Category Archives: Security

Ouissam Youssef: The Future of Media Investment

Ouissam Youssef: The Future of Media Investment

The Future of Media Investment

Sponsored series by the Valsef Group

Once upon a time, media was easy to understand. There were printed newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio. Together, they were our exclusive sources of news and entertainment. They had two basic financial models: advertiser-supported free media and subscription media, which included anything that had to be purchased for a nominal price, such as newspaper or a paid TV channel. Separately, movie theatres and hardcopy video supports provided the public with the right to watch a film for a fee.

The Internet arrived, said hello, settled in, and turned that whole world into a state of turmoil and fragmentation that is still baffling to the old media titans. A myriad of content-driven websites was born, with several clusters specializing in subjects that appealed to increasingly niche audiences. With the advent of Google, Facebook, YouTube, and powerful advances in video streaming technology, everyone drifted to the web, and through a handful of keyboard clicks, anyone could find anything they wanted to read or watch within seconds. Audiences were no longer slaves to rigid prime time TV or radio schedules and took control of their viewing habits. The decision of what and when to read or watch something shifted away from media owners to media consumers.


(Image Credit: Statista)

The Revenue Conundrum

When crossing over to the web, some conventions carried over while others were reversed. Viewers had developed the habit of paying for TV thanks to channels like HBO and Per-per-View, and were therefore more receptive to dishing out cash for films and shows online. Netflix, which began as much derided online mail order business that would ship DVDs and expect renters to return them with a stamp, had the last laugh when technology enabled it to stream video content to a large base of subscribers, whom it had already trained to order entertainment online. On the other side, while readers had had no problem paying for printed newspapers or magazines, all of a sudden they expected to get their news online for free. Leading publications saw their retail revenues shrink and their advertising income wither away, as advertisers found it harder to reach identifiable, localized audiences. A newspaper, which was previously published and marketed in one single major city, could now find readership worldwide thanks to the Internet, but that development brought no benefits to local advertisers seeking to appeal to local buyers. Advertisers slowly, but massively, began to spend their precious dollars on media ventures that could target buyers not only geographically, but also behaviorally by displaying ads to those viewers whose tastes would coincide with the products being pitched. Google, Facebook, and YouTube became the masters of data mining for the benefit of advertisers, designing awe-inspiring algorithms to track the habits of their users, who had willingly given up a certain amount of privacy in exchange for free content and services.

The Innovation Juggernaut

Sam Youssef - photo 2 (1)Ouissam Youssef, founder and CEO of Valsef Capital, a Montreal-based firm, has spent the last decade-and-a-half studying obsessively the tectonic shifts in the media industry. His insights have led Valsef to make a number of acquisitions of web-based media companies, making the firm one of the world’s biggest providers of online entertainment and information content, with over one billion page views per month. “The way media is created and delivered to audiences is changing on a daily basis. We are no longer passive watchers that get our sitcoms interrupted every seven minutes by an ad for a product we couldn’t care less about,” observes Youssef. “Public TV was supplanted by pay-TV, which is in turn being replaced by streaming. We have witnessed a shift from desktop computers to mobile devices. Email, chat apps, video apps, social media apps… the channels are endless. The question is no longer where will media go, but where will it not go.

Business leaders, marketers, and innovators must think one step ahead of the up-to-the-second trends,” added Ouissam Youssef. “What will the citizens of the world immerse themselves in next? And how can media companies benefit?” Forms of media that did not exist a decade ago have taken over thanks to the wonders of mobile technology. Today’s savvy media businesses employ a multitude of apps that keep users engaged for longer periods, mine relevant data, and promote products and services in effortless synchronicity with the user experience. “Media content and delivery have transformed advertising into a personal experience, carefully tailored to suit the attention spans and interests of niche audiences,” explained Youssef. “Ultimately, this is the symbiotic dance that continues to allow the public to access for free relevant content, paid by marketing dollars.


YouTube’s evolution from an ‘anything goes’ video platform to a commercial portal used by leading companies in all industries, is an impressive case study. “Some analysts believe the YouTube platform may be worth $100 billion, twice that of Netflix, thanks to its consistent high growth of subscribers,”. Top videos receive above one billion views, and YouTube rakes increasing profits through its customized ad-based model.

Valsef’s online properties include leading entertainment, content-driven websites TheRichest, ScreenRant, The Sportster, BabyGaga, and Comic Book Resources (CBR) to name a few. “We have made it our mission to not wait for the platforms to come to us, but to search out the next notable trends and bring them into our fold,” explains Ouissam. “Our ventures target sports, TV and movie news, and all things money, as well as software solutions that make use of the latest in cloud and tech advancements.

The future of media is not in monolithic structures that struggle to fit antiquated revenue models into an ever-evolving nebulae of media delivery channels, but in the hands of flexible, dynamic players, who embrace technology shifts as a way of life. “People will never stop consuming information and entertainment,” concludes Ouissam. “The only thing that will change is how they will consume it. And success in the media business will depend exclusively on a company’s ability to exploit trending channels and media platforms as they appear and evolve, in whatever form they may take.

By Jennifer Klostermann

Password Syncing Platforms Frequently Targeted

Password Syncing Platforms Frequently Targeted

Opera Sync

Following on the heels of a recent public request by Dropbox that their users change their passwords in response to a 2012 attack that recently turned up more usernames and passwords online, Opera also became a target last week when their browser’s sync service became compromised. While Opera has not released any specifics about the attack, they did submit a public statement on their blog requesting that all users of Opera Sync update their 3rd party passwords stored in Opera Sync as a security precaution against the attack, which they said was “quickly blocked.” While only about 0.5% of Opera browser’s users actually use the Opera Sync service, this still is a pretty significant data breach of 1.7 million users.

Opera was quick to sooth their users’ fears in the blog post, however, by emphasizing that they only store user information in an encrypted or hashed and salted format. This diminishes concerns that any of the compromised data may actually be in a usable format.

Security experts are now warning users everywhere that the practice of using password storage and retrieval systems that only require one password may actually be more dangerous than we previously thought. Hackers are increasingly targeting password syncing platforms, since compromising these systems can result in a much bigger and richer payload.

Opera in the meantime has provided a password reset page for their users to easily change their Opera Sync passwords. The company also extends its apologies to their users for any inconvenience this latest security breach may have caused them.

The password reset page:

By Jonquil McDaniel

Ensuring Cloud Authorizations Are Correct

Ensuring Cloud Authorizations Are Correct

Cloud Authorization

Almost all organizations in every industry now use some type cloud application. This is because of cost, efficiency, ease of use and because many software companies are offering their solutions in the cloud. For example, Microsoft 365 and Adobe Suite are mostly utilized by organizations in the respective cloud versions.

Cloud applications have many benefits for both the organization and for the end user, but there also needs to be some type of guideline or solution in place to ensure that they are managed correctly. There are many account and access management issues that come with implementing cloud applications for your organization.

So what are some of the issues that organizations have with access management to cloud applications? Like with in-house applications, often two things happen. End users either are given too few rights and need to request additional access or they accidently receive too many rights to systems and applications that they should not.


For the first scenario, employees can request additional access rights from the application manager at their organization, but this is very inefficient. They need to contact someone in the company who handles access and request that an account is created for them or additional access rights are made for them. This is frustrating for the employee and for the manager, since they are likely working on other projects. The employee has to then wait until this is created and may need follow up with the admin to see if the request is in the works.

For the latter problem, it is a major security concern for the organization. Often for convenience, an employee’s account is copied from another employee’s in a similar role to make. This potentially leaves the employee with additional access rights that they should not have, possibly to sensitive information.

The issue is difficult to manage and there needs to be someone who is manually creating access or checking to ensure that access rights are accurate. If you are a system admin, a CIO or other technology director, you know that either there is no one who is designated to complete these tasks, or this is something that is delegated to an employee with to an already full workload.

So enough about talking about everything that your organization is having issues with. How can this be resolved and what type of solution and guidelines should be put in place so that this doesn’t regularly occur?

An identity and access governance (IAG) solution is the first way to help ensure that all rights are correct. The company sets up a model of exactly the access rights for each role in the organization. For example, someone working as a manger in the IT department will need certain access rights to systems, applications and resources. This allows the person who is creating the account to easily do so without accidentally making any access mistakes; either giving the employee too many rights or too little rights.

Once an account is created for the employee how can it be ensured that going forward changes are made efficiently and the network remains secure?

Another solution that can be used is workflow management. These applications are a controlled, automated process with a defined sequence of tasks that can replace an otherwise manual process. This allows for a streamlined process for employee requests and their implementation.

Using a web portal, employees can request any additional access rights to their current applications or even new applications. A workflow is set up so that when a user requests a change, the request then goes through a predefined sequence of people who need to approve it before the change is implemented. The organization can set up the workflow process however they desire, so that depending on the user, and what they request, the process goes through a specific sequence. There is also no need for the employee to bother their manager to check on the request. They can easily access the web portal and see exactly where the request is and what steps still need to be completed.

There are also several ways to check access rights, as a double check, to ensure that everything is correct throughout the year or at any interval. These methods will allow someone to check everything is correct easily and efficiently.

One way this can be achieved is with reconciliation. This module in an IAG solution compares how access rights are set up to be in the model to how they actually are and creates a report on any differences. Anything that is not accurate can then be sent to the appropriate manager to check the issue and easily correct if needed.

Attestation is still another form of checking access and goes one step further to verify everything is correct. A report will be sent out to managers of a department, with all their employees, for them to verify that everything is correct. For example, the marketing manager will receive a report on the access rights of everyone in the marketing department. He or she will need to look over and either mark access right for deletion, change access right directly, or create a ticket in the helpdesk system to change the access rights. After looking everything over, the manager must give their final approval for the proposed set of changes to ensure that everything is correct.

For organizations to receive the best benefits from cloud applications there needs to be guideline and solutions in place to help manage the accounts in these applications. These are just some of the many ways IAG solutions allow for the organization to easily ensure correct access rights.

By Dean Wiech

Was The Promised Land Of Cloud False? Or Did It Just Take A While?

Was The Promised Land Of Cloud False? Or Did It Just Take A While?

Cloud Consumption

A new day has dawned! Computing will now be accessed and consumed like a power utility. Just flip the switch and consume what you need. When done, turn it off and you pay only for what you used. Why it is so cheap and easy to use, you can buy it with your credit card. No more waiting for months to get equipment purchased, installed and verified. Welcome to the Promised Land – or so Amazon Web Services (AWS) promised us when it launched its cloud offering ten years ago.

But look where we are today. Sure, AWS is a behemoth with an annual run rate over $10 Billion. On the other hand, the promise of a simple and easy to use utility has been replaced by a wild garden of over sixty products and services. A growing number of firms are lining up to be AWS Certified MSP’s (Managed Service Providers) just to help you navigate this thicket. And AWS’s competitors, Microsoft and Google, are proliferating their offerings as well, as they chase the market leader. What happened? Amazon will tell you that they are just responding to the needs customers are sharing with them. And while true, let’s look deeper.

Consider our power utility analogy. All power in a household comes out of standard outlets in standard voltages and amperages. What we often don’t think about is how we turn that power into useful work for us. I am writing this on a computer where it stepped the voltage down to the low levels needed to process information through Integrated Circuits and memory drives.

I had toast this morning created by a toaster that took the full power and turned it into heat. The vacuum cleaner used a different amount to turn it into mechanical work. Think of your appliances as applications that take the raw standard electrical power and create some useful outcome for you. The key is that they manipulate that power – raising it up or down – to produce the needed outcomes.


That’s not the way it quite works in computing. Applications need different amounts of resources depending upon what they are designed to do in order to function well. We are used to the applications we all run on our personal computers and mobile devices. These were all designed to run on those standard platforms. Even today we can see that some run better than others depending on the machine you have. Some of the newer applications won’t even run on old machines or run so slow as to not be practical to use.

Imagine the difference between running the applications for a retail website, versus processing checks for payroll, versus analyzing a piece of the human genome. These are very different tasks needing very different levels of capability to be effective. So, was the cloud’s promise of computing being an easy to use utility a bogus come-on designed to draw in the unsuspecting? Not really, it was more of an imperfect analogy. (Aren’t they all?).

In the “early days” of cloud computing developers were used to needing to consider the concepts of servers, memory, storage, etc. When AWS started, it packaged its offerings in this familiar way. This means the developer had to be knowledgeable about the processing speed and capacity needed for the application to run well. Lots of different applications mean lots of different sizes and combinations – that’s how we got the unruly garden.

But what if that was not necessary? What if the machines were “smart” enough to know what the application needed? (I know, this takes a little time to get used to.) That’s where AWS Lambda comes in. The application is written to the Lambda Service – you do not specify any infrastructure – and then is activated by a triggering event. The event can be almost anything but let’s say, someone want to place an order on your site. The Lambda service then turns on the right resources, executes the application and you are billed only for as long as it took to execute your application. Billing is $0.00001667 for every GB-second used – Voila! – A true utility.

Microsoft and Google have responded and launched their own services in what is being called “serverless computing”. Although almost two years old, we are in the early days. While almost all customers use the original standard AWS offerings, only about 17% have used Lambda. But could it be, are we entering the Promised Land?

By John Pientka

(Originally published September 1st, 2016. You can periodically read John’s syndicated articles here on CloudTweaks. Contact us for more information on our programs)

Connecting Big Data and IoT

Connecting Big Data and IoT

Data Connection

Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are two of the most discussed tech topics of late, and the progress of each eggs the other on; as the increasing amount of information collected due to an expanding range of IoT devices bulks up Big Data stores, so Big Data and Big Data analytics influences the designs and developments of new IoT sensors and mechanisms. Often working hand in hand, IoT and Big Data are changing our lives in big and small ways across a variety of sectors from healthcare management, to education approaches, to marketing and advertising.

The Elementary Connection

IoT, a quickly expanding compilation of internet-connected sensors, involves the multiple measurements obtained by device sensors which track our daily lives. These measurements are the Big Data so coveted today, large amounts of both structured and unstructured information typically obtained in real-time. It is important, however, to recognise that not all Big Data holds equal value and the tools used to process it play a significant role in the final value. To get the best out of IoT and the Big Data it collects, organizations struggle to access high-value and relevant data that is current, reflecting an adequately-sized information footprint, and able to provide necessary insights through analysis. This is easier said than done, and so far much of the data we collect isn’t able to give us considerable value.

What a Lot We’ve Got


Gartner predicted 6.4 billion connected ‘things’ would be in use in 2016, and expects this number to reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, Gartner contends, 5.5 million new things will be connected each day. With the cost of sensor technology steadily decreasing, as well as developments in low-power hardware and spreading wireless connectivity, it’s no wonder we’re seeing such an explosion of IoT devices. On the other hand, there was really no shortage of Big Data before IoT technology became popular, and analysts predicted in 2012 that we’d see our digital universe, the digital data created, replicated, and consumed in one year, doubling every two years to reach 40 zettabytes by 2020. This enormous number has since been revised by some to approximately 10% higher than the original prediction. An even more astounding prediction came from Cisco, estimating that data generated from Internet of Everything devices (including people-to-people, machine-to-people, and machine-to-machine connections) would hit 403 zettabytes by 2018.

Big Data & IoT Disruptions

Such enormous quantities easily leave one feeling overwhelmed, and though it’s fairly obvious that Big Data and IoT will be disrupting our landscape, it’s almost too much to comprehend. Luckily for us, some brilliant data scientists and developers have simplified the processes for us and by implementing effective tools we’re seeing the positive outcomes in improved global visibility, more efficient and intelligent operations, and improved market agility and business systems through real-time information and insight.

The realm of influence of Big Data and IoT is already large, but to effectively meet expectations a few challenges will have to be dealt with. Standardisation is one area with no clear solution as the increasing number of devices comes with a growth in the applications and programs required to operate devices and analyse collected data; most IoT devices don’t work together, and their manufacturers are hesitant to join forces with competitors. Furthermore, we’re still waiting for a single framework which allows devices and applications to securely exchange data. Suggests OneM2M, “The emerging need for interoperability across different industries and applications has necessitated a move away from an industry-specific approach to one that involves a common platform bringing together connected cars, healthcare, smart meters, emergency services, local authority services and the many other stakeholders in the ecosystem.” Further barriers include concerns for privacy and security of data, as well as relevant skill sets and practical analytics tools.

The Big Data and IoT connection continues to grow and develop, and though not yet delivering everything we’re hoping for, it’s possible to see just how influential these two spheres will be in our future lives.

By Jennifer Klostermann

VMworld 2016: A Lookup At The Hybrid Clouds

VMworld 2016: A Lookup At The Hybrid Clouds

VMworld 2016

Monday 8/29 – The first full day of VMworld had v-expert’s Twitter feeds buzzing over the announcement of VMware’s Cross-Cloud Services during the keynote presentation given by CEO Pat Gelsinger. VMware NSX network virtualization platform is an SaaS enabling integrated management across multiple clouds and devices through one operating system— VMware Cloud Foundation.

The new set of services, including Cross-Cloud Architecture, vCloud, vCloud Air Hybrid Cloud Management, and more, uses NXS to give organizations who already function over multiple cloud environments the advantage to centralize their management and achieve greater security.

The future of Hybrid Cloud Networking and Cross-Cloud Architecture is going to change the world of business in the clouds forever.

IBM and VMware unveil a plan to expand the partnership. IBM Cloud is the first to make VMware Cloud Foundation available customers around the globe.

Tuesday 8/30 – It’s like having a teenager that you love…AND like,” was Tweeted as ‘quote of the day’. Pat Gelsinger was referring to VMware Cross-Cloud Architecture.

Living up to its press release statement that, “[the architecture] enables consistent deployment models, security policies, visibility, and governance for all applications, running on-premises and off, regardless of the underlying cloud, hardware platform or hypervisor,” VMworld attendees got to experience the technology directly through hands-on labs and many booth demonstrations.

SDDC management finds a new realm of IT and crazy agility by implementing the new vRealize suite. Attendants of the conference were impressed by the advantages of the coupling of ExtraHop, provider in real-time data analytics for IT intelligence, and VMware. ExtraHop was a proud vendor at the conference, and gained social media attention with its dynamic presentation on how the marriage with VMware with revolutionize automated traffic visibility.

Wednesday 8/31 – Big bash VMworld Customer Appreciation Party was loaded with fun, food, and race cars. The party got rolling big time at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Full pass holders were treated to pace car rides, virtual racing games, and a high-octane live concert, and more.

But the day leading up to the party was filled with more cloud news and revelations in hybrid cloud networking and collaborations to adapt SDDCs in the future with expanded network virtualization. The main focus points of conference presentations drove home the importance of security and IT concerns and adapting data centers.

The biggest buzz on social media remains Michael Dell’s day-one declaration, referring to the acquisition of EMC in early September, “you will see a whole new series of engineered solutions we [VMware, Dell and EMC] have been working on together.”

It remains to be seen exactly what Dell was insinuating, but VMware CEO hinted that it might mean expansion in the Indian markets.

Winding Down

Following an eventful week VMworld comes to its final day, and given last night’s Customer Appreciation bash there are probably quite a few conference attendees suffering the aftermath (at least a little). But that doesn’t mean VMworld 2016 won’t end on a high note. There is still plenty going on and a lot to learn and do—and breaking news isn’t always reserved for the first day… you never know. Many visitors are already thinking about next year’s festivities.

By CJ Callen

Three Ways To Secure The Enterprise Cloud

Three Ways To Secure The Enterprise Cloud

Secure The Enterprise Cloud

Data is moving to the cloud. It is moving quickly and in enormous volumes. As this trend continues, more enterprise data will reside in the cloud and organizations will be faced with the challenge of entrusting even their most sensitive and critical data to a different security environment that comes with using the cloud. Cloud service providers need to take the necessary steps to keep pace with these changes, all while instilling in customers the utmost confidence in the security of their environments. Due to the prevalence and public visibility of hacks and data breaches, confidence in cloud security may not come easily. However, for every apprehension or concern about cloud security, there is a tool or method available to properly secure the cloud and allow customers to enjoy the benefits of cloud computing while maintaining the proper level of security.

While there are many ways to secure the enterprise cloud, this article will highlight some of the most important features used to secure data in the cloud including authentication, authorization and encryption.

Let’s start with authentication. To make sure only authenticated users can log into a cloud service, enterprises should use an authentication mechanism held outside the cloud and in an enterprise datacenter. Many enterprises authenticate users by using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to establish an encrypted connection between their cloud provider service and their existing internal Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) server. Another popular authentication method is to use Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) for Single Sign-On (SSO) that makes it easier for users to log in to multiple systems without remembering multiple passwords. Cloud service providers should also offer ways to integrate user authentication with two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication tools that provide additional layers of enterprise security.

Second, authorizing the functionality a user can access is another way to help secure data in the cloud. After a user is logged in a cloud platform needs to provide rich functionality to authorize user actions. An enterprise cloud platform should also include Role Based Access Control (RBAC) that allows the authorization of users by source IP address, by username or by groups of users. The most advanced cloud platforms allow users to build customized Access Control Lists to build simple or complex authorization rules.

Finally, encryption is an additional level of security that encodes all the data so that only users who have a proper key can read it properly. Users without the key either cannot see the data or it is seen as an unintelligible string of characters. The first way cloud providers use encryption is to secure all data in-flight between client browsers and the cloud provider using Transport Layer Security (TLS), a protocol sometimes referred to by its legacy name SSL. This use of encryption secures all data between the enterprise customer site and the cloud service provider so it cannot be read in transit across the Internet.

In addition to using encryption for data in-flight, many cloud providers can also encrypt data at-rest while stored in a database using technologies like column encryption. Database column encryption, as the name suggests, can encrypt each database column using a unique private encryption key. This usually takes the form of authorizing specific fields to be visible by certain users or users with certain roles. For example, this use of data at-rest encryption could potentially only permit users who have an authorized Human Resources role to see database fields showing employees home addresses and other personal information in an unencrypted format.


For some cloud service providers, there is an additional way to use encryption –encrypting data in the enterprise before it is sent to the cloud service provider. This technique uses a proxy application that resides in the enterprise network and encrypts data with a private key before sending it to the cloud. The data remains encrypted while in-flight and at-rest in the cloud. It is then sent back to the proxy application when requested and decrypted by the proxy. While this approach may seem to have security advantages, it can severely limit the usefulness of the data in the cloud as it is all encrypted and not readable by any cloud services.

While securing the cloud is a complicated, technical process, these main features represent the most foundational parts of properly securing the cloud. With consistent and thorough application of the proper security measures cloud service providers will enable customers to unlock the potential of the cloud.

By Allan Leinwand

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The Conflict Of Net Neutrality And DDoS-Attacks!

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Ending The Great Enterprise Disconnect

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Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

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Four Recurring Revenue Imperatives

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What You Need To Know About Choosing A Cloud Service Provider

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