The trend towards greater state surveillance has become even more obvious since Edward Snowden’s revelations. Governments frequently justify such invasions of their citizens’ privacy as counterterrorism or anti-pedophile measures. In recent weeks, two unmissable examples of state interference have been hurried through including an amendment to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in America and the Investigatory Powers Bill by Theresa May. Both laws permit or legalize massive invasions of privacy. Nobody is questioning the presence of a criminal threat – whatever it may be motivated by. However changes to legislation will weaken the security of many IT products which is already under heavy fire as demonstrated by current events such as the Google hack or attack on Telekom routers in Germany.
Security researchers investigating the Yahoo data breach believe that a failure to use proper encryption is one of the prime reasons behind the hack. If this is right, then many more organizations may be putting customer data at risk. A report by Gemalto and the Ponemon Institute found 92 percent of businesses encrypt just 75 percent or less of their sensitive and confidential data when it is sent via the cloud. The proportion of respondents that encrypt data stored in the cloud is even lower at 40 percent. Worryingly for customers, it is their data that is the most common form of information left unencrypted. This places customer data at considerable risk of being viewed or even harvested by hackers. A simple way of protecting cloud data on its journey from device to cloud storage is to encrypt the whole process using a VPN tunnel.
Mobile banking apps are set to revolutionize how we bank. According to KPMG, the number of mobile banking users globally is forecast to double to 1.8 billion over the next four years. In the UK regulators have announced new rules to let customers access details of their entire finances through a single mobile phone app by 2018. In the US mobile banking industry, technology has yet to overcome fundamental trust issues but the idea is starting to take off among financial services consumers. The banks and financial institutions are working hard to make their mobile apps as secure as possible. User behavior meanwhile has some catching up to do. For example, connections to free and unsecured Wi-Fi are open and vulnerable to fraud. To reduce security risks, it’s a good idea to use a virtual private network (VPN). This is a tried and tested way to secure the connection and encrypt all data transferred between the mobile device and the bank.
At last, influential policymakers are slowly becoming aware of the damages unsecured IoT devices can cause. Recent attacks on high profile targets, exploiting cameras and routers, have attracted a lot of attention. Some of the issues will not likely be solved until manufacturers improve the security of their systems. However, many attack vectors could be eliminated easily with appropriate precautionary measures. Currently, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is drafting a new module to address IoT device security. Although it does not refer to specific manufacturers or technologies, the proposal includes concepts for securing IoT devices so that they cannot be manipulated or accessed without authorization to compromise data and IT security within an organization or to target other organizations.
Bitcoin, the digital currency underpinned by block chain technology, is still in its infancy and users are only just beginning to scratch the surface of its full potential. Even so, things are already heating up for dealers in Bitcoin. This year, the total value of Bitcoin transactions is expected to exceed $92bn – up around 240% from under $27bn in 2015. Bitcoin transactions typically make use of aliases or nicknames to disguise user identities but this does not make them anonymous. However, the combination of a virtual private network (VPN) and Bitcoin can guarantee privacy. The encrypted connection provides a cloak of invisibility for all transactional data and provides complete anonymity for buyers if they want it. This is especially true when purchasing digital goods like software, books, reports, databases and so on.
Once again Internet-connected gadgets, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), are expected to be a gift for retailers this Christmas in helping them towards bumper sales. However, in many ways, the hyperbole surrounding consumer IoT is a mere side-show. According to McKinsey Global Institute, the real value of IoT lies with industry. McKinsey expects factories to be the top market for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), accounting for $3.7 trillion per year by 2025. Presently, IoT technology in general is relatively immature. Issues such as security and manufacturing standards are still the subject of much debate. However, the primary focus of the world’s professional engineering bodies is how to make IIoT more robust. In this respect, Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology has an important part to play by ensuring data traffic is secured at device-level and encrypted at all times.