Hybrid Clouds offer Traditional IT Departments Reassurance

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Victor Brown – a technical writer and inbound marketer for Cirrus Hosting – a leading Canadian hosting company. Follow Victor and Cirrus on Twitter @CirrusTechLtd, like them on Facebook, and check out their blog on hosting http://www.cirrushosting.com/web-hosting-blog/

hybrid-cloud

While much of the focus is on the public cloud, hybrid clouds combine the best parts of the public cloud and in-house or collocated infrastructure deployments.

When we think about the cloud, it’s mostly the public cloud that grabs our attention. That’s understandable: the public cloud has instigated a revolution in the way companies of all sizes think about IT infrastructure deployment. But there are plenty of cloud naysayers, who tend to fall into three broad categories: traditional IT folks accustomed to complete control over the infrastructure layer; pro-cloud analysts with a genuine interest in exposing the potential weaknesses of the public cloud in order to encourage iteration and improvement; and those within companies who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Not much will change the minds of the latter group other than a gradual turnover of entrenched influencers, but many in the other two group, who have legitimate — although frequently misguided — concerns about the public cloud can find comfort in the private cloud, especially when coupled with public cloud platforms in a hybrid or multi-cloud environment.

It would be irresponsible for IT decision-makers to ignore the potential business and technical benefits of public cloud platforms. Never before have companies had access to such flexible, scalable, and inexpensive compute and storage power. As I said, it changes the way that businesses think about IT deployments, and, in an age where IT is so central to business success, it changes the way that they are able to do business. That said, no tool offers a universal solution — including the public cloud.

The solution is not to think “Public cloud or traditional in-house infrastructure,” but rather, “public cloud plus private cloud”. Private cloud environments are those that have the same flexible virtual hardware layer as public cloud platforms but in which the underlying physical hardware is dedicated to the use of one organization, rather than being shared between many different organizations in ways that are not transparent to clients.

Private clouds offer answers to many of the security and privacy concerns of IT people, as well as allowing them the measure of ownership over deployment, availability, and technical management they feel they need to be properly accountable for the infrastructure’s performance.

At the same time, private clouds have some of the negative qualities of traditional in-house deployments: CAPEX is high compared to public cloud platforms, and while the virtualized layer is just as flexible as the public cloud, dedicated hardware doesn’t offer the same flexibility of pricing or ease of scaling, both up and down.

Hybrid clouds offer a “best of both worlds” scenario, in which the benefits of the private cloud I’ve mentioned can be augmented by the benefits of public clouds. Workloads can be apportioned between the two modalities as suits the specific needs of a business. Cloud technology should not be dismissed out of hand because of perceived risks of public cloud use, rather hybrid clouds that offer the combined advantage of both public and private should be at the forefront of IT strategy.

Infographic: Cyber Crime 2013 – The Year of the Mega Breach

The year 2013 yielded record breaking data breaches and cyber crime numbers in the business community. Upon reviewing multiple reports generated by industry heavy hitters, like IBM and Symantec, we’ve created an infographic of some of their key findings.

Cyber Crime 2013

 

Business will need to take an active role in securing their company and customer data in 2014. Poor protective measures are putting an increasing number of companies at risk and the potential implications of losing data is huge. Educating staff, improving malware solutions, and routinely backing up your data are some of the steps your company can take towards increasing security and preventing loss.

Blog/Infographic Author: Vanessa Hartung

 

The Pros and Cons of Hosting Your Website

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided by Nina Hiatt, a freelance writer who researches and creates articles on a variety of topics – including news and technology. You can learn more by visiting her Google+ profile by clicking here.

how-to-change-web-hosting

Sorting through all the available web hosting services takes time and presents an overwhelming number of options. Wouldn’t it just be easier (and cheaper) to host the site yourself? Here are some pros and cons to help your company decide:

Pros:

Hardware Control. The biggest benefit of hosting your website in house is that you have complete controlover the entire process. You control the hardware specifications, which means you can utilize hardware combinations that datacenters may not offer.

Web hosting providers usually have different sizes and speeds of processors, memory, storage, and bandwidth. Usually when you want more storage, you have to pay for a faster processor and more bandwidth as well.

However, certain websites may benefit from having large memory and a slower processor, or a fast processor and little storage. If you are hosting your own site, you can make decisions as to how fast, slow, big, or small your equipment is. Your company can also save money by not paying for services you don’t need for your site.

Money Savings. Any time you decide to provide a service on your own, you will be saving money. There’s no need to stress over paying bills or worrying about what products you have access to with your subscription package.

Software Control. Self-hosting a site also gives you control over the software you use and what features you put on your company website. If you use a free hosting service, like WordPress or BlogSpot, you may not have access to all the features you’d like your website to have. Even a paid hosting service may not offer what you are looking for, like chat capabilities or ecommerce.

Making Changes. Any changes, updates, or modifications can be made quickly and easily. You don’t have to go through a technical staff. If you make any changes you don’t like, you can immediately reset everything to its original state.

Instant Satisfaction. If you want to make changes to your server or your site, you can make the changes instantly. There is no waiting period between communicating your desires to the web hosting company, and seeing the changes on your site.

Cons:

Complete Responsibility. Along with complete control comes complete responsibility. You’re company can decide what hardware to use, but you have to actually know how to use it. If anything breaks down, it is up to you to figure out the problem and find a solution.

24/7 Duty. You are also responsible for monitoring your site at all times. If your server goes down, nobody is going to alert you that there is an issue. You not only have to fix all issues, but you have to be able to detect them as well.

Web Providers. Another potential roadblock you may run in to with web hosting is that many web providers don’t allow their users to host their own. Some of them explicitly forbid it in their contracts or they block the ports needed for hosting. Still others may dramatically increase their prices for any subscribers who want to run a server.

Even if your broadband connection does allow you to connect your own server, it probably won’t be as quick or as reliable as you will need for your site. Any downtime your web provider experiences will affect your server and your site.

Heat and Noise. Housing all the necessary hardware for a website server means you will have some loud equipment in your office. Servers generate a lot of heat, and the sound of the fans mixed with the sound of the processor will create a constant hum. The more traffic your site gets, the harder your server will have to work, and the hotter it will be. You may have to use additional cooling devices in the room where you house all of the equipment.

Takes more Time. . Letting someone host your site for you—called “managed cloud hosting” or “managed web hosting,” depending on which you choose—means that you don’t have to spend time worrying about or fixing any issues that come up. You can just sit back and work on the content of your site. When you host your own site, you will have less time to spend on the site itself.

Some Final Words of Advice

If you decide to host your site on your own, make sure you have all the technical knowledge you will need to manage the hardware and software. If you opt for managed web hosting, shop around and find the service provider that will best meet your needs. Hosting companies will usually show a comparison of their different packages. You can see examples of different packages on sites like VI.net, or you can read articles on sites like lifehacker.com that talk about the top web hosting companies and what they offer.

 

Saving Money with Colocation in Canadian Data Centres

If you are a business owner or executive, finding ways to save money on IT is probably high on your “To-Do List.” As necessary and vital as technology is to running virtually any kind of organization, it can also represent a bit of a budgetary black hole – and an area of the company where you might struggle to make the right choices and investments.

What you may not know already, however, is that reducing your IT expenditures doesn’t necessarily have to mean making hard choices between budgets, performance, and reliability. In fact, thousands of companies throughout Canada and the world are actually getting more from IT while saving money through the process of colocation.

How Colocation Works

In a traditional IT department, servers, networking equipment, and other pieces of technology are stored together in some remote portion of an office or facility. These typically receive attention only when something stops working the way it’s supposed to, and then the repair process can be lengthy and expensive – especially if new hardware or equipment is needed.

With colocation, things are simplified. Instead of keeping technology equipment on site, companies outsource those needs and simply lease what they need at a given point in time. In other words, they stop holding on to their own servers and networking equipment and simply use space on a business data centre located elsewhere.

Aside from the obvious benefits that come with not having to buy and install their own hardware, businesses gain tremendous advantages through the use of colocation in Canadian data centres.

5 Key Benefits of Colocation in a Canadian Data Centre

1. Lowered hardware costs. Actually, most businesses can eliminate their networking hardware costs altogether with colocation. That’s because, instead of investing tens of thousands of dollars in new equipment on a regular schedule, you pay a low monthly fee to use what you need. For most companies, that means a very significant cost savings. It also means they can stop worrying about the kinds of unplanned hardware investments decision-makers at every level worry about most.

2. Better technology and performance. Even though cost savings are a major attraction when it comes to colocation, you shouldn’t overlook the actual performance upgrades that are possible, as well. Because technology investments and upgrades can be pooled and shared over several different businesses in a data centre, you ultimately end up getting access to better equipment than most companies would purchase on their own. And, because performance is important to marketing colocation services, savvy IT providers upgrade to newer models all the time, meaning you get the very best for less.

3. Lower overall IT expenses. Aside from the obvious hardware savings, most companies that make the switch to colocation enjoy lower IT expenses in other areas, too. This often stems from the fact that software packages can be leased on similar monthly agreements, and that they suffer fewer problems associated with software and hardware failure. In other words, colocation in a Canadian data centre means fewer errors and less downtime. Those might be difficult costs to calculate, but every business leader knows the impact they can have on the bottom line.

4. The flexibility to scale technology up or down. Managing technology can be incredibly difficult if your company is growing too quickly, if only because the sudden need for more hardware and bandwidth can make expansion costs prohibitive. Even worse, if you need to scale your technology or operations back to save money, you might be faced with the uncomfortable prospect of selling equipment you’ve purchased at a loss. With a colocation plan in place, both of these problems are alleviated because you can scale your services up or down as needed – in an instant, and without any long-term financial repercussions.

5. Increased IT security. You don’t have to pay much attention to the news to know that the security of your technology is more important than it’s ever been in the past. What better way to keep data safe and sound than by having it stored and backed up regularly in a secure, climate-controlled, and continuously monitored environment? The average Canadian data centre is many times more safe and reliable than the office building or facility they replace.

Colocation Gives Businesses a Bit of Everything

For most organizations, and especially those that don’t have the resources to obtain or purchase high-performance technology equipment, colocation offers a number of important financial and performance benefits without any trade-offs. It’s no wonder so many companies are looking to Canadian data centres for colocation in 2014… shouldn’t yours be one of them?

To learn more, click here.

SMBs Benefit From Hybrid Cloud Data Storage And Federated Clouds

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ted Navarro, a technical writer and inbound marketer for ComputeNext – an innovative marketplace company. Check out the ComputeNext blog for the latest postings and engage in the discussions on cloud computing and IaaS technolgy by clicking here. Or you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

hybrid

Federated hybrid clouds allow businesses to distribute their data in accordance with their priorities while leveraging the full advantage of the cloud.

In spite of the obvious benefits of cloud data storage, many small and medium businesses are hesitant to entrust all of their data to the cloud. Cloud storage offers lower management and support burdens, lower capital expenditure, greater scalability, and increased opportunities for collaboration.

Nevertheless, the cloud is not perfect. Managers worry about availability issues: connectivity problems could bring a business to a standstill if mission critical data was unreachable. Some data is considered too important to entrust to the cloud; in spite of cloud providers’ considerable efforts to ensure the security of data, influencers within businesses have IP, security, and privacy concerns.

Hybrid cloud storage offers a solution that helps businesses resolve their cloud concerns without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Not all data is equally important. The majority of data that businesses generate does not need to be accessible constantly. Although most cloud vendors do in fact manage to maintain levels of availability that equal or exceed those of in-house solutions, it’s always possible that a natural disaster will knock out connectivity to the data center and render data unreachable.

To handle “expect the unexpected” scenarios, businesses are implementing hybrid solutions that allow them to leverage the benefits of the cloud while also maintaining data availability. A core set of data that must be consistently available can be kept on-site, with the rest moved up to the cloud. The burden on in-house IT staff and infrastructure is slashed while allowing businesses to be confident that their most important data is kept close by.

In other cases, instead of splitting their data between public and private clouds, businesses are using public cloud storage for backup and redundancy. Maintaining adequate numbers of servers on-site to provide a fully redundant system is wasteful when less expensive replication can be achieved by moving data to the cloud. Additionally, backups should be off-site to be truly effective, and the cloud allows for low-complexity automated off-site backup processes.

The cloud is not an all-or-nothing solution. There are significant business benefits to be reaped from implementations that spread data storage across multiple locations. In many cases, it’s advisable to also use different vendors for maximal redundancy.

An ideal scenario might see essential data held on a private cloud within a business’ firewall and replicated onto a cloud vendor’s platform for backup. Less crucial archival data may be placed with another vendor. Data that needs to be available on a short time scale and integrated with logistics or customer relationship management applications may be stored with yet another vendor. Vendor diversification is a powerful strategy for business continuity.

In that scenario, the company’s IT infrastructure moves beyond the simple private-public split of the hybrid cloud and becomes a true federated cloud. In previous years, maintaining a federated multi-cloud environment would have been more work than it was worth for a small business, but since the advent of cloud marketplaces that allow for the comparison and selection of vendors and the management of federated environments from one interface, redundant federated clouds are well within the reach of small and medium businesses.

How to Migrate Your Call Centre Into the Cloud

In a previous post, we looked at the many advantages to moving your customer service call centre into a cloud platform, which included the possibility of huge cost savings combined with higher customer satisfaction. Today, we want to look at the process of actually migrating your call centre into the cloud. In other words, we’ll look at what it takes to actually turn that money-saving vision into a reality.

The actual process will vary, of course, from one company to the next. Moreover, your specific steps will probably depend a bit on the size of your business, where your calls will be routed to in the future, and what Canadian data centre you’ll be working with for colocation.

However, the template below should apply very well for most situations. Moreover, it will help to dispel the widespread myth that moving your call centre into a cloud has to be expensive, time-consuming, or problematic. Few things could be further from the case. In fact, most businesses find that the transition is incredibly quick and smooth. The only real issue is figuring out why they didn’t make the switch sooner.

cardboard-box-clouds-powerspin-325x243

Steps Involved in Migrating to a Cloud-Based Call Centre

So, what does it actually take to move your customer service calls into the cloud? Here are the steps most businesses will follow:

1. Choose a data centre for colocation. This is an important piece of the puzzle, since the right environment for your cloud platform is essential. You want to work with a partner who can guarantee lots of uptime, maximum security, and “extras” like automatic file backup on a regular basis. Biased as we might be, we recommend you consider a Canadian data centre for the most reliable technicians in a stable, accessible environment.

2. Make a plan for your migration. In most cases, this doesn’t have to be complicated, just an outline of the actual system to be transferred, a date and time for the migration to be executed, and all the relevant details like telephone numbers or server addresses for customer records. Additionally, your plan might contain information on backups and contingencies, just in case systems are offline for a few minutes during the transition.

3. Train your staff for your new customer service platform. Typically, when businesses make the switch to cloud call centres, they upgrade their capabilities at the same time. That means your team might have access to information they didn’t have before, which could require a little bit of training. Or, you might decide this is a great time to overhaul your entire customer service experience to meet a higher standard of satisfaction. Either way, it’s a good idea to ensure that staff members are informed about the switch and ready to move forward.

4. Port your telephone numbers from one location to another. Moving your customer service contacts into the cloud doesn’t have to mean surrendering the telephone numbers you already have (and your customers already know). Most major telecommunications providers can actually port numbers to a new location within just a few minutes, but it’s a good idea to give them a healthy amount of lead time if it’s at all possible. That way, you can be sure things will work the way they’re supposed to.

5. Keep a close eye on your customer service performance. Once you’ve moved your call centre into the cloud and had your numbers ported, you are ready to begin with your virtual setup. All there is left to do at this point is keep an eye on your most important customer service metrics to ensure that your staff is handling the transition smoothly.

Don’t Let the Fear of Call Centre Migration Hold You Back

Some companies end up spending far, far more than they should – one quarter after another – because they are afraid to undergo the process of migrating their call centre into the cloud. While this is understandable for those who aren’t familiar with the technology, it’s also a case where a little bit of misinformation can hurt your bottom line in a big way. Don’t be afraid to make the switch, because the process itself is likely to be very simple and the benefits to your business could be tremendous.

Ready to take the first step? Start your search a data centre that provides colocation services by clicking here.

Five of the Worst Cyber Attacks: Learning from Past Mistakes

As computer and Internet technologies continue to improve and evolve, so do the tactics and infiltration methods of cyber criminals. It’s critical for businesses of all shapes and sizes to ensure their network is always protected. Network security measures need to be updated and tested frequently in order to prevent the loss of any important company or customer data. If you’re business isn’t adequately protected from hackers, you could end up like one of the companies included in our list of some of the worst cyber-attacks.

  1. Mafia Boy Attack on Commercial Websites: In 2000, a 15-year old Quebec boy hacked into multiple commercial websites and shut down their systems for hours. Some of the impacted sites included CNN, Dell, Amazon, Yahoo, and E-Bay. The only reason this “professional hacker” was caught is because he bragged about his achievements in an online chat room. It’s estimated that the juvenile hacker cost $1.2 billion in damages, proving to businesses everywhere that all it takes is one hacker to cripple their productivity and cut revenue.Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 9.53.19 AM
  2. Target Loses Credit Card Data: During the holiday season in 2013, Target Corp. was hit by cyber thieves who used a RAM scraper to grab encrypted data by capturing it as it travels though the live memory of a computer, or – in this case – a checkout point-of-sale system. An investigation of the attack revealed that the cyber criminals stole the personal information of approximately 70 million customers. It wasn’t until Internet security blogger, Brian Krebs, wrote about the incident on his website that Target publicly admitted to the data breach. This resulted in a double hit for Target customers – not only was their information compromised, but they weren’t aware of it until long after the incident had occurred, which resulted in some very disgruntled customers.
  3. Epsilon Emails Hacked: The massive Marketing firm, best known for its big name clients – Best Buy and Chase, is estimated to have a potential loss of up to $4 billion after cyber criminals hacked into their database. The names and emails of millions of customers was stolen in March 2011, which could then be used to create more personalized and targeted phishing attacks. However, the biggest hit was felt by Epsilon – who had a client list of more than 2,200 global brands and handled more than 40 billion emails annually – as they struggled to keep the trust and business of their well-known clients.Epsilon_Logo_PMS
  4. Grocery Retailer Suffers 4 Month Long Breach: That’s right, for 4 months the upscale North American grocery chain experienced a security breach that resulted in the loss of approximately 4.2 million customers’ credit card details. Not only was the incident a black mark on the company’s public image, but it was a huge financial burden for the corporation. Cyber criminals gained access to the sensitive information by installing malware on the store servers, collecting the data from the winter of 2007 until the spring of 2008. It’s estimated that the costs incurred by the attack totaled $252 million.
  5. PlayStation Network Loses Millions: In 2011, over 100 million customer accounts containing credit and debit card information were stolen by a group of hackers. The breach lasted 24 days, and the hackers were even able to log on while the company was trying to fix the problem – even though dedicated gamers weren’t able to log on. Experts are speculating that this may be the costliest cyber-attack ever, totaling an estimated $2 billion in damages. To make matters ever worse, British regulators fined Sony 250,000 pounds (approximately $396,000) for failing to prevent the attacks by not implementing adequate security. Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office stated that the security measures in place at the time were “simply not good enough” and that there’s “no disguising that this is a business that should have known better”. So if you’re company isn’t making the time and effort to protect customer data – they’re sure to find out if your system is attacked. Good luck regaining your customer’s trust – and business – after a reveal like that.

Still haven’t convinced you that implementing a variety of security measures to protect your company and customer data is one of the highest priorities? Check out this quick video BuzzFeed created highlighting some more major cyber-attacks.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 9.52.47 AM

Not sure where to get started? Here an article on how to train your employees on cyber security – click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

The Impact of the Heartbleed Bug on Business

The Heartbleed bug has swept across the nation, impacting a countless number of businesses and consumers. The bug is a vulnerability in OpenSSL, which is the name of a 1998 project that was started to encrypt websites and user information across the web. What started as a project committed to data encryption is now standard on 2/3 of all websites on the Internet. Without OpenSSL, our personal information submitted across every website we visit could land in the hands of cyber criminals. Ironically, the OpenSSL software that was designed to protect users contained a flaw that made it possible for hackers to trick a server into spewing out the data that was held in its memory.

14b6heartbleed-affected-sites-660x369-400x223

When news of the Heartbleed struck, business scrambled to find out how many of their systems were using the vulnerable version of OpenSSL. While the big web companies, such as Google and Yahoo, were able to move fast to fix the problem – smaller e-commerce sites are struggling to “patch” the software quickly. As the larger sites close the door on the Heartbleed bug, hackers are turning their attention to any small and medium businesses that may not have the knowledge or manpower to update and protect their e-commerce sites accordingly.

However, regardless of the size of the business, if customers learn that a company’s system has been hacked and their personal information was compromised, legal issues could arise. Angered customers – and their lawyers – will look to hold businesses accountable for any personal data that lands in the hands of hackers. Businesses need to communicate with their customers to inform them what steps have – and will be – taken to fix the problem. That way, customers can update their passwords accordingly once a business has confirmed that their site is clean.

Many of the impacted sites are not just popular for personal usage, but are used every day by businesses of all sizes. Companies will need to follow the same steps as their customers and wait to receive confirmation from any frequently used websites that the issue has been resolved before changing their passwords. It’s also important to realize that other devices, such as Android smart phones and tablets, are vulnerable to the bug as well.

The Heartbleed bug ordeal is just another reminder of the security challenges companies are facing as more and more economic activity move online. According to eMarketer, an independent research organization, worldwide business-to-consumer e-commerce sales are likely to increase to $1.5 trillion this year. With money like that on the line, you can bet cyber criminals will be vigorously targeting businesses to try and get a piece of the pie. Companies need to take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their customers.

To learn more about protecting your business, click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

How Cloud Computing Helps Small Businesses Level the Playing Field

8-12-pic1

It has been said that the digital age has reduced the gap that used to exist between big companies and their smaller counterparts, if only because it’s easier for small businesses to reach out directly to customers. That might be true, but any small business owner can tell you that the bigger names still enjoy a number of important advantages – namely that they have larger budgets to work with, and can take advantage of economies of scale. When it comes to IT and business technology, those advantages can be a very big deal. Bigger spending leads to bigger performance and relatively lower expenses. In other words, it means that large organizations can afford to take advantage of things that small companies can’t…

Or at least that they used to be able to outspend smaller companies.

Cloud computing and colocation are changing all of that. By altering the way technology is used and budgeted, these two services are making it possible for small businesses to afford the high-powered tools and systems that their bigger competitors have access to.

Why Cloud Computing and Colocation Make IT a Fair Fight

When smaller businesses switch to cloud computing and colocation with a Canadian data centre, the size of the company, or its budget, doesn’t matter nearly as much. Here are a few of the most important reasons why:

Smaller businesses get access to better software through cloud computing. In the past, small businesses may have passed on investing in software applications that could help them grow their business because the costs were too prohibitive, or at least held off on making version upgrades. With cloud computing, though – and monthly subscriptions instead of big upfront investments – those barriers to critical software are removed.

Cloud computing and colocation mean lower, fixed IT expenses. Obviously, every small business owner or manager likes saving money. But, as an underrated side effect, these two types of IT leasing also allow for a fixed monthly expenses, meaning that it’s easier to plan for future cash flow. Why not give your company more money to spend elsewhere in the budget?

Cloud computing and colocation are both scalable. Over the past decade, lots of businesses have come to regret making huge investments in technology, watching it depreciate (or need to be replaced) even as business conditions remained unstable. By taking advantage of cloud computing and colocation, you can increase or decrease your level of service without making a big commitment now, or being tied to a huge monthly invoice later.

Small businesses enjoy better data security. One thing more and more companies are discovering is that keeping things like hardware and critical data in their offices is a bad idea. Break-ins, fires, and equipment failure all have to be considered and planned for. But, with leased IT in a remote location, encrypted file transfers, and continuous automated backup systems working for you, colocation and cloud computing can take away those worries.

With cloud computing and colocation, you don’t need a big IT team. In fact, when you make the move to these kinds of remote technology systems, you might be able to remove your IT team altogether. That can be a great way to lower your overall expenses while enjoying the same level of service and benefits that you and your employees have become accustomed to.

The best way to discover whether cloud computing or colocation in a Canadian data centre are a good fit for your small business – or find out exactly how much you could save on a monthly and yearly basis – is to call a provider and learn what solutions they have available. In almost every case, new clients find that it takes a lot less than they had imagined to enjoy the kind of IT care that big businesses take for granted.

Your Fridge May Be Sending Out Spam – And Not the Canned Meat Kind

5550052.cms

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics show, the Internet of Things and smart devices stole the spotlight. Tech heavyweights Samsung and LG unveiled their “Smart Home” devices, which consisted of household appliances that were able to communicate with the homeowner and each other. These M2M devices (machine to machine) are each assigned an IP address, allowing them to connect to the Internet and transfer data (or, in other words, talk to each other) over a network without the need for human interaction.

This technology provides businesses and consumers with an array of benefits, without a doubt. Consumers are able to save on time and money – now that they can switch their appliances to an energy saving mode remotely or text their fridge to find out if they need to buy milk at the store before arriving home. Businesses are able to collect endless amounts of information from their customers and their devices – such as maintenance requirements or customer food preferences. However, with both parties looking to utilize IoT as soon as possible, security measures have been overlooked.

Between December 23 and January 6th, several Internet-connected “smart” devices – including refrigerators – sent upwards of 750,000 malicious emails. This is believed to be the first cyber attack involving IoT, and likely won’t be the last. Many IoT devices are poorly protected and consumers aren’t able to detect or fix security breaches when they do occur. As more of these smart appliances “come online”, attackers are finding ways to exploit them for their own needs.

Additionally, following an M2M conference in Toronto, ON, the Director of Policy for Ontario’s privacy commissioner pointed out that these devices also hold a lot of data that will be personally identifiable. Organizations are being urged to think about the privacy of customer data before employing M2M and IoT devices. Recently, customer data was leaked by LG’s smart TV as it was collecting and transmitting personal information to the manufacturer because there was no encryption. In an even more bizarre circumstance, the signal transmitted from a wireless camera used to monitor the interior of a Canadian methadone clinic was being picked up by a back-up camera inside of a vehicle outside of the building.

It’s imperative for organizations and consumers to comprehend the security and privacy risks associated with M2M and IoT enabled devices. Consumers will need to ensure that they keep their software up-to-date, change all default passwords to something more secure, and place their IoT device behind a router. Meanwhile, organizations who manufacture these devices must incorporate any available security measures available to ensure their customer’s information and network stayed protected. The benefits of IoT devices far outweighs the concerns, but those concerns still need to be addressed before IoT can really take off.

To learn more about the Internet of Things, check out our previous blog post by clicking here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

 

%d bloggers like this: