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Updated: 11 hours 14 min ago

Mobile apps lead to new security measures

Wed, 2014-02-19 01:50

The past couple of years have brought considerable investment in telecommunication technologies and remote access applications. Being able to work from home when hazardous weather doesn't permit travel gives both private enterprises and public organizations the benefit of delivering service to customers and constituents. Privacy concerns have accompanied this convenience, driving interest in mobile device management software capable of preventing cyberattacks. 

Although employees still operate through PCs, in 2013, mobile phones overtook PCs as the most common Web access device globally, Talkin' Cloud Magazine reported. The article also stated that the ability for employees to access corporate information remotely, at whatever time is most convenient for them, has enabled them to make more educated decisions. Despite this increased flexibility, companies are still wary of security risks. Remote database monitoring systems are able to monitor on-premise data centers, and now software vendors are looking to extend their reach. 

"Some employees are sensitive to allowing IT access to their personal mobile devices because they fear the "Big Brother is Watching" syndrome, especially in light of Edward Snowden's recent revelations about the National Security Agency," the article noted. 

This paranoia, combined with the enduring usage of remote instruments, has led companies to heavily invest in mobile device management capabilities. 

Mergers and acquisitions 
The call is being answered by businesses such as Oracle, a company well known for its database management system. According to FierceMobileIT, the software company acquired Bitzer Mobile, a business specializing in mobile application solutions, last November. Suhas Uliyar, Vice President of mobile strategy product management at Oracle, told the magazine that it has since released a couple of products geared towards improving remote access and security. 

  • Fusion enables companies to manufacture and run business applications while synthesizing with hardware and software infrastructures. 
  • Identity Manager supplies a single sign-on tool capable of extending an enterprise's web applications to mobile devices. 

The company also constructed a new package called Mobile Suite, which integrates mobile applications from the business-to-employee end to the business-to-consumer front. Uliyar claimed that the two greatest challenges of delivering the service were running the application across multiple operating systems and managing access to content that is going to be given to employees bringing their own devices. 

The flexibility and business optimization offered through mobile tools can't come without basic security measures. It is no longer appropriate for surveillance to be conducted once or twice a day, but constantly deployed through an application 24/7. 

Mobile device management strategies must prioritize security

Mon, 2014-02-17 12:13

Since mobile technology first came on the scene as a business tool years ago, thought leaders across industries have been extolling the virtues of its capabilities. Businesses were rightfully excited about the possibilities that this highly agile platform could bring to the table, allowing workers to email on the go and remain an active participant in company operations regardless of geographical location. Of course, mobile has come a long way since its origins with antennae-laden cell phones and greyscale personal organizers, but there are still a few concerns that are keeping it back from reaching its full potential.

Integration and compatibility setbacks are still a factor
As the features of mobile technology have advanced rapidly in the past decade, business leaders have enjoyed the many benefits of smartphone and tablet applications to enhance productivity and collaboration across departments and with customers. Yet because the Web was such an early addition in the larger timeline of the platform, more businesses are finding that integration, compatibility and security methods are having trouble keeping up with a IT environment so reliant on interconnectedness. 

A recent report from Network World highlighted an Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) study revealing that mobile technology is still dealing with some growing pains in terms of its integration with enterprise operations as a whole. Furthermore, not nearly enough organizations have created a clearly delineated strategy for implementing mobile in a strategic way, opting instead for loose bring-your-own-device policies that allow for disjointed application use and open networks up to a host of security vulnerabilities. The survey, which analyzed responses from a wide array of industry leaders, showed that less than half of responding companies had taken the time to create a sound mobile device management (MDM) plan that works to mitigate these problems.

Other IT security concerns play into MDM
​According to research from ESG, industry leaders agree for the most part on which concerns should be prioritized when it comes to businesses creating an MDM solution for their networks. The opinions reflected in the survey show that the current methodology still needs a bit of work before it can make a serious impact on the way today's companies operate. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that MDM is difficult to integrate with other security technologies, while 35 percent claimed they had experienced scalability problems with MDM as far as supporting a large number of mobile devices. While the technology is still growing up, it will not likely be going anywhere in the near future.

Are mobile devices holding security measures back?

Wed, 2014-02-12 07:35

There is no denying the great range of benefits that a business can reap from implementing mobile devices into its strategies, but without a dedicated security plan to accompany the decision it can be extremely risky, especially for firms that handle a lot of personal financial information. With data breaches occurring more frequently year after year, IT leaders need to be extra cautious when proceeding with mobile integration and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) or potentially suffer the consequences of a cyberattack that could compromise company secrets and customer data or harm internal network processes.

Experts point to mobile one of many IT security concerns
Businesses that pride themselves on protecting their networks to ensure the safety of their data often forget that mobile implementation is an equally important part of any sound security strategy. Indeed, database quality and corollary protection measures are essential to safeguarding company information within the walls of a business network, but sloppy mobile integration policies can create vulnerabilities that IT departments may not anticipate – especially if customers are constantly using their smartphones to make transactions and receive support from a company. 

Industry leaders are gradually smartening up to the idea that mobile security needs to be prioritized in this day and age, according to CyberEdge Group's 2014 Cyberthreat Defense Report. Surveying 750 security experts and innovators, the study reported that 60 percent of respondents suffered a cyberattack in 2013, a large portion of whom cited a lack of security expenditure as the main factor. Mobile devices were given the lowest rating, 2.77 out of five, when participants were asked to rate their organizations' ability to defend against attacks through nine different domains, including laptops and social media platforms. 

Federal agencies at risk as well
Private enterprise is not the only sector finding itself vulnerable to a host of growing IT security concerns – government organizations using mobile devices also run the risk of a data breach every time they fail to adequately assess their policies. A recently released report entitled "Mobilometer Tracker: Mobility, Security, and the Pressure In Between" from Cisco revealed that six percent of government employees who use their smartphones at work admitted to having lost their devices at some point or other – this adds up to over 3,500 chances for a malicious attack to occur. If an organization plans to let its workers use mobile devices on the job, they had better be prepared with the necessary protection.

C-suite executives must collaborate to handle IT security concerns

Wed, 2014-02-12 07:27

While IT departments are often exclusively given the burden of handling database quality measures, maintaining a consistently effective network security strategy is the responsibility of everyone within an organization, especially those in executive positions. Not only are these individuals calling the shots when it comes to devising and implementing these plans, but they need to recognize their influence as role models in the corporate structure. In other words, employees are less likely to follow security protocols if upper-level management is shirking their obligations to adhere to those same policies. With the recent spike in data breaches and other high-profile cyberattacks on retail and financial firms worldwide, there is no better time for the C-suite to get themselves in line with best security practices. 

Communication across departments is key
Department siloing is a corporate epidemic that is preventing executives and workers alike from effective communicating with others in their firm, thereby reducing collaborative opportunities, minimizing accountability and decreasing the likelihood that interdepartmental innovations will occur. In a day and age that offers the technology and mobility to successfully open channels of communication between these imaginary walls, this is a massive oversight that executives must work to eliminate, especially if they notice that a lack of correspondence is limiting their firm's ability to perform. An active exchange of information and ideas to improve security strategies needs to become a habit for any company looking to stay ahead of the curve with respect to the evolving threat matrix of today's digital world. 

Understanding the role of security
This concept is perhaps most applicable to network security given its role in the protection of data that spans across departments. Leaders in each section must stay communicative and open about their security practices and actively work together in an effort to counteract any weaknesses that may arise. A recent article from Dark Reading highlighted the importance of this practice by exploring the findings of a recent panel in Tyson's Corner, VA entitled "What Every CFO Must Know About Cyber Threats and Security." 

"In some ways, security is IT's revenge on the finance department – they say, 'You don't understand what we do, so we'll spend your money however we like," Kevin Mandia, CEO of security forensics firm Mandiant reportedly stated at the panel. "As a CFO, you need to understand something about the security issue." 

With respect to proper budgeting and efficient security expenditure, a lack of communication could spell doom for companies that don't care to understand how other departments approach the process.

What You Need to Get the Most from Your Big Data Platform: Part 1

Tue, 2014-02-11 11:34

Here at RDX, I’ve been focused on the Big Data/NoSQL sphere, as we have recently begun offering Hadoop solutions to our clients. I wanted to take a few moments to highlight some of the skills useful for integrating Big Data solutions – they may not be what you expect!

I’m going to take a look from 3 different perspectives – Systems Administration, Software Development, and Leadership – and we’ll take a look at each category as one part in a 3-part series. Since I work with Hadoop, the content will be tilted in that direction. However, if you use MongoDB, Cassandra, or another platform, a lot of this still holds true.

Systems Administration

The task of incorporating a new platform usually makes everyone in IT sigh, moan, cringe, or whatever their favorite affectation is. With a good understanding of what you might need from your systems administrators, adding a Big Data/NoSQL component into your environment is easier. The most important skills to have as a Big Data systems administrator are networking, machine environment configuration, and role management. You won’t benefit as much from deep knowledge of centralized storage or virtualization. This is not to say those skills have no value in the world of Big Data, but they don’t come into play as often for reasons I’ll explain shortly. Of course, there are cloud platforms that let you do an end-run around the problem, but that’s a topic for another time…

Networking – It can get complex.

You have computers and you need them connected to one another. You get a nice switch and plug everything in – move along, nothing to see here, right? When it comes to your Big Data stack, it’s not that simple. You’re going to need a good understanding of advanced network topologies and bandwidth aggregation. A Hadoop cluster, for example, needs connections between every node. While you can run a small cluster in a traditional tree configuration, the distribution switch can become oversubscribed, which means you’re not going to see the terabyte-chomping performance that got your attention in the first place. In a larger cluster, cross-connected switches and aggregation tiers come into play, and things get complicated.

Machine Configuration – Consistency is crucial.

A distributed platform depends on needed binary libraries and configuration files being in the correct location across all nodes, with a few exceptions for special-purpose nodes. Unmanaged upgrades can cause pathing issues, leading to unusable nodes or failed jobs. Planning and maintaining a consistent logical structure will ease the burden of managing a cluster. Additionally, a knowledge of tools like Puppet or Chef can speed up deploying tens or hundreds of nodes at a time, should you need to expand your cluster.

Role Management – Layers upon layers.

One of the challenges in the Big Data realm right now is fine-grained security. Turns out, things get complicated when you have an end user passing a message to an application that hands it to a node manager that hands it to 25 nodes, that all hand it back directly to the user. With a Big Data system, you’re likely dealing with a metasystem above bare metal, with an independent set of roles and access. Sometimes the access is drawn from the roles defined on the hosting hardware, and sometimes it is not. The superuser on one layer may not be so super on another – the root account on my development machine can’t even save anything to my test cluster! Make sure you understand who should get to do what where.

Centralized Storage – But we just bought it!

As parallelism is where most Big Data systems gain a performance advantage, storing everything in a central data silo is not ideal. Even RAID runs counter to the design of a distributed file system. In Hadoop, the whole point is that the job moves to the data, eliminating many of the steps involved in shipping data around at compute time. Understand the storage configuration recommendations – resist the urge to hook Hadoop up to your SAN.

Virtualization – A place for everything, and everything in its place.

For some reason, machine virtualization leads to dogma. In forums and discussions, the topic of virtualizing Hadoop nodes comes up often. Fundamentally, this misses the point of distributed architecture. Contention occurs at several points when many nodes are virtualized over one host. Additionally, the fault tolerance designed into a parallel cluster is gone if half your cluster is virtual and the host has a problem. There are so many potential issues related to this, but I’ll end the topic with this – virtualization is great for testing, but beyond that, your platform should be running on the machines themselves.

Throughout Part 1, we’ve looked at some of the most important skills you or your organization will need to launch and integrate a Big Data platform smoothly when it comes to administrating over the platform. Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for my next installment, covering software development in the Big Data realm. I’m sure there are some people out there who want to discuss what I’ve said – sound off in the comments or reach out to me on Google+! Thanks again!

Fraudulent charges alarm retail shoppers worldwide

Mon, 2014-02-10 10:29

It is no secret that data breaches are one of the greatest IT security concerns in today's digital landscape. Falling victim to a large-scale attack such as the ones sustained this past year by retailers Target and Neiman Marcus can not only be instantly damaging to a company's reputation, but may continue to wreak havoc on an organization that leaves vital customer financial information exposed to malicious parties. CBS MoneyWatch recently explored the prolonged concerns that come with a data breach in a world reliant on the convenience of e-commerce.

A never-ending attack
Once a company realizes it has suffered a cyberattack, the worst of its woes may have just begun. Enterprise and customer data alike can remain at risk long after the initial infiltration has been launched. CBS pointed to Javelin Strategy and Research studies ongoing since 2006 that examined the growing concern about fraudulent activity occurring following a breach. While only 10 percent of stolen information was utilized by cybercriminals three years ago, the chances of falling victim to fraud today have risen to one in three. If compromised data was financial in nature – either a debit or credit card number – there was a 46 percent chance that it would be used maliciously in 2013, according to the source.

The rise of social media and the human tendency to create one password for multiple online accounts were cited by CBS as two of the main reasons why cybercriminal activity is more likely to resemble the spreading of a cancer than an isolated, one-off attack. Because so much personal information is available on the myriad social applications found online, offenders can now easily track down the information required to break through the knowledge-based security systems that have become industry standard for most websites protecting vital user data. Knowing the name of a pet or best friend can be used as ammunition to wage more devastating cyberattacks and can lead to a complete identity takeover for those who are not cautious. 

Undetected malware persists
Cyberthreats today are so dangerously powerful because they are more non-invasive and difficult to detect than the traditional data breach attempts that defined the early stages of the Internet. A recent article from PC World looked into exploitative files that forced Adobe to patch its Flash software in an effort to protect user log-in data. While this threat was successfully neutralized, cybercriminals are constantly evolving their techniques to make the next move. 

Security complications cost US hospitals $1.6B a year

Thu, 2014-02-06 08:21

Security breaches are quickly moving from unwanted possibilities to realities in the health care landscape as organizations continue to struggle when combating next-generation risks. Specifically, security-related incidents, data loss and unexpected outages cost U.S. hospitals approximately $1.6 billion per year, with exposure expenses exceeding $810,000 per incident.

These were some of the findings from a recent MeriTalk and EMC Corporation report, which found that roughly 19 percent of health care organizations have experienced a data breach within the past year. Although a variety of occurrences have contributed to this statistic, including the growing presence of malware, the loss of critical equipment and negligent user error, the fact remains that hospitals need to improve their security stance if they want to keep patient trust high and avoid unnecessary damage caused by failing to achieve compliance.

Fortunately, most decision-makers are aware of the problems they are having and plan to make changes to improve their defensive strategies and resiliency. According to the report, roughly 55 percent of health care organizations intend to improve encryption and general data protection, while 54 percent plan on complying with robust risk analyses required by compliance regulations. Another 44 percent of executives said they will boost breach detection and prevention technologies.

"Health care organizations are making significant IT investments to transform IT infrastructure and ensure that patient information is secure, protected, and highly available," said Scott Filion, general manager of global health care at EMC Corporation. "Trust has become a board-level business priority."

A separate Health IT Security report highlighted the importance of building a top-down risk approach to improve user awareness and cut down on negligent errors. Advanced training programs can also help employees learn more about the threat landscape and best practices needed to avoid unnecessary challenges.

Health care firms that want to improve their long-term resiliency need to address security challenges, as failing to do so will impair brand and patient trust.

IT leaders get smart about preventive maintenance

Thu, 2014-02-06 07:51

The power, efficiency and life span of a company's data centers each play a big role in determining the overall effectiveness of an IT strategy. From the ground up, businesses need to implement their storage in a way that will give users fast access to information while remaining stable and resistant to network threats. But while IT security concerns have received the spotlight in recent news reports in the wake of the Target and Neiman Marcus data breaches, IT leaders cannot overlook the importance of maintaining company technology assets as a preventive measure against network shut-downs, poor performance and the yearly wear and tear of computer systems. 

Even basic prevention counts
For many IT professionals, preventive maintenance is one of the more straightforward methods of keeping a database functioning at its highest level. Typically, system manuals will include a prescribed list of tasks that need to be addressed on a regular basis to ensure the reliability of the product. While these duties may seem simple, they can be easily overlooked by IT departments trying to focus their efforts on more complex issues that may be plaguing a datacenter. Jeff O'Brien, a product specialist and blogger at Maintenance Assistant Inc, recently gave business leaders reasons why they should never forget preventive maintenance, even if it seems redundant or systems seem to be operating well.

O'Brien explained that taking proactive measures to mitigate datacenter weaknesses is key for avoiding the loss of productivity or vital information that can occur when systems shut down without warning. Even a few hours of database inactivity can cost a company in many ways, not to mention the extra time and money spent on recovering data and repairing any damaged network systems. Closely monitoring database performance and is an important step in predicting problems that might pop up for IT departments because it can help to prioritize preventive maintenance procedures. Included in the article were some of the most commonly performed preventive tasks for datacenter maintenance staff:

- Replace HVAC filters
- Check CRAC temperatures
- Verify oil levels in compressors
- Lubricate moving parts such as bearings
- Verify backup generator is operating correctly
- Inspect fire safety systems

Making the leap to the cloud 
Maintaining databases effectively and regularly can be a constant challenge for any IT department, which is main part of the reason why cloud based computing services are growing in popularity so quickly, according to ZDNet. Businesses will have to weigh their options before changing their database solutions and make the best choice for their requirements.

Securing client credit card data is a top IT security concern

Tue, 2014-02-04 03:45

While the protection of internal data such as employee records, financial information and company secrets has to rank high in companies' lists of IT security concerns, customer credit card numbers have to be prioritized, considering the high-profile breaches that have lately cluttered headlines. Recently, retailers have been especially prone to having their customers' information compromised, as a Reuters report revealed that malicious software known as "ChewBacca" was implemented by a cybercriminal ring, targeting several brands and stealing data from 49,000 payment cards, according to cybersecurity research firm RSA FirstWatch.

Large scale attack victimizes many
The report revealed that small retailers in 11 countries including the United States, Canada, Russia and Australia fell victim to breaches that exposed customer data via malware that preyed on vulnerable point-of-sale systems. After an extensive investigation that tracked the two month attack on retailers around the world, RSA FirstWatch researchers revealed on their website that the illegal operation was shut down only after hackers had stolen financial information from over 24 million customers. While the threat has been neutralized for the time being, the malicious ChewBacca software may be utilized in the future if firms do not take active measures to secure their POS systems.

"The end game is to gain credit card information, so the hackers are going to go wherever it is easiest to get that information," Will Gragido, senior manager with RSA FirstWatch told the news source.

Gragido and his team, the threat research arm of RSA Security and subsidiary of storage conglomerate EMC Corp., informed the FBI of the details surrounding the ChewBacca breach, namely the location of the operation where command-and-control servers were being used by hackers to infect point-of-sale systems. RSA would not reveal any further information about the victims or culprits and the FBI reportedly could not be reached for comment, according to Reuters. 

Point-of-sale systems still at risk
IT departments may have their hands full with optimizing company networks and securing databases, but point-of-sale units still represent a serious vulnerability for retailers that fear malware such as the ChewBacca Trojan, according to PC World. The source was in correspondence with Marco Preuss, director of Kaspersky's Global Research and Analysis Team in Europe, who explained that although the software is not complex or difficult to detect, cybercriminals switched servers regularly which made their operations progressively harder to pinpoint over time.

When is it the Right Time to Use the SSIS Lookup Task?

Mon, 2014-02-03 10:10

I have been working as a DBA for RDX (Remote DBA Experts) for a few years now. At this point in my career, I believe it’s time to start giving back to the SQL community. I have commonly seen many misunderstand how the Lookup task in SSIS actually works. The Lookup task does work as a join method. However, the Lookup task actually is going to pull back only the top matching record from the defined Lookup task in your SSIS package.

When is it the right time to use a Lookup task? The Lookup task is best when dealing with either a one-to-one or many-to-one relationship between tables. Today, I want to give a deep dive into the Lookup task and explain what’s actually happening behind the scenes. To start, we will use the AdventureWorks database that is provided by Microsoft.

Let’s start with two tables, Person.Person and HumanResources.EmployeeDepartmentHistory. I will isolate the records down to one Person to better depict the results. Our first query does a search on the database and filters down to Rob Walters:

Query:

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Results:

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From the image above, we can see that Rob Walters has 1 record in the Person table with a BusinessEntityID of 4. Next, let’s take a look at how many records Rob Walters has in the EmployeeDepartmentHistory table.

Query:

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Results:

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From here, we can see that Rob Walters has two entries where it shows he has been in two different departments over time. Let’s look at every different type of join from the T-SQL aspect of joining the two tables.

Using just a regular join, the results are as follows:

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We get back what we are expecting. GREAT!!!

Just as a quick proof of concept, let’s try all of the common joins used in T-SQL and see what the results bring back:

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Each result set has 2 records. The takeaway here is that joining the two tables results in a one-to-many relationship.

Let’s take a look at it in SSIS using the Lookup task. I will start by using the Person table in which we now know contains only one record. Next, I will look up against the Department History table in which we know has two records.

Our result is one record from the Person table. Additionally, the Lookup only brings back one record from the Department History table.

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The result is one record, and we know that this result cannot be correct. The Lookup task did a one-to-one relationship, but we were expecting a one-to-many relationship.

Now, I will flip the roles of the Lookup and start with the table that has more than one result, Department History. I’ll join it against the table that has one record to which the Lookup needs to relate directly, the Person table.

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Now this looks correct!

The Lookup task can be used to duplicate a join operation in T-SQL; however, it’s important that you understand the underlining table structures. There are tasks out there you can use to join two or more tables with many-to-many relationships. However, in SSIS, the Lookup task should not be used to look at tables that have a one-to-many or many-to-many relationship. The Lookup task, as developed, will only look for one matching records in the defined table of the Lookup task.

Thank you for reading my first RDX blog post. Stay tuned for my next post about the merge join transformation task in the coming weeks!

Industry leaders quiet spying and IT security concerns

Mon, 2014-02-03 03:18

IT departments these days are often just as, if not more, concerned with the security measures taken to protect their company's data than they are optimizing their databases for speed and efficiency. With the increasing complexity and frequency of cyberattacks over the past few years, this pattern is certainly warranted. The consequences of a high-profile breach can not only compromise vital company data and the private information of employees and clients, but also severely damage the reputation of an organization, making it difficult to recover. Government spying is also a concern, and business leaders want to ensure that their operations remain in total privacy.

Subduing client fears
Companies want to know that they are getting the best protection measures available when they sign on to implement a new database for their business operations. Because quality security must be adaptable and able to keep up with the evolving threats of the IT world, leaders often determine the suitability of a database service by its track record. According to CRN, this is the exact approach that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison used to recently convince Cloud World conference-goers in San Francisco that cloud customers had nothing to fear with regard to government spying.

"To the best of our knowledge, an Oracle database hasn't been broken into in a couple of decades, by anybody," Ellison reportedly said. "It's so secure, there are people who complain. If you create an IBM database, you get to see the data," Ellison continued, explaining that Oracle's database does not allow visibility for administrators programming the systems. "You have a bunch of authority but you can't look at the data."

A track record speaks for itself
Ellison continued the conference by recounting Oracle's legacy of security, revealing that one of the company's first clients was the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1970s, according to ADT Mag. The company, then known as Software Development Laboratories, launched the database known as 'Oracle' and took that as its name in 1982. Ellison and his co-founders prided themselves on security from their modest beginnings and have continued to emphasize it through the years, as seen in the 2000s-era 'unbreakable'  database promotional campaigns.

"Mr. Snowden never could have gotten into an Oracle database," Ellison stated, according to ADT Mag.

Oracle clients should feel confident in their database security but remain vigilant in today's uncertain cyber environment.

Database quality is a priority for IT leaders

Thu, 2014-01-30 13:13

Big data is a crucial tool for any business looking to gain insight into the behavior of its customers, the effectiveness of its marketing campaigns and the performance of its employees. That is why it is so important to leverage database management services that ensure the protection, efficiency and power of a company's data. Few things can be more detrimental to business operations than a technical failure that leaves customers and workers unable to access the resources they need, and making database quality a priority is the best way that IT leaders can minimize the chance of these losses. This is not to say that businesses should only be working to maintain the capabilities of their storage solutions. They should also be actively pursuing new ways to optimize their systems to enrich their big data strategies.

Advancements in efficiency
While IT departments are always looking better their database programming to get the most out of their current hardware, storage systems are ultimately limited by the raw power of the servers they rely on. According to MIT News correspondent Helen Knight, storage methods specifically designed to house and access big data are in development with the hope of boosting the speed and efficiency of analytics processing to get users results faster than ever. Sang-Woo Jun, a graduate student in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT explained why current models of storage architecture are becoming outdated.

"Storing data over a network is slow because there is a significant additional time delay in managing data access across multiple machines in both software and hardware," Jun told the news source. "And if the data does not fit in DRAM, you have to go to secondary storage – hard disks, possibly connected over a network – which is very slow indeed." Jun is working alongside other CSAIL grad students and professors to speed up access times for big data storage based on a network of flash-based devices.

Big data matters now more than ever
Improving the speed and accessibility of big data storage methods is at the front of many IT minds, and for good reason. According to eWEEK, the way that companies handle their big data analytics and storage solutions is likely going to determine their success in 2014. With more data accumulating by the minute, high-speed analytics is far more than a passing trend. 

Oracle brings database-as-a-service into the mainstream

Thu, 2014-01-30 04:36

In the world of IT, database efficiency has become more crucial year after year as organizations seek to store, track and analyze massive streams of information to better their operations. Countless options exist for decision-makers who need to address their data concerns with a comprehensive solution, but at the forefront of the industry is Oracle, whose recent release of Database 12c is allowing IT departments to make storage and related applications easier to use and faster than ever. The University of Minnesota is one of many organizations benefiting from the high-performance and intuitive user interface of these solutions, as highlighted in a recent article from Forbes.

A testament to superior efficiency
While many firms are still used to installing, programming and managing their own in-house servers to address their storage needs, Forbes explained that cloud based databases are not only faster and more efficient to implement, but also more simple to update and scale to any change in requirements. IT departments can now focus more on optimizing their operations and mitigating IT security concerns rather than wasting hours trying to repair databases or recover information that has been lost due to a crash or network outage. Andy Wattenhofer, manager of database administration with University of Minnesota's Office of IT, revealed how database-as-a-service (DBaaS) solutions have changed the way his department approaches their storage and access needs.

"Then we'll take about five minutes to provision a database service for this application, with a user name and password," Wattenhofer told the news source. "The database piece has become really streamlined for that. The amount of work we do has become almost trivial. It doesn't really matter what size they are; it still fits into this one database model. That's pretty much what I'm looking at - further efficiencies and better performance and availability, while reducing administration overhead."

What this means for private enterprise
DBaaS presents a clear set of advantages for large organizations such as universities and hospitals, but Forbes noted that the private sector will also benefit these advancements in a big way. A wide range of business applications can be supported by DBaaS, including Oracle PeopleSoft for HR, financial and administrative tasks and website optimization. Of course, Oracle is not stopping there. A recent blog post from Automated Trader cited an upcoming conference dedicated to explaining the benefits of running Oracle Storage on Oracle Database to deliver optimal speed and capacity. At this rate, there seems to be no stopping this industry giant.

Lack of laptop security a major liability

Wed, 2014-01-29 05:39

With more cloud computing options available now than ever before, more companies are allowing their employees to work from home, on the road or at the office with their own personal technology. While IT security concerns surrounding the use of mobile devices have been a hotly discussed topic, the protection of laptop data has not received as much attention due to the assumption that portable computers share the same defenses as their desktop counterparts. In reality, however, personal laptops still represent a major vulnerability to companies that offer bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies and should be a top priority for IT leaders as they strategize the best approaches for network security.

Blurring lines between work and personal data
The appeal of remote access to company data is clear for anyone who has been commuting back and forth from an office for their entire life, but the potential damages that a business can suffer with sloppy BYOD practices can outweigh these benefits by a long shot. Laptops not only increase the risk of computers being stolen and giving strangers access to an individual's personal information, but many workers tend to download sensitive company data onto their portable devices without thinking twice about the detrimental consequences.

A recent report from NJ Spotlight highlighted an incident that occurred at the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey in which 839,711 Horizon members' personal information was exposed after two employee laptops were stolen. Although these devices did not technically belong to the organization, they were carrying Social Security numbers and private medical data that had been stored on the hard drives and left unprotected by Blue Cross Blue Shield's network security measures. Thankfully for the members whose information was stolen, there has yet to be a reported occurrence of identity theft using the compromised data. Nevertheless, careless employee practices such as these set a poor precedent for the reputation of any organization.

Increasing employee awareness
To avoid the repercussions of a malicious cyberattack, business leaders are advised to make BYOD policies crystal-clear to employees at all levels of the company. Workers should also be encouraged to beef up the security on their own devices to minimize the chances of someone breaking in. IT ProPortal recently provided an array of tips that can help anyone better protect their data. It is always worth going the extra mile to ensure that information remains safe.

Retailers remain vulnerable to data breaches

Tue, 2014-01-28 05:12

With large-scale data breaches occurring more frequently each year, business leaders are beginning to realize that the latest advancements in cyber security might not be enough to protect them from hackers. The Target attack of late 2013 served as a leading example of the current state of affairs with regard to network security, forcing IT professionals and executives around the world to reassess the way that they look at their protection measures. Despite more money being pumped into cybersecurity daily, major retailers and banks are still not safe from the advancements made by attackers in recent years. 

The latest in cyber woes
The story of struggling IT security may have reached a climax late last year, but the issues have continued into 2014 and show no sign of stopping anytime soon. Shortly following the announcement of the Target attack that revealed vital information of over 40 million customers, retail giant Neiman Marcus fell victim to a similar breach that compromised the data of millions more. According to NBC News, it doesn't end there. Cybersecurity firm InterCrawler recently revealed that another six major merchants had their systems infected with the same malicious software that brought Target into the spotlight for exposing credit card numbers and personal details. 

While no names or further details about the attacks have been revealed, InterCrawler executive Andrew Komarov reportedly alerted the Visa corporation, along with major banks and law enforcement that a series of breaches have occurred across the country. Due to the minimally invasive nature of this particular malware, these attacks are notoriously difficult to detect and may have been a problem for these companies long before they were informed by InterCrawler. The software, known as BlackPOS, targets point-of-sale systems and harvests random access memory to find traces of customer data. 

Hackers get crafty
Banks and clothing merchants aren't the only companies in attackers' sights. Arts and crafts retailer Michaels has recently been alerted by bankers who detected patterns of fraud from credit cards used across its1,250 stores throughout the country, according to Krebs on Security. The report stated that the U.S. Secret Service is in the midst of an investigation, tracking purchases from Best Buy and Target that had not been corroborated by people reporting suspicious behavior on their bank statements. Michaels issued a statement addressing the situation and urged its customers to keep an eye on their accounts. 

New IT security concerns range beyond private enterprise

Mon, 2014-01-27 02:37

Management leaders already have a lot to handle between employee and client relationships, marketing and advertising efforts and optimizing internal business processes. IT security concerns used to rank low on the list of decision-makers' priorities, but they are getting more time in the spotlight due to recent developments involving the heavily-publicized data breaches of retail companies Target and Neiman Marcus at the end of 2013. This heightened focus on cyber security has been reflected in increasing IT budgets and the prioritization of network protection best practices in recent years. 

Business and beyond
Experts know that improving cyber security is a necessary step in creating a better future for business, but cybercriminal motivations for an attack could be less obvious than one may think. While many attacks are launched with the specific intention of acquiring financial information or company secrets that could benefit hackers monetarily, there are often more complex reasons behind why big businesses are targeted. According NPR, motivations can range from simple fraud and theft to 'hacktivism' aimed at proving a political point. Government contractors are often targeted, requiring top-notch security measures to protect their information. 

"If someone is breaching a defense contractor, it's probably at the behest of a foreign nation," Anup Ghosh, chief executive of cybersecurity firm Invincea, told the news source. "If someone is breaching the IMF, it's probably at the behest of a foreign nation looking for competitive [intelligence] on what's going on."

A nation at risk
Private, individual firms are the most common targets for cybercriminals because their security measures are often less developed than large government organizations. Nevertheless, cyber espionage is still a major problem for federal institutions with valuable information to conceal. A recent report from KeloLand highlighted the dangers that come with the nation's increasing reliance on digital infrastructure. Cyber-security advisor and former consultant with the U.S. Department of Defense Michael McNerney shared his thoughts on the country's vulnerabilities. 

"We're becoming more and more dependent on the Internet and on cyber space, which I think has enormous benefits regarding productivity and information, but it also has a potential downside, as we've seen, it's a very vulnerable environment. The important thing to keep in mind is not just a question of who can do this, but also who would want to. So, would China or Russia want to shut off our power grid? I don't think so, that would mean war and that's not good for them either."

Regardless of international politics, cyber security will continue to play a major role in corporate IT strategies moving forward. 

Who could be benefiting from cyber attacks besides hackers?

Sat, 2014-01-25 11:47

With cyberattacks increasing in frequency and severity, businesses are operating in constant fear of a data breach or loss of information due to malicious software. Crime rings are now turning to the Internet to steal customer credit card numbers and vital company secrets that can cause lasting damage to reputations while shattering consumer confidence. IT security concerns have also expanded to include national defense as foreign governments try to target nations' financial networks, transportation infrastructure and crucial federal records. 

What do attackers hope to gain?
The motivations of cybercriminals vary in clarity and malicious intent, and every cyberattack can have a range of serious consequences for the victim. In the case of the recent Target data breach, hackers succeeded in exposing the financial information of over 70 million customers who had used debit or credit cards at stores around the country. Monetary gain was a leading factor, along with the likely motivator to prove to corporations that they are not all-powerful organizations. 

While the Target incident was the most widely publicized, largely due to its timing during the height of the holiday season, other high-profile attacks have taken place over the past two years that have companies and government organizations feeling more vulnerable than ever. Forbes recently reminded security professionals that 2013 saw hacks including LivingSocial, Evernote, the Washington state Administrative Office of the Courts and an internal website of the Federal Reserve. 2012 had its fair share of incidents as well, namely the ones involving Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Mastercard, Google, Honda and American Express.

Cashing out on IT security concerns
Hackers may profit in the short term from isolated incidents, but the economy might be seeing lasting, positive effects of these cyber attack scares as more money gets funneled into boosted security measures. With so many business giants left exposed to the threat of a data breach, the cyber security industry is seeing more investor backing than ever before. Forbes contributor Christopher Versace explained that trending industry pain points are always good way to track where corporate funds will be heading. Heavy hitters will likely pay whatever it takes to ensure that their data, customers and reputations stay safe and secure. 

Versace encouraged investors to watch security standbys such as Symantec and Cisco while keeping an eye on the burgeoning startup scene specializing in niche IT security concerns. 

Business leaders address complex new IT security concerns

Fri, 2014-01-24 02:32

2013 was a rough year for IT security, as high-profile data breaches frightened firms worldwide. With cybercriminals honing their craft and taking advantage of a growing reliance on cloud computing technologies, business leaders are more concerned than ever when it comes to protecting vital company information. The stakes of a breach are already high with the risk of losing financial data or company secrets, but making information such as client credit cards vulnerable is a sure way to permanently damage the reputation of an organization. To defend themselves against cyberattacks, companies are reassessing their security measures and investing in a variety of IT resources.

Point-of-sale security prioritized
The widely publicized breach of retail giant Target has been a major topic of discussion in IT security circles since its exposure in late 2013. With over 70 million customers' private information exposed, consumer and shareholder trust in the company has dropped off significantly. The retail world is wondering how Target will be able to recover as it tries to piece together where it went wrong in securing its point-of-sale units from the threat of a breach. A recent TechTarget blog post examined the incident and explained the heightened concerns surrounding these vulnerabilities.

"We don't know the full extent of what transpired, but what we do know is that there was malware installed on our point-of-sale registers," Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel revealed to the news source. "That much we've established."

Undetectable malware was pinpointed by TechTarget as the likely culprit of the breach, reflecting the increased complexity and subtlety of today's IT security concerns. Companies that were once able to passively defend against threats with firewalls and anti-virus software now need to actively look for suspicious activity in their networks in order to properly defend themselves against attackers. Patrick Townshend, CEO of Olympia, Wash.-based Townsend Security, revealed how point-of-sale systems are especially vulnerable to these threats. .

"Every one of those points could potentially be attacked and have been points of attack," Townsend commented. "So that complexity is one of the things that make it so hard to secure these environments."

Where to go from here
A recent report from CNBC revealed that the Target CEO is predicting a return to form for his business despite an initial dip in sales following the attacks. Fourth-quarter profits dropped but shopping trends have returned to normal now that media hype is wearing away.

IT security concerns propel industry growth as support runs short

Wed, 2014-01-22 05:20

With high-profile data breaches occurring with alarming frequency, companies are looking for security solutions and paying top dollar to ensure their data is safe. This means that IT budgets are expanding, along with a cyber security market that is seeing more growth than ever. According to a recent article from VentureBeat, companies can no longer afford to take shortcuts with regard to their IT security concerns. Cyber threats are becoming more dangerous every year and businesses need to prepare for the worst if they want to keep their data safe from harm.

Capitalizing on vulnerabilities 
Although security is not a new phenomenon in the IT industry, it has become significantly more important for firms in the past year. VentureBeat pointed to recent Target and Snapchat breaches which revealed the personal information of 70 million and 4.6 million individuals respectively. Companies have shown that they are placing more emphasis on security by boosting their budgets. While they spent $65 billion last year, analysts predict that number will be closer to $93 billion by 2016.

The news source explained that cybersecurity is catching up with computing, communications and storage as one of the main pillars of the high-tech industry, coming a long way from the 1990's when data breach concerns and consequences were at a minimum. More investors are also looking to hop on the cybersecurity bandwagon as $1.4 billion was funneled into 239 separate startups in 2013 with over 80 firms coming away with an average of ten times return on original investment via IPO or acquisitions. 

Can companies find enough talent?
A major challenge that comes with a rapidly expanding market is the quest for professionals to fill the demanding positions that become available. A recent article from Economic Times cited a Cisco report that revealed a shortage of over 1 million cybersecurity professionals in 2013 as the result of heightened IT security concerns. The study showed that the overall threat of cyberattacks has grown consistently since 2000 and reached a new peak this past year. 

"In 2013 there was an unprecedented growth of advanced attacks and malicious traffic that unfortunately reached historic levels," Cisco Leader Security Business Diwakar Dayal told the news source. "In India itself we are seeing a shortage of close to 400,000 cyber warriors as per CERT report in September last year. Over 1,000 times, the Indian government websites have been breached for past 3 years."

After such high incident rates in 2013, increased IT budgets are certainly warranted. 

Overcoming the big data myths of 2013

Thu, 2014-01-16 04:02

In 2013, big data initiatives acquired a lot of attention, though not all of it was in a positive light. Many organizations that were unfamiliar with the landscape were misled by false perceptions about the business intelligence, data warehousing and general management strategies that are required to make the most of big data. If businesses want to succeed with these programs in 2014, decision-makers will need to be careful to avoid the myths that plagued companies last year.

A recent Information Management report highlighted some of these misconceptions, noting that one of the largest challenges derived from big data's name itself. Specifically, many executives thought that the more digital resources they gathered, the better chance they had at acquiring a competitive advantage and optimizing performance. While there is a scrap of truth in this logic, it is largely unfounded and therefore irrelevant.

In truth, not all data is the same, which means that the-more-the-merrier reasoning doesn't really apply. Information Management noted that companies need to prioritize quality, not quantity. This means that organizations need proactive and innovative business intelligence strategies to ensure they only analyze resources that will provide some sort of return in the long run.

Big data is not an enterprise issue
In addition to the thought that large volumes create greater results, decision-makers also tended to believe that big data was really only applicable in the enterprise, Information Management reported. This is far from the truth, as organizations of all sizes and industries have the potential to develop business intelligence endeavors that allow teams to gather, manage and analyze new types of information to optimize operations on multiple levels within their firms.

A separate CompTIA report highlighted how companies of all sizes can benefit from launching big data initiatives, though many teams will need to develop a better strategy in 2014. Specifically, the study found that 8 percent of executives said they require better real-time analytics to convert meaningless information into useful insight.

"Data has always been important in the business world, but the big data trend has elevated its importance, pushing companies to be smarter in how they manage and use data," said Tim Herbert, vice president of research and market intelligence at CompTIA.

By understanding what organizations did wrong in 2013, decision-makers can build better big data, business intelligence and analytic projects in 2014 to give their teams an edge in the years to come.

RDX's business intelligence and big data experts assist customers in leveraging data contained in large data stores. For more information, please visit our Business Intelligence and Predictive Analytics pages or contact us.