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Tech Stuffs

Encryption a growing threat to security

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, Americans asked private companies to divest from business dealings with the apartheid government of South Africa. In more recent years, federal and state law enforcement officials have asked — and required — Internet service providers to crack down on the production and distribution of child pornography. And banks and financial institutions are compelled to prevent money laundering by organized crime and terrorists finance networks.

All of this is against companies’ bottom-line business interests, but it has been in the public interest. These actions were taken to protect the public and for the greater good. And all of it was done to mitigate a moral or physical hazard.

Take another example: Many communities implement landlord responsibility ordinances to hold them liable for criminal activity on their properties. This means that landlords have certain obligations to protect nearby property owners and renters to ensure there isn’t illicit activity occurring on their property. Property management companies are typically required to screen prospective tenants. Just this spring, a family was awarded $12 million in damages against a property management company that failed to screen tenants prior to a shooting in the development.

The point of all these examples? That state and federal laws routinely act in the interest of public safety at home and abroad. Yet now, an emerging technology poses a serious threat to Americans — and Congress and our government have failed to address it.

Technology companies are creating encrypted communication that protects their users’ privacy in a way that prevents law enforcement, or even the companies themselves, from accessing the content. With this technology, a known ISIS bomb maker would be able to send an email from a tracked computer to a suspected radicalized individual under investigation in New York, and U.S. federal law enforcement agencies would not be able to see ISIS’s attack plans.

Unfortunately, this scenario is not at all far-fetched. Recently, FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress that terror groups such as ISIS are using encrypted programs to hide their communications and recruiting messages from U.S. federal agencies. As a result, ISIS is aggressively targeting young Americans online — and they are succeeding.

Let’s think about that, because this reality could very well lead to attacks against Americans on American soil that could have been prevented if companies and Congress worked to find a solution.

What could a solution look like? The most obvious one is that U.S. tech companies keep a key to that encrypted communication for legitimate law enforcement purposes. In fact, they should feel a responsibility and a moral obligation to do so, or else they risk upending the balance between privacy and safety that we have so carefully cultivated in this country.

Unfortunately, the tech industry argues that Americans have an absolute right to absolute privacy. But while Americans absolutely do have a right to privacy, the Constitution both provides protections and offers a path for the government to pursue illegal behavior. Indeed, the criteria for securing a warrant is well established in the law, and we do not have to sacrifice Fourth Amendment protections to fix this growing problem. If technology companies build encryption systems where only they retain access, then when necessary, law enforcement would be able to follow the appropriate legal process to obtain the suspected bad actors’ records. It is really that simple.

This is not the first time in America’s history that private industry has been asked by society through law enforcement to strike the proper balance between profit and public interest. American companies should be able to make a profit and protect innocent users’ privacy, while still allowing law enforcement to be able to catch the world’s worst criminals and terrorists with time-tested legal measures.

If landlords have the moral responsibility to protect a community from illegal use of their property, shouldn’t tech companies have the same moral responsibility to protect the broader online community from illegal use of their property?

So yes, the tech industry should continue to encrypt communications to offer citizens privacy. But they should also keep a master key, because it may one day save thousands of lives. Americans’ privacy is protected every day by laws that prevent police from entering a criminal’s home without a warrant. Why should the rules or risks be any different in cyberspace?

If we can work together on this difficult problem, I know we will find a solution. Let’s not create a new threat for profit’s sake.


A few uses of cloud computing for business


If you are a business owner, you would have probably heard about cloud computing by now. The main benefits are cost savings and greater flexibility, but there are so much more that a powerful, integrated cloud platform can do. I have unpacked five ways cloud services can be a game changer

  1. Creates and hosts website and mobile applications

Cloud computing servers allow you to set up custom-made applications that can track your business’ enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and revenue per customer. By tapping in to data stored on the cloud server, these applications can perform predictive analytics to help you make forward-looking decisions.

In addition, with cloud, you can design mobile apps that link to your website. These provide you with real-time data and analytics into users’ behaviours, enabling you to create more targeted, personalised campaigns and notifications.

For example, if you own a store, you want to create a unique shopping experience, both online and offline, the cloud combined with data and machine learning can help you achieve this. It gives you the power to make specific, targeted product recommendations to your customers based on their past behaviours as well as predictive analytics.

  1. Becomes part of the Internet of Things

Along with customer experience, consumers expect a lot more from the products they buy – and it is becoming a business imperative to make “smarter,” more useful, connected products.

However, the Internet of Things is about more than simply connecting your computer or smartphone to your activity tracker, alarm system or house lights. IoT’s ability to collect big data through the power of the cloud can help you change the way you do business. According to a recent Microsoft report on IoT, “An intelligent system is transformative… new insights are generated that drive the organisation’s objectives forward on many levels.”

In simple terms, this system works by installing sensors into anything from a yoghurt cup to a bridge, or whatever product your business offers, and then using these sensors to record and send data back into the cloud. That data allows you to collect specific feedback on consumer behaviour and even what they might want in the future.

You can take it a step further by combining big data with real-time processing to better engage with your customers. John Deere did this by adding data connectivity to its equipment, giving farmers information about which crops to plant and plough, where and when.

  1. Virtualises your machines

More businesses are using the cloud to run virtual machines that can help them save money and increase productivity.

Virtualisation refers to creating or moving to a virtual version of computer hardware, operating system, and storage device or computer network resource. This is a great option if you need additional computer capacity, but don’t want to spend more money to add physical infrastructure.

By deploying virtual servers, you can reduce the operational costs of your business, increase application availability and gain flexibility. All of these allow your business to grow while enjoying greater ease of management, simplified licensing, and better use of hardware, lower energy costs and easier maintenance. Virtualisation also enables you to respond to IT challenges quicker, with the option to scale additional resources as you need them.

  1. Creates, manages and distributes media

One of the greatest challenges many businesses face is how to be heard in a world saturated by messages and media. With the cloud, you can create, manage and distribute media more effectively.

NBC News is a great example of a company embracing this. They have been producing phone apps since 2008, with the strategy to be on every platform their audience members engage with. The next step is to create a special experience based on the best features each platform has to offer their fans.

Cloud computing is an important way to do this because it allows them to create back-end functionality for the app once, and ensure it is compatible with all devices connecting to the cloud. The result is that they can deliver news in the fastest amount of time across operating systems. Users have rated the experience 4.5 out of five stars.

  1. Keeps your information and environment secure

Along with reputation and customer experience, security is likely at the top of your list of priorities. A trusted cloud allows automatic security updates of all servers and virtual machines based on policies that you set and control. It also enables you to control password management from a single source.

In addition, a site recovery plan can also protect physical servers. This works by automating the replication of virtual machines and workloads, so that you can use the cloud as your recovery site. You can also automate the recovery of services should there be a site outage at your primary data centre, as well as run a secondary data centre as a backup and recovery site.

Making use of cloud services like these can be a game changer for your business.

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