Cybersecurity Threats and Safeguards in 2017| By |Christopher Donovan

There is no doubt the superhighway of the internet has improved life for organizations the world over, but with each new innovation comes another avenue for a cyberattack to travel down. Vulnerabilities in cybersecurity are no longer just a concern, but a widespread epidemic. Last year data breaches rose a whopping 40%, with 37 million records exposed affecting every sector including the government, financial services, education, health, and businesses the world over.

The evolving role of tech leadership must focus on being proactive to avoid becoming another victim. Understanding the rapidly shifting landscape of cybersecurity threats can be difficult, but discovering vulnerabilities and closing them to attacks is essential for every organization now more than ever.


Arguably the biggest cybersecurity threat in 2017 is the juggernaut of ransomware. As software that takes a company’s information hostage until a large fee is paid, this cunning method of attack has rapidly grown more sophisticated by now being able to operate while offline.

There were a massive 638 million ransomware attacks in 2016, representing an increase of 167x over the previous year and showing no signs of slowing in 2017. With $209 million in ransom paid out in the first quarter of last year alone, it is clear to any tech leader that precautions are necessary. While many traditional safeguards against cybersecurity threats can assist, the only sure way to deem a ransomware attack powerless is to regularly backup essential files.

Internet of Things

Businesses and consumers alike have enjoyed the IoT revolution, as previously isolated devices have become smart and provide greater convenience. However, this increase in connectivity has likewise increased cybersecurity threats.

Examples are not hard to come by. Most notably, the massive credit card breach at retailer Target in 2013 was perpetrated through an internet-connected heating and cooling system in stores. Hackers no longer rely solely on thinly-veiled email attachments to infiltrate a system, but can take any back door alley as they make their way to the most critical information.

Closing off any such entrance takes a bit of education and proactivity. Overhauling every device in an organization, even seemingly harmless things like automatic lights in the parking lot or smart TV’s in board rooms, is necessary. If it is not essential for a device to be connected to the internet or internal network, then that capability should be turned off.

The Cloud

An adjacent concern to IoT vulnerabilities is the continued adoption of cloud technology. While it certainly has increased efficiency for users, the cloud has likewise caused security concerns for any organization. With companies beginning to harness the power of the tremendous amount of data that their business creates each day, securing data housed in the cloud against cybersecurity threats must take precedence.

There are several ways to safeguard cloud usage. Consider encrypting data prior to uploading so any unauthorized user that finds access to the cloud will not be able to make sense of what it contains. Using a private cloud instead of a public cloud also provides more data control and greater security. Lastly, avoiding the storage of the most sensitive information in the cloud is a common practice to diminish the susceptibility of critical data loss.

Traditional Portals of Attack

Despite the rapid evolution and increasing sophistication of cybersecurity threats, it is important not to overlook traditional methods of attack. Installing updated antivirus software and training employees in creating strong passwords, changing passwords often, and spotting questionable email attachments provides a strong base level of protection. Even when hackers try a new spin on old favorites, such as using company job portals to penetrate corporate systems, a knowledgeable staff member won’t fall for their tricks.

Safeguarding Against Cybersecurity Threats

While making cybersecurity a top priority and enacting safeguards against cybersecurity threats is a strong step forward, it is often in an organization’s best interest to team up with IT experts in the field. When one solitary attack could cost a business millions of dollars, the very livelihood of every employee is on the line.

With the current demand of skilled cybersecurity professionals vastly outweighing the supply, there are simply not enough experienced candidates to fill open cybersecurity positions. Partnering with an IT staffing solutions firm that can provide cybersecurity specialists experienced in spotting and diminishing the latest vulnerabilities is the most cost-effective option to keep any organization operating smoothly in 2017 and beyond.

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Socially Constructed Barriers to Innovation| By |Travis Barker

Socially Constructed Barriers to Innovation (SCBI) represent some of the most prolific, and yet theoretically resolvable, obstacles to corporate creativity. They represent the most prolific because they are so common and are yet simultaneously the most theoretically resolvable because their absence can be easily imagined. Reality reconciles this paradox in the realization of how fixed and often impermeable these constructs are.

Wikipedia defines Social Constructionism as follows:

“Social constructionism or the social construction of reality (also social concept) is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality.”

Social Constructivism is useful as a model because it helps corporations and teams to reevaluate existing practices in the pursuit of opportunities that will better serve stakeholders. The configuration of institutions, strategies, policy, benchmarks, and thus expectations are heavily influenced by social constructions that vary by corporate geography, industry, and mission.

Innovate Vancouver - Socially constructed barriers to innovation

Like the metaphorical elephant in the room, socially constructed barriers to innovation (SCBI) are resistant to corporate supported analysis, deconstruction, and replacement because they are often reinforced by the existing norms.

This list of reinforcing mechanisms (list) is not exhaustive. The route to reconcile othe limits these reinforcing mechanisms place on corporate innovation is determined by the role and purpose of each. Does the mechanism:

  • Seek to maintain a ‘competitive advantage?
  • Retain place in/share of the market?
  • Secure self-sufficiency?
  • Decrease the perception of risk?
  • Maintain ‘current profit margins?’
  • Deflect unwanted interventions or takeovers?
  • Maintain the status quo?

This list of why innovation (and change) is resisted is not exhaustive but helps to highlight why change, and the competencies and processes that support innovation (SCBI) are often resisted. Untangling the justification for innovation among competing rationales requires more than just investment in ‘doing things better.’ It requires:

  • Insight into the mechanisms that reinforce resistance to change
  • Insight into the levers available to promote change and innovations
  • The authority & skills to negotiate the corporate environment (of competing priorities and values)
  • The buy-in and support of executive leadership
  • The support and authority to change processes, clarify priorities, and allocate resources

This list of competencies needed to introduce change and support innovation is not exhaustive. The complex resources, supports, knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to overcome the often hidden barriers faced when introducing something new is often unavailable in the beginning. It needs to be secured through networking, relationship and capacity building efforts, training and coaching, and identification of the corporate pain points.

  • Drop in revenue
  • Difficulty retaining talent
  • Error rates
  • Drop in quality
  • Drop in productivity
  • Change in leadership
  • Regulatory changes
  • Loss of corporate knowledge
  • Competition
  • Poor technology to problem fit
  • Training

Once the corporate pain points are identified the purpose for introduction the change, and thus solution to the pain point, is more easily recognized. Support for the change then flows more easily.

How is your company identifying its customer pain points? Corporate pain points? And solving them? Share your comments below.

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What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?| By |Patrick Hogan

Interactive Voice Response (IVR system) is probably the part of your CTI integration that is most recognized by your callers. It is the voice response system that interacts with them when they call. It is also your first chance to make a good impression.

The technology uses voice and keypad DTMF tone input to communicate with your host system. Through this interaction, you can get information from your callers and route their calls to the intended recipient. As with the rest of your CTI system, you can do an IVR integration with CRM, and other business systems integration. The goal is to make calls as efficient, information-driven, and personalized as possible. The key to this is having IVR system configured correctly and efficiently.

So, What is IVR Interactive Voice Response, Really?

To your clients, prospects and other callers, your IVR system is the perceptible side of your CTI integration. It is made up of your telephone system, software, databases, network and other support infrastructure.

Call centers were the first to use interactive voice response technology in the 1970s, although it wasn’t quite as we know it today. They used DSP technology, which had very small vocabularies. The move to the modern-day IVR system didn’t begin until the late 1990s, when call centers had to dealing a lot with multimedia communications.

Because of the sheer mass of calls, it became crucial to have an efficient and intelligent queueing and routing system in place. The solution used DTMP signaling and speaker-independent voice recognition.

By the 2000s, owing to the migration to the VXML standard and more powerful computing systems, this became cheaper and easier to deploy.

IVR System VS Automated Attendant

Take note, an IVR system is different from an automated attendant. An attendant just routes calls. An IVR system, on the other hand, takes and processes information before responding.

The response isn’t always call routing. It can be in the form of a pre-recorded voice response, fax tone, callback, automated email and the like. The caller can their check account status and other details, without necessitating the intervention of an actual agent.

The key difference is intelligence. An automated attendant routes your call based on your selection, usually after you punch in the person’s extension number. An IVR system goes above and beyond. You could say that it gets to know you first, as well as your exact purpose for calling. Once you are routed to a human agent, the call recipient knows enough about what you need. Calls can be more personalized and to the point, saving the caller and your team time.

IVR Interactive Voice Response Usage

An IVR system is perfect for businesses that deal with high call volumes. It is a good way to cut down costs and call processing time. It also improves the caller’s experience.

Because it patches into your databases, queries can be attended without human intervention. An example is when you call your credit card provider to inquire about your payment. Unless you have billing issues, basic queries can be handled by the IVR system.

The voice response system can also gather relevant information prior to call routing. Callers can be authenticated, their location identified and their calls segmented accordingly.

This results in better-handled calls. Information is readily available to agents. Callers are classified according to their concerns; and their issues are handled by qualified agents. This has proven to make positive differences in several industries, such as:

Call Center: IVR evolved because of call centers. After all, an industry centered on calls has to make their processes efficient and cost-effective.

Banking: 24/7 banking is made possible by IVRs. The technology usually handles basic queries and operations, such as password changes. Human agents come in for emergencies and other issues.

Telecommunications: For phone companies that provide voice and data services nationwide, dealing with user issues 24/7 is standard. IVRs improve their client engagement. It makes tech and billing support available all day, every day; thus, reducing the subscriber’s woes.

What Can You Do With Your IVR System?

Regardless of your business’ size, you can enjoy the benefits of an optimized IVR system. Here are some ways of using your voice response system.

Personalize the caller experience.
Record customized messages and prompts. Address your caller by their title and name. Instead of the robotic automated attendant asking your caller to “press one for this or that,” engage with them. Get more specific information before routing their call.

Gather data and respond accordingly.
Not all calls require human intervention. You can know this by gathering ample information from the caller. This ranges from basics, such as type of support they require, account number and password. You can have your IVR system inquire about the call’s purpose. You can respond through call routing, pre-recorded voice responses, fax tone, automated emails and the like.

Focus your team’s effort on priority calls.
Not all calls are the same. In the same way, not all agents or sales representatives are the same. IVR allows information-driven call routing. Know what calls should be on top of the queue list, and which agent to forward these calls too. Provide better caller experience through skills-based routing and prioritized call processing.

The Benefits From an IVR System

You only stand to gain from optimally configured IVR systems.

Come off as professional and up-to-date.
Regardless of your size, customers have come to expect some form of automated response when they call your office. The more intuitive and in-depth the IVR is, the more impressed they are likely to be. It gives them an idea about your company’s stability and focus on customer support.

Resolve issues even before engaging with an actual agent.
Some client questions can be resolved with simple database queries. Think of card or bank transaction queries, and the like. Your IVR system can lessen the call traffic that leads to your agents. Focus your team’s time on important calls that need human intervention. This gives them enough leeway to provide better quality support.

Improve your call processing efficiency.
Because your IVR system is the first to process calls, agent intervention is shortened – in more ways than one. The IVR system gathers relevant information initially; the human agent needs to ask less questions. The data is passed on to a qualified agent, someone who is expert in dealing with the caller’s specific issues. Since you get the best matched caller and agent, call resolution can be faster.

Reduce the cost of operations.
There is an initial investment when it comes to implementing an IVR system. But, this is potentially the most that you’d spend for your IVR. The system can replace a number of agents, as well as the office receptionist.

Have happier customers.
Speed and access lead to happier customers. IVR does this for you through easy access to data, information-driven call routing and processing, and personalized service from an expert call agent. So, move things along – fix their issues and answer their queries – expertly and efficiently just by beginning the conversation with your IVR system.

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How to Protect Your Data While Traveling in 2017| By |Chris Beattie

So, it’s finally time for you to take that trip that you’ve been waiting for. Now is your chance to blow off some steam and have a great time. Have fun! You most certainly deserve it. While you are having fun, however, make sure you protect your data while traveling. You will probably be traveling with a smartphone, laptop or both. Although you will be out and about and having fun you should ensure the safety of your devices and data just like you would do if you were at home. Here are some tips to bear in mind while traveling.

Keep all of your electronic devices by your side

This probably seems like a no-brainer, but please take this into consideration! When we are on vacation abroad and having a good time, there is the temptation to take security for granted. However, you should be careful with your devices and keep them near to you at all times. Your precious data is contained on them after all. A perfect example of even “tech-savvy” travelers not considering their privacy enough is with vloggers. Travel vloggers will almost always be using a Wi-Fi enabled vlogging camera — but won’t consider how “open” their camera’s WiFi may be to hackers getting in and having access to all photos/video/data on the camera. Be as alert with your devices as you would be when at home.

Never give out important information to strangers

It may seem weird that we’re bringing this up but please do not do this. No matter the reason, this is never a good idea. If somebody tries to persuade you to share this information, be cautious and just don’t do it.

Password protect everything

Setting passwords is a simple and effective way for protecting your devices and discouraging theft. This is something you should consider doing even when at home. If the worst does come to pass and your device is stolen, having a password can protect sensitive data from being stolen.

Setup device monitoring

On Android devices you can use Android Device Manager to locate, ring, or wipe your device from the web. You can download the app from the Play Store but it is a feature that is included in Android and can also be accessed from the Settings app.

On iOS devices you can do the same thing with such tools as “Find My iPhone”.

Similar functionality can be obtained on a laptop with Prey. If you misplace your device or if it is stolen, such software will definitely come in handy.

Be careful on social media

Posting your location on social media is risky in general. This is especially the case if your social media profile’s privacy settings are such that they can be viewed by strangers. Observant criminals can use this information against you.

By sifting through your posts, they can deduce your home location and monitor and see when you make a post away from home and use the opportunity to steal from your home.

Unfortunately, this applies to when you are on vacation as well. Posting vacation pics or locations while away basically gives these persons the green light to take advantage of you and should be avoided.

You should also avoid posting pictures of boarding passes online. Although you are probably excited about your trip and may want to let everyone know, please don’t!

A boarding pass’ booking number can be used to access your flight information on an airline’s website. By posting a picture of your boarding pass online, you are exposing yourself unnecessarily. A malicious individual could take this information and log into an airline’s portal and access your flight information. By doing this they can alter your travel plans and even gain access to some of your financial information.

Even if you mask the other information and only the barcode of your boarding pass is visible, a skilled individual could use available tools to decode it and gain the same access as if you had posted the full boarding pass with the booking number.

Use a secure private network(VPN)

While abroad and accessing the internet there is a good chance that you will be accessing the internet via unfamiliar and possibly unsecured networks. To protect your data in this environment, the use of a VPN is recommended.

With a VPN, you mask your identity and internet traffic, ultimately protecting your precious data from the prying eyes of malicious individuals.

VPNs also allow access to geo-restricted content. You may be traveling to an area where certain online content or websites are not available. By using a VPN, you can access the internet using an IP address from a location which is different to where you actually are. With this, you can even access content from providers such as the BBC outside of the countries where access is provided.

Have fun on your trip guys, but remember to take precautions to protect your data.

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This Is How Apple Protects Itself From Future Leaks| By |Mark Stables

The production of technological devices takes a long long time. The device first gets designed in a digital environment, then gets prototyped and finally goes to test before the final market release. During this process, some measures need to be taken so that the design of the phone doesn’t get leaked by a spy or a foolish employee. ¹

If you look at the leaked images, there is an intense effort to prevent the iPhone’s design from leaks. The cases for the prototype devices are covering almost all of the phone. It looks like the rear part is completely closed, but there’s only a very small opening in the camera part. When we look at the front, we can see that all the details are completely hidden including the front camera, speaker, and home key button, or whatever Apple wanted to place there.

Even a very large portion of the screen is covered with black tape. There are yellow bands on the right and left side of the screen. If you want to remove the case, this part gets damaged and leakage attempts can be immediately recognized. In this way, iPhone securely gets delivered from China to the United States of America.

Each prototype has its very own unique passport, and these passports contain information about the device test results. Also, thanks to the QR code and GPS on the back, Apple can track where the devices are and get more details on the prototype.

Despite all this struggle, the measures are inadequate if we think that the iPhone 7 Plus is infiltrated six months before the release. At least we now know how the iPhone tries to protect itself from leaks.

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Juno’s Jupiter Mission Fails| By |Cem Akbulut

The Juno spacecraft, launched by NASA in 2011, and entering the orbit of Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet in 2016, will not approach the gas giant Jupiter due to some glitches in its engine.¹ According to the NASA statement, some of the engines of the spacecraft failed to respond properly to commands sent from Earth and put $1.1 billion mission in danger. In order to avoid any financial loss, NASA has decided to stop Juno approaching the Jupiter.

Juno is now in the outer orbit of Jupiter and driving around the gas giant every 53.4 days. If NASA was decided to fire Juno’s engines once again and continue its mission, the spacecraft would get closer to Jupiter and turn around the gas planet Jupiter only every 14 days. That would certainly make things easier for NASA.

Scientists have expressed that Juno can continue to study and send data back to us by staying at the same location as it is now. By staying away from Jupiter, the spacecraft will be protected from the planet’s high radiation level and will be able to closely examine the interaction of the Jovian magnetosphere, including Jupiter, with the solar wind.

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NASA Is In Need Of Russian Rockets Until 2019| By |Cem Akbulut

NASA, which has not been able to carry astronauts with its own rockets to the International Space Station since 2011, will apparently be in need of Russian space vehicles for a while.

NASA, the world’s biggest name in the space research area, has not been able to send its astronauts out since the space shuttle program was canceled in 2011. For this reason, NASA is in need of Russia’s Soyuz rocket and Soyuz space capsule since 2011. At the same time, NASA pays $81 million to Russia for each astronaut. ¹ ² ³

The solution to this problem, which has led to great debates within the country, is now left to completely privately held companies. NASA, which does not have plans to develop a new rocket or space capsule in this area, instead, made contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to carry astronauts to its Space Station.

According to a new report released by the US Court of Auditors (GAO) in late January, the two companies are not likely to be flying astronauts to Space Station before 2019, according to NASA. Boeing and SpaceX say that NASA must first obtain a certificate that spacecraft meets the criteria required for human carrying missions, and both companies say they are far from meeting these criteria at the moment.

GAO, U.S. Government Accountability Office, also warns NASA. Reminds that the agreement between the United States of America and Russia ends in 2019, State officials say that NASA should develop a backup plan for the “possible obstacles” and buy extra seats from Russia.

SpaceX and Boeing, on the other hand, have not yet responded to this report published by GAO.

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