Monthly Archives: October 2017

Demystifying the dark web

As you read on, we’ll explore how the ‘dark web’ works, how big it is (and it is huge) and how most of it is relatively benign, but has gained notoriety because of a few places where illegal goods and services are sold to anyone willing to pay the price – and to take the risk.

What is the ‘dark web’?
Read the term dark web and most people’s minds leap immediately to the stuff of lurid headlines. The media often portrays the dark web as a den of vice and iniquity – a place where you can buy guns and drugs as readily as soap in your supermarket. And sure, there is criminality on the dark web. But this isn’t the whole story by any means.
The dark web also goes by another, much less dramatic name: the deep web. The deep web is probably a more correct term because it conveys the idea that the internet is like an iceberg.

A route to the dark web
The dark web is generally considered to be a group of websites which exist on a special type of network that cannot be seen by the ‘normal web’. They are powered by places like ‘The Onion Router (TOR)’ (torproject.org),’I2P’ (geti2p.net), and ‘Freenet’ (freenetproject.org), all of which offer specialist pieces of software which allow you to access the websites on the dark web.
Once you have one of these pieces of software installed, you can potentially access any of the websites on the dark web which comply with your software’s protocols. It is worth noting though – often the most nefarious and notorious dark web sites also require passwords and access is by invitation only.

How does the dark web work?
Each web address or website on the dark web represents a starting point, or node, which allows the connection to reach the server the website is actually stored on.
These starting points, or nodes, provide access to a network, connected in a way to protect the identity of the person or people who run the websites which make up the dark web. All of these connections are encrypted, and it is almost impossible to block access to these networks.

What can you find on the dark web?
You can find a lot of different things on the dark web, however you can only access a very small percentage of them using the encrypted networks. It is worth noting that many criminals, hackers and undesirable people have made the dark web their home.

Strong women want to code

Why don’t we have more women in technology, or in business in general? It’s one of the biggest cultural questions of our time, but perhaps the best thing about my job is that every day I get the opportunity to play a personal role in trying to solve it.

As a mother and a leader I do find myself questioning why the problem is taking so very long to solve. Logically we all understand that diversity of gender, religion, age, ability and culture makes teams and businesses more dynamic, more successful and a better breeding ground for creativity.

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company has estimated that ‘companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.’

Even in companies like Cisco where we focus a lot on this issue, we still have work to do. I try not to be offended when a peer of mine, like me, a senior sales leader, calls me ‘kiddo’. But I doubt he would use the same greeting were I not a women. It is this notion of unconscious bias that the BBC journalist and author, Kate Russell, recently spoke about when she joined our annual Women of Impact Conference at Cisco.

She called her presentation ‘Girls Don’t Game’ and the core of her message centred around the fact that actually women in technology also share many of the same unconscious biases as men. As a child she had questioned her right and credibility to game, something she still enjoys doing to this day.

So her presentation made me think about myself and whether I am actually a good role model to my three kids. After all, I have encouraged my son to code, but perhaps unconsciously haven’t done the same with my two daughters, who do not.

Recently I was with some of my closest women friends, who are all hugely successful, interesting and grounded. They are some of the ones who have been fighting this cause for close to 30 years and come from various places around the world: Singapore, London and various parts of the United States. I asked them ‘Are we actually making any progress?’ Gladly the answer was a very loud ‘YES!’

However, we all agreed the change is happening too slowly. My personal view is that we must keep pushing forward. This isn’t just critical for our daughters but also for our world. And it’s this opinion that was reinforced by another speaker at our Women of Impact conference at Cisco. We had the privilege to listen to Halla Tomasdottir. Halla is a remarkable woman, person and leader that led the ONLY successful financial services firm in Iceland through the country’s well publicised financial meltdown.

I am not saying that her company was only successful because it was led by two women, but they embraced a culture of being conscious and collaborative, versus the greed some associate with other parts of the banking industry.

Halla’s ambition knows no bounds; she is now running for President of Iceland! Yet she brings with her a thoroughly human and authentic style which we all warmed to. Her final quote made me want to laugh and cry at my own journey as a mother and leader: ‘I want every girl that is told she is bossy to know she has leadership skills!’

Computers can be designed to augment human ability

Computers have found their way into nearly every corner of our lives, but in the last few years we have begun to realise they can do much more than just process information. They are beginning to help us directly and indirectly understand how other systems operate: how the brain learns, remembers and recalls information; how DNA is the blueprint for human beings. The work being done in this field was outlined in the Autumn 2015 edition of ITNOW.

In the first article of the series, we explored what we are beginning to learn from comparing and contrasting the brain and computers, and the benefits both communities can gain from studying the basic architecture of each other’s systems.

However, computing can offer us an even greater prize. Professor Daniel Dennett, arguably the world’s leading philosopher of cognitive neuroscience, has sparked an interdisciplinary debate on the novel potential of computers: ‘How can we communicate directly with our computers as partners to extend everyone’s personal ability to learn, understand, master complex topics and even learn to be more intelligent?’

Unlimited opportunities
Alan Turing argued in his 1936 paper, ‘Computable Numbers’, that if we could work out the formula to solve any problem then we could write a program which would enable a general purpose electronic device to execute that algorithm and so solve the problem. As early as 1956, a group at Dartmouth College in the USA argued that ‘all we needed was to define intelligence and we could build intelligent computers’. This statement is true.

Access to the world’s knowledge
Humans have been amassing and disseminating information since the beginning of recorded history, from ancient wall paintings and the great Greek library of Alexandria, then encyclopaedias and dictionaries through to Wikipedia and scientific literature. The challenge lies in turning all this information into knowledge.

Learning
In the previous article we explored the central function of every cognitive sentient brain: the ability to store and recall information; to create memory. We are reasonably sure that we know how the brain grows the trillions of new links and structures to be found in a mature brain, and the process is quite automatic. Every time we use these links, we cross reference them to other concurrent activities, continuously strengthening them, integrating them and incorporating them into our neural networks.

Structure of information
We can learn something else that is very useful from our computers. Every digital datafile can be interpreted as a program, or facts, or algorithms, or pictures, or music, or whatever we chose. To the outside observer all files appear identical.

Getting of the mobile app problem

As the planet increasingly plugs into mobile, a new generation of apps is changing how we consume media, how we shop, how we spend our time and how we communicate with each other.

It is hard to imagine that it was only in July 2008, that the Apple App Store was launched – a year after the first iPhone was released. At the time it had 500 apps and, to many, it was a revelation. 10 million applications were downloaded in the first weekend alone. Now as apps have become so much a part of our everyday lives it is almost impossible to accept that this is still, in fact, a very immature industry – especially in the enterprise.

While enterprises are just starting to scratch the surface of the potential of mobile, almost all have grasped that mobile is an opportunity to drive income and competitive advantage. In a new survey undertaken by Opinion Matters and sponsored by OutSystems, over 200 UK and US respondents were asked about the primary goal of their new mobile app initiatives. The top aim cited was to generate revenue (64 per cent).

The explosive growth that we are witnessing in mobile is driving a deluge of mobile app requests in the enterprise and I know that CIOs are already struggling to keep up with demand. But as pressure for mobile app developers grows, so demand will outstrip supply and companies will be challenged in hiring mobile app developers.

Today, we already know that the country is experiencing an IT and digital skills shortage, so where are the skills coming from for new mobile developer hires? Our research showed that 63 per cent of respondents already had between 11 per cent and 25 per cent open vacancies for developers as a percentage of their current team size. Twenty nine per cent had between 26 per cent and 50 per cent open vacancies. Only a very small percentage (6 per cent) advised that they have no open vacancies due to a shortage of developer skills.

So what do you think the knock on effect will be on day rates? If you are looking to hire Java, JavaScript or .NET developers, how much are you going to have to pay for these guys (presuming you can find them in the first place)? Likewise, what impact will not hiring have on your business and your team if you can’t get these much-needed resources in?

According to our research 85 per cent of those surveyed noted that they already have a mobile backlog of between one and 20 applications, with half (50 per cent) having a backlog of between 10 and 20 apps. Growing backlogs will not only damage revenue opportunities, it will also impact on your competitive advantage and stop you from meeting growing user and employee demand.

Let’s face it, employees are becoming divas. They want access to their apps and their devices anytime, anyplace. I know I want the same experience in the workplace as I get from Amazon, for example. The way I use apps in my daily life is the way I expect to use them at work. I want the same seamless journey and the ability to access all my apps on whatever device I choose to use and the business needs to cater for this.