Authored by Mr. Jonah Papesh, Senior Underwriter, Cyber & Technology, AXA XL
In a world in which cyber attacks are increasing in frequency and severity, companies rely heavily on technology to secure their data and systems. But what if your company is a tech company? What are the risks if your business model is to create business applications, cloud services, or even cyber security products?
Cyber attacks are increasingly targeting the technology sector. In February of 2019, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the criminal indictment of two hackers associated with the Chinese government. The hackers were charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions against dozens of global and US-based companies, targeting managed service providers (MSP). Because MSPs store and manage data and other intellectual property for companies, the threat extended to potential loss of proprietary data from all sectors of business, and possibly governments, across the globe.
Cloud storage providers, Cloud computing services, Developers of cyber security software, or a file-sharing solution provider, are often the targets of cyber attacks. The damage such attacks can inflict go far beyond the cost of recovering compromised data.
In large part, technology companies are at the forefront in the development of cybersecurity risks from the development of products and services to combat these risks to focusing daily on the trends and emerging risks.
In spite of this, tech companies lay vulnerable to cyberattack. In 2014, 3 billion Yahoo! users experienced account breaches. Over 500 million users had their names, emails, dates of birth, and phone numbers compromised in the attack. Unfortunately, it was the second large breach in a year for the company – in 2013, another 3 billion accounts had been compromised by another group of hackers. In March, the Asus’ software update system was hacked and used to distribute malware to about 1 million Windows computers. According to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, the malware was disguised as a “critical” software update, , distributed from Asus’ servers, and signed using a real Asus certificate that made it appear to be valid. Recently, after security researchers uncovered vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to take over the devices, Verizon sent out an update for millions of its routers. Since routers serve as the central point of any individual’s online activities, a hacked router could lead to significant abuse. For example, in 2018, Russian hackers infected more than 500,000 routers in 54 countries with malware that could cut off internet access and steal login credentials.
The complexity of a tech company’s risks depends on the type of products and services the company provides. Some companies may be required to store large amounts of sensitive data, while other companies need only maintain smaller amounts of information on their customers. Still, any stored data is a vulnerability, and any security incident can result in negative press, a potential stock devaluation and an overall lack of trust in the company holding or servicing your data.
Such was the case for a large online textbook rental and tutorial company when its systems were breached by hackers in September 2018. Hackers walked away with the names, emails, addresses, and passwords of the company’s 40 million registered users. Stock prices plunged, and the company had to shift its focus to securing their customers’ data and recovering from the impact to its reputation, not to mention business interruption losses.
Because the technology industry is comprised of so many different business operations and product types, exposures can vary wildly. The good news is that as attacks occur, tech companies are tightening controls. For example, there is a conscious effort to design products with security built-in not bolted on. Also, companies are moving to next generation firewalls with built in security and threat detection software that utilizes artificial intelligence.
Still, that just means hackers find new ways into a company’s network, develop new attack methods, and the success of those methods is evident in how such attacks trend. Five years ago, we saw a trend of hackers targeting retail because Point of Sale systems provided easy access. But as retailers boosted their security, hackers looked elsewhere. Currently, ransomware attacks are the ever-increasing method of hacking. With each new layer of security thwarting bad actors comes another successful way that hackers are able to gain access.
The weak link
As the hackers’ methods change, technology companies are adjusting their approach to cyber security. Established companies in particular are handling much of the innovation in cyber protection and prevention. Even tech startup companies with limited cybersecurity budgets, have been diligent about building their business operations around solid cyber security processes.
While some threats may emanate from inside the company, from employees’ actions, a major vulnerability lies with the vendor. This threat is very real for the tech startups that may not have the internal staff or the funding to handle its entire operations in-house. They turn to outsourcing portions of their operations. Yet many tech startup companies are missing a critical step – vetting the vendor’s cyber security posture.
For example, an alternative asset management firm that allows investors to buy repackaged home loans. The company gathers and stores investors’ personal and financial data, as well as financial data provided by banks and financial institutions. However, the company lacked the ability to easily access and search loan information. They contracted with a tech startup that had the technology to filter the data.
The vendor, however, was a two person start up with limited resources and security controls in place. When the breach occurred, the vendor revealed to the tech company that it had no cyber coverage. Although they were responsible for the data, the company hiring them owned the data, which meant they too were liable.
It is not just smaller technology vendors who can put your company at risk. On April 15th, 2019 Brian Krebs reported that the $8B IT outsourcing and consulting firm Wipro had its own systems hacked and were being used to launch attacks against some of the company’s customers. Wipro’s customers include firms across numerous industries including multiple Fortune 500 companies. It is important to remember that just because you are hiring a large IT vendor doesn’t mean they will have the best security, and just because you are outsourcing IT professionals it does not mean they are professionals in information security.
From an underwriting perspective, it is imperative for your tech company to know how your vendors are addressing cyber risks. That allows underwriters to put proper coverage in place. Likewise, your company should be examining more closely the controls each of your vendors are using.
Your company should be reviewing its own vetting processes:
- Who is the vendor?
- What is our process for selecting a vendor? What does our due diligence look like?
- How often have we reevaluated our vendor selection process? How often are we reviewing our vendors?
- Are we reviewing contracts to determine liability prior to hiring vendors?
In addition, tech companies should be addressing data exposure liabilities by working with their customers and their internal staff to put proper controls in place. In a number of cases, system breaches are coming from the customer side, and savvy tech companies are putting controls in place to minimize breach damage. Some of those controls include:
- Segmenting data – each customer account is stored separate from other customer accounts;
- Requiring at least two-factor authentication;
- Requiring password changes regularly;
- Educating customers on how to keep their systems and information secure; and
- Regularly reviewing the company’s exposure picture and amending or addressing any changes to the risk portfolio.
Staying ahead of bad actors
Cyber risks are a continuously evolving exposure that all companies face. For tech companies, their role in keeping both their operations and the operations of their customers secure is paramount to their business success.
Security Incidents and data breaches provide a lesson on what hackers are targeting, but also on how to protect systems and data from attacks. Technology companies lead the way in helping all businesses address the very real threat of cyberattack.
As cyberattacks increase in frequency and severity, tech companies must continue to innovate and lead the way in cyber security. As the first line of defense for all businesses, tech companies have a duty to get ahead of cyber risk and make sure their own security is the most comprehensive available.
Dynamic Caching- Emerging Trend, Need of Tomorrow
Authored by Amit Singh, Managing Director, Zenlayer India
Dynamic content caching is a term that’s synonymously trending with discussions around Content Delivery Network (CDN) industry. In fact, with the growing popularity around CDN Dynamic Content Caching is often the claim you will hear from most CDN players. Let me simplify for you how the modern technology makes caching of dynamic content possible.
Most content on the website is collection of both static and dynamic content pages. The word ‘static’ we know is something that remains constant. In computing, static content is any file that is stored in a server and is the same every time it is delivered to users like in the case of eBook, whitepaper, homepage of a website. On the other hand, dynamic content refers to any digital content that keeps changing based on factors specific to the user such as time of visit, location, and device. Text, audio and video formats are examples of dynamic content. This type of web content adjusts dynamically or in real-time allowing websites to individually adapt to different site visitors. Customised newsletters, emails are the most basic forms of dynamic content. Other examples include landing pages on website, forms and purchases, product pages with bounce offers like sales and coupons, targeted website advertisements, voice assistants, etc.
Dynamic content furnishes different information based on who the viewer is. Online store experience is a lot different for a frequent shopper than a first-time user. Online news website that displays latest news and articles on its web pages, also has dynamic content that keeps getting updated. Your blog feed, social media feed, personalized emails, are other examples of dynamic content that look entirely different for every user. Even interactive content that engages the users allowing them to interact with the content in order to change it are mostly dynamic in nature, like the comment area of your blog, social media sharing buttons, call-to-action buttons on a website and the popular ‘facetime’ or video chat via smart devices. But how is this constantly changing dynamic content being displayed on webpages, tv or smart devices in real-time? This is where CDN industry services and dynamic caching jointly play their roles.
CDNs and Dynamic Caching
‘Caching’ in computing, refers to the process of storing data or copies of files in a temporary storage area called cache. A cache’s primary purpose is to increase data retrieval performance by reducing the need to access the underlying slower storage layer. Caching enables quick access to the stored or cached content. Dynamic content is mostly event-driven for each user implying that the same cannot be served to multiple users and hence is difficult to cache. However, caching dynamic content is now viable with advanced CDNs the right technology mechanisms in place.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) which today is a vital component of almost any modern web application, is a network of powerful computers located in geographically distinct places. It is designed to serve web content to visitors with great performance and efficiency. Ecommerce or media sites utilize the power of CDNs to frequently update content such as latest prices, news, weather forecasts, articles, featured products, breaking news, video etc on their web pages. Majority of content delivery networks frequently manage caching for sites through a global server network. CDNs can be configured to retrieve data from the origin servers and deliver dynamic content that is unique to the requestor. Intelligent caches and CDNs are able to quickly inspect requests and modify the behaviour of the caching logic as per requirements.
How dynamic caching works?
The HTML document is the backbone of the any webpage and is the first connection point between website origin server and the browser. With a large number of visitors, there is stress on the origin servers. But when the HTML document is cached, the caching server is the only one making a request to the origin server irrespective of the number of visitors. Thus, the website servers are freed up for critical transactions.
When a user visits a website using a CDN, and web traffic is geo-dispersed, it’s not always feasible and certainly not cost effective to replicate entire infrastructure across the globe. The traffic routes through the server that is closest to the user and serves up cached or stored versions of the site resources. This allows the site to load faster and eliminate requests back to the origin server. For caching, CDN reduces load on application origin and delivers a local copy of the content from a nearby cache server.
Role of cache servers
Proxy cache servers are the basic elements of a CDN’s network data centres, which are strategically situated around the world. Based on traffic patterns of individual regions, these points of presence (PoP) are chosen. Active locations with many users may have several data centres and remote locations with few users may have only one PoP to cover large geographic region. Cache servers act as a repository for website content, providing local users with quicker access to stored files. The cache server closest to the end user is chosen to reduce the connection time needed for transmission of website data.
Dynamic content is generated by running scripts in a CDN cache instead of a distant server thus reducing the response time to client requests and speeding up loading of dynamic web pages. It is served to client devices based on parameters like device type, time of day, user location, or data from third party APIs. Often, most content on a dynamic webpage is same for all users, and only few elements are dynamic. The dynamic content acceleration service leverages the high-quality connectivity between the network PoPs to improve response time. This service mainly takes advantage of the private back bone Software Defined Network (SDN) and achieves better ‘back-to-parent/origin’ network connectivity.
Advantages of Dynamic Caching
- Improved data retrieval and application performance
- Reduced hosting and server costs
- Reduced latency and improved IOPS for Q&A portals, gaming, media sharing, and social networking
- Dedicated caching layer enables systems and applications to run independently
- Data can span multiple cache servers and can be stored in a central location
- Controls like TTLs (Time to live) for successful cache and cache miss
- Decreased load on origin server
- Faster loading of sites
- Reduced bandwidth costs
- Improved access speed and user experience
- Reliable content delivery
- Highly resilient, secure and stable CDN cache servers
Uses of Dynamic Caching
- Website owners can gather visitor data like frequency of visits, pages visited etc and deliver personalized, dynamic web content at no additional cost
- Better interactive and personalised user experience
- Reduced load on the backend database and reduced time to load site
- Increased visitor time on site due to browser history insights and display of relevant content
- Increased conversion rates, bounce rates, and return visits
- High performance and no page layout break on multiple devices
- Easy maintenance
- Predictable Performance during peak traffic events like IPL or festivals
- Eliminate Database Hotspots
- Increase Read Throughput (IOPS)- In addition to lower latency, in-memory systems also offer much higher request rates (IOPS)
With 5G reaching India soon, and some parts of the world heading towards 7G, we can soon expect video replacing voice, text, and everything in between. Dynamic Caching could become the panacea to avoid overloading of data.
Voice Messaging – A Mastered Path to Rural India
Authored by Mr. Rajdipkumar Gupta, MD & Group CEO, Route Mobile Limited
Out of a population of 133.2 crores in India, a total of 101 crores of people are estimated to own active mobile connections as per TRAI in April 2018. With an exponential rise in the number of mobile phone users across the globe, the world is gradually progressing towards a technologically smarter era. Having said that, an estimated figure of over 74 crores is still using a basic feature phone. Considering India which majorly is segmented into two categories:
• Urban population and • Rural population
As per the report of census 2017, India constitutes a total of 66% of the population to rural area. While the smartphone penetration in these areas is just about 20.26%, there still is a deficit in reach of over 61.5 crores mobile phone users which are not smartphones out of 74 crores basic feature phone users. Taking under consideration that most of these people use basic phones which would not allow them to use the latest high-end features, reaching out to the mass population located in rural areas using a technology that requires minimum technology intervention becomes paramount.
While people even in the remotest locations are carving their path to synchronize well with digitization, it would be fair to join the hands of these technological advancements with our traditional systems in order to enhance the effectiveness of all the activities undertaken. More so, people are getting engaged and connected with a palm-sized technology which enables them to reach out to the world with nothing more than just a simple touch on their screens. Although 36% of the Indian population has been using smartphones, a huge chunk of 64% living in urban as well as rural India is still distant from getting a cutting edge technology mobile phones.
What if we bring together the power of voice broadcast with brand campaigns?
With an active base of 1.012 billion mobile phone users, employing voice campaigns will help reach the message of the brands across the country. Versatile by nature, voice broadcasting can be used to promote events, deliver poll surveys, deliver general announcements, and many such activities.
A panoramic view on traditional means of brand campaigns:
A typical campaign carried by a brand involves people, resources, and predominantly a need for people to be physically present. Along with that, some of the most commonly encountered obstacles are as follows:
- Need of human intervention
- Uncertainty in reachability
- High budget requirement
- Language Barrier
- Dependency on external factors
As various brands majorly look out for expansion and recognition, a physical campaign requires physical presence of people. Adding on to that, the success of these events is considerably dependent on the availability of space, equipment, and favourable climatic conditions. The entire event might go for a toss in case of unfavourable climatic conditions, or other factors.
Conducting campaigns with voice broadcasting will not just allow one to increase the reach but at the same time will proffer with a range of other features.
Adding a tinge of personal touch has always been beneficial. With Voice Broadcasting, one can customize their campaigns based on their needs, and the demand of their target audience. You can also alter the campaign to a degree that suits the expectation of your upcoming campaigns. Additionally, brands will have the freedom to speak in a dialect that works for the masses. Also, these speeches can be then translated in the choice of the language required in the future in order to make it understandable yet effective.
High-level of Flexibility
It lets you take charge of your own campaigns. Developed to be able to use with a high level of ease, you can modify the campaigns without affecting the other attributes of your campaign. A simple and easy to use format lets you decide the nature of your voice messages.
Elimination of one way communication
Moving a level further, with an Interactive Voice Response, you can also gather, and collate the responses from your audience. This sort of interactivity brings depth to your campaigns, making it way more effective.
In an era of mobile phones, there might be less than a handful of people who don’t own a mobile phone. Using voice broadcasting completely eliminates the need for a person to be physically present for that particular event. A simple, traditional call allows you to reach and address the mob with greater efficiency.
Elimination of hefty budget
Replacing a physical event into voice broadcasting cuts down on the cost exponentially. Rather than investing a lot of money on different factors that involves uncertainty in the performance of the event, investing in Voice Broadcasting proves to be favourable in terms of the cost incurred and also in terms of the productivity of an event.
Cut down on the time involved
While a conventional event demands a lot of time and human involvement which thereby calls for much more investment of time. Voice Broadcasting can be considered as a simple one-click process.
Voice Broadcasting, when it comes to its mechanism, is one of the simplest techniques to reach out to a large number of people. Owing to its simplicity, security, flexibility, and scalability, it has by far been a vital asset to many political campaigns. Suitable for an array of events ranging from promotional events, polling surveys, personalised messages to general announcements, and many more.
A simple six-step process is what it takes to incorporate Voice Broadcasting into your existing system.
Step 1: Record a voice message.
Step 2: Upload a file of mobile numbers that you wish should receive a call.
Step 3: Add the details of your campaign.
Step 4: Schedule your campaign.
Step 5: Make your campaign live.
Step 6: Access reports at the click of a button to understand the effectiveness of the campaign that can be sorted circle-wise or state-wise.
With a literacy rate of 71% in rural India, one of the most challenging problems is to be able to deliver messages that are understandable. As the major issue faced by the people living in remote/rural areas is the language barrier, implementing voice messaging will eliminate most of the shortcomings of the illiterates. Keeping this as a line of reference, creating a campaign that would keep the majority of the crowd to understand the message becomes crucial.
Voice broadcasting is extremely flexible that lets us run campaigns that would cater to the needs of the mob. Reaching out to a huge mob using a simple, lucid, and a dependable technology would bring success to most of the campaigns. Also, integrating a voice broadcast is as easy as any other physical campaigns.
Smartlink Offered Its Goa Manufacturing Facility for COVID-19 CARE CENTRE
In a bid to control the rapid increase in the number of cases of the Coronavirus in Goa, Mr. K. R. Naik, Executive chairman, Smartlink Holdings Ltd & Founder of Digisol Systems offered his newly purchased factory free of cost to the Verna Industries Association for turning it into a COVID CARE CENTRE for Asymptomatic COVID patients.
Inaugurated on 13th August, this COVID CARE CENTRE is solely managed by Verna Industries Association. The care center is equipped with 140+ Bed Hospice to house only Asymptomatic Positive Patients from Verna Industrial Estate.
This newly converted facility will provide the physical infrastructure, medical furniture, equipment along with Doctors and paramedical staff that will be stationed at the facility round-the-clock.
Mr. Pradip Da’Costa, President, Verna Industries Association and Mr. Damodar Kochkar, President, Goa State Industries Association thanked Mr. K. R. Naik for his exceptional support for this social cause during the pandemic time.
Commenting on this, Mr. K.R. Naik, Executive Chairman, Smartlink Holdings said, “The Coronavirus Cases are rising every day all around us, and it has become important to use every bit of resources we have to fight against it. We at Smartlink are committed to work together and support our country’s efforts to deal with this pandemic. We will continue to utilize our resources to address the urgent needs of those working to combat the threat and impact of COVID-19.”
Smartlink has been always believed in working together and empower every Indian with its offerings. It is one of the few IT networking companies that has been supporting Vocal for Local since its inception. Even during this time of unprecedented uncertainty, the company has taken on the responsibility to help ease the COVID-19 related stress through this initiative and hopes this will help to overcome crisis.
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