound to evaluate a suspicious lump).

By mining data using algorithms, providers and insurers can focus on using the tests and procedures that demonstrate high value or necessary for specific instances. For example, is it necessary for patients on certain medications to get blood tests every 90 days? Do wellness visits add value to patients?

By looking at what is most effective across the larger population, AI can help point physicians in the right direction earlier, reducing unnecessary diagnostics and placing the patient on the path to better health more quickly.

AI thereby can reduce wasteful spending by identifying diagnostics that are most effective and economical, potentially saving patients and payers millions every year on ineffective tests and treatments.

  • Accelerate drug and treatment discovery. The current pathway to new drugs, vaccines, and treatments is long and arduous. On average, it takes at least ten years for new drugs to go from discovery to marketplace, with trials alone taking as long as seven years on average. For new vaccines, the average time to market is up to 12 years (which puts hope for a COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end into perspective).

One of the reasons the process is so slow is the lack of advanced data and analytics capabilities in the process.

The use of AI to analyze patient and drug performance data could substantially accelerate the time to market for new drugs and vaccines, which could save lives.

Just as the lack of data analytics meant doctors struggled to devise effective COVID-19 protocols, the inability to rapidly analyze trial data and evaluate new use cases for existing drugs prevents patients from getting the treatment they need.

Algorithms can accelerate this analysis and get much-needed medicines into the hands of patients faster.

All this time can add up to a significant cost and take away from time spent in direct, face-to-face time with patients.

AI can help reduce this burden and lower operational costs by automating manual processes like prior authorizations, reducing retrospective chart reviews by surfacing the right data to the right people earlier. The right data, quickly obtainable, will help physicians make better, faster decisions.

These efficiencies enabled by AI, on the administrative side, ultimately lower the cost of health care services for both patients and payers and frees up more resources to improve direct patient care.

The negative use of social media comes when the data influences human behavior bringing negative consequences.

For the most part, technology is neutral. But in the wrong hands with the wrong motives or objectives, the use of algorithms can raise serious ethical questions.

The same algorithms that cause us to feel more anxious, isolated, or depressed when leveraged by social media can also be used to help us heal, stay healthy, and achieve optimal well-being.

The questions are all about the algorithm’s objective and training, testing, and user feedback data that are used by the algorithm.  The reality is that managing both individual and public health in the 21st century requires access to data and insights.

Without data-driven insights, we are just guessing what will work in healthcare and what doesn’t.

Leveraging algorithms to analyze health care data empowers physicians to devise a truly personalized care plan for each individual. The physician can improve the quality of care overall and lower health care costs by tapping into collective insight and knowledge gleaned from millions of patient records.

Image Credit: karolina grabowska; pexels

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How E-Commerce Giants Battle it Out for Your Purchase

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There is an invisible real-time data war taking place in the e-commerce world. Made up of numerous battles fought by soldiers, it is waged by major players competing for dominance in the highly competitive e-commerce environment.

The purpose is clear: to post the lowest price and make the sale.

While people don’t realize that this war is taking place, it’s still there and is getting more brutal as time goes on. My company – Oxylabs – provides the proxies or “soldiers,â€� plus the strategic tools that help businesses win the war. This article will give you an inside view of the battles taking place and techniques to overcome some of the common challenges.

Web Scraping: The Battle for Data

Spies are valuable players in any war as they provide inside information on the opponent’s activities.

When it comes to e-commerce, the “spies� are in the form of bots that aim to obtain data on an opponent’s prices and inventory. This intelligence is critical to forming an overall successful sales strategy.

That data extraction through web scraping activities aims to obtain as much quality data as possible from all opponents. However, data is valuable intelligence, and most sites do not want to give it up easily. Below are some of the most common major challenges web scrapers encounter in the battle for high-quality data:

Challenge 1: IP Blocking (Defense Wall)

Since ancient times, walls were built around cities to block out invaders. Websites use the same tactic today by blocking out web scrapers through IP “blocks.�

Many online stores that use web scraping attempt to extract pricing and additional product information from hundreds (if not thousands) of products at once. Sometimes these information requests are often recognized by the server as an “attack.� This can result in bans on the IP addresses (unique identification numbers assigned to each device) as a defense measure. This is a type of “wall� a target site can put up to block scraping activity.

Another battle tactic is to allow the IP address access to the site but to display inaccurate data.

The solution for all scenarios is to prevent the target site from seeing the IP address in the first place. This requires the use of proxies – or “soldiersâ€� – that mimic “humanâ€� behavior. Each proxy has its own IP address. Thus, the server cannot track them to the source organization doing the public data extraction.

There are two types of proxies – residential and data center proxies. The choice of proxy type depends on the complexity of the website and the strategy.

Challenge 2: Complex/Changing Website Structure (Foreign Battle Terrain)

Fighting on enemy territory is not an easy task due to the home advantage leveraged by the defensive army. The challenges faced by an invading army are especially difficult because they are simultaneously discovering the territory while engaged in the battle.

This is analogous to the terrain faced by web scrapers. Each website has a different terrain in the form of its HTML structure. Every script must adapt itself to each new site to find and extract the information required.

For the physical wars of the past, the wisdom of the generals has proven invaluable when advancing on enemy territory. Similarly, the skills and knowledge of scripting experts are invaluable when targeting sites for data extraction.

Digital terrain, unlike physical terrain on earth, can also change at a moment’s notice. Oxylabs adaptive parser, currently in beta phase, is one of the newest features of our Next-Gen Residential Proxies solution. Soon to become a weapon of choice, this AI and ML-enhanced HTML parser can extract intelligence from rapidly-changing dynamic layouts that include the title, regular price, sale price, description, image URLs, product IDs, page URLs, and much more.

Challenge 3: Extracting Data in Real-Time (Battle Timing)

Quick timing is essential to many types of battle strategy, and often waiting too long may result in defeat. This holds true in the lighting fast e-commerce world where timing makes a big difference in winning or losing a sale.

The fastest mover most often wins. Since prices can change on a minute-by-minute basis, businesses must stay on top of their competitors’ moves.

An effective strategy involves strategic maneuvers using tools and scraping logic to extract data in real-time. Also, the use of multiple proxy solutions so data requests appear organic. While it is possible to construct an in-house real-time data extraction mechanism, anticipate many hassles for it to work as expected. Instead, leading brands tend to outsource ready-to-use tools, allowing them to instantly draw insights instead of focusing on challenging real-time data extraction.

Ethical Web Scraping

It is crucial to understand that web scraping can be used positively. There are transparent ways to gather the required public data and drive businesses forward.

Here are some guidelines to follow to keep the playing field fair for those who gather data and the websites that provide it:

  • Only scrape publicly-available web pages.
  • Ensure that the data is requested at a fair rate and doesn’t compromise the webserver.
  • Respect the data obtained and any privacy issues relevant to the source website.
  • Study the target website’s legal documents to determine whether you will legally accept their terms of service and if you will do so – whether you will not breach these terms.

A Final Word

Few people realize the war taking place behind the low price they see on their screen. That war is composed of multiple scraping battles for product intelligence fought by proxies circumventing server security measures for access to information.

Strategies for winning the battles come in sophisticated data extraction techniques that use proxies and scraping tools. As the invisible war for data continues to accelerate, it appears that the biggest winners of all are the consumers that benefit from the low prices they see on their screens.

Image Credit: photomix-company; pexels

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Technology is Transforming the Insurance Sector

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The insurance industry, for a long time, has been driven by traditional business models. It continued its legacy business process and products for quite some time.  But with the intervention of innovative technology, the insurance industry has witnessed positive outcomes.

Advanced technologies and digital platforms are providing new means to measure, control, and track risks. They facilitate effective engagement with customers and enhances business productivity.

These technologies supported by dedicated insurance software are opening the market for new insurance offerings. It has provided an opportunity for traditional insurers to transform and reinvent themselves. Moreover, it has compelled them to respond to new market challenges.

In this article, we will focus on how technology is reshaping the insurance business. Besides, how it is presenting new opportunities and driving factors of change.

Key Drivers of Transformation

  • Innovation and Technology

Innovation in mobile and data has impacted every business model. Certainly, the insurance division is also not lagging. It is the result of rapid innovations in the form of efficient insurance software and technology. As a result, the insurance sector is in a tussle with new technologies’ risks and opportunities.

  • Customer Expectations and On-Demand Marketplace

The insurance industry is known for low customer touchpoints and slow tech adoptions. In a survey conducted by Morgan Stanley and Boston Consulting Group, it was found that consumers interact less with insurers in comparison to other industries.

The slow digitization has obstructed the potential of interaction between insurers and insureds. Moreover, the lack of touchpoints has reduced the chance to gain insights into customer needs. Thus, resulting in prevented customized products.

Based on the experience in other industries, the insureds expect high-touch & innovative processes. They want services that focus on customer experience and needs. Hence, have high expectation for technology-based services. They are looking for convenient and personalized solutions that fulfill their needs. As a consequence, this poses a challenge for insurance providers.

  • Digital Switch

Another progress in the insurance sector is the digital platform. It has directed the focus to meet customers’ requirements. This has paced up the competition, innovation, and change in the insurance industry.

Startups are implementing technology to reduce operational costs and enhance their client’s experience. This will improve convenience, transparency, timeliness, simplicity, personalization, and customer engagement.

Besides leveraging the low-cost technology platforms, the new players have challenged the traditional market players.

Technologies Transforming Insurance Sector

The introduction of various technologies has evolved the insurance landscape. These tech solutions have shaped the transformation in the industry. Some of the key innovations are IoT, Blockchain, ML, AI, and Insurance Management platforms.

  • Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a prime example of how new data sources are improved. It automates much of the data sharing process. The insurers can use data shared by the customers from IoT devices that enable them to understand clients’ needs. It assists them in deciding rates, mitigating risk, and preventing losses.

Internet of Things also supports other insurance technology by providing first-hand data. This improves the accuracy of risk assessment and gives insurance holders the power to impact their policy pricing. On the whole, it plays a pivotal role in the current transformation of the insurance industry. It has allowed insurers to model risk and underwrite policies.

The impact of IoT is unending. According to Gartner, the number of new things connected to the internet will rise. It will jump from 6.4 billion devices in 2016 to 20.8 billion by the year 2020. This will have positive implications for the home, health and car insurance industry.

  • Machine Learning (ML)

ML not only enhances claims processing; it also automates the entire process. The digitized files accessible via the cloud are open to analysis. They can be easily analyzed using mechanized software and programmed algorithms.

The automated system improves processing speed and accuracy. While the cybernetic review effect not only claims management but is also utilized for policy administration and risk assessment.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence plays a significant role in changing the insurance industry. The AI-based tools and applications profit the insurers by providing definite solutions for insurance operations and claims settlement. The emergence of IoT and mobile apps has increased the potential of improving the processes. This function includes insurance plan selections and analysis as well.

The use of smart tools by insurance buyers has given insurers access to clients’ personal information. This allows insurers to serve them with tailor-made policies. AI-based technology also enables companies in fraud detection. It helps insurers to execute intelligent underwriting algorithms in their claim management processes.

Furthermore, it assists insurance providers to devise customized sales techniques. It supports them to handle the rising competition in the market. Evidently, AI has made a significant contribution to insurance technology by bringing revolutionary changes within the otherwise tedious insurance industry.

AI-based insurance software provides complete solutions to insurance agencies. The software assists many functions from knowledge precision, policy personalization to fraud detection. These applications have streamlined and increased the productivity of the insurance industry. Moreover, the adoption of this insurance technology has proven to improve the prevailing business.

  • Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) that enables speedy verification of the transaction. It maintains a secured record of transactions via cryptography and computational power. This eliminates the role of a trusted centralized authority, besides providing permanent records and audit track of transactions available on computers worldwide.

It is built on innovative technology that digitizes and codify data by placing all the information on an inviolable and permanent distributed database. Hence, Blockchain has the significant potential to impact various industries.

Observers also believe that this can lead to a variety of improvements in the insurance sector. This technology will establish a degree of transparency and accountability, which otherwise was not possible.

It will allow the insurers to mitigate risk and fraud, assist and organize back-end operations, introduce new products, and reduce costs. Besides, blockchain will provide simpler and augmented data access to parties.

Insurance businesses lose billions to fraud every year due to physical processes. However, implementing Blockchain technology can prevent these fraudulent practices.

An insurance report by Ernst and Young states, Blockchain can “end error, negligence and detect fraud by providing a decentralized digital repository to verify the veracity of customers, policies and claims independently.�

It creates a common record of truth, helping firms save time and improve productivity. Furthermore, all transactions on a blockchain are time-stamped and perpetual. The identities are safe and data is reliable, hence easing the fraud detection and reducing its scope.

  • Insurance Management Platforms

The new insurance solution has led to the emergence of innovative insurance management platforms. The advent of these platforms has reinvented the method of company operations, thereby lending a helping hand to business owners and managers. It comprises tools that analyze market potential and enable customized services.

They serve as a customized solution that provides insurers with a ready-to-use platform, keeping them a step ahead of the process. Moreover, the implementation of software enables a cost-effective and efficient management system.

This benefits the company and maximizes profits. The applications of insurance software are designed to resolve complex activities and tasks. It adequately answers the needs of a business and performs the job in less time.

Conclusion

All in all, the emergence of technologies and innovations have begun to transform the insurance industry. Insurance technology has introduced modern methods to measure, control, and price risk. It has improved engagement with customers, lowered cost, increased efficiency and expanded insurability.

This has presented the insurance industry with tremendous opportunities. As a result, they can now modernize existing products and create new services. Besides, insurance technology has also led to the foundation of many new startups. These startups are implementing improvised ways. Also, they are out doing conventional methods, thereby providing a better experience to the customers.

In short, tech-savvy governance in insurance will expand the potential of the business. This will further fuel innovation and transformation. There will be demand for more customized and agile insurance software to enrich customer experience and boost organizational efficiency.

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Exploring the Impact of the IoT on the Accounting Industry

Exploring the Impact of the IoT on the Accounting Industry

When you look at the industries that the IoT is impacting, accounting isn’t the first one that comes to mind. However, if you take a close look and study what’s happening on a granular level, it becomes clear that the IoT is fundamentally shifting the profession for the better.

IoT’s Impact Spilling Over

The impact of the IoT is deep and wide. And though accounting may initially seem like a strange industry to be impacted so significantly by this shift to cloud computing and mobile devices, it’s undergoing a significant metamorphosis nonetheless.

And before we dig in and analyze some of the specific ways the accounting field is changing, let’s make sure we’re clear on what the IoT is and why it matters. In other words, let’s set the table with a dash of context.

There are plenty of definitions from a wide swath of experts in the tech field, but Oracle has one of the best explanations of what it is.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects — ‘things’— that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet. These devices range from ordinary household objects to sophisticated industrial tools,� Oracle explains. “With more than 7 billion connected IoT devices today, experts are expecting this number to grow to 10 billion by 2020 and 22 billion by 2025.�

The IoT is rather evident in our personal lives (whether we realize it or not). Smart kitchen appliances, thermostats, navigation systems, baby monitors, smartphones, and fitness bands…they’re all part of the IoT. But we aren’t always as aware of what’s happening in the business world.

Fueled by access to low-cost, low-power sensor tech, heightened connectivity, cloud computing, machine learning, and conversational artificial intelligence (AI), the IoT has exploded in the business world and become one of the most important trends shaping the future of the world’s biggest industries.

In the industrial sector, we’re seeing smart manufacturing, smart power grids, connected logistics, smart digital supply chains, and innovative preventative and predictive maintenance that saves businesses billions.

In software, we’re seeing software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications proliferate. And when combined with smart devices and sensor technology, these SaaS applications open up a whole new world of opportunity.

Traditionally, tech leaders have discussed IoT and its catalytic potential in manufacturing, software, automotive, transportation and logistics, retail, healthcare, and even education. But accounting typically gets left out.

This won’t be the case for long. Major changes are coming (and this industry is ripe for the picking).

6 Ways the IoT is Changing Accounting in 2020 and Beyond

The full impact of the IoT on accounting remains to be seen. Many of the changes are happening behind closed doors and won’t be obvious to those outside of the industry. But for those working in the accounting field, they can expect to see the following shifts, changes, and evolutions moving forward.

1. Shifting Learning

Education obviously plays a significant role in the accounting industry. This is a field where conventional wisdom is often flipped. It’s what you know, not who you know, that allows you to be successful. So the shift in education and learning is rather important.

The process of preparing for the CPA exam now takes place almost entirely online. Learning has shifted from classroom-based to virtual and students are benefitting from this evolution. One of the biggest benefits of this shift is the way in which students are able to learn in an on-demand setting. The content is always available, it’s more digestible than ever before, and mock exams and review courses make it possible to prepare for the “real thing� prior to sitting for the exam. Some learning platforms even offer one-on-one mentoring, which allows these education companies to offer support at scale.

The efficacy of these learning platforms is rooted in their ability to tailor content to the student based on real-time inputs and feedback. Adaptive technology means content can be adjusted to help each student address unique areas of weakness.

2. Better Decision Making

From the outside looking in, people assume that accountants are nothing more than Excel spreadsheet whiz kids and Quickbooks aficionados. But the reality is that accountants play a key role in advising businesses. The data they uncover is necessary for making important financial decisions. Thus, it matters what data they have access to and how they access it.

The IoT is helping accounting professionals collect real-time data, quickly transmit it to cloud servers, and then automate and analyze the data using AI algorithms. This all happens in the snap of a finger, which makes businesses more nimble than they’ve ever been.

3. Streamlined Accounting Operations

Accounting operations and processes can be strenuous. And with so many different steps and moving parts, efficiency isn’t always a direct byproduct of these operations.

Within accounting processes, there’s usually collaboration of different departments for both the collection and analysis of data and other financial information. And any delays between the transmission of data and the ability to register and analyze that data can lead to a host of negative consequences (including inaccurate reporting and ill-advised projections). The IoT has the ability to eliminate this delay, thereby empowering departments to make more accurate decisions.

Take the example of buying a computer for an office. The admin department can scan the barcode, and all of the details from that purchase are automatically transmitted to the proper database and logged into the blockchain. This creates an immediate record, and the accounting workflow reflects the purchase in real-time. Payments, invoices, and bills are all received by the accounting department without any need for human intervention.

4. No More Audits

As anyone in any financial position within a company knows, there’s nothing worse than preparing for an audit. Painstaking, excruciating, time-consuming – these are words that many would use to describe audits.

Now imagine for a moment, a world where connected ledgers, donations, journal entries, and all transactions are sorted, tracked, and irrefutable verified right away in real-time. (Not months or years later.) This is what blockchain and the IoT are doing/will do for accounting.

“Indeed, the IoT doesn’t just change things. It permits you to method, consolidate, and analyze, usually in real time, leveraging connected tools can take the strain off of CFOs,� tech journalist Chrisotpher Zach writes. “It’ll also lead to tighter books overall.�

It’s difficult to overestimate how important this will be for businesses – particularly smaller businesses that don’t have the time or financial resources to be as strict with auditing as they’d like. As the IoT minimizes auditing efforts, these organizations will benefit from peace of mind and better resource allocation.

5. Improved Asset Utilization

The IoT is already making it possible for organizations to track assets with better accuracy and efficiency – a trend that will continue to improve in the months and years to come.

“Fixed assets, vehicles and inventories can be confirmed along with their locations tracked automatically. Companies can use RFID tags and hand-held scanners to confirm the items of stock in a warehouse, this facilitates automated stock checking,� IT expert Elena Smith writes. “For geographically dispersed assets, the broadcast of GPS coordinates can monitor asset location. This increases the chances of catching thieves. Also, in the case of migration, this will reduce costly production downtime.�

Asset tracking information can be used with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to dramatically improve asset utilization across the board. And as organizations become more familiar with the use of RFID tags and tracking software, there will be steep declines in manual error, theft, and losses.  Many businesses will see a quick and significant increase in profitability.

6. Superior Risk Management

As we’ve mentioned, accountants and CPAs are often heavily involved in forecasting and, as a result, also have their hands in risk management. As the IoT provides a steady flow of real-time data, financial departments will be able to make decisions based on real-time and (very) recent data as opposed to historical data, which may no longer be relevant in today’s fast-paced, ever changing marketplace.

Superior risk management doesn’t automatically make businesses safer or more profitable. It still goes back to accuracy of data and which metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are being tracked. However, as long as these pieces are in the right places, organizations stand a much better chance of accelerated growth.

What’s Around the Bend in the World of Accounting?

It’s impossible to know what lies ahead. These are the trends we’re currently seeing, and they could take on entirely new shapes and arcs as time passes. However, one thing we know for sure: Accounting is no longer the cold, stagnant industry that it once was. Leaders in the space are more willing than ever to embrace change and innovation, opening up opportunities for greater efficiency, increased accuracy, better security, and more cost-effective services.

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Addressing Security Challenges in an IoT Dominated World

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Adding connectivity with a degree of intelligence to household appliances gives rise to the Internet of Things (IoT). Integration of these inter-connected appliances, with our daily routine, inside our personal spaces, is resulting in smart homes, and the adoption is already exponential. Here is how we are addressing security challenges in an IoT dominated world.

Many industries are deploying the IoT concept, such as security and surveillance systems, home appliances, manufacturing, automotive, and recently we also experience numerous innovations in the HVAC industry (cielowigledotcom – HVAC tech). All players’ goal is to provide connectivity plus automation, resulting in comfort and even energy savings.

Smart homes promise an automated living experience, with in-built convenience and an efficient style of living. As per IDC projections in 2015, there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, with a market worth 1.7 trillion USD. This widescale acceptance of IoT is a fascinating part of the future. It bodes well for the times to come for the smart home industry. But with all good things, there is a catch. Security of data is the most significant risk to such large scale integrations. Moreover, preventing any backdoor entries into a secure home should also be an emphasis on IoT security.

Smart home devices’ mass use provides a larger pool for potential hackers and data attackers to target, resulting in a significant disruption of service, financial loss, and physical loss instead of promised convenience and energy savings.

Erosion of confidence in smart home appliances through security risks is a stark reality for the IoT industry. It would consequently lead to a slowdown in the adoption of smart home products by consumers.

IoT Vulnerabilities

Wi-Fi connected devices create a great volume of sensitive data, creating an inherent risk of data and identity theft, device manipulation, and server/network manipulation, and providing many avenues for hackers to exploit.

As per Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), IoT vulnerabilities include inherent insecurities in the web interface, mobile interface, cloud interface, network services, and firmware. The vulnerabilities also include insufficiencies in authentication/authorization and security configuration. The lack of transport encryption, privacy concerns, and poor physical security also adds up to the list of vulnerabilities.

Limited memory and computational power of microcontrollers is another challenge that is unique to IoT. Both these components are essential to convert dumb appliances into intelligent connected devices. Implementation of security at the device level is a big problem for IoT solution providers. They have to keep in view the balance that needs to be maintained between the security and marketability of the end product.

Often, resource constraints within the design of the product do not allow sufficient computing resources, which are necessary to implement strong security. Consequently, many devices are unable to provide advanced security features. As a case example, temperature and humidity sensors cannot handle advanced encryption protocols and various security features.

Even over the air (OTA) updates are not utilized, with many IoT devices used in a “set and forget� mode. High-end manufacturers are the exception to this, though. They can provide regular FOTA updates and a robust security mechanism all the way from the cloud protocols to on-device safeguards. Other manufacturers are not so forthcoming, prioritizing low-cost development and a faster timeline for conception to sale.

Strategy to Mitigate IoT Vulnerabilities

An all-encompassing strategy is to mitigate any potential vulnerabilities from design conception to end product. Post-sale software updates are a critical part of aftersale support. Without being hampered by cost restrictions, a security-centric approach needs to be adopted. The strategy must include proven security practices, prioritization of security measures, and transparency across the whole eco-system.

Another major issue that needs to be addressed in the amalgamation of legacy assets with modern technology. The security challenges of today were not kept in mind when older generation devices were made. Outright replacing the legacy structure with new-generation devices is a very cost-prohibitive venture. This is why smart home providers are more focused on retrofitting already installed equipment with plug-and-play devices and sensors.

But the cross-link between a legacy device and smart sensor will inevitably leave a little gap in the proverbial door and can be exploited by those with malicious intent.

Time restrictions are also a cause for concern. Many smart solution providers only cater to updates for a few years, after which their after-sale support becomes only rudimentary. With devices running around for a much larger time period than support provision, this can be a security lapse. Achieving security at par with the current standards can be challenging without assistance from manufacturers.

Industry Acceptance

A major component of security protocols and networking is industry-wide acceptance through well-established standards and procedures. Although multiple independent security frameworks operate in somewhat isolated bubbles, a single, comprehensive, industry-wide standard needs the hour. Major manufacturers and service providers utilize their own internal protocols.

To develop these protocols, a large number of resources have been put in. But smaller companies are at a disadvantage. They have to resort to making do with third-party frameworks, which are often not up to the mark. Moreover, they can also be incompatible with other major players in the industry. Due to this, not only is security an issue but also inter-operability.

Putting IoT Security Strategy Vehicle into Action

The IoT solution providers have to involve security issues at all stages of the IoT cycle. Emphasis should be on cybersecurity. Security begins at the design stage with a special focus on threat modeling, secure component selection, component adaptability to future security measures, and finally, resilience testing. The FOTA functionality is a must for remote updates, failure patching, and data protection in case of security breaches.

The options of standalone operations in case of connectivity problems can also give greater confidence to users. The manufacturer must also educate the users for setting stronger user preferences through user configurations.

The users on their part can reduce the risk of security breaches by using strong passwords for device accounts and Wi-Fi networks, use of stronger encryption method when setting up Wi-Fi networks such as WPA2, disabling the remote access to IoT devices when not needed, and disabling features that are not currently in use like location information.

Privacy is an Essential Part of Security

Privacy issues have lately been at the forefront of the discussion on networking. IoT has the potential to provide unprecedented amounts of personal information. Such information may land in the hands of information abusers. OEMs would need to provide privacy policies on how they handle such data. They should also adopt best practices to avoid reputational damages and adherence to regulatory requirements.

IoT is here to stay. The sooner this realization comes in –the better it is for both the consumers and smart solution providers.

A robust framework is needed by the industry to ensure that consumer confidence in IoT is not hampered in any way. Rather, the focus should solely be on providing the utmost in convenience and comfort to the world.

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