Government appoints Liam Maxwell as first national technology adviser

The government has appointed its former chief technology officer, Liam Maxwell, as National Technology Adviser with a remit to boost the UK’s digital economy.

Maxwell’s new role will seek to expand the government’s relationships with the digital and technology industry and establish the means to provide better public services to citizens.

Maxwell will work with a new council of experts to make use of industry expertise and push ahead with the government’s work on emerging technologies.

Such efforts will give the UK access to a global network of expertise that will attract investors to the UK and allow the nation to export opportunities based around the technology industry, according to the Cabinet Office.

Maxwell’s role will tie into work done by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DMCS) to grow the UK’s digital sector, support emerging technologies and create an environment where digital companies can develop and grow.

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Apple’s incredible growth streak is officially over

Apple’s decade-plus-long growth streak is officially over. And the company says it will be at least a few more months before it picks up again.

Apple reported today that its second-quarter revenue fell to $50.6 billion, down 13 percent from the same period last year. That marks Apple’s first year-over-year revenue decline since 2003, after an incredible growth period that started at less than $2 billion in quarterly revenue.

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Brussels seeks €50 billion to digitalise Europe’s industry

The European Commission unveiled its long-awaited strategy to support the digitalisation of industry on Tuesday (19 April), aiming to mobilise around €50 billion by 2021 to help manufacturers catch up in the global race for the fourth industrial revolution.

The conjunction of cutting edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, combined with the spread of cheap sensors and advanced robotics are all pointing to the arrival of a new industrial era.

But compared to the United States or Japan, the traditional industrial base in Europe is slow to adopt these technologies and reap the benefits of digitalisation.

“It will be complex, it will take time but it is very necessary,” said Andrus Ansip, the Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market. “The Industry has asked us to build the foundations of our industrial future and there is no time to lose,” he told reporters in Brussels as he presented the new strategy.

“We have to hurry up,” he stressed.

A European Parliament study estimates that €40 billion in investments will be needed every year in Germany alone to digitalise the industry. In Europe, the figure could reach as much as €140 billion.

The figure looks impressive but the promises are equally high. Across Europe, PwC and Boston Consulting Group estimate that the digitalisation of industry could create an additional €110 billion per year over the next five years.

In order reap the benefits of the transition to “Industry 4.0” (as the Germans labelled this new manufacturing paradigm), a more coherent approach and deeper cooperation is required across Europe, with a more granular implementation at regional level, and common standards for manufacturers from Lisbon to Helsinki.

A coherent approach

To that end, the EU executive proposes measures to link up existing national initiatives in various member states and support investment in key technologies that are expected to fuel the next industrial revolution.

According to the Commission, there are currently more than 30 national and regional initiatives related to the digitalisation of industries, including in Germany, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain and Slovakia.

In order to better screen and coordinate those, the Commission will organise various meetings every year — two roundtables and one annual major stakeholder meeting.

On top of that, EU authorities will invest €500 million to set up digital innovation hubs in technical universities and research organisations across European regions. These hubs will help power the digital transformation from the bottom-up by supporting SMEs and other initiatives at regional level.

In order to support the transition towards this fourth industrial revolution, the EU will rely primarily on public-private partnerships (PPPs), by investing around €22 billion.

These initiatives will support the industrial transformation in areas where Europe is well-positioned, such as the automotive industry, health or energy. The private sector will contribute €17 billion, while an extra €4 billion and €1 billion will respectively come from EU funds and national governments.

The Commission also urges member states to add another €15 billion over the next five years to support these PPPs. EU authorities recommend the national governments to look for financing under the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFIS), the new EU guarantee scheme to support investment in the 28-country bloc.

Together with €5.5 billion from national and regional investment in the digital innovation hubs and €6.3 billion committed for the production of the next generation of electronic components, EU authorities expect €50 billion investment in the digitalisation of industry over the next five years.

The EU has already launched a PPP focusing on the next generation of wireless connectivity (5G) and the manufacturing industry, as Europeans want to prioritise the industrial dimension of the next generation of mobile internet.

Standardisation and clear regulation on the flow of data, the new ‘oil’ of this fourth industrial revolution, are seen as critical to facilitate the involvement of high-tech manufacturing.

Günter Oettinger, the EU’s Digital Agenda Commissioner, stressed that Europe needs “fewer but common standards for the industry, and we need to fix them quickly”.

Regarding data management, the EU executive will put forward a free flow of data initiative later this year to examine in greater detail the issue of data ownership and rules for data re-use in an industrial context.

Carlos Moedas, the EU’s Innovation Commissioner, said that “data should be open by default” but warned that Europe should at the same time protect companies’ ideas.

“I am totally for opening knowledge by default but [also] protecting the ideas,” he said. As an example, he mentioned the Human Genome Project, with open knowledge upon which different firms have developed their own business projects.

To respond to the rise of smart cars and ‘intelligent’ robots, the Commission will also look into the rules that should be applied to autonomous systems, new safety rules and clearer liability principles.

Meanwhile, the Commission also intends to mobilise up to €6.7 billion to create a super-computer in order to support a new European Open Science Cloud. This will become an open environment for 1.7 million researchers and 70 million science and technology professionals to store, share and re-use scientific data and results.

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Cyber-criminals becoming increasingly professional

Cyber-criminals targeting the UK are becoming increasingly professional and have a sophistication almost on par with nation-state hackers, according to a recently published report.

According to Symantec‘s annual Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), there has also been an increase of 125 percent in zero-day vulnerabilities globally, with half a billion records lost as a result of data breaches.

The report also ranked the UK as the most targeted nation for spear-phishing attacks, and second most targeted nation with social media scams. The country was also ranked as third most targeted nation for ransomware.

According to the report, criminals are adopting corporate best practices and establishing professional businesses to increase the efficiency of their attacks against enterprises and consumers. It said that this spanned the entire ecosystem of attackers, extending the reach of enterprise and consumer threats and fuelling the growth of online crime.

These more professional criminals were among the first to use zero-day vulnerabilities, using them either for their own advantage or selling them to lower-level criminals on the open market where they are quickly commoditised.

The report said that malware had increased at a “staggering rate”, with 430 million new malware variants discovered in 2015. It added that the volume of malware proved that professional cyber-criminals are leveraging their vast resources in an attempt to overwhelm defences and enter corporate networks.

“Advanced criminal attack groups now echo the skill sets of nation-state attackers. They have extensive resources and a highly-skilled technical staff that operate with such efficiency that they maintain normal business hours and even take the weekends and holidays off,” said Kevin Haley, director, Symantec Security Response. “We are even seeing low-level criminal attackers create call centre operations to increase the impact of their scams.”

Ransomware attacks also increased by 35 percent with this form of attack broadening its attacks beyond PCs to smartphones, Mac and Linux systems, with the UK suffering up to 2215 attacks per day, the third highest in the world.

Fake technical support scams saw a 200 percent increase last year, with the UK the second most targeted nation globally, suffering 7,672,112 attacks in 2015.

Rob Holmes, SVP and general manager of email fraud protection at Return Path, told SC Magazine that the UK is a prime target for cyber-criminals due to the fact that a growing number of businesses are moving online.

“We are seeing a trend of small, medium and large organisations engage with their customers in the email channel and some financial services organisations are rejecting operating in the physical world altogether, choosing instead to operate digitally,” he said.

Jonathan Martin, EMEA operations director at Anomali, told that the only reason the UK would be the most targeted nation for spear-phishing attacks is because attacks are working, and criminals are seeing an above average number of click-throughs as a result of previous spear phishing.

“Remember that there are various degrees of customisation and personalisation that go into a spear-phishing attack. At the sophisticated end, criminals will handcraft messages to targeted individuals and will include code with a specific, possibly exact, purpose. Towards the less sophisticated end, criminals will craft messages that may look personalised but are sent to a larger number of recipients,” he said.

Piers Wilson, head of product management at Huntsman Security, said the best approach to remaining secure is to monitor systems in real-time for any unusual activity or suspicious behaviour that could indicate a breach is in progress.

“This can enable security teams to sweep in and shut down any access before hackers can do any serious harm. Furthermore, in light of the growth in the volume of attacks, these systems will also need to be embedded with artificial intelligence that enables much of the resolution process to be automated, freeing up security teams to concentrate on tackling the most severe threats.”

Alternatives to cloud: How can I avoid moving to the cloud?

Barry Collins examines the legitimate reasons why a business might not choose to move to cloud solutions

Cloud computing is often portrayed as an inevitable next step for businesses; not a matter of if, but when. Yet, there are reasons – and sound business reasons, not irrational burying of heads in sand – why cloud computing might not be the best option for some apps or infrastructure within many firms.

Here, we’re going to examine some of the reasons why businesses might steer clear of cloud solutions, perhaps alleviating that nagging fear that sticking to what you know isn’t necessarily a nasty case of Luddism.

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Is Europe heading for a Cloud Constitution?

Industry bodies lending their backing to EC initiative to standardise SLAs 

The cloud computing industry could be drawing closer to having an effective constitution across Europe.

The European Commission (EC) recently unveiled the Slalom initiative, the aim of which is to standardise contractual terms and service-level agreements (SLAs) for providers of cloud computing services across the region. One industry throwing its weight behind the idea is the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), which proclaimed today its status as a founder member of the Slalom consortium, alongside such companies and institutions as Atos, law firm Bird and Bird, the National Technical University of Athens, and the University of Piraeus.

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Who Joins

Who are our members?

  • It’s hard to describe our members as coming from merely one single sector exactly – the breakdown by sub-sector is shown on the right
  • UKITA members come from across the diverse IT/Tech/Digital spectrum of sectors – our members and contacts provide Digital Marketing (Website, SEO, Content Marketing), e-Commerce, Tech product and service development software development, the Channel  and providing a complete range of managed IT/Tech services to clients
  • What they have in common is that they are committed to looking after their clients or customers and to the constant improvement of their products or services, client care focus and in developing their own skills as leaders and the skills of their staff


Sizes of member business

The size distribution of our members almost precisely represents the size profile of the entire tech/digital sector across the UK so the ‘Polo Mint’  diagram below in effect shows you the percentage of our members in each size band

  • Whether you are a one person business, have a small team of people working for you or are running  a medium-sized company with tens and even hundreds of people involved, you are part of  UKITA’s natural constituency
  • Remember, the Government defines you as an ‘SME’ whether there is  just you in businesses or you have up to 249 employees!
  • The average size of a UK IT/Tech/Digital company is somewhere between 5 and 8 people

Decision makers

When new members join UKITA, the decision is usually taken by one of two people:

  • The business owners or founders
    • wanting to take advantage of our  services and standards
    • looking for ways to link up with their peers and to benchmark themselves against best practice
    • wanting to support our aims and our support our voice as the drivers of the  REAL IT/Tech/Digital economies
  • Marketers:
    • in order to gain visibility through our range of directories and our PR platforms
    • looking to gain engagement with their marketing and social media content via shares and retweets on our own platforms

Are fake mobile phone masts listening to you?

Investigation finds evidence of ‘Stingray’ technology in use in the capital

FAKE MOBILE PHONE MASTS are being used to snoop on Londoners’ phone conversations, according to a report on Sky News.

A Sky News investigation has found that communications in the capital city are being intercepted using ‘Stingray’ devices that mimic mobile phone masts in order to listen in on users’ calls without their knowledge.

The surveillance technology is used by police agencies worldwide to target the communications of criminals, but it also collects the data of all other phones in the area.

The news outlet used a system made by German security company GMSK Cryptophone to look for signs of Stingray, or International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers, across London over a three-week period.

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Life is Short Hacked!

Here is an article that goes some way to showing that the more private the data, the more attractive it is to attackers.

Infidelity site Ashley Madison hacked as attackers demand total shutdown

Site’s hackers claim 37m personal records have been stolen from notorious dating site, with Cougar Life and Established Men also compromised

Hackers have stolen and leaked personal information from online cheating site Ashley Madison, an international dating site with the tagline: “Life is short. Have an affair.”

The site, which encourages married users to cheat on their spouses and advertises 37 million members, had its data hacked by a group calling itself the Impact Team. At least two other dating sites, Cougar Life and Established Men, also owned by the same parent group, Avid Life Media, have had their data compromised.

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Android users in exposure to Stagefright

Android users are being warned to switch off the MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) features on their phone following the discovery of the Stagefright exploit that has left up to 95 percent of all Android devices open to attack by hackers.

Simon Mullis, global technical leader at FireEye, told V3 that the flaw is very serious and that individuals and businesses must be aware of the threat.

“The sheer range and number of devices and therefore end-users affected, and the fact that no user interaction is required to become compromised, make this a very serious set of vulnerabilities indeed,” he said.

“Stagefright represents significant risk to the individual end-user. The contents of your phone are ripe for abuse (think photos, camera, contacts etc). It represents a more significant risk to organisations that allow BYOD free-run on their networks.”

Mullis added that, given patches are unlikely to arrive any time soon, users should switch off MMS to reduce the risk.

“The final straw is that it’s estimated that this has been around for five years. You can be sure that phone makers are hurriedly releasing patches for this as soon as they can. In the meantime, maybe you should switch off all MMS,” he said.

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