Telstra security operations specialist Darren Pauli has spent nearly a year with his smartphone replacing a wallet – securely making payments for everyday items and services. There are some guidelines you should keep in mind if you’re considering doing the same.
Apple and Google have invested billions of dollars into information security, with the goal of making their phones harder to hack. The iPhone – with its closed iOS operating system – is the toughest of all, but Google’s Android platform has come leaps and bounds from its anarchic past.
Google had no choice: over 80 percent of all phones sold in the last quarter of 2016 were powered by its Android platform.
Google’s effort means attacks that may have compromised thousands of users in recent years no longer work on updated phones, and it is now much harder and more expensive for attackers to get their malicious apps into official app stores.
Apple and Google, along with Microsoft, have also boosted security investment for services like Google Drive, iCloud, and OneDrive – making those more sensible choices for storing personal data, although there is still much work to be done.
Yet crucially, all of those billions of dollars in investment can be undone if a wallet-free maverick is reckless in their operational security practice.
The security mindset
Think of operational security (or ‘opsec’) as the measure of your security awareness in the world of technology. You win points for knowing how to spot phishing, and for making up a fake birthday and home address for Facebook and other websites.
In short, you become more security-savvy the more you think like an attacker and build roadblocks to frustrate your opponent.
In 2018 this is a necessary skill: You cannot force your favourite online chat forum to use better security that’s harder to hack, but you can change your forum password to something unique or disposable. You can keep your real information out of your forum profile.
And doing this means hackers who break into that forum will not be able to use your password to get into your emails, or use your real name, birthdate, and address to help open a bank account.
Bringing it together: a checklist
You cannot force your favourite sites to be more secure, but you can choose sites which are. You can also use tools that boost the security of the data you control while minimising or even reversing inconvenience.
These are some operational security guides I use to protect my data – see below. Many informational security experts would use much more severe controls, but the vast number of people use far weaker.
Darren is an information security reporter with more than a decade's experience in the beat. He came to Telstra's cyber security unit after serving as an infosec correspondent for various tech-focused publications. You'll find Darren in his spare time pursuing all things fitness and breaking things on his motorbike and around the house.
The blend between our virtual existence and the physical world has become a normal part of our lives. We are living life through a screen already, so the jump into virtual reality (VR) is not as large a leap as one would expect.
With all of the big tech players pushing hard in the VR race, it’s only a matter of years until we see people sitting next to us on the train with their headsets on. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace in the VR industry, product releases are coming thick and fast, and everyone is trying to be the first past the post to bring a full VR experience into a simple, comfortable, standalone device.
The future of VR
The future of the headset will be one where augmented reality (AR) is the minimum and one can transition into VR or “full immersion” with ease. Microsoft has termed this mixed reality (MR), and with the advent of inside-out tracking has lead the way in making standalone headsets that enable not only looking around the virtual world, but also walking around too.
The ‘full’ VR experience will continue to expand with the release of haptic clothing and gloves, allowing for virtual touch to be included into the development of the VR experience. As VR developers start to utilise these haptic touch devices, the beauty of MR will come into its own and the physical-virtual blend will be truly immersive.
The reason why VR development is moving at such a rapid pace is because of the synergy between hardware and software development. All of the large players are releasing their own platforms to view VR content – and as it stands now, the pathway to content is quite sporadic and device-dependent. This will likely change, with the first company to create a great customer experience at all touch points going a long way to being the ‘Netflix of VR’.
But this will most likely have a shelf life as technology advances, and smart device manufacturers start to adapt their offerings into the MR space. One thing that won’t change is the need for a super-fast network to deliver the content and experience – however it is offered.
Taking VR into the mainstream
As VR becomes more mainstream, it will move from the ‘gamer’ space via film-making, and eventually into advertising and public relations (PR). The marriage between VR and PR is quite a simple one, as it makes a lot more financial sense to create a PR activation that can then be taken into the virtual world and experienced by the masses.
No longer is a PR or advertising opportunity going to be bound by the laws of physics or geography; in the near future, utilising AR, ads will be able to be generated into each of our mixed reality experiences for both our entertainment and the company’s ROI.
“Surfing” the web will move from being a nice analogy into reality, with companies like Web VR already playing with the idea of virtual websites. VR for websites has always been what we’ve imagined the best user experience on the Internet to be, and this will enable mass adoption of VR – bringing with it new rules for UX design and web design alike.
The virtual desktop will enable people to work in even tighter spaces, with an unlimited number of screens and at a larger scale than ever before. Productivity will increase, and people will truly be able to immerse themselves in their work.
VR will invade many different industries from both a consumer and enterprise perspective regardless of history. There are already no limits to where someone can take their experience inside the virtual world – and as technology keeps advancing, the limits to how VR can interact with the physical world keep expanding.
There are a few questions that will arise as VR is widely adopted: will one company be able to truly “own” VR? How will ethics become a part of VR development practices? How will VR start to affect us as humans – as we start to interact more with the virtual world, is it inevitable that our physical interactions will decline?
James works on the Creative Services team in Telstra's Communications department, and is passionate about using new technologies to create engaging content.
In his time outside the office, James enjoys taking photos and live video production.
360 video: Tech trends for 2018 that will change your everyday life
Hot off the technology presses at Telstra’s Chief Technology Office – meet the five trends that will change your everyday life next year, including everything from the mass adoption of voice assistance, to cheering on the newest category of athletes and the tech toys your kids actually want for Christmas.
If you prefer listening to our tech trends on the go, listen to our in-depth podcast on the 2018 tech trends here:
Andrew has been deeply involved in the mobile industry for twenty years. He has a long association with the Internet of Things, having built the software for an Internet Fridge back in 1999, and since then has worked on IoT platform strategies, led a team that deployed a Low Power Wide Area Network across a major Australian city, and loves talking about IoT trends.
Let’s get down to business: the top technology trends for enterprises in 2018
Telstra’s Chief Technology Office is looking ahead to 2018, nailing down the top five technology trends that will impact global businesses during the year. From the changing realm of cyber security, to the possibilities of real time data and team collaboration tools, businesses of all sizes will feel the effects of these technologies.
Demand for appliance-based security services should continue to decline as software-based, hosted cyber security solutions emerge. With users connecting to internet-based applications via a variety of mobiles, tablets and laptops, we can no longer simply ring-fence corporate systems from potential attack. The need for behavioral analytics-based systems is pulling security into the realm of Big Data-based solutions. Interconnected supply chains and industry ecosystems will drive Blockchain maturity for trust and verification. Security management will follow a deep learning approach throughout the application stack to improve both quality and speed of detection and response.
Real time analytics
The complex Enterprise is looking to visualise and make physical world decisions based on information across its entire digital footprint. Multi-channel customer interactions will drive the need to access historical data for real time decision making, while adoption of IoT will increase real-time data flows. A visual representation of this ecosystem (in a dashboard or in a VR representation) throughout the enterprise will enable real time decisions, beyond the network and application performance and across the enterprise supply chain (i.e a warehouse ERP system upgrade window is moved or changed due to weather or emergency services information in a given geography not directly connected to the enterprise). Integrated views will come due to consolidation of data environments which will include third party information integration.
Containers and microservices
Modern webscale businesses are moving to microservices and containers for compelling reasons. Microservices are small, useful functions with a cloud API that can be combined into bigger services that might run something like Uber or Amazon. Software using this approach scales better, is easier to adapt to new business needs and allows developers to pick the best frameworks or tools for writing each microservice. Interest in microservices has coincided with the arrival of containers as an alternative to virtual machines for running multiple instances of software on a single physical server. While virtual machines each run a full image of an operating system, containers are more efficient and share the operating system so many more containers run on the same server. This suits microservices well, as each service can run in its own container and there will be many more of them than traditional applications. Enterprises are seeing the benefits of microservices and containers, and are working through the challenges of migrating to this model and adapting affected licence arrangements.
Digital team collaboration
Email originates from the 1970s, and while it is still very popular today, it has limitations. It doesn’t cope well when communicating with dynamically changing teams, attachments are hard to find later, and if someone leaves a company the knowledge stored in their inbox vanishes. Alternatives to email have been created by eager startups and are now becoming entrenched in enterprises, and one such alternative – Slack – is valued at over $5b. Some of the major brands are including similar experiences into their own collaboration suites, e.g. Cisco has introduced a similar product called Spark, and Microsoft has their own offering called Teams. All of these enable teams within an enterprise to send messages to other team members in ways that overcome issues with email, and are particularly suited to desk-based workers like software developers.
Most enterprises have embarked on a digitisation journey to remove manual processes, connect sensors to key pieces of equipment, collect real-time data about their systems, and automate as much as possible. Full automation is still a little way off, as many existing processes cannot be replaced with simple computer-based rules, and machine learning approaches to addressing automation are still at an early stage. The challenge is then to provide people with the optimal interface for dealing with digitised parts of the company, and the ‘digital twin’ has emerged as a useful pattern for enterprises. In this approach, the real-time data is displayed as a virtual instance of a real machine or process – its ‘digital twin’ – and the human operator monitors or manipulates this instance in a familiar way. This lowers the training effort, allows the operator to be located remotely, and provides a rapid path to value.
Uber is a trademark of Uber Technologies, Inc. Cisco is a trademark of Cisco Technology. Inc. Slack is a trademark of Slack Technologies, Inc.
Telstra’s Chief Technology Office inspires, sets direction for, and accelerates Telstra’s journey to being a world class technology company. Håkan is focused on guiding the CTO to establish leading positions on priority technologies, drive value through advanced technology and capabilities, accelerate business and cultural innovation, and drive collaboration across Telstra. Prior to joining Telstra Håkan had a long career at Ericsson, where his key appointments were Group CTO Ericsson and CEO Ericsson Australia and New Zealand.
When he’s not working, you can find him with his family and daughter Matilda, exercising in the outdoors, or learning to play the piano.
Digital inclusion: Understanding Australia’s digital divide
Professor of Media and Communications -
RMIT Digital Ethnography Research Centre
The internet generates extraordinary social, cultural and economic benefits for Australians, but we know that these benefits are not equally shared. Almost three million Australians are not online, and many more are not able to take full advantage of online services. For those who are not connected, the consequences of exclusion are increasing as our essential educational, health, and social services move online.
The Australian Digital Inclusion Index provides our most complete picture yet of Australia’s digital divide. As a source of evidence and a guide for action, the Index shows us where digital inclusion is improving and where more needs to be done. The Index breaks digital inclusion down into three critical dimensions: access to data and internet services; affordability; and digital ability — the skills and capacities of users.
The latest 2017 data from the Index shows that across all these dimensions, digital inclusion is increasing in Australia. That is good news. But the Index results also show how the level of digital inclusion among Australians varies greatly. Across regions, and across our social and economic geography, there are groups of Australians who are substantially less connected than others. And in many cases, digital exclusion is linked closely to social exclusion and disadvantage. For some Australians — those who are older, and those on lower incomes — the gaps between them and others are increasing.
In our 2017 report on the Index we take a closer look at some groups of Australians who are less connected than others. This includes Indigenous Australians, for whom the gap has narrowed over the last three years, and Australians with a disability, who still have relatively low digital inclusion. We also looked more closely at mobile only internet users, who have no fixed internet access. Of course, smart phones offer great advantages for users, but there are limits to what people can do with mobiles. Despite all the benefits of mobile internet, levels of digital inclusion are much lower for mobile only users than for Australians overall, with mobile-only consumers linked closely to socio-economic factors such as lower levels of income and employment.
The Index shows how the digital inclusion challenge is evolving – affordability and digital ability are clearly as important as access. Our findings on affordability may surprise some readers. The Index shows that the value of internet services has improved across Australia, meaning that data-per-dollar has increased each year for consumers over the four years of the survey. It’s important to note that when we measure affordability we are not only looking at the cost of data, we are also interested in the proportion of household income dedicated to this service. So, although prices have declined, Australians are using more data, increasing their number of services, and therefore spending more on the internet.
The result reflects the degree to which the internet has become an integral part of everyday life - we are doing more online; we are doing an increasing range of things online; and, in many households, we are connecting with an increasing number of devices. For middle income and better-off Australians, this is unlikely to be a problem. But for lower income households, especially those on fixed incomes, affordability is an important issue, and one we should monitor carefully.
Digital ability is another key area for discussion with the release of the 2017 Index report. What is digital ability? It’s what people can actually do online, and therefore how they can benefit from being connected. When we look at digital ability, we are considering people’s sense of control and security; their basic skills in accessing information and managing transactions; and their capacity in more complex tasks.
Our report shows that digital ability varies considerably across the population, but is generally improving from a low base. However, it is improving slowly, reflecting the challenges for many Australians in keeping up with technology. We believe that digital ability is a critical area for support and attention because we know that, with assistance, this is a domain where strong improvements are possible. Valuable programs are already making a difference — Telstra’s Tech Savvy Seniors is an example.
The value of the Index lies in the assistance it can provide in targeting and shaping future work. It can help guide future policy and action by improving the evidence base and sharpening our focus. As technology drives further transformations in life and work, digital inclusion will become an increasingly important issue for all of us.
Digital inclusion and Telstra
We believe that everyone – regardless of age, income, ability or location – should enjoy the benefits of being connected to modern communications technology. Telstra has long been focused on addressing digital inclusion and our Everyone Connected programs aim to empower all Australians to enjoy the benefits that new communication technologies bring.
In FY17 we reached more than 63,000 people through our digital literacy programs, including Tech Savvy Seniors training sessions for older Australians and InDigiMob, which is establishing a network of Indigenous digital mentors in remote Northern Territory communities. Through our Access for Everyone program Telstra helps people on a low income or facing financial hardship to stay connected, last financial year, the benefit provided by our programs for vulnerable customers was $87.7 million. Out Telstra Kids Digital Futures has been rolling-out more than 40 digital projects for young people in regional areas right across Australia, to build the skills they need in the future.
Professor of Media and Communications -
RMIT Digital Ethnography Research Centre
Julian Thomas is Director of the Social Change research platform, and Professor of Media and Communications at RMIT in Melbourne. He works on new communications technologies and public policy. Recent publications include Measuring the Digital Divide: The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (2016 and 2017), Internet on the Outstation: The Digital Divide and Remote Aboriginal Communities (INC, 2016), The Informal Media Economy (Polity, 2015), and Fashioning Intellectual Property (Cambridge University Press, 2012).