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THE VITAL IMPORTANCE OF CLEAN ROOMS

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Phil Bridge, Managing Director, Kroll Ontrack

By Phil Bridge, Managing Director, Kroll Ontrack

Resellers who provide data recovery services to clients may be surprised to learn that for the third year in a row, more than 10 per cent of the media sent to Kroll Ontrack during 2013 had been previously opened, diminishing the chances of a successful recovery by more than 45 per cent. This represents a huge volume of unnecessary data loss when you consider that Kroll Ontrack processes more than 50,000 recoveries a year.

Recovering data from a physically damaged hard drive is considerably more difficult than a logical failure, so opening a failed drive should only happen in a professional and certified clean room environment with a laminar air flow system.

Phil Bridge, Managing Director, Kroll Ontrack

Phil Bridge, Managing Director, Kroll Ontrack

A hard drive is a sealed unit, specifically designed to keep any debris from entering while it is in use. The read-write heads inside the drive are designed to float over the platter surface while it’s spinning, usually at speeds anywhere between 5,400 and 15,000 rpm. When dust particles enter the unit while it is spinning at full speed, the smallest of particles can make their way between the heads and the platter surface, causing the heads to crash.

Kroll Ontrack’s engineers diagnose all received drives to determine the condition of the media and data in a data recovery lab. Common issues that they discover include multiple bad sectors, damaged surfaces and malfunctioning head assembly due to instability or severe head crashes.

If the media is diagnosed with a logical failure (non-physical), engineers use specialised tools to rebuild and repair damaged data structures, and then access and extract the data. In instances of physical damage, engineers open the device within a cleanroom environment and assess the physical condition of the circuit boards and moving parts through a comprehensive and rigorous diagnostic process.

Clean Workbenches

A clean data recovery environment is a devised system for routing the air flow on rows of workbenches in an arrangement based on high-quality submicron particulate air filters that trap the smallest particles. These systems use special HEPA filters (high efficiency particulate air filters) that filter out suspended particles only 0.5 micrometres in diameter. Workbenches and data recovery work stations are arranged in specialised areas based on the type of media: 2.5″, 3.5″ IDE, SATA drives, USB drives, SAS, SCSI, SSD, flash, phones, tablets and server media. All Kroll Ontrack workbenches follow ISO 14644-1 class 5 standards.

Parts Inventory

Seventy-five per cent of drives sent to Kroll Ontrack have physical failures versus logical damage. As a result, a large inventory of spare parts to address the wide inventory of drive capacities and components is also critical to any cleanroom.

With more than 150,000 spare parts globally, Kroll Ontrack has one of the largest spare parts inventories in the world. Its intelligent inventory system provides all 24 offices with the ability to locate the correct part from the closest location. Kroll Ontrack customers benefit from global support for all storage devices as well as a fast recovery time.

Working on an Image

Getting a physically damaged drive to work is key to the recovery, but so is working from an image of the data. This best practice ensures the data isn’t further damaged in the process.

Engineers create a disk image when working on a malfunctioning drive by connecting the drive to a sophisticated system made up of proprietary tools. Kroll Ontrack’s unique server setup creates a disk image without causing further damage to the media. All recovery work is performed on this image, safeguarding the customer’s data in a highly secured in-house data centre. Recovery results can be displayed in an Ontrack® Verifile™ report, a web-based based application used to inform customers of what files can be recovered before they commit to a recovery purchase.

In order to assess the quality and security credentials of a data recovery provider with cleanroom capabilities, we recommend asking the following questions:

1.            Does your cleanroom environment adhere to any industry standards? If so, what kind?

2.            What is the total work area of all your clean benches, and how many workstations do you have?

3.            Do you have both hardware and software research and development engineers on staff developing your own proprietary solutions?

4.            How is data imaged from a damaged drive?

5.            How is data security, privacy and integrity of data addressed?

6.            How are your data recovery engineers trained to perform this kind of work?

7.            Are you authorised by any hardware vendor? Does your work void warranties?

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Mobile app acceleration during the pandemic: Businesses must adapt or die

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Mobile app acceleration during the pandemic: Businesses must adapt or die 1

By Mike Rhodes, CEO of ConsultMyApp

For the past year, the over-riding narrative has been to stay at home and reduce in-person contact. As a result, every aspect of our lives, from work and socializing to exercising and shopping, has shifted online.

Amid such a backdrop, the mobile app market has become more important than ever before. In fact, the second quarter of 2020 became the largest yet for mobile app usage, with new downloads skyrocketing to 35 billion and in-app spending reaching a record $27 billion.

Whilst some industries have tackled this new digital challenge head on, and with great success, others have failed to engage and retain users online. The most notable example has been the failure of the NHS track and trace app which, according to the latest reports, only curbed the transmission of coronavirus by 2 to 5 percent last year.

Developing a mobile app is simple, but as track and trace shows, ensuring an app’s success is far more complex than registering the platform and attracting active users. In order to increase visibility, drive installs and retain users, app optimization and pre and post-acquisition marketing is essential. Yet, currently, only the most digitally savvy businesses are aware of this.

So, where do businesses need to concentrate their efforts if they are to successfully leverage their mobile apps and obtain a market advantage in the new Covid-era?

Prioritise app-store optimization

The mobile app industry is booming. Irrespective of the sector, businesses across the world are quickly waking up to the potential of the mobile app market and, as a result, apps are becoming increasingly important in our everyday lives.

Amid such a saturated market, app-store optimization should be the top priority for your mobile marketing strategy. According to Apple, 70 percent of individuals use the search tool to find apps, so keyword optimization is essential to make sure that the right people find your app above anyone else’s when they search in the stores.

Moreover, optimizing your creative assets is crucial to ensure sustained conversion. For example, enhancing the icon, screenshots and multimedia assets that appear on the app store can boost the appeal of your listing and help improve download rates. After all, your profile on the app store acts a virtual shop front with a footfall of billions of people globally, so you need to make sure it stands out.

Ultimately, app-store optimization can improve your visibility in organic searches and help to increase overall conversation rates, alongside building a strong foundation for your app to set it up for continued success.

Enhance your communication strategy

Amid the ongoing market upheaval, businesses core messaging has become more important than ever before, and a brand’s ability to communicate effectively with their target market has become pivotal to determine whether they are a thriving success or fall into irrelevance. However, with so many businesses trying to carve out a unique voice online, it can be hard to remain relevant to customers.

Mobile apps provide businesses with a unique opportunity to provide a personalised user experience, that not only works to build relationships with existing customers, but also offers the opportunity to approach an even wider market than before.

Mike Rhodes

Mike Rhodes

Maintaining regular interaction with your customers via a mobile app platform that caters to their personal needs will help to build a loyal following and result in better rates of engagement for the business.

Pivot according to shifts in consumer behaviour

The mobile app market is flourishing and, in Q1 of 2020 alone, the average time individuals spent in apps each week rose by 20 percent. Whilst a recent report has suggested that this shift online will continue long after social distancing measures and lockdown restrictions lift, in order to remain successful, businesses must monitor shifts in consumer behaviour and pivot their app experience.

Developing and optimizing an app is not a one-and-done process. Businesses need to constantly review user interests, sentiments and requirements, alongside design trends, if they are to remain relevant and meet consumer demand. No matter how advanced your app is, if you neglect to pivot your service offerings accordingly, you will fall behind your market competitors.

Review in-app monetization approaches

The past year has brought about drastic changes to the way businesses operate and, if they are to remain successful, they must continue to react to the changing economic climate and adapt to the opportunities available.

Whilst in-app monetisation strategies and mobile advertising can open up access to new revenue streams, businesses must prioritise the customer experience alongside the desire to raise funds. For example, modifying the purchasing process to make it more accessible and intuitive, whilst remaining simple, can help boost sales. In contrast, brands that overlook the potential to monetise aspects of their app, or have a poorly designed app which deters customers, will fall short and lose out on this new market potential.

Address security concerns

Without a doubt, the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated the digital transition. Even individuals who have traditionally resisted the shift online, have been embracing these new opportunities at an unprecedented rate. However, despite this widespread acceptance, there are still concerns over fatigue when it comes to interacting with technology and distrust on security and data protection.

Businesses will need to address these concerns in equal measure if they are to retain users and ensure the long-term success of their mobile apps. Whilst apps need to be optimized to attract customers, functionality is just as important, especially as more brands enter into this space.

Looking ahead

On average, it is estimated that each individual has up to 90 apps on their phone, but they will only use nine in any one day. The stark reality is that many apps are downloaded, used once for the required purpose and then forgotten about. If businesses want their mobile apps to succeed in a flooded market, they will need to invest in app optimization and marketing strategies to build awareness, improve the customer experience and develop a competitive edge.

Ultimately, mobile apps have become the new interface for brands and businesses across all sectors amid the ongoing pandemic. This shift is only set to gain momentum moving forward and businesses simply cannot afford to overlook the lucrative potential of the app market if they are to survive in the new Covid-era.

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‘Spooky’ AI tool brings dead relatives’ photos to life

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'Spooky' AI tool brings dead relatives' photos to life 2

By Umberto Bacchi

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Like the animated paintings that adorn the walls of Harry Potter’s school, a new online tool promises to bring portraits of dead relatives to life, stirring debate about the use of technology to impersonate people.

Genealogy company MyHeritage launched its “Deep Nostalgia” feature earlier this week, allowing users to turn stills into short videos showing the person in the photograph smiling, winking and nodding.

“Seeing our beloved ancestors’ faces come to life … lets us imagine how they might have been in reality, and provides a profound new way of connecting to our family history,” MyHeritage founder Gilad Japhet said in a statement.

Developed with Israeli computer vision firm D-ID, Deep Nostalgia uses deep learning algorithms to animate images with facial expressions that were based on those of MyHeritage employees.

Some of the company’s users took to Twitter on Friday to share the animated images of their deceased relatives, as well as moving depictions of historical figures, including Albert Einstein and Ancient Egypt’s lost Queen Nefertiti.

“Takes my breath away. This is my grandfather who died when I was eight. @MyHeritage brought him back to life. Absolutely crazy,” wrote Twitter user Jenny Hawran.

While most expressed amazement, others described the feature as “spooky” and said it raised ethical questions. “The photos are enough. The dead have no say in this,” tweeted user Erica Cervini.

From chatbots to virtual reality, the tool is the latest innovation seeking to bring the dead to life through technology.

Last year U.S. rapper Kanye West famously gifted his wife Kim Kardashian a hologram of her late father congratulating her on her birthday and on marrying “the most, most, most, most, most genius man in the whole world”.

‘ANIMATING THE PAST’

The trend has opened up all sorts of ethical and legal questions, particularly around consent and the opportunity to blur reality by recreating a virtual doppelganger of the living.

Elaine Kasket a psychology professor at the University of Wolverhampton in Britain who authored a book on the “digital afterlife”, said that while Deep Nostalgia was not necessarily “problematic”, it sat “at the top of a slippery slope”.

“When people start overwriting history or sort of animating the past … You wonder where that ends up,” she said.

MyHeritage acknowledges on its website that the technology can be “a bit uncanny” and its use “controversial”, but said steps have been taken to prevent abuses.

“The Deep Nostalgia feature includes hard-coded animations that are intentionally without any speech and therefore cannot be used to fake any content or deliver any message,” MyHeritage public relations director Rafi Mendelsohn said in a statement.

Yet, images alone can convey meaning, said Faheem Hussain, a clinical assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

“Imagine somebody took a picture of the Last Supper and Judas is now winking at Mary Magdalene – what kind of implications that can have,” Hussain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Similarly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) animations could be use to make someone appear as though they were doing things they might not be happy about, such as rolling their eyes or smiling at a funeral, he added.

Mendelsohn of MyHeritage said using photos of a living person without their consent was a breach of the company’s terms and conditions, adding that videos were clearly marked with AI symbols to differentiate them from authentic recordings.

“It is our ethical responsibility to mark such synthetic videos clearly and differentiate them from real videos,” he said.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi in Milan; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

 

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Does your institution have operational resilience? Testing cyber resilience may be a good way to find out

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REMOTE WORKING STRATEGY REQUIRED TO STRENGTHEN CYBER RESILIENCE

By Callum Roxan, Head of Threat Intelligence, F-Secure

If ever 2020 had a lesson, it was that no organization can possibly prepare for every conceivable outcome. Yet building one particular skill will make any crisis easier to handle: operational resilience.

Many financial institutions have already devoted resources to building operational resilience. Unfortunately, this often takes what Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer of TheCityUK, calls a “near death” experience for this conversion to occur. “Recent years have seen a number of cases of loss of reputation, reduced enterprise value and senior executive casualties from operational incidents that have been badly handled,” he wrote.

But it need not take a disaster to learn this vital lesson.

“Operational resilience means not only planning around specific, identified risks,” Charlotte Gerken, the executive director of the Bank of England, said in a 2017 speech on operational resilience. “We want firms to plan on the assumption that any part of their infrastructure could be impacted, whatever the reason.” Gerken noted that firms that had successfully achieved a level of resilience that survives a crisis had established the necessary mechanisms to bring the business together to respond where and when risks materialised, no matter why or how.

We’ll talk about the bit we know best here; by testing for cyber resilience, a company can do more than prepare for the worst sort of attacks it may face. This process can help any business get a clearer view of how it operates, and how well it is prepared for all kinds of surprises.

Assumptions and the mechanisms they should produce are the best way to prepare for the unknown. But, as the boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The aim of cyber resilience is to build an effective security posture that survives that first punch, and the several that are likely to follow. So how can an institution be confident that they’ve achieved genuine operational resilience?

This requires an organization to honestly assess itself through the motto inscribed at the front of the Temple of Delphi: “Know thyself.” And when it comes to cyber security, there is a way for an organization to test just how thoroughly it comprehends its own strengths and weaknesses.

Callum Roxan

Callum Roxan

The Bank of England was the first central bank to help develop the framework for institutions to test the integrity of their systems. CBEST is made up of controlled, bespoke, intelligence-led cyber security tests that replicate behaviours of those threat actors, and often have unforeseen or secondary benefits. Gerken notes that the “firms that did best in the testing tended to be those that really understood their organisations. They understood their own needs, strengths and weaknesses, and reflected this in the way they built resilience.”

In short, testing cyber resilience can provide clear insight into an institution’s operational resilience in general.

Gaining that specific knowledge without a “near-death” experience is obviously a significant win for any establishment. And testing for operational resilience throughout the industry can provide some reminders of the steps every organization should take so that testing provides unique insists about their institution, and not just a checklist of cyber defence basics.

The IIF/McKinsey Cyber Resilience Survey of the financial services industry released in March lasy year provided six sets of immediate actions that institutions could take to improve their cyber security posture. The toplines of these recommendations were:

  1. Do the basics, patch your vulnerabilities.
  2. Review your cloud architecture and security capabilities.
  3. Reduce your supply chain risk.
  4. Practice your incident response and recovery capabilities.
  5. Set aside a specific cyber security budget and prioritise it
  6. Build a skilled talent pool and optimize resources through automation.

But let’s be honest: If simply reading a solid list of recommendations created cyber resilience, cyber criminals would be out of business. Unfortunately, cyber crime as a business is booming and threat actors targeting essential financial institutions through cyber attacks are likely earning billions in the trillion dollar industry of financial crime.A list can’t reveal an institution’s unique weaknesses, those security failings and chokepoints that could shudder operations, not just during a successful cyber attack but during various other crises that challenge their operations. And the failings that lead to flaws in an institution’s cyber defence likely reverberate throughout the organization as liabilities that other crises would likely expose.

The best way to get a sense of operational resilience will always be to simulate the worst that attackers can summon. That’s why the time to test yourself is now, before someone else does.

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