Monday, February 19, 2018

VR and AR Made a Scene at CES 2018

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is designed to showcase new technology and products to the world, with a focus on industry professionals and companies that want to showcase their latest projects. The show, which was held in Las Vegas in January, saw the introduction of many consumer products, but the ones that showed off new virtual and augmented reality capabilities made a considerable impact on attendees.
Hype has been building over VR and AR for years now; hype which has failed to meet the considerable expectations placed on the technologies. It turns out that these innovators are coming up with valuable new ways in which to leverage these rather complex technologies.
Virtual Reality
Even now, virtual reality is a huge deal. Manufacturers are still finding ways to develop both hardware and software for it specific use. However, the problem that developers are finding is that VR has taken too central of a role in the entertainment industry compared to its more practical or business-oriented purposes. In the future, manufacturers are hoping to create valuable applications for the technology to keep the demand high.
In an article for Forbes, Charlie Fink showcases that VR will most certainly show a profit, but the market is still only at around $2 billion per annum. Judging from previous trends set by color TV, VCR, PC, cell phones, and the Internet, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the standard consumer will see VR as a worthwhile investment before too long. However, Fink points out that “...before VR companies can understand how consumers want to spend, they need to cater to how consumers want to consume.”
Even though it’s not as profitable as other technologies at the moment, VR had a huge presence at CES. New technologies in VR ranged from novelty to necessity, including the HTC Vive Pro and an analytical tool called Looxid. Looxid allows for marketers and analysts to track eye movement and brain activity during use, providing information that should improve the way businesses understand consumers. For a more practical tool, the Meshroom VR headset can turn CAD drawings into legitimate 3D prototypes that can be effective for the use of architecture or engineering.
Regardless, even though VR has been around for quite some time, it is still a developing and volatile technology. It’s clear that it will be worth the investment in the near future--particularly when more useful applications are developed that can take advantage of it.
Augmented Reality
Compared to virtual reality, augmented reality is a bit more tame and less of an attention-grabber. Instead of transporting the user to a virtual world, augmented reality adds virtual elements to your surroundings. The easiest example to help explain this technology is to add a top-down overlay interface to your field of vision, allowing for the viewing of information or analytics at a glance. Yet, AR has found plenty of use in the real world already, from statcasts in the sports world to smartphone games like Pok√©mon Go. Some developers, like Google and Apple, have invested considerably in the creation of augmented reality applications, and it’s only going to improve in popularity as more companies create effective ways of leveraging AR.
At CES 2018, AR was a prominent force. Manufacturers are finding new and improved ways to take advantage of displays. Some of the more notable products include Vuzix Smart Glasses with Alexa--much like Google Glass, but with Amazon’s Alexa built into it. WinRay’s AR windshield is another device you should keep your eye on. This windshield can display directions, roadside information, and even basic car functions. Even Apple’s iOS 11 comes with built-in AR.
What are some ways that you can think of to take advantage of AR and VR? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog.

What Else Can Blockchain be Used For?

Cryptocurrency, most notably Bitcoin, has made the headlines in recent months with huge fluctuations in supposed value. While the topic of cryptocurrency is one that would take far more than a single blog post to discuss, we can examine the technology that allows these currencies to exist and posit what it could likely be used for in the near future.
Identity Authentication
While privacy and anonymity are big concerns in online computing, sometimes it is especially important that you can confirm that you are who you say you are. Blockchain technology can make authentication much easier, whether its regarding digital identities, passports, birth certificates, or wedding certificates. Instead of relying on the relatively insecure measures that we do today, we soon may use blockchain technology to safely track and store the identification that we need to navigate so much of modern life.
Notary Functions
Many documents require a notary in order to be signed, the notary serving as a neutral third-party present to ensure that all parties have signed the document of their own volition. However, the blockchain’s features allow it to largely act as a notary. By timestamping when data was introduced to the blockchain, the entire chain more or less serves as a witness to the data’s validity.
Voting
On a related note, blockchain may help to make the democratic process more transparent and secure against tampering through voter fraud. By leveraging the blockchain as a part of the voting process, the identity of each voter can be unquestionably verified, and their vote cemented into an unalterable record.
Automated Contracts
The blockchain can even serve as an executor of a contract, automating agreements that are triggered when agreed-upon terms are met. By populating a smart contract with the information on the two parties, as well as the payment information and conditions, the blockchain allows the terms of an agreement to be fulfilled automatically once the conditions are met.
While cryptocurrency may have most of the attention at the moment, the blockchain is far from a one-trick pony. What else would you like to see developed as a function fulfilled through the blockchain? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tip of the Week: Protecting Your Company from Invoice Impersonation

While you should be sure to keep yourself apprised of threats, it could be argued that it is even more important for your employees to be aware of them. After all, they are the ones utilizing your business’ workstations, software solutions, and even Internet-based apps to facilitate their daily duties. You need to make sure that your employees are able to spot attacks and react to them properly.
While many of today’s employees do have to undergo some sort of security training as part of their employment, the increased sophistication of these attacks makes them more difficult to spot; and, subsequently, harder to react to. One of the most common ways that this occurs is through invoice impersonation attacks. These attacks send customized emails under an assumed name--usually one that is a real-world contact--that includes a link to an online invoice, where the user can download the invoice.
Instead of downloading the invoice, the victim downloads malware to their device. Ransomware is often spread in this fashion, hoping that the victims will download the invoice in a state of panic, wondering what in the world they are being billed for.
Warning Signs
To keep yourself from being tricked by an invoice impersonation attack, or any other type of phishing email, the best route is to provide training and remain aware of the warning signs.
One of the most common ways a hacker will take advantage of email is by sending a message demanding payment, with a link to make things convenient for the user to do so. The problem with email is that the user is forced to take it on good faith that the message comes from the proper recipient. If it were a phone call, you might recognize that the voice is different from whoever should be calling, and if it were a handwritten message, you might notice a discrepancy--but with a message with no identity, it gets considerably more difficult to identify a falsified message.
If you ever receive an email claiming to be from someone who needs a payment from you, there’s a good chance that the link leading to a “payment portal” is just a link to a ransomware program or other type of threat.
Securing Your Business
Phishing attacks naturally rely on the victim trusting the impersonation, so you can take advantage of this opportunity to sow the seeds of distrust--that is, to train your employees to identify emails and distrust anything suspicious that they receive in their inboxes. Your employees should always be wary of risk factors, but they should also attend regular training sessions that test how much they remember about cybersecurity best practices.
You can also take it one step further by implementing spam filters, malware blockers, and other security solutions designed to prevent infections in the first place. If you minimize the chances that your employees are exposed to threats in the first place, they are less likely to make a mistake that has great ramifications for your network security.

Is Your Mobile Data Safe?

In 2018 there are certain technologies most businesses have begun to embrace. Cloud computing, high-end network security, collaboration technologies, and some others have begun to be utilized by businesses, large and small, to build a more productive enterprise. Apart from these technologies, there are a few that every business person should know, if only to understand what is possible; and what is on the horizon for their company.
Blockchain
With cryptocurrencies being in the news lately, many people have come to hear the term “blockchain”. This kind of secure ledger technology has many applications from data and application security to communications. The blockchain allows for enhanced and reliable security for data; specifically, the ownership of data.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things has been growing exponentially every year; and, going forward will have to be an important line item on any business’ mobile device management policy. By communicating with other devices over the Internet, it naturally opens up security issues for any organization. Since a majority of devices will be connected to the Internet over time, businesses will have to take that into account when devising and supporting their mobile device policy.
Chatbots
Many of today’s businesses are utilizing technologies to help them support their products or services. While the importance of maintaining an open line of communication with clients and customers is indisputable, many companies lack the internal resources to dedicate the commitment to comprehensive support. Improvements in chatbot interfaces have made them an increasingly viable option for companies to field incoming messages, as artificial intelligence attends to many concerns and greatly reduces the number of problems that your staff has to deal with.
As a result of these improvements, more industries are likely to increase their use of chatbots for a variety of purposes.
Subscription Model
The ability for most solutions to be delivered and maintained via an Internet connection has led to a shift in software deployment. Instead of needing to buy a new version of the software every year, the subscription model allows companies to pay a monthly fee for the security of knowing that the software they are using is the most recent (and secure) version available.
Automation
It should come as no surprise that a technology that allows focus to be shifted from menial tasks to other, more pressing considerations would be welcomed in the business world. Automation permits exactly this, with artificial intelligence and predetermined processes stepping in and providing certain business needs.
While there are many processes and fields that still require a human touch, automation allows for more time to be committed to them, and less to “busy” work.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Tip of the Week: Protecting Your Mobile Device in 2 Easy Steps

Mobile devices are one of the greatest tools available for business use today. However, because society has come to rely so much on mobile devices, these devices have become a treasure trove for cybercriminals to obtain information from. For this week’s tip, we’ll go over some simple ways to protect yourself from such threats.
Do You Really Need to Connect?
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity give our phones a heightened level of utility, but this benefit can also come with severe risks. Mobile devices, for the sake of simplicity and convenience, are ready and willing to connect with any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signal they can. Unfortunately, this puts them at risk of being hijacked by any threat that may be lurking on the signal.
To mitigate this risk, make sure that you aren’t connecting to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals that aren’t secure and trustworthy. In fact, when not using them, keep these connections disabled just in case.
The same goes for public charging stations. These can also be used to spread threats, so it is better to rely on a portable charger or a wall outlet to power your device.
Furthermore, if you are connecting to something, make sure you aren’t sharing more than you need. For instance, if you need to rent a car while on a business trip, there’s nothing wrong with using Bluetooth to make hands-free calls. However, if prompted, there is no reason to sync your contacts with the car’s storage, effectively handing them to the next person that rents that car. Being cautious as you connect will only help you to stay safe in the long run.
Keep it Locked Up
The contents of your phone shouldn’t be available to just anyone who picks it up. Whether you have access to sensitive business information through the device, or you have apps that help you manage the rest of your life, your information is at risk unless you have protections in place to keep it safe.
The simplest way to do so is to leverage the phone’s built-in security features. Whether your phone accepts PIN numbers, passcodes, or a pattern set it up so that only you know how to open it. Furthermore, with more devices today leveraging biometric and facial recognition technology, there are other means for you to secure your mobile device.