Daily Tech Digest - July 11, 2021

4 Ways AI Should Be Playing a Role in Your DX Strategy

The real value of AI lies in the data that it is able to process and analyze. “The backbone of AI and ML is data and in order to get real business value out of AI and ML, you need deep and broad data that covers your entire digital experience ecosystem. Once that data is harnessed and correlated, AI and ML can be a game changer for the enterprise with deep, contextual, and automated insight into your digital experience. AI and ML can then be used to proactively identify investments that will provide the most ROI, accelerate time intensive efforts like root cause analysis, and reduce the workload on your IT team by automating repetitive tasks.” Daniel Fallmann, CEO at Mindbreeze, an insight engine provider, shared his thoughts on how AI is used to analyze data to drive business process transformation. “...you can learn if a customer really needs a specific product or service by using AI to review data from the past, such as published press releases, subscriptions, form information on your website, and more,” Fallmann said. Like Malloy, Fallmann reiterates the value of diving deep and consolidating disparate data in order to reap the benefits of holistic views.

Tech Has Advanced Rapidly—And Cybersecurity Needs To Catch Up

Data is any business’s most critical asset. Like the valuable and confidential items in your home, it’s not easily retrieved once it’s in the wrong hands. Ultimately, when it comes to cyberattacks, it will always be a case of not “if” but “when” an SME will suffer a breach or fall foul to an attack. SMEs must focus on understanding their risks, getting the basics right and creating a strong “human firewall” as the foundation of their cybersecurity strategy. Ask yourself: “Am I protecting my employees, my customers and my reputation? Am I protecting my data and assets?” Starting here will help SMEs understand the risks and focus on the basics that will have the biggest impact. This could consist of installing phishing protection and firewalls across all devices, investing in authentication methods or keeping software and anti-malware up to date. Invest in training to ensure all employees have a true understanding of the cybersecurity risks the business faces, including how to identify phishing scams and what the process is on reporting them. Finally, keep security top of mind, and don’t underestimate its importance.

Microsoft Office Users Warned on New Malware-Protection Bypass

“The malware arrives through a phishing email containing a Microsoft Word document as an attachment. When the document is opened and macros are enabled, the Word document, in turn, downloads and opens another password-protected Microsoft Excel document,” researchers wrote. Next, VBA-based instruction embedded in the Word document reads a specially crafted Excel spreadsheet cell to create a macro. That macro populates an additional cell in the same XLS document with an additional VBA macro, which disables Office defenses. “Once the macros are written and ready, the Word document sets the policy in the registry to ‘Disable Excel Macro Warning,’ and invokes the malicious macro function from the Excel file. The Excel file now downloads the Zloader payload. The Zloader payload is then executed using rundll32.exe,” researchers said. Because Microsoft Office automatically disables macros, the attackers attempt to trick recipients of the email to enable them with a message appearing inside the Word document. “This document created in previous version of Microsoft Office Word. To view or edit this document, please click ‘Enable editing’ button on the top bar, and then click ‘Enable content’,” the message reads.

How cybersecurity is getting AI wrong

Unknown unknowns are so prevalent in cyberspace that many service providers preach to their customers to build their security strategy on the assumption that they’ve already been breached. The challenge for AI models emanates from the fact that these unknown unknowns, or blind spots, are seamlessly incorporated into the models’ training datasets and therefore attain a stamp of approval and might not raise any alarms from AI-based security controls. For example, some security vendors combine a slate of user attributes to create a personalized baseline of a user’s behavior and determine the expected permissible deviations from this baseline. The premise is that these vendors can identify an existing norm that should serve as reference point for their security models. However, this assumption might not hold water. For example, an undiscovered malware may already reside in the customer’s system, existing security controls may suffer from coverage gaps, or unsuspecting users may already be suffering from an ongoing account takeover. Errors: It would not be brazen to assume that even staple security-related training datasets are probably laced with inaccuracies and misrepresentations. 

What are the most common cybersecurity challenges SMEs face today?

The ENISA report provides advice for SMEs to successfully cope with cybersecurity challenges, particularly those resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the current crisis, traditional businesses had to resort to technologies such as QR codes or contactless payments they had never used before. Although SMEs have turned to such new technologies to maintain their business, they often failed to increase their security in relation to these new systems. Research and real-life experience show that well prepared organizations deal with cyber incidents in a much more efficient way than those failing to plan or lacking the capabilities they need to address cyber threats correctly. Juhan Lepassaar, EU Agency for Cybersecurity Executive Director said: “SMEs cybersecurity and support is at the forefront of the EU’s cybersecurity strategy for the digital decade and the Agency is fully dedicated to support the SME community in improving their resilience to successfully transform digitally.” In addition to the report, ENISA also publishes the Cybersecurity Guide for SMEs: “12 steps to securing your business”. 

Your dev team lead is not controlling enough

When I first got promoted to team lead I was highly controlling. I literally did most of my team's work for them. I worked seventeen hours a day six days a week to ensure every single task was completed to my exact specification. The people that worked for me were unhappy (some actively disliked me personally) but we got results that the CEO cared about so it went unnoticed. And I was good at managing up, so I actually got promoted for this behavior! I was in my early twenties and motivated by the wrong things (power, money, and, of course, control). I look back on the period with embarrassment and I've actually apologized to many of the people who worked for me back then. ... when I realized micro-management was wrong, I naturally swung the pendulum in the exact opposite direction. I told myself I was hiring smart people and I should leave them alone. I'm good at hiring so it kind of worked. But, again, the people who worked for me suffered -- this time in a way that they noticed much less. Good people actually want feedback! It's not good for their work to go unchallenged because then it's harder to improve. 

Cyber security too often takes back seat in C-Suite

Chief information security officers are studying these threats daily and are in the best position to communicate what they’ve learned to decision makers. But too often, Hamilton said, CISOs have trouble translating their technical findings for board room audiences. While the top executives could often use with a little more training on the ins and outs of technological threats, information security executives also need to do a much better job of reading the room. CISOs must present their information in terms of risk to the bottom line. “Scary Russian cyber buffer overflow SQL injection ... nobody cares,” Hamilton said. ... “It’s more about being able to say something like, ‘we have 1 million records meeting the definition of personally-identifiable information, and we know that they’re worth about $200 apiece if you’ve got to clean up a data breach. That’s $200 million in potential liability. Can I have $50,000 for controls to reduce that risk in half?” While the knee-jerk reaction with cyber security may be to name an organization’s best technical expert the CISO, that can end up backfiring unless that person is willing to sharpen their understanding of the business they’re trying to protect.

The Rise of the ML Engineer

Just fifty years ago, machine learning was a new idea. Today it’s an integral part of society, helping people do everything from driving cars and finding jobs to getting loans and receiving novel medical treatments. When we think about what the next 50 years of ML will look like, it’s impossible to predict. New, unforeseen advancements in everything from chips and infrastructure to data sources and model observability have the power to change the trajectory of the industry almost overnight. That said, we know that the long run is just a collection of short runs, and in the current run, there is an emerging set of tools and capabilities that are becoming standards for nearly every ML initiative. We have written about the 3 most important ML tools: a feature Store, a model store, and an evaluation store. Click here for a deeper dive. Beyond the tools that power ML initiatives, the roles that shape data teams are also rapidly evolving. As we outline in our ML ecosystem whitepaper, the machine learning workflow can be broken into three stages — data preparation, model building, and production and at every step of the process, the skills and requirements are different:

Cloud computing's destiny: operating as a single global computer, enabled by serverless

For all the progress of what's happening on cloud, we have to "get to the point where we get the cloud to work as if it was a single infinitely powerful computer," says Nagpurkar. Right now, there are too many obstacles in the way, she adds. "Think about the simplicity of just working on your laptop. You have a common operating system tools you you're familiar with. And, most importantly, you're spending most of your time working on code. Developing on the cloud is far from that. You have to understand the nuances of all the cloud providers -- there's AWS, Azure, GCP, IBM, and private clouds. You have to provision cloud resources that might take a while to get online. And you have to worry about things like security, compliance, resiliency, scalability, and cost efficiency. It's just a lot of complexity." Proprietary software stacks from different vendors "not only add to all this complexity but they stifle innovation," she says. "Key software abstractions start with the operating system. Linux as the operating system for the data center era unleashed this proliferation of software, including virtualization technologies like containers. That ushered in the cloud era."

'Barely able to keep up': America's cyberwarriors are spread thin by attacks

Cybersecurity professionals can barely keep up despite significant industry growth in recent years — and plenty more money is pouring in. That money is chasing a limited talent pool, with almost a half-million cybersecurity jobs unfilled, according to CyberSeek, a project that tracks the industry and is sponsored by the federal National Institute of Standards and Technology. The government is also on a massive hiring spree, with the Department of Homeland Security racing to fill more than 2,000 cybersecurity jobs. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called it a victory last week that it had recently onboarded almost 300 new employees and offered jobs to 500 more. It’s a problem that some in the cybersecurity industry are hoping to address even in the years to come. The National Cryptologic Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate for the National Security Agency, offers free educational materials to middle schools. The Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas at San Antonio has produced free cybersecurity educational games for students in an effort to inspire young people to consider careers in the industry.

Quote for the day:

"The great leaders have always stage-managed their effects." -- Charles de Gaulle

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