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Showing all posts tagged with Cyber security

< The beta blog | Jan 9, 2015

7 things you didn’t know that you could do with crypto currency technology

2014 was an eventful year for cyber security with many cyber breaches, spying scandals, and privacy violations hitting the news. Crypto currencies, a new form of digital payment, have also made headlines of late. Mostly met with a degree of paranoia among the media, they have developed a reputation of being the preserve of cyber criminals and money launderers. This is one of the factors which has limited widespread adoption among the general public.

There is no denying that crypto currencies carry risk. There is always risk with new technology - the internet, for example, suffered from a lack of trust in the 90s. Crypto currency, however, is a new technology that has a lot more potential than just paying for items. By mitigating the risks and overcoming perceptions organisation could use the new technology in a wide range of business contexts.

While there are over one hundred crypto currency variants, it is the underlying technology that we are focussing on. The blockchain, a peer-to-peer protocol using cryptography, underpins the trust in Bitcoin payments and the many other currency variants. Aside from enabling payments, there are numerous other ways in which this technology could be used that you may not have realised. Here are seven of them:

1. Create an electronic contract

The blockchain can be used to set up a contract between multiple parties in a way that they do not need to trust each other nor a third party. A blockchain contract can be configured to only release the funds when certain conditions of the agreement are met. For example, you might wish to take a deposit for accidental damage to a loaned item. The deposit is only returned when both parties use their cryptographic keys to complete the transaction; neither can access the funds on their own.

2. Loan your property

You could loan out your property using blockchain contracts. In the same way that a pin locks your phone and a car immobilizer prevents theft, many devices can be modified to seek authorisation for use. Access to the function of the 'Smart Property', as it is known, can be controlled by a blockchain contract. This allows many different types of items, physical or virtual, to be shared with greater control over their use.

3. Advertise

Blockchain tagging allows you to include, with your payment, a short message and a web link. Some companies have been using this to advertise their products by sending crypto coins to random addresses. Clearly, there is a fine line between spam and a legitimate advertisement, but at least the recipient would be paid.

4. Make money or help to cure diseases

By lending your computer processing power to a blockchain infrastructure, you can be rewarded in crypto currency payments. Otherwise known as Mining, the margins are dependent on the cost of electricity and can be slim. Alternatively, instead of a financial reward, some blockchain infrastructure projects are created to support a good cause. The distributed computing power can be used, for example, to help solve complex simulations of diseases.

5. Launch your own currency

Blockchain technology was invented over six years ago as an open source project and, over time, has been refined by many programmers. With the addition of new features, crypto currencies can be marked or tagged. This feature allows you to create your own redeemable currency using existing blockchain infrastructure. Having your own currency is like issuing credit vouchers and can give greater control over how the funds are used.

6. Transfer $81m for a fee of 4 cents

Money transfer services, such as online or mobile payments, have gained in popularity over the last decade. The cost of transferring funds using blockchain technology is currently very low. By contrast, a wire transfer charge can be a few percent of the total sent. As one example, the cost of transferring $81m was just 4 cents and was completed in less than 20 minutes using the blockchain.

7. Pay your employees

Using blockchain technology to pay your employees in crypto currency may seem far-fetched, nonetheless, large crypto currency exchanges are already doing just that. Paying your employees virtually introduces the possibly of more frequent daily or even real-time payments. Not all employees will opt in straight away, but over time as crypto currency becomes a trusted medium, you may one day find yourself being paid in crypto coins.

In December last year PwC welcomed the opportunity to respond to HM Treasury's call for information, which invited views on the benefits and risks of digital currencies. You can read our response here.

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< The beta blog | May 19, 2014

Protecting your ‘crown jewels’ in the digital age

There has been a lot of noise in the 'cyber' arena recently, whether that's publically with the lucky escape of Santander or internally within PwC with the various surveys that we are either facilitating, running for others or initiating ourselves.

I’ve noticed a fairly mixed corporate reaction to the BIS/MI5/GCHQ's FTSE350 survey. I’ve seen despair that it has taken this long for government to react and on the other hand, real enthusiasm that national institutions are joining forces to drive the agenda and want to take the temperature of how ‘cyber secure’ the private sector are.

And although there is certainly an element of a stable door clanging behind the exit of a galloping horse; it’s clear that the UK needs to encourage its corporate community to up their game and take a more proactive approach to defending the intellectual property (IP) of the companies operating on these shores.

Cyber security is universal to all, whether you're talking about protecting corporate IP or managing the risks to both your professional and private life. And cyber security isn’t just about technology and computers. People, information, systems, processes, culture and physical surroundings are all involved and businesses need to realise this to make sure they are moving confidently towards their digital future.

It’;s clear that companies are aware of the wider cyber issue. I have recently seen a number of our clients not only looking to run a cyber ‘health check’ on their business operations, but also looking at how they can give greater confidence to their current and future client bases through formal assurance of their cyber security.

I can't imagine that cyber security news stories will be disappearing from our morning reading anytime soon. In fact, it will surely only increase once the results of the Cyber Governance Health Check are published. And I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing what this will tell us about the current and future planned practices of our business leaders in this space.

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< The beta blog | May 19, 2014

The future of social media and the need for trust

I’m an advocate for social media and in particular enterprise social. However, it seems to me that although social media and enterprise social offer a huge number of benefits, there is an inherent problem.

So, you’ve got accounts on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and use each of these independently. You also use your company’s Enterprise Social Platform to communicate and collaborate with colleagues around the world. This is all great, but I believe the next frontier will be the development of a new standard for communication between social networks.

Currently, communications can only stay within the social network itself. So, if an employee at Company X wants to send a message to an employee at Company Y, it’s currently not possible to do without resorting to email. There’s nothing that connects the networks in a standardised way to allow communications to be shared across networks.

In my opinion, the next major development in the area will be the development of a new standard capable of securely relaying trusted communications between social media platforms, perhaps Communication 2.0... A standard which can be relied upon to securely relay communications across the web, be consumed by the social platforms and read by the recipient. When this happens, I believe we’ll see a dramatic shift in the way we communicate online.

If I am correct, the risk landscape will change dramatically as data moves between platforms. When social media evolves enough to be able to communicate cross-platform, the risk of viruses infecting your platforms will increase. I imagine that we will see new types of viruses, malware or attacks being used to dupe unsuspecting and trusting users. Email systems are usually able to identify suspicious or spoofed emails, but, if a social media user receives a malicious message or attachment from a connection that they trust, they are far more likely to open it.

The idea of social media platforms communicating with each other may be some way off, but organisations need to have a watchful eye on technology developments today in order to be able to prepare for and manage the risks of the future. Trust can be lost quickly in the digital age and this makes it important to plan for tomorrow’s digital developments today.

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