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DevOps – IS A SUCCESSFUL RECIPE DEPENDENT ON VERSION MANAGEMENT AS AN INGREDIENT?

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Mark Warren

By Mark Warren, Perforce Software

Most people who work in and around business technology will probably have heard about DevOps by now.  Basically, it is all about bridging the divide between the software development teams (the guys who build the technology that supports financial services) and the operations teams (the IT guys who then have to make sure that tech supports those products in the real world, every day).  Traditionally, both entities have been very separate and that can hinder the performance or time-to-market of any technology-centric project, hence the rise of the DevOps movement, the basic tenet of which is to ensure smooth collaboration between both parties.

Problems that DevOps can help with include:

  • Better release management of the software supporting a financial product(visibility of risks, dependencies, release stage gates and compliance)
  • Deployment co-ordination – better management of ‘events’ around this (clear processes, documented tracking and reporting)
  • Deployment automation – there is a trade-off between the benefits of automation and perceived loss of control, so the DevOps movement aims to increase performance and productivity, while the risk that comes with frequent changes to the product being developed is managed and also ensuring better return-on-investment (so, asking quite a lot really).
Mark Warren

Mark Warren

DevOps is a great idea and one that is definitely gaining traction, especially since it is a good fit with the Agile methodology, also being increasingly deployed by all kinds of organisations. In the financial services market in particular, it can face a very practical hurdle, namely that while teams are often small, the people are often in different locations, even countries and timezones, not to mention multiple platforms and tools.  Take for example Perforce user NYSE Euronext’s dynamic platform for trading trillions of dollars is run by a six-person team on 14,000 servers and incorporates applications and processes from multiple companies.

Version management for DevOps
This is why an increasing number of organisations are now using version management as one way to make DevOps achievable.   Version management is long established in the software development world and also referred to as source code control or software configuration management.  In the DevOps world, it can become a mechanism for enabling a collaborative environment as all contributors can trust in a “single source of truth.” A good version management environment helps to balance control and flexibility, and should be platform and tool-independent, so it doesn’t matter if teams are using different systems and tools.

Under the DevOps approach, both teams remain engaged and accountable until code is reliably deployed on a production server and released to customers. We’re talking about a very agile and collaborative environment, one with potentially a lot of room for mistakes to be made, especially under time pressures. The development and operations teams need support to ensure this does not fall apart. For instance, the operations team need to know what versions and operating environments are currently in use.

The answer is to create an effective way to mutually share information, something that the current generation of version management tools are designed to achieve.  As well as source code, they can store just about everything associated with that particular software build and the developers just need to point the operations team towards a repository containing all that information, easy to download and accountability for different tasks obvious.

Every action and status can be tracked back: goodbye to just throwing stuff over the wall and hoping for the best.  In other words, who did what and when and where?  Armed with that information, it becomes a lot easier to analyse anything that has gone wrong and then agree a way forward.

Speed is another issue: the volumes of data created in a software project is massive (and becoming more complex, for instance the amount of smartphone platforms or languages that an app has to support), against which financial services companies have to balance the need to get products into the marketplace more quickly in order to stay a step ahead of the competition and keep customers happy.  The traditional problem has been that when projects are rushed out, the risks around system errors and breakdowns increases.  Again, the right version management can help to ensure that all the correct checks and balances are in place (together of course with automation tools).

When I say the ‘right’ version management system, I could of course be accused of bias towards my own company’s solution, but there are some fundamental considerations that are the same, regardless of the vendor involved.  If I was a customer in the financial services sector, here are a few things I’d look out for when seeing whether my current version management system is able to support DevOps, or if I was out shopping for a new one:

  • Track record – is there an established base of existing users in this market sector?  Does the vendor understand the particular requirements of this market?
  • Scale and distributed environments – if teams are spread across the world and if numbers of users are likely to increase, will the system be able to match that?  What about extensibility through APIS and integrations with my existing tools and workflows?
  • Support and product road map – I’d definitely look at the bigger picture.  I’d check that this is a company that’s likely to be around for a long time and whether it has a clear future road map and planned investment in product evolution.  Then I’d look at what kind of support is on offer.  I’d also ask for some reference sites to speak to and I’d see what the user community is saying online.

Version management is not the only piece in the jigsaw towards making DevOps work: a change in cultural attitude is equally important.  However, what it can do is create an environment between the development and operations teams that is a lot more collaborative and accountable, which after all, is at the heart of the DevOps idea.

About the Author:
Mark Warren is European Marketing Director for Perforce Software, used by thousands of organisations worldwide includingSalesforce.com, SAP, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and the New York Stock Exchange to manage their most valuable IP. Perforce products help teams work in concert on important digital assets including software code, documents, multimedia, spreadsheets, images and more. The company is headquartered in Alameda, California, with international operations in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. For more information, visit www.perforce.com

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Iron Mountain releases 7-steps to ensure digitisation delivers long-term benefits

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Iron Mountain releases 7-steps to ensure digitisation delivers long-term benefits 1

Iron Mountain has released practical guidance to help businesses future-proof their digital journeys. The guidance is part of new research that found that 57% of European enterprise plan to revert new digital processes back to manual solutions post-pandemic.

The research revealed that 93% of respondents have accelerated digitisation during COVID-19 and 86% believe this gives them a competitive edge. However, the majority (57%) fear these changes will be short-lived and their companies will revert to original means of access post-pandemic.

“With 80% still reliant on physical data to do their job, now is a critical time to implement more robust, digital methods of accessing physical storage,” said Stuart Bernard, VP of Digital Solutions at Iron Mountain. “Doing so can enhance efficiency and deliver ROI by unlocking new value in stored data through the use of technology to mine, review and extract insight.”

Why revert?

When COVID-19 hit, companies had to think fast and adapt. Digital solutions were often taken as off-the-shelf, quick fixes – rarely the most economical or effective. But they are delivering benefits – those surveyed reported productivity gains (27%), saving time (20%), enhancing data quality (13%) and cutting costs (12%).

So what now?

The Iron Mountain study includes guidance for how to turn quick-fixes into sustained, long-term solutions. The seven-steps are designed to help businesses future-proof their digital journeys and maximize value from physical storage:

1)     Gather insights: The COVID-19 pandemic allowed organisations to test and learn. Companies should ensure these insights are fed into developing more robust solutions.

2)     Use governance as intelligence: Information governance and compliance are fundamental to data handling. But frameworks aren’t just a set of rules, they hold valuable insights that can be turned into actionable intelligence. Explore your framework to extract learnings.

3)     Understand your risk profile: A key early step is to analyse where you are most vulnerable. With data in motion and people working remotely, which records are at risk? What could be moved into the cloud? Are your vendors resilient?

4)     Focus where you will achieve greatest impact: To prioritise successfully, you need to know where you will achieve the largest impact. This involves looking beyond initial set-up costs towards the holistic benefits of digitisation, including reducing time spent on manual scanning, and the risk of compliance violations.

5)     Reach out and collaborate: We are all in this together. Your IT, security, compliance and facility management teams are all facing the same challenges. Ensure you collaborate across functions to develop robust, integrated solutions.

6)     Find a provider who can relate to your digital journey: For companies that still rely heavily on analogue solutions, digitisation can be daunting and risky. It pays to find a vendor who has been on the same journey, understands your paper processes and can guide you through the digital world.

7)     Prioritise and evolve communication and training programmes: To reap the full rewards from any digitisation initiative, thorough and continuous communication and training is critical. Encouragingly, our survey found that 81% of data handlers have received training to work digitally which is an excellent step in the right direction, but consider teams beyond data handling to truly succeed.

The research was commissioned by Iron Mountain in collaboration with Censuswide. It surveyed 1,000 data handlers among the EMEA region. It found that the departments that have digitised more due to COVID-19 include IT support (40%), customer relationship management (36%), and team resource planning (34%).

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3D Secure: Why are fraudsters still slipping through the net?

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3D Secure: Why are fraudsters still slipping through the net? 2

By Tim Ayling, VP EMEA, buguroo

There is a constant tension between keeping online payments secure, and offering an easy and frictionless user experience. Digital transformation – especially accelerated by the global pandemic – leaves consumers expecting online services to be seamless. Customers are even liable to abandon a process altogether if they encounter a hurdle.

Financial regulation and security protocols exist to help ensure that a balance is maintained between offering customers this frictionless experience, and keeping them and their funds safe from fraud attacks.

What is 3D Secure?

3D Secure is one such protocol. This payer authentication system is designed to keep card-not-present (CNP) ecommerce payments secure against online fraud. The card issuer uses 3D Secure when a card is used to pay for something online, authenticating the customer’s identity based on personal identifiers, such as the three-digit CVV code on the back of a card, as well as the device they’re using to make the payment and their geolocation or IP address.

3D Secure is important because although transactions can be accepted or denied based on the level of risk, it’s not always as clear as ‘risky’ or ‘not risky’. A small number of transactions will have an undetermined or questionable level of risk attached to them. For example, if a legitimate customer appears to be using a new device to buy goods online, or appears to be attempting to make the transaction from an irregular location. In these instances, 3D Secure provides a step-up authentication, such as asking for a one-time password (OTP).

Getting the right balance

3D Secure is a helpful protocol for card issuers, as it allows banks to comply with Strong Customer Authentication as required by EU financial regulation PSD2 as well as increase security for transactions with a higher level of risk – thereby better filtering the genuine cardholders from fraudsters.

Tim Ayling

Tim Ayling

This means that the customers themselves are better protected against fraud, and the extra security helps preserve their trust in the bank to be able to keep their money safe. At the same time, the number of legitimate customers who have their transactions denied is minimised, improving the customer’s online experience.

So why are fraudsters still slipping through the net?

Fraudsters are used to adapting to security protocols designed to stop them, and 3D Secure is no exception. The step-up authentication that is required by 3D Secure in the instance of a questionable transaction often takes the form of an OTP, a password or secret answer known only by the bank and the customer. However, there are various ways that fraudsters have devised to steal this information.

The most common way to steal passwords is through phishing attacks, where fraudsters pretend to be legitimate brands, such as banks themselves, in order to dupe customers into giving away sensitive information. Fraudsters can even replace the pop-up windows that appear to legitimate customers in the case of stepped-up authentication with their own browser windows disguised as the bank’s. Unwitting customers then enter the password or OTP and effectively hand it straight over to the fraudsters.

Even when an OTP is sent directly to a customer’s phone, fraudsters have found a way to intercept this information. They do this through something called a ‘SIM swap scam’, where they impersonate their victim and manage to get the legitimate cardholder’s number switched onto a different SIM card that they own, thereby receiving the genuine OTP in the cardholder’s place.

This is especially an issue for card issuers when taking into account the liability shift that is attached to using 3D Secure. When a transaction is authenticated using 3D Secure, the liability moves to lie with the card issuer, not the vendor or retailer. If money leaves a customer’s account and the transaction was verified by 3D Secure, but the customer says they did not authorise the transaction, the card provider becomes liable for any refunds.

How AI and Behavioral Biometrics can be used to plug the gap

Banks need to find a way to accurately block fraudsters while allowing genuine customers to complete online payments. AI can be used alongside behavioural biometrics as an additional layer of security to cover the gaps in security through continuous authentication of the customer.

Behavioural biometrics can collect and analyse data from thousands of parameters around user behaviour such as their typing speed and dynamics, or the trajectory on which they move the mouse, throughout the entire online session. AI processes are used to dynamically compare this analysis against the user’s usual online profile to identify even the smallest of anomalies, as well as against profiles of known fraudsters and typical fraudster behaviour. AI then delivers a risk score based on this information to banks in real time, enabling them to root out and block the fraudulent transactions.

As this authentication occurs invisibly, the AI technology can recognise if the customer is who they say they are – and that it isn’t a fraudster trying to input a genuine OTP they have managed to steal through phishing or SIM swapping – without adding any additional friction.

Card issuers cannot decline all questionable transactions without losing customers, while approving them without additional checks poses security issues that can result in financial losses as well as losses in customer trust. Behavioural biometrics is a foundational technology that can work simultaneously to 3D Secure to keep customers’ online payments safe from fraud while maintaining a frictionless experience and minimising the risk of chargeback liability for banks.

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Track and Trace and Other Lost Data

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Track and Trace and Other Lost Data 3

By Ian Smith, General Manager and Finance Director at Invu 

You, like me, were probably amazed by the now infamous loss of the over 16,000 positive test results in the track and trace system due to an Excel spreadsheet error.

You, like me, probably wondered how the Government could get something so important so wrong?

But perhaps we should ask are we standing in a greenhouse launching stones?

Data risks from software

Today we are spoilt with software offerings that help us with both our personal and our work lives.

Microsoft Excel is a powerful application and offers many functions now that required moderately complex macro writing in the past, seducing all of us into submitting more data for it to analyse. In finance, we tend to solve all those problems our applications cannot address using Excel.

In finance, we also know the risks of formula errors, and if we have relied on it enough, we will have our own war stories to go with these risks. Yet, we often continue to use the tool for operations that make those folks with an information technology background shake their heads.

These Excel files nowadays may find themselves resident on a local file server or one of the many file servers in the cloud (like those from the big three, DropBox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive or other less well-known file sharing applications). Many of us use these in multiple ways.

Vulnerable programmes

Beyond finance and Excel, there are now many applications that we run our data through and leave data stored in the form of documents, comments and notes.

The long-standing example is email. We today receive many documents via email, with content in the body often providing context. Email systems then become the store for that data. While this works from a personal point of view, for a business working at scale, the information stored this way can be lost to the rest of the business. Just like data falling off a spreadsheet when there are not enough rows to capture the results.

More recently, we have seen easy to consume applications develop in many areas like chat and productivity. Take for example task management apps, my own preference being Monday.com (I am sparing you the long list of these). The result of the task and how we got there, in the form of attachments or comments, are often stored in the application. Each application we touch encourages us to leave a bit of data behind in its store.

Data proliferation

Many of these applications can have a personal use and an initial personal dalliance is what sparks up the motivation to apply the application to a business purpose. Just like the “Track and Trace System”, they can often find themselves being used in an environment where the scale of the operation overwhelms their intended use.

In our business lives, combining the use of applications in this way by liberally sprinkling our data across multiple systems often stored in documents (be they Microsoft Word, email, scans or comments and notes) puts us on the pathway to trouble.

Imagine how Matt Hancock felt explaining to Parliament that the world-class track and trace system depended on a spreadsheet.

Can you imagine a similar situation in your business life? Say, for example, that documents or data in some form was lost because of the use of disparate systems and/or applications that were not really designed for the task you assigned to them.

Who would be your Parliament?

Now you can see yourself in the greenhouse, you may not want to reach for that metaphorical stone.

If these observations create some concerns for you, you may want to consider the information management strategy at your business. You have a strategy, even if it is not addressed specifically in documents, plans or thought processes.

Action plan

These steps may help figure out where you are and where you want to go.

  1. Assess your current environment.

Are you a centraliser, with all the information collected in one place? Or is all your data spread across multiple stores, as identified above? Are you storing your key business information on paper documents, or digitally or a mix of both.

  1. Assess your current processes.

Do your processes run on a limited number of software applications? Or do you enable staff to pick their own tools to get things done? The answer to this question is often a mix of both where staff bridge the gaps in those applications using tools like MS excel. A key application to think about is how the data in email, particularly the attachments, is made available to the business.

  1. Design a pathway for change and implement it.

Start with the end in mind. I suggest the goal is to enable the right people to have the right access to the information they require to do their job in real-time. I believe the way to effectively do this is to go digital. The fork in the road is then whether to centralise your information store or adopt a decentralised approach.

My own preferred route is to centralise using document management software that enables all your documents to be stored in one place. Applications like email can be integrated with it, significantly reducing the workload required to file and store the data. The data can then be used in business applications using workflows. Thinking these workflows through will help you assess the gaps between your key business applications and consider whether tools like excel are being stretched too far.

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