Archive | September 2014

If you thought things were smart, IT’s about to get smarter.  

It’s time to get “SMART”. In the world of information technology everything seems to be striving to “get smart” as if prior to 2014 everyone or thing was somewhat dumb or lacked insight. And hot on the heels of the enterprise, the “SMART” moniker has also permeated the home. I am weeks away from the installation of my second “SMART” device, a smart energy meter (gas/electric). My first endeavour a few months ago was smart heating. I can’t wait for winter to arrive to allow me to test my ability to switch my heating on or off from a browser, monitor my household temperature and most “next gen” of all, allow the heating system to use my mobile phone GPS and location to switch on just before I arrive home and off just after I leave – now that’s SMART.

Home control image

And in the next few weeks smart metering will allow me to monitor and adjust my energy use wherever I am saving me money and helping me to save the planet. But it’s not just me who wins, the energy company no longer has the cost and hassle of physical meter reading and manual bill processing. Instead they have a real-time view of my energy use and ultimately their expected income – again, pretty smart.

But why now – why do we now have a SMART revolution on our hands? What has changed to enable yet another wave of heightened end user expectations? Not easy to answer.  Many cultural, behavioural and technology-based elements have come together at the right time to “smarten” our world, most notably reliable wireless networks, ever-evolving sensor technology (coined by many as the Internet or things or IOT) and analytics. Picture it, an activity as beneficial, simple and seamless as the remote control of my central heating from afar would be impossible without connectivity (network), a clever central heating thermostat (sensors) and analytics (to store data about the temperature of my house and make real-time decisions).  A quick scan across the web and it’s quickly apparent the “Internet of Things (IOT)” describes a $7 Trillion market opportunity by 2020 (source IDC) now hailed by many as the “next big thing”.

IOT is the term coined to describe the mass of connected devices (many non-computer or smartphone) with on-board processers, sensors and a means to transmit / receive data that secretly drive the modern world. Everything from traffic flow management to the retail point of sale experience is now monitored and controlled by electronic “things” that broadcast data to “other things”. And as those connected “things” have evolved, industries have determined the real power is the analytics of the data generated by them (that allows past, what if and future state business decisions to be considered).

If you are not embracing the SMART IT, or Internet of Things revolution you may be missing opportunities to drive material changes in your social, business, technology and end user experience. Impressive stuff and now as a consumer (not an IT technologist) I am waiting with excitement for the next instalment to my “SMART” digital world (ps, you may hope it’s not so compelling that I decide to keep it a secret.)

Until next time.

 

Colin W

Twitter@ colinwccuk

 

Transforming Perceptions

Hi, my name is Emma Aspinall and I am a Sales Associate aligned to our Commercial and Industry Sector. I would like to take this blog as an opportunity to share my first Line of Business rotation experience.

Each rotation lasts around 4 weeks and is rounded off with a final presentation back to the senior leaders of that Line of Business… No pressure. We are privileged to spend time with the Networking, Datacenter and Workplace teams, as well as a software specific rotation, before the Christmas break and these are pretty intense to say the least!

“We are privileged to spend time with the Networking, Datacenter and Workplace teams”

Aside from working on our sign off project, we use the 4 weeks to meet the vendors and shadow Specialists in action with Computacenter customers. We also allocate time to understanding our unique propositions together with our go to market strategy. Any spare time I had was spent on Google trying to find out what on earth everyone was talking about!

“So how has it been for you Em?” Well, in a nutshell it has been transformative (robots in disguise). Amongst peers and management it is easy to feel a little left behind, especially when you are surrounded by subject matter experts, who all talk tech! However, I must admit I’m starting to spot opportunities everywhere I turn, not just seeing customer problems – but identifying those problems that I now know Computacenter has solutions to.

A perfect example of this was my final day in my Networking Line of Business rotation. I started the day with a coffee and a weather update on BBC News. Unfortunately, my picture started to jump and we briefly lost connection … networking problem?! Latency issue? Need more bandwidth? BBC look no further!

I then grabbed my mandatory second coffee in a local coffee shop, where I struggled to connect to the wireless and when I finally did the connection was beyond disappointing … Maybe the access points are installed in the wrong place, maybe there aren’t enough at all!? Maybe the management system needs to be upgraded (have they thought about cloud)? They could definitely do with a Network survey…!

When I got back to the office and had the chance to digest some more of the morning news, I read about the iCloud hacking … Maybe there was an attack on the network and the appropriate security wasn’t in place? I had gone from network zero to network hero (by my own measurements admittedly) in the space of a morning and everything finally began to fall into place.

“For me, those who take time and invest in us are invaluable to our careers and we cannot thank you enough.”

Since day 1 at Computacenter we have been taught that people are our best assets. For me, those who take time and invest in us are invaluable to our careers and we cannot thank you enough. Our Networking Line of Business rotation transformed my perception, not only of networking, but of IT and its dominance in everyday life, which is something that is almost certainly taken for granted by Generation Z.

Thank you very much for reading. Next month, we have a blog from Andy Gibson, a Sales Associate aligned to our Financial Services and Retail sector.

Emma

Sales Associate

As simple as Password123

Anyone with an Internet connection can’t have escaped recent stories reporting the loss of intimate celebrity photographs, probably from Apples iCloud. The media have generally focused on the who the victim is and what was lost, and rather ignored how it was taken.

As the analysis starts, it does appear to be down to good old passwords. Problems with password choice, password reset procedures and systems that are vulnerable to brute force attacks all appear in the mix.

An interesting report on passwords was recently been produced by Trustwave that focused on the sorts of password most people use. ‘Password1’ ‘Hello123’ and ‘Password’ were the three most common, with 92% of passwords being broken during the analysis. Two things come out of this, firstly humans seem really bad at selecting passwords and secondly 8% of passwords were not broken. So, for those 8% of users it is possible to select a high quality password that is not trivial to break.

Passwords are perhaps the best example of the gap between being merely compliant with a policy and delivering real IT security. ‘Password123’ might look to an automated compliance check like a great password, it mixes numbers and letters, it mixes upper and lowercase and it is eleven characters long. It is, of course terrible, as are any variations on password, such as P@s5w0rd.

Many users select passwords in common formats, such as word plus number, or word plus date, making such passwords high on an attackers priority list.  The Trustwave report breaks these down further, there is a link to the report at the bottom of this post.

A Good password is one that an attacker would not consider to try before any other password, so any sort of variation on a scrambling a common word with numbers and symbols is likely to be weak, while a random string of numbers, letters and symbols is likely to be strong. The problem of remembering it, and increasingly commonly, typing into a mobile device remain of course, but that is its own problem.

Systems designed to allow us to reset our own passwords can be fooled, Q&A questions such as your pets name or your first school may well be found in your social networking data etc, so this process too needs the sort of care we give our passwords.

These issues also exist for business users, how to encourage users to use high quality, as opposed to merely complaint passwords and how to properly identify users prior to a password reset.

Cloud services, of course make this more complex. We are not responsible for the security of cloud computers, and can only have very limited influence on password resets, though we can select our own passwords with great care.

A now famous quote from IT Security expert Graham Cluley illustrates one important point, “don’t call it the cloud, call it somebody else’s computer.” We need to select our passwords with this in mind, and guard them with suitable care.

Links:

Graham Cluley: http://grahamcluley.com/2013/12/cloud-privacy-computer/

Trustwave report: http://gsr.trustwave.com/topics/business-password-analysis/2014-business-password-analysis/

Apple statement: http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2014/09/02Apple-Media-Advisory.html