Category Archives: Technology

Is Your Smart TV A Secure TV?

Is Your Smart TV A Secure TV?

Is Your Smart TV a Secure TV?smart-tv-secure

We tend to think of security problems as the exclusive domain of computers and all too often forget about the other devices and gadgets in our homes. Phones, TVs, tablets, hi-fi systems and any other web-connected smart home appliances are all at risk of being compromised by hackers and criminals, often without the owners even being aware of the situation.

New research by Yossi Oren and Angelos Keromytis at the Columbia University Network Security Lab has now claimed that smart and interactive TVs are the most ‘at risk’ group. The ‘Red Button’ attack can be conducted quickly and discreetly from anywhere in the neighbourhood, and could quickly take control of your printer, online accounts and Wi-Fi router to severely disrupt your life.

The report found that any television which uses the new HbbTV standard is vulnerable. With almost all of Europe using the standard and with the US slowly catching up, the problem puts hundreds of millions of people at risk.

Oren and Keromytis claim that a hacker with a $250 1-watt amplifier could cover a 1.4 sq kilometre area. Oren mapped New York City neighbourhoods by population density overlaid with the locations of big digital broadcast antennas. By positioning the retransmission gear at a good height and within line of sight of a tower (for example, on a drone or tall building), a hacker in Queens could deliver malicious content via the Home Shopping Network to a potential audience of 100,000 people. With a more powerful 25-watt amp (about $1,500) the hacker can could cover nearer 35 sq kilometres, taking the reach of the attack into the hundreds of thousands of people.

A few characteristics of the method make it extremely dangerous. Firstly, neither the TV nor its owner would be aware that they are under attack. Secondly, the virus will remain active until the TV is entirely powered off. Finally, the virus is totally anonymous and untraceable because the hackers never present themselves on the internet with a source IP address or DNS server. All this means a person might be completely unaware an attack has happened until long after the event.

What can be done? The most extreme solution would be to completely cut off internet access to all broadcast-delivered HTML content, though this is unlikely to be do-able or practical for most home users. Another solution is monitoring smart TVs as a network. A single smart TV doesn’t know that its signal is being hijacked but the incoming signal data from multiple TV sets in the same area could be monitored to show abnormally high spikes in signal strength or application usage. Something as simple as asking users to confirm the launch of an app could also work.

Broadcasters would have lots of privacy issues to work out before any solution could be chosen however, and whichever method is ultimately selected will face the difficult task of acquiring an industry-wide and government-wide consensus to implement it. Do you use a smart TV? Have you taken any precautionary security measures? Let us know in the comments below.

(Infographic Source: iYogi)

By Daniel Price

Pinup: Pertino Brings Cloud Networks To Small Businesses

Pinup: Pertino Brings Cloud Networks To Small Businesses

Pinup: Pertino Brings Cloud Networks To Small Businesses

Computing hardware is expensive. No matter what type of virtual activities you are involved in, shelling out money for the hardware side of things has always been part of the process of getting things working successfully. Having powerful software is definitely a good thing; however, without the hardware to run it on, it is about as useful as a trapdoor on a lifeboat.

pertino

However, cloud-startup, Pertino, is set to change all of that.

Pertino was first launched in September of 2011 and is located in Los Gatos, CA. Pertino was founded by Craig Elliott, former Apple executive, Scott Hankins, former Director of Engineering at Blue Coat Systems, Andrew Mastracci, Architect and Michael Cartsonis, who has since left for employment with Contrast Security. Pertino has raised close to $30 million, from venture firms like Norwest Venture Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

As Craig Elliott, CEO of Pertino Networks, puts it “The cloud and ‘as-a-service’ delivery models have transformed the IT landscape from a computing, storage and application perspective while, at the same time, the network paradigm has changed little. As a result, networks that once enabled businesses now constrain them when it comes to harnessing the disruptive capabilities and economies of the cloud. Pertino Networks was founded to radically simplify and alter the economics of business networks by bringing them into the cloud era.”

Pertino’s services are geared primarily towards smaller businesses that do not have the resources or manpower to develop and maintain the network they need with a hardware solution. Chief areas where this is seen are:

Connection

Pertino delivers fast, LAN-quality connections between all of the devices in your company. Not only are these connections completely hardware free, they also require no advanced configuration to set up. These connections are also fully equipped with 256-bit encryption, which ensures that all your data stays safe, no matter where it is stored.

Security

In addition to the aforementioned encryption, Pertino also includes several other layers of protection. One example of these layers is authentication at the device and user levels, which safeguards your network from access by unauthorized devices and people.

Optimize

Pertino uses only top-tier data centers, providing the same level of performance whether your employees are local or in another part of the world. Pertino also identifies where the accessing employee is and uses the closest data center to ensure no degradation of performance. Traffic itself is also optimized, which locks data into the shortest and clearest paths to and from the Pertino network.

Manage

Pertino’s cloud management console allows you complete access and control over your entire network, all in one easy-to-use location. No matter what type of activities you need to complete, such as update policies, manage users or just monitor performance, it can easily be performed by using the Pertino interface.

Having the capabilities of a powerful network is an excellent way for a small business to develop and grow their company in as short a time as possible. By using Pertino’s services, your company can enjoy the stellar growth possibilities all companies strive for.

By Joe Pellicone

Cooks And The Cloud

Cooks And The Cloud

Cooks And The Cloud 

Bouillabaisse is a French dish that loosely translates to fish stew. Well-made and it is one of the best dinners you will ever have. Poorly made and you will spend the night wishing you hadn’t stopped by the midnight street Bouillabaisse stand. Bouillabaisse is also a fantastic metaphor for cloud computing. Cloud Bouillabaisse is cloud soup. First off it is market driven (fresh fish = good bouillabaisse) as the cloud is (cost, cost, cost). The time taken in preparation and acquisition can greatly impact the soup you serve (Fish or Cloud). That to me is the key for cloud solutions. The time to prepare the stew is as important as how you serve it. Transitioning that to cloud solutions it’s about planning, preparing and migrating your solutions to their new cloud home.

cloud-cook

So we start with the stock. In this case the first step is the CSP you choose. I met a chef once in Paris who went every day to the fresh market to get the things for his Bouillabaisse. The same isn’t possible for cloud service providers today, someday maybe but not today. We can however evaluate the provider and the overall capacity of that provider to host our solution. Noisy neighbors, like three day old fish don’t often make a good Bouillabaisse.

Do we have the ingredients we need in our pantry?

Our initial assumption is that we have already picked the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) and that providers are able to meet our technology needs (servers and connectivity) as we start our Cloud Bouillabaisse. Frankly the CSP is a broth for our soup – bad broth equals bad soup so choose wisely. Now we carefully prepare everything we are adding. This includes planning the following “ingredients”:
· Security: what does the provider have today, what additional things do we need?

  • Migration: has the CSP done this before? It isn’t bad if they haven’t it just changes how you cook a little. Instead of sampling at various times you now have to sample all the time. More work but again we are aiming for a great stew here.
  • Migration: If the CSP hasn’t done this before go get a partner who has. Or a partner you trust to make sure as you are sampling they are continuing to stir your wonderful Cloud Bouillabaisse.
  • Cost: did we mention it has to be cheaper than the solution we are running in our data centers today? The nature of stew is not always using the best and most tender cuts of fish, simply that you cook them slowly for a long time breaking them down and making them more appetizing. We can’t break down our cloud provider by boiling them for hours, so we have to start off with the shared cost model of cloud reducing our price from day one.

Does the CSP offer the security our solution requires?

This one has been bouncing around cloud solutions for years. “The cloud is not secure.” Reality here is that in fact the cloud can be secure. Bouillabaisse is as much a process as it is a dinner. From making the stock from fish parts to cutting the vegetables it’s as much how you do it as what you do. The stringent nature of FedRAMP and the requirements around monitoring what is happening in a solution end up being game changers. Adding security monitoring to a FedRAMP cleared solution isn’t horribly hard. Expanding the operational framework to include both the monitoring for security and FedRAMP creates a stronger overall solution. However that said it critical when considering cloud solutions that you evaluate the security capabilities and offerings of your CSP carefully. Simply put it isn’t just enough to taste the Bouillabaisse from time to time, we have to make sure no one else can get into our kitchen and ruin it.

Making a fine Bouillabaisse and building a cloud solution have a lot of things in common. While I have yet to end up with Cloud on my shirt during lunch there are many other common components. Pick the right ingredients, make sure your process works and in the end serve the solution with proper garnishment. I think a fine Cloud Pumpernickel would be perfect with my Cloud Bouillabaisse.

By Scott Andersen

The Future Of Cloud Based ERP

The Future Of Cloud Based ERP

What does the future look like for ERP in the cloud? It’s a question that everyone involved in this business asks, given that the general changeover from on-premise systems to cloud computing is currently happening more slowly than many had anticipated. But according to some industry watchers, the pace will continue to pick up, and the expectation is that over the next few years investment in public IT cloud computing services will approach $100 billion, with an annual growth rate of approximately 25 percent. Most of that is due to companies choosing to shift more and more of their core operations to the cloud.

The future of cloud-based ERP resides in a combination of forces: a recognition of the true safety and security of the cloud; the economic and functional practicalities of replacing licensed software such as Microsoft Excel with externally managed and maintained SaaS applications; the appeal of both two-tier and multi-tenancy ERP setups; and the general bandwagon effect.

Organizations such as Gartner, Deloitte, Accenture and others routinely poll their clients, asking them the reasons behind any major reluctance to move to the cloud, and in general CIOs and CFOs respond that the two primary sticking points are a lack of full familiarity as to cloud offerings, and a constant fear of a breach of security.

Jean Gea, Director of Product Marketing at Acumatica states that these are two issues that are relatively easy for ERP and cloud hosting providers such as Acumatica to handle, through increased communication with customers, delivered alongside one simple fact: when a cloud provider’s main stock-in-trade is to provide cloud access, the onus is upon them to ensure security as a fundamental component of doing business.

Further acceptance of cloud-based ERP will continue as improvements in virtualization, combined with the sharing of resources (called multi-tenancy) drives down the cost to ERP vendors of maintaining servers as well as code, savings that can be passed along to the customer. While many companies are still choosing to keep their ERP solutions in-house (on-premise), or have started to export some data across to a cloud as a hybrid/two-tier solution, they see ongoing costs of purchasing and upgrading software as an increasingly unnecessary annoyance.

Further, it is also significant to note that many legacy ERP systems lack the scalability to support ongoing changes in compliance regulation, which has great impact not only in numbers-based industries such as accounting and finance, but also in engineering and manufacturing, where ISO and related certifications standards continue to evolve. Cloud-based SaaS is in a much better position to move with these changes and to pass the change on to the customer inexpensively, while still adhering to any regulations regarding location of stored data.

The bandwagon effect: this is the age of the agile corporation. Companies that rest on plans and procedures that take days, weeks, or months to get started quickly lose out to those who have the mindset and the leadership to react to market demands more quickly and effectively. This is the essence of virtualization. Fewer silos, fewer legacy systems, faster time to market and reduced bureaucracy.

According to Louis Columbus, writing in Forbes and quoting a Gartner study, “SaaS-based manufacturing and distribution software will increase from 22% in 2013 to 45% by 2023. […] The catalyst for much of this growth will be two-tier ERP system adoption.

Another key area of innovation that will drive the future of cloud ERP is in analytics, especially when used in tandem with mobile computers (tablets/smartphones) that allow for instant updates on operations, as well as electronic paperwork and related company news. “This is something that Acumatica does extremely well,” says Gea, “by optimizing ERP for mobile and touch-based computers, our clients can be on one side of the globe and oversee essential resource management priorities with ease and confidence.” She adds, “As people shake off the mindset that to be in serious business you have to have hard, heavy machines in your own dedicated rooms, and replace that with the freedom of movement that cloud symbolizes, we will see more and more companies continue to shift more and more of their core operations there. As with any economy of scale, the benefits continue to increase as the collective participant group expands.”

Additional information about Acumatica’s cloud ERP services including demos and pricing are available at www.acumatica.com.

Post Sponsored By Acumatica

By Steve Prentice

Pinup: Skyhigh – Finding And Managing Your Employees’ Cloud Services

Pinup: Skyhigh – Finding And Managing Your Employees’ Cloud Services

Pinup: Skyhigh – Finding And Managing Your Employees’ Cloud Servicesskyhigh

It would be difficult to argue with the contention that cloud services have truly revolutionized the way we do business and handle information. The capability to access, change and share information, regardless of where you may be, is one of the best ways to grow a business in today’s interconnected world.

There is, unfortunately, a negative side effect of the extreme proliferation of cloud services. With so many different cloud apps and software available, your employees may begin to use an unsecured program, which could put your company’s vital data at risk.

This area is where cloud-startup, Skyhigh, truly reigns supreme.

Originally founded in 2011, by former Hewlett-Packard general manager Rajiv Gupta, Skyhigh is designed to identify which cloud services your employees are using, regardless of which computing device they are using it from, or where they may be. Skyhigh has received over $20 million in series-B funding from venture-capital firm, Sequoia Capital.

As Rajiv Gupta, CEO of Skyhigh Networks, puts it, “We provide real data around cloud usage, adoption of enterprise-ready services, the category of services demanded by employees, as well as malware and other vulnerabilities from these cloud services. It’s this type of data and analysis that CIOs use to maximize the value of cloud services and help drive an organized, productive, and safe movement to the cloud.

Skyhigh’s services cover many different areas and functions. Most notable of these are:

Discover

Skyhigh is extremely effective at identifying which cloud services your employees are using on their computing devices. Skyhigh identifies unrecognized services that may have slipped by your firewall or proxy server. Skyhigh can also actually reduce the time spent authorizing new cloud services by up to 90 percent!

Analyze

Skyhigh will identify which cloud services are most used by your employees, allowing you to approve those compatible with your security as quickly as possible. In addition, activity that may indicate a breach of security is analyzed, which allows you to respond to potential problems as quickly as possible.

Secure

Given that unencrypted data is an attractive target for would-be thieves, Skyhigh’s ability to encrypt data is most welcome. Skyhigh can encrypt data directly in the cloud, as well as allow you full control over the encryption keys. These actions combined form a powerful defense against exposure to potential security breaches.

Conclusion

With so many cloud services available free for anyone to use, the potential for security risks from unsecured apps and services increases by an order of magnitude. Skyhigh expertly addresses these issues and provides exceptional solutions, which will effectively shield your network from potential incursions.

By Joe Pellicone

Cloud Computing At Its Best: Multi-Tenant Database Architecture

Cloud Computing At Its Best: Multi-Tenant Database Architecture

Cloud Computing At Its Best: Multi-Tenant Database Architecture

Software as a Service (SaaS) denotes a novel and innovative paradigm, and the fact that companies do not have to purchase and maintain their own Information Technology (ICT) infrastructure; instead services from third party are acquired. Multi-tenancy permits SaaS providers to provide similar service to various customers (tenants), which share physical and/or virtual resources transparently.

Multi-tenancy database architecture essentially forms a design in which a single instance of the software is run on the service provider’s infrastructure, and multiple tenants access the same instance. Simply put “A multi-tenant application lets customers (tenants) share the same hardware resources, by offering them one shared application and database instance, while allowing them to configure the application to fit their needs as if it runs on a dedicated environment”.

One of the most conspicuous features of Multi-tenant architecture is that allows for consolidating multiple businesses onto the same operational platform or system. Multi-tenancy invariably takes place at the database layer of a service. As an analogy, think of a rental apartment building with numerous tenants, each having its own requirement of storage, space, and utilities.

data-tech

Easier application deployment for service providers, improved rate of hardware utilization, and reduction in overall costs especially for SMEs are core benefits of Multi-tenant model.

Multi-tenancy was in fact pioneered by salesforce.com. In traditional single-tenant software development, tenants usually have their own virtual server. This set-up is similar to the traditional Application Service Provider (ASP) model. However, in the SME segment, for instance, server utilization in such a model is low. By placing several tenants on the same server, the server utilization can be improved.

There are three different kinds of Multi-tenant models that exist in database applications today are as follows:

  1. Separate application, separate database, and infrastructure (Isolated Tenancy)
  2. Separate application, separate database, shared infrastructure (Infrastructure Tenancy)
  3. Shared application separate database, shared infrastructure (Application Tenancy)

Shared application, shared database, shared infrastructure (Shared Tenancy) is perhaps the ‘purest’ form of Multi-tenancy environment. The above figure illustrates various Multi-tenant approaches as a continuum paradigm. The far left (Isolated Tenancy) depicts each tenant with its own application instance running and as we move further towards the right, sharing of tenancy increases, ultimately reaching the far right side (Shared Tenancy).

From the functionality point of view, the multi-tenant system have limited modifications to the software, because multiple customers are running the same instance of the software and their data is being placed in a pre-configured database format. Multi-tenant SaaS providers generally do a very good job of anticipating the needs of current and prospective customers and the standardized functionality that is often needed by a company.

Due to the low number of instances, multi-tenancy sounds like a maintenance dream. Deployment of software updates becomes much easier and cheaper, due to the fact that a much smaller number of instances has to be updated. However, the complexity of the code does increase, that may possibly lead to maintenance issues. As cloud computing technology continues to grow and mature, further research related to reviewing real world cloud implementations, challenges, benefits, and lessons learned will benefit organizations that are currently considering or planning a SaaS based implementation.

By Syed Raza

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Pinup: ClearDATA Brings Quality Services For Health Care To The Cloud

Pinup: ClearDATA Brings Quality Services For Health Care To The Cloud

Pinup: ClearDATA Brings Quality Services For Health Care To the Cloud 

clear-DATA-logo

Technology has gone to great lengths to open up the door for new and exciting devices and software of all types and functions. One of the areas that technology has made the most impact is healthcare, with different devices and information resulting directly from tech advances saving lives each and every day.

However, one of the areas that has been neglected up to this point is a service that provides not only effective cloud solutions for healthcare providers, but also one that complies with the different strictures laid down by HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

In this area, ClearDATA truly appears to be at the top of the pile.

ClearDATA is a cloud-computing startup whose primary goal is to move medical information and applications to the cloud, which would allow users to access it over a private and secure internet connection. ClearDATA has raised over $14 million in series-B funding from firms, Norwest Venture Partners and Excel Venture Management.

“The IT demands on healthcare organizations are greater than ever, and they will continue to grow as Big Data and analytics take hold in the industry,” says Chris Bowen, CPO of ClearDATA. “ClearDATA is addressing major issues in the healthcare industry by improving the manageability and accessibility of patient information. Organizations can now analyze vast amounts of data from multiple sources, resulting in an improvement in patient health.”

HIPAA Compliant Cloud Hosting

ClearDATA is the only provider of cloud hosting that is 100 percent dedicated to the healthcare industry. This hosting covers a wide variety of different areas, including applications, infrastructure, servers and data storage, to name a few.

All hosting is HIPAA compliant, shielding patients from unauthorized access. ClearDATA’s service offers a guaranteed 100-percent uptime, 24/7 systems and network monitoring and end-to-end security, all of which will provide excellent protection, without sacrificing speed and quality.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

Storage and access are not the only services provided by ClearDATA. Protection of said data from loss or breach is just as important as having a place to store it. ClearDATA provides both Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO), both of which can be customized to fit your needs perfectly.

Without a clear cloud solution, such as what is found with ClearDATA, the healthcare industry would be unable to take advantage of all the positive aspects of this type of access. ClearDATA aims to provide these services, to any healthcare company, regardless of size.

By Joe Pellicone

Why Reliable Cloud Performance Matters

Why Reliable Cloud Performance Matters

Why Reliable Cloud Performance Matters

People are right to be wary of any vendor claiming to be the “top performing!” or “fastest!” cloud provider. Most folks know that ANYTHING can look spectacular – or unspectacular for that matter – if you stack the deck just right. But at the same time, cloud shoppers have a deep hunger for legitimate information on realistic performance expectations. Cloud performance has a direct impact on what you spend on compute resources, how you decide the right host for your workload, and how you choose to scale when the need arises. In this blog post, we’ll summarize some recent findings and put them in context.

With the launch of our new Hyperscale instances, we at CenturyLink Technology Solutions approached an independent analytics company, CloudHarmony, and asked them to conduct an extended performance test that compared CenturyLink Cloud Hyperscale servers to the very best equivalent servers offered by AWS and Rackspace. CloudHarmony is a well-respected shop that collects data from dozens of benchmarks and shares the results publicly for anyone to dissect. After running a variety of benchmarks over a long period of time (to ensure that the test gave an accurate look over an extended window), they shared their findings with the world.

The results were positive – as we’ll talk through below – but how do reliable performance metrics help you in your cloud journey?

More Bang for the Buck

In an ideal world, you want reliable performance at a fair market price and no hidden charges. In the CloudHarmony results, we saw that our Hyperscale SSD storage provided excellent disk read performance and strong disk write performance through a variety of tests. In the results below – run against AWS c3 servers and Rackspace Performance servers – you can see that Hyperscale has a fantastic IO profile for large block sizes.

Disk Read Performance

2014-05-14hyperscale-01

2014-05-14hyperscale-02

Why does this matter? Consider databases running on Microsoft SQL Server that often works with 64k blocks. By running this workload on Hyperscale, you get persistent storage, high performance, and no charges for IO requests or provisioned IOPS. This results in predictable costs and fewer resources needed to achieve optimal performance.

Simplified Decision Making

Choice is great, but is also a paradox. When you’re faced with dozens of server types to choose from, you find yourself selecting a “best fit” that may compromise in one area (“too much RAM!”) in order to get another (“need 8 CPUs”). In CenturyLink Cloud, we have two classes of servers (Standard and Hyperscale) and both have shown to have reliable performance. Pick whatever amount of CPU or memory that makes sense – which is of course how traditional servers have always been purchased.

2014-05-14hyperscale-03

Choose Your Own VM Size

If built-in data redundancy doesn’t matter, but reliable, high performance does, choose Hyperscale. Need strong, consistent performance but want daily storage snapshots and a SAN backbone? Use Standard servers. Straightforward choices means that you spend less time navigating a gauntlet of server types and more time deploying killer applications.

Predictable Performance & Scaling

Valid performance testing results can help you understand how best to scale an application. Should I add more capacity to this VM, or does it make sense to add more VMs to the environment? That’s a hard question to answer without understanding how the platform reacts to capacity changes. The CloudHarmony results not only showed that the CenturyLink Cloud Hyperscale CPU performed better than the others in the “Performance Summary Metric” that compared cloud servers to a bare metal reference system, but also showed that performance improved as CPU cores were added. That’s obviously not shocking, but it’s good to see that performance change was relatively linear.

2014-05-14hyperscale-04

CPU Performance

How does this information help you maximize your cloud portfolio? If you know that you can add resources to a running VM *before* scaling out to new hardware, that can simplify your infrastructure and lower your costs. Scaling out is fantastic cloud pattern, but it doesn’t always have to be the first response. You can trust that Hyperscale scales out *and* up well, and you can plan your scaling events accordingly.

Summary

Performance metrics are only a snapshot in time. The individual results may change from month to month or year to year, but a reliable performance profile means that you can minimize costs, make decisions faster, and make predictable choices.

Want to read this CloudHarmony report in full? Click here to download a copy. You can also price out a Hyperscale server for yourself, and sign up to take the platform for a spin!

By Richard Seroter

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7 Common Cloud Security Missteps

7 Common Cloud Security Missteps

Cloud Security Missteps Cloud computing remains shrouded in mystery for the average American. The most common sentiment is, “It’s not secure.” Few realize how many cloud applications they access every day: Facebook, Gmail, Uber, Evernote, Venmo, and the list goes on and on… People flock to cloud services for convenient solutions to everyday tasks. They…