Daily Tech Digest - March 12, 2021

Hiring developers? Here's how to keep them happy and productive

"Whiteboard coding was another thing that was just totally broken in engineering hiring. Asking people to code on a whiteboard is a different skill set. People don't do it for their day-to-day. It was silly for us to ask people to put code on a whiteboard, but we did it for years!" A better strategy for onboarding developers remotely, Pillar says, is a sort of BYOD policy, whereby hiring managers ask candidates to bring their laptops along to the interview with the understanding that they'll be performing some form of on-the-spot coding while they share their screen with the interviewer. "That's a way more productive way to get an excellent signal about the quality of a developer, because it's actually their environment and you can see them using the tools that they're familiar with," he explains. ... "A meeting is an extremely expensive thing for an engineer. It's way easier, unfortunately, to interrupt an engineer's flow in a remote world with a meeting because their calendar is open, you can just throw it in there and you don't even really think about it. Some software providers now provide analytics tools that will measure how workers' time is spent, some of which include the ability to measure interrupted time – also known as 'friction time'. 

How Security Architecture Is Shaping Up for 2021

Access is often referred to as zero-trust network access, which seems incorrect to me since its application access, which is network access, which is the old traditional VPN piece. But that architecture makes no difference if you’re on or off the network. It uses an access proxy to provide a security and control context, it’ll provide identity components for users and devices. So it gives you this application [information] and then contextual information as applied per session. That’s one architecture — one of the problems, obviously, when you have some of these architectures is that you try and build it, and you’ve got five different vendors, you’re trying to build it from code union and endpoint solution, you to proxy, you need security, you need identity, you need these other contextual engineering management [techniques]. So customers have trouble when they try to build it across maybe five or six vendors. That’s why I think it’s a really important architecture, especially when I think people are gonna be more and more often on the network and backward and forwards, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a zero trust architecture. So that’s one really important component.

IT security strategy: A CISO's 5 essentials

One of the most common cyberattack vectors remains exploiting known vulnerabilities in OS software and applications. To combat these attacks, stay on top of the maintenance level of your hardware and software. Unsupported components should be upgraded or replaced as soon as possible. Conduct vulnerability scans for the full infrastructure monthly, and correct issues as soon as possible. Ensure your scans include third-party products and applications. ... A famous baseball coach once said, “You can observe a lot by just looking.” Make better use of the logs and reports provided by the systems and applications running your business. Delineate baselines and metrics defining security health. A change in activity patterns or metrics may be an early indicator of trouble brewing. Develop, maintain, and test a practical security incident management plan so you will know what to do if faced with a real incident. Composing a secure foundation isn’t easy in the best of times. While these five tips may not be as exciting as hunting for hackers or implementing a sophisticated security incident event management (SIEM) system, they are the building blocks of a strong foundation and offer the best way to move organizations forward safely.

Power Equipment: A New Cybersecurity Frontier

While IoT has been the catalyst for many positive developments, there are challenges with these expanding interconnections. For power management, the ability to connect backup equipment like an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can prove helpful in enabling IT teams to monitor and maintain essential infrastructure more efficiently. However, like any other network-connected devices, they become assets that need to be secured from potential cyber breaches. Though UPS doesn't traditionally come to mind when envisioning ways cybercriminals infiltrate a network, the same could also be said for other inconspicuous devices like HVAC units. Yet, that's exactly what hackers pursued when they were able to gain access to Target's system and steal data on over 40 million credit and debit cards. And consider how hackers were able to penetrate the network of a North American casino utilizing an Internet-connected thermometer inside an aquarium. Finding the vulnerability in a fish tank, of all places, allowed hackers to access the casino's database and ultimately steal private customer data.

How do I select a SOAR solution for my business?

A SOAR solution should enable teams to automate the identification and response process across significant volumes of disparate data streams, so that the prioritisation of threats and vulnerabilities becomes almost seamless, not least far more operationally efficient. If implemented correctly, Security Operations Centres (SOC) can benefit from using SOAR solutions helping them to deal with threats faster and more efficiently. Integrating SOAR with other security tools, such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), can transform SOC teams business and technology outcomes through automation, while also increasing efficiency. Combining forces, organisations can use SOAR to augment the capabilities of SIEM, offering an all-comprehensive solution. SIEMs collect and store data in a useful manner which SOAR can use to automatically investigate and respond to incidents and reduce the need for manual operations. What’s more, in tackling one of the biggest challenges for SOC teams to date, SOAR solutions can help to ingest information, sort, prioritise and combine duplicate alerts to reduce the number of false positives.

Fintech Innovation Done Right: Be A Creator

Fintech can also create entirely new product categories. One mechanism I’ve explored previously are embedded fintech strategies. A financial product can be embedded into other products to change the nature of, availability and engagement model with customers. Companies like Opendoor give customers the ability to make cash offers for homes to make them more competitive. Boost allows companies to launch insurance products and bundle them into a broader offering. Zola bundles loans and mobile repayments with Pay-As-You-Go financing to unlock demand for home solar systems in Africa. Without the built-in financing, the systems would be unaffordable making the loan a core piece of the business model, rather than a feature. Similarly, many boot camps engage in income sharing agreements – rather than charging tuition, the program is repaid through a percentage of future earnings for a set period of time. Finally, players like ZhongAn have created fully automated insurance built into products. For instance, in a partnership with a telephone provider, they can automatically detect a broken screen.

Untangl CEO discusses how Insurtech startups are disrupting finance markets

“There’s no doubt that technology is going to disrupt the insurance sector like it has any other industry,” said Stewart. “But I think insurance has been particularly slow when it comes to modernising, and that’s been highlighted by the rapid shift to the cloud. “The pandemic has been another catalyst in a rethink of operations going forward, but a cultural problem has been present around an industry that’s underinvested in technology, while finding it difficult to innovate in such a risk-averse, high margin landscape.” Stewart went on to explain that companies in the space can often spend up to 18 months making decisions to solve inquiries in response to potential problems, a reflection that he described as “a reflection of how not to do it”. However, while the insurance sector has found innovating quickly with short term projects more difficult than other sectors, the past year has seen areas such as personal lines become more agile and intuitive. “It’s not easy because the industry has experts in their complex fields, who are representing stakeholders with billions in capital behind them, and any mistakes can be financially disastrous,” Stewart added.

The Brain of Security

In fairness security analysts are seeking to make risk-informed decisions, as the human brain does this instinctively. However, they can only do that based on the information they are provided. There are not many security programmes where business context was provided to the analyst to aid in decision making. Recognising this reality, organisations are seeking to quantify their cyber risk to better align security to the business, drive remediation and response activities, support investment decisions and demonstrate return on security investment. Many have already embraced the move to a quantified understanding of risk – only to be let down as current approaches require too much manual data collection, too much training and professional services support, don’t connect this newfound understanding with the ability to take action and fail to meet the need to efficiently and cost-effectively mitigate risk. Organisations need to acknowledge that understanding and quantifying risk is critical to building an effective security programme in this day and age. Solely orchestrating and automating security actions with an intelligence-led approach is not enough.

CIO Agenda for Right Now: Priorities a Year Into the Pandemic

First, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a period of rapid change and challenges for organizations, and that has accelerated technological change. Future conditions will be significantly different from the past and even from the present, according to White. Second, operating models have had to change. Now that the dust has settled, organizations will be using the rest of 2021 to review and consolidate all of the changes that have happened in organizations, White said. Third, the pandemic has raised new business priorities. Work from home has been one of them. But deeper in that trend, the pandemic has disrupted traditional research conducted by business and has raised different priorities for innovators, according to White. Plus, the work-from-home trend will drive significant organizational changes. Remote leadership poses challenges for presence and influence, according to White. Leaders and managers will need to adapt their styles to encompass non-line-of-sight supervision and performance management. Fourth, the CIO role has changed and will continue to change. Technology and the CIO's response to the pandemic, lockdown, and economic downturn, meant that many organizations were able to survive the initial crisis.

OpenAI’s state-of-the-art machine vision AI is fooled by handwritten notes

Researchers from machine learning lab OpenAI have discovered that their state-of-the-art computer vision system can be deceived by tools no more sophisticated than a pen and a pad. As illustrated in the image above, simply writing down the name of an object and sticking it on another can be enough to trick the software into misidentifying what it sees. “We refer to these attacks as typographic attacks,” write OpenAI’s researchers in a blog post. “By exploiting the model’s ability to read text robustly, we find that even photographs of hand-written text can often fool the model.” They note that such attacks are similar to “adversarial images” that can fool commercial machine vision systems, but far simpler to produce. Adversarial images present a real danger for systems that rely on machine vision. Researchers have shown, for example, that they can trick the software in Tesla’s self-driving cars to change lanes without warning simply by placing certain stickers on the road. Such attacks are a serious threat for a variety of AI applications, from the medical to the military.

Quote for the day:

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity." -- Amelia Earhart

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