May 112017

This post is part of a corporate blogging assignment for HPI and IDC covering their Secure the Future Workplace event.

Security is probably the Internet of Things’ greatest weakness and probably the first devices to illustrate the weakness were networked office printers.

For HPI, the devolved printer and hardware arm of Hewlett-Packard, those IoT weaknesses is an opportunity to showcase their products. However the security of printers is only the tip of a frightening iceberg of technology risks facing businesses and homes.

Security starts at the top

The first keynote for the morning was Simon Piff, Vice President of IDC Asia/Pacific’s IT Security Practice Business.

Simon gave an overview of the challenge of digital transformation and the risks involved.

To Simon, digital transformation has five different aspects within an organisation – Leadership, omni-experience, information, operating model and workforce transformations – all of which have different demands upon management.

One thing he sought to emphasise during his keynote is an organisation’s IT security is a top down process. “If your CEO doesn’t care about cyber-security then how are you going to execute?” He asks.

For printers he makes an important point. “They are essentially a single function server.” He says, “this is another server.”

“There haven’t been headlines about printer hacks but we are about to hear about them.”

Simon’s points about enterprise security and networked printers are something that all computer users, be they in home or business, understand – almost every connected device can be a network server. Being hacked is a real risk for everyone.

Death of the perimeter

“Don’t accept complacency,” is the key message from the second keynote speaker, Edmund Wingate.

Edmund, HP’s Vice President and General Manager of the company’s JetAdvantage Solutions division, described how securing a company’s networking perimeter and relying on firewalls was “backward looking.”

In the printer world, that the typical office device has over 250 settings alone creates risks for network administrators and security officers.

Compounding that problem is the use of proprietary software in these devices. A plethora of custom operating systems, many of them based on outdated Linux distributions, opens opportunities for an infinite range of exploits.

It’s better for the industry and vendors like HP to be open about the systems they are using and any vulnerabilities they find as otherwise governments will be forced to step into the space, warns Edmund. “The absence of standards lets things percolate too long.”

Edmund’s point about proprietary and old software are important aspects in the entire Internet of Things security discussion. That there will be billions of devices ranging from network printers to traffic cameras and connected kettles running antiquated software is a problem the entire IT industry will have to manage.

When your networked is hacked

The day’s final session was a panel featuring Simon Piff, Managing Director ANZ for IDC; Carl Woerndle, Executive Director of Elevate Security; Hugh Ujhazy, Associate Vice President, IoT Practice Lead, IDC APeJ and Edmund Wingate.

Carl was the proprietor of Distributed IT, an Australian domain registrar that was spectacularly hacked in 2011. The damage done to the business was so debilitating that it eventually forced the company out of business.

The alleged perpetrator turned out to be an unemployed Australian truck driver with no formal  IT qualifications who had 700 other companies targeted. It’s a sobering lesson on how businesses are vulnerable.

Random attackers are the norm, Hugh Ujhazy pointed out, and ransomware is another factor which wasn’t widespread when Distributed IT was hacked.

Ujhazy sees Blockchain as the opportunity to rethink security. “We are on the cusp of changing the way we deal with devices and applications,” he says.

The consensus from the panel was all enterprise networks are vulnerable to inside threats – whether they are IoT devices like network printers, disaffected individuals, malware or hackers. For executives and boards, that’s an important message on how critical security is in the modern organisation.

Aug 252016
using an iPad and the cloud for a point of sale cash register

How does a small business get online quickly and cheaply? This was a topic I explored in my last book, the e-Business guide, so it was good to revisit the topic after being invited to contribute a post to the new Proquo small business exchange website.

Proquo, a joint venture between NAB and Telstra, was launched earlier this month and offers more than two million Australian small businesses an online platform to network, trade or swap services with each other.

The service’s name is a take on the phrase ‘quid pro quo’  – meaning ‘this for that’ – and it offers users the opportunity to swap or exchange their skills or services in addition to traditional monetary payments.

Developed by NAB’s innovation hub, NAB Labs and Telstra’s Gurrowa Innovation Lab, the joint venture operates independently of its parents although the service will tap into both companies’ huge small business customer base and complement their existing service offerings.

For the blog post, I give a quick overview of the basics a small business proprietor needs to keep in mind when setting up an online presence, something every organisation should have. Hopefully we’ll have the chance to expand upon this important business topic.

This is a paid post on behalf of Nuffnang

Jul 272015

This is a paid post as part of the Nuffnang blogger program

Last year the Taiwanese trade promotion agency MEET TAIWAN launched Asia Super Team, an Asian business contest to promote the island as a desirable destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

In its second year, the contest has been expanded to Australian businesses, with the Aussie finalist winning an all-expenses-paid tour of Taiwan to experience the beauty of the country’s incentive offering. The global winner will receive an incentive travel package to Taiwan worth USD 50,000 plus MEET TAIWAN will donate USD 5,000 to a charity of the winner’s choice.

The Asia Super Team contest starts with an online proposal submission, followed by public voting to determine the finalist from each country – this year being Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – who will win a trip to Taiwan to attend the final stage of the competition.

Often overlooked by MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition) travellers, Taiwan is a unique destination. While the West Coast strip is one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturing centres, most of the island is rugged and picturesque, overlaid with a complex Twentieth Century history. The capital of Taipei and the second city of Kaohsiung are vibrant, global cities.

To enter the competition the online stage invites organisations to submit an itinerary proposal illustrating their passion and understanding of Taiwan’s incentive travel attractions. The contestants then share their proposals on social media to help attract the highest number of public votes, determining the finalists who will go through to the tour in Taiwan.

For the successful finalists the tour of Taiwan includes participating in a five-day-four-night competition that will test them with a series of team-bonding challenges. These may include hunter training in an indigenous tribe in Leshui; performing a drum session with Grammy nominated Ten Drum Art Percussion Group at the Ten Drum Ciaotou Creative Park in Kaohsiung; and singing popular Taiwanese songs on board Taiwan’s parade floats.

The public can vote for their favourite proposal on social media to be entered into a draw to win round-trip China Airlines air tickets to Taiwan.

The overall winner will receive an incentive travel package to Taiwan valued at USD 50,000 and a donation from MEET Taiwan of USB 5,000 to the not-for-profit of their choice.

Registration and proposal submissions to Asia Super Team: Team Up for Good are open and run until 30 August with the public voting running from August 3 until 30 August 2015. You can enter through the MEET TAIWAN website.

As one of East Asia’s economic powerhouses with a fascinating history and spectacular scenery, Taiwan is well worth a visit.

This is a sponsored post brought to you by Nuffnang and the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA)

Sep 042014
walking the shop floor is important to business management

This post is third in a series of four sponsored stories brought to you by Nuffnang.

One of the challenges for a growing business is the cost of equipping new workers, cloud computing is making this easier and making companies more flexible.

Not so long ago, the cost of setting up a new staff member with a computer, software and all the other oncosts was prohibitive. In industries like architecture, design or Engineering it was quite possible to spend $30,000 on a fully equipped workstation.

For most businesses it was quite typical to send $3,000 on a PC fitted out with Microsoft Office, line of business software and associated IT setup costs.

Often the employee costs were even higher as they spent days sitting around waiting for the IT people to get around to setting up an account or a new license to arrive for the critical business software tools.

For businesses with varying workflows — particularly those in project based industries like designers and architects — these costs were a major hassle if you were only taking on a contractor or temporary worker for a few weeks. It either meant wasting capital on expensive equipment that was unused most of the time or paying outrageous rental fees.

With the arrival of cloud computing all of this changed and the relatively cheap cost of setting up new workers is now one of the reasons why it’s so easy to start a business.

Another benefit of cloud computing is it allows staff to work from home and on the road. Not so long ago, remote working was a complex and expensive thing to set up, now the cloud services don’t care where you’re connected.

The modern cloud computing model is coming up to being a decade old and smart businesses are using its benefits to their advantage, those who haven’t explored the benefits are being left behind.

Sep 012014
servers running business cloud computer applications

This post is one in a series of four sponsored stories brought to you by Nuffnang.

A few months after the iPad was launched in 2010 I was at an event that showed how quickly cloud computing was changing the workplace.

The event was a demonstration on cloud computing services to a room full of company directors and the organisers had assumed they would be scarcely capable of using a web browser.

It turned out the organisers were wrong, one of the older directors waved his iPad around and declared the device had changed his life.

“We used to get a fat parcel of papers a week before a board meeting,” he said. “We’d be ringing each other up to discuss things and no-one knew if they were Arthur or Martha.”

“Now all the documents are uploaded and we can all work on them, take notes and see what each other has to say. It saves us a heap of work.”

This gentlemen was, to be polite, a pre-baby boomer and a director of a medium sized insurance company. This was not a business full of hipster Gen-Ys at a funky startup.

We should also keep in mind this conversation was four years ago when the online tools were far more basic, smartphones were not as refined as today and mobile internet wasn’t as affordable or accessible.

Today almost every employee has access to the web and collaboration tools through their smartphone, tablet computer or laptop and this gives every business the opportunity to be doing what that insurance company had in place for its directors in 2010.

Shortly after that conversation I was speaking at a technology conference in country New South Wales about this and during one of the sessions one of the attendees described how her timber yard had improved productivity through using online spreadsheets.

In the past the timberyard had used paper based systems to give customers quotes. From the salesman’s visit it could take up to two weeks for the business to get prices back to prospective clients.

Once on the cloud the sales team could access shared documents, price lists and brochures which allowed them to write up quotes on the spot, get them immediately approved by their managers and into the clients’ hands while still on the site.

“We were winning jobs simply because we were so fast,” the lady told me.

It’s tempting to think all of the airy talk about collaboration is just for sexy startup companies but as an old school insurance company in Melbourne and a timberyard in New South Wales shows, cloud services are delivering real productivity and sales improvements to all sorts of industries.

For all businesses, the greatest challenge is getting staff working together effectively, there’s now no reason for any company not to be using cloud services to give the workplace a boost.