06Jun

When COVID-19 began closing businesses and shops, companies worldwide upped their spending on technology so much that within the first three months of the pandemic they’d already spent all of their 2020 budget increase. This extra $15 billion a week is among the biggest increase in tech spending in history.

Most of those billions was spent updating systems to accommodate remote working and improving network security. A wise decision as it turned out, since cyber attacks have become a fact of life for CIOs and CTOs. 41% of the 4,200 global IT leaders participating in a Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey said this year, their company has had more cyber attacks than ever. By far, attackers have targeted the massive relocation of workers from offices to homes. 83% of the attacks were phishing and 62% were malware.

Phishing is an attempt by email to convince individuals to reveal passwords, credit card and social security numbers and similar sensitive data. Malware encompasses a broad range of malicious software intended to damage a computer, gain access to other systems or hijack data or networks.

Well aware of the potential security risks of remote work, IT leaders said much of their pandemic spending increase focused on security. 47% of all respondents said security was their number 1 investment priority. That’s made cybersecurity the most in demand tech skill in the world, says the survey.

After security skills, cited by 35% of the responding IT leaders, the next three most scarce technology skills are organizational change management (27%), enterprise architecture (23%) and technical architecture and advanced analytics both at 22%, according to the survey.

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Those shifts in most wanted IT skills reflect the change organizations are making in their tech investment. The survey says that after security and privacy, investment in infrastructure and the cloud was the third most important tech priority, with the number of IT leaders actively considering distributed cloud nearly doubling in just 12 months (from 11% to 21%).

It’s likely that even after the pandemic subsides, these areas will continue to be a key tech focus. Worldwide, 43% of IT leaders expect more than half their workforce will continue to be remote.

“Leaders,” says a summary of the report, “Will therefore need to rethink how they attract and engage their employees in a world where physical location is no longer a prime asset.”

Photo by Blogging Guide on Unsplash

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Green Key

Researchers Hack Computer Fan. Seriously!

doesn’t involve exploiting bugs or vulnerabilities in software. Instead, they found a way to do it by controlling a computer’s cooling fan.

Amazingly, they found hackers could encode stored data into fan vibrations by imperceptibly slowing down or speeding up the fan’s rotation. The fan causes the computer itself and the surface it’s on to vibrate and these vibrations can be picked up by a smartphone and then retrieved by a hacker.

“We observe that computers vibrate at a frequency correlated to the rotation speed of their internal fans,” lead researcher Mordechai Guri told Tech Xplore. “These inaudible vibrations affect the entire structure on which the computer is placed.”

“The malware in question doesn’t exfiltrate data by cracking encryption standards or breaking through a network firewall,” he said. “Instead, it encodes data in vibrations and transmits it to the accelerometer of a smartphone.”

While the process of transmitting the data is extremely slow, and therefore not likely to be adopted by hackers (spy services maybe?) it is yet another demonstration of how it is possible to access a computer that is air-gapped, meaning it is isolated and not connected to the internet.

Guri is head of R&D at the univerity’s Cyber-Security Research Center. He and his team specialize in finding ways to access data from highly secure systems and devising methods of protecting against the threats.

In the case of the fan vibration hack, a simple method of protecting against it is to make the fan speed unchangeable.

Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

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Green Key

Internet Slow? It’s Probably You

If your internet connection seems slow, don’t blame the internet. It’s you. Or to put it more precisely, it’s the equipment in your house, or the service plan you have or the way your home connects to the broader internet network. Or all three.

Millions of people are teleconferencing for work or school. We’re streaming more movies and You Tube videos than ever before; so many that in Europe Netflix, Google, Disney and Amazon have throttled back their picture quality to conserve bandwidth.

Zoom, perhaps the most widely used video conferencing service, has seen its usage – excuse the expression – zoom. At the end of 2019, the company had 10 million daily users. At the end of March it had 200 million, which has exposed flaws, bugs and security issues.

Now not mostly just for business meetings, schools have embraced Zoom to hold online classes. Families and friends are logging on to socialize and to play games, many now being designed specifically for the service.

New York Times analysis suggests that with nearly all sporting events cancelled – marble racing an exception – gaming sites are seeing double digit increases. Gaming of all kinds across all platforms soared by 75% as of March 19, according to Statista.

All this gaming and video usage is placing a strain on the internet. While the broader network is handling the load, most local connections were not built to handle the demand. Where business centers have typically been upgraded with high speed, high bandwidth fiber, residential areas are most often connected over cable.

Cable was designed to deliver video, not upload it, so video conferencing from home – as most of us are now doing – is fraught with dropped connections and jerky video. This gets worse as more and more users are online at the same time.

In areas that have been upgraded, slowdowns are more likely to be the result of your equipment or how much bandwidth you’re paying for. Before everyone was home and online at the same time, basic internet service and equipment may have only rarely caused slowdowns. Older WiFi equipment was not designed to handle multiple simultaneous video or gaming users.

“Still, despite these niggles, the internet seems to be doing just fine,” says the MIT Technology Review . “Health checks from RIPE and Ookla, two organizations that monitor connection speeds around the world, show minor slowdowns but little change overall.”

“In fact,” notes the article, “Far from bringing networks to their knees, covid-19 is driving the most rapid expansion in years.”

The article explains that streaming and gaming services are adding capacity, while last mile providers like Comcast and AT&T are experimenting with changes to their plans and are looking at how to upgrade the cables and wires that bring internet service into our homes. Comcast lifted data caps for two months.

“Some of these measures may be undone when the crisis is over, but others will outlive it. Once cut, red tape is hard to stick back together.”

Photo by Thomas Jensen on Unsplash

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Green Key