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Davey Winder

Mobile money: a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

mobile money

Mobile money is the future, or so I’m assured by research into the use of Near Field Communications (NFC) systems, which says most of us will be using our smartphones to pay for stuff within the next four years.

First things first, mobile money is not new. And, no, I’m not talking about the fact that money itself is pretty damn mobile when you think about it — what I’m talking about provides a system whereby you don’t have to carry real cash and can instead just point an easily carried payment device at a retailer.

Most of you will immediately know what I’m talking about when I mention the name of this bit of wonder kit, this device that has revolutionised retail, that does away with the need to carry cash and that just about everyone is comfortable using: it’s called a debit card.

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Is the new Twitter Tsar a Ryan Giggs fan?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Ryan Giggs

Twitter is having another one of those ‘I’m Spartacus!’ moments. The last one was when the powers that be decided someone making a joke post about blowing up Robin Hood Airport was a potential terrorist and prosecuted the poor sod.

The Twittersphere responded by retweeting the posting in question, on the basis that the police couldn’t arrest everyone. The same thing has now happened following the ridiculous situation where everyone and their dog knows the identity of a footballer who stands accused of doing what footballers seem to do when not kicking a ball around and earning obscene amounts of money.

An MP even used his Parliamentary privilege to suggest the footballer in question was Ryan Giggs. Something the masses on Twitter have been doing for the past fortnight or so, with tens of thousands of tweets and retweets naming the Manchester United player.

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Where hacked Sony went wrong, and Lastpass got it right

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Dollar mouth

Unless you have been living in Osama Bin Laden’s old cave, you can’t have failed to notice that Sony is having a bad time of it right now.

First the PlayStation Network is hacked and customer data compromised, and then we discover that the Sony Online Entertainment network has suffered the same fate. There has been plenty written, including some excellent editorial here at PC Pro, covering the what and why of the breach, so there is little point me going over that again.

I’m more interested in how Sony responded after discovering the breach. Did the gaming giant get it right regarding disclosure in this case? Is the Pope a belly dancer?

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Small businesses need more than mobile phones

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Motorola Atrix 4GAn interesting piece of research landed on my desk this week which claimed that small businesses were missing out on new sales opportunities because they were simply unable to respond fast enough in a changing commercial world where 24/7 means just that.

I have to admit to being a little surprised at this notion, and the press release headline which screamed “slow customer response times costing smaller enterprises crucial new business”, as I was under the impression that pretty much everyone had heard of this thing called the internet by now.

I wouldn’t argue with the hypothesis that responding quickly to customer demand is both key to business success and a challenge facing many at the smaller end of the SME scale. Nor would I take offence at the suggestion that social media uptake and a 24-hour society culture is driving customers to expect instant commercial gratification. Indeed, much of the research is a fascinating confirmation of the changing face of the small business today:

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The nightmare of Patch Tuesday for small businesses

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Windows Update

More and more businesses are dreading that Tuesday every month when Microsoft release a bunch of security patches and updates.

Patch Tuesday should be a thing to look forward to, of course, seeing as it’s when the latest round of application and operating system vulnerabilities get a nice big sticking plaster to protect your systems and data from exploit. The trouble is that when, as with the latest Patch Tuesday, there are no fewer than 17 security bulletins (nine rated as critical) covering a whopping 64 vulnerabilities –  many of the patches requiring a full system restart – it all starts to become something of an IT management nightmare. Especially for the smaller business where there isn’t an IT manager or even an IT department to handle such things.

The vast majority of smaller businesses that I talk to are not IT savvy, they get by and rely upon the systems and software they are supplied to do their job. They don’t switch browser to Firefox or Chrome, they run Internet Explorer because that’s what everyone else uses and it came with the box. What’s more, they often run an older version of Internet Explorer as they apply the “if it ain’t broke” rule. Wrongly in the case of older versions of IE, of course, which are broken from a security perspective.

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Waiting for the Epsilon email attacks to start

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Hazard symbols

You’ve already doubtless noticed that email marketing outfit Epsilon had fallen victim to a data security breach. US-based Epsilon, a third-party marketing company that sends out emails to customer addresses supplied by well known businesses all over the world, admitted on 30 March that its email database had been hacked.

While only customer names and email addresses were compromised, and then only concerning around 2% (or 50 companies in total) of Epsilon’s client base, the ‘your email address has been compromised’ warnings have been rolling in thick and fast: Hilton Worldwide, Mothercare, Capital One, Barclaycard and Marks and Spencer to name but a few.

But while the security breach itself is serious, it’s tempting to think that the fallout won’t be. After all, what can someone do with your email address and name? The truth is that I expect the Epsilon email attacks to start coming thick and fast, just as soon as lists of names and email addresses tied to specific retailers and businesses have been compiled and sold on the underground criminal market.

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Is Microsoft throwing stones in the developer glass house?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

security

Am I the only person who finished reading the Security Development Lifecycle Progress Report and immediately conjured up an image of Microsoft developers throwing stones in a big glass house?

The Microsoft SDL is, obviously, a good thing if it helps to reduce vulnerabilities in code. But I got the feeling that Microsoft was saying that Windows and Internet Explorer are such popular targets for attack because developers are not applying all the SDL techniques and technologies available to them.

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How insecure is IPv6?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

globalsecurity

The internet has been running out of space for the best part of ten years now, address space that is. In a nutshell, the 4,294,967,296 addresses provided by IPv4 are pretty much exhausted and so we must start embracing IPv6 which can provide a few more.

How many, exactly?

How does 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 addresses sound to you?

Now I’m not going to get stuck into the whole ‘how to migrate to IPv6 thing’ here, nor even the debate about how long we really have left to make that migration (although Steve Cassidy will be examining this in issue 200 of PC Pro). Nope, I’m more interested in what the potential impact upon internet security will be when it’s a done deal and everything is connected to the internet.

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Should your small business buy an Apple iPad 2?

Friday, March 11th, 2011

iPad 2 and coversLet me get one thing out of the way right now: I love the iPad and think it’s a brilliant piece of technology. For the average consumer it’s quite rightly an object of desire that many aspire to own, and I will be first in the queue for an iPad 2 come launch day. But is the iPad 2 a gimme for the average small business buyer? The evidence suggests not.

I do, of course, appreciate that neither the original iPad nor the iPad 2 are pushed primarily as a business tool, but maintain that it’s a valid question to explore nonetheless.

The trouble is, I’m hard pressed to come up with too many small business scenarios where media consumption, rather than creation, is a core computing requirement. As a complementary device to an existing netbook or laptop it comes into its own but, seriously, how many small businesses have the kind of budget which will stretch to such a fanciful and, frankly, superfluous purchase in the current economic environment?

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Cloud security: is Android the weakest link?

Monday, March 7th, 2011

HTC Tattoo

Much has been written about the security of data in the cloud, and even more about the insecurity of the same. Until now, things have been somewhat quieter when it comes to how we access cloud-based data on the move. That, I suspect, is about to change.

Plenty of effort has been poured into securing online data stores, and plenty is made by the providers of those cloud services in making sure potential customers know about it. Which is why the bad guys are understandably looking for the soft targets, and at the moment that would appear to be Android apps.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: the smaller your business, the bigger the benefits of cloud computing. That rings especially true at the ‘free’ end of the cloud scale where the attraction of services such as those provided by Google can offer real bottom-line savings for hard pressed small business concerns. Security within the free or low-cost cloud isn’t somehow automatically weaker than that found at the expensive end of the cloud provision market either.

You can be sure that Google has invested heavily in securing the data at rest within those cloud bases, incorporating all the multi-layered protocols and synchronous replication processes you might expect. But perhaps it needs to invest more at the other end, the smartphone to be precise. What you need to ask yourself is whether Android could be the weak link in the cloud security chain?

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