Report on cyber security in UK businesses makes for depressing reading, but the real problem could be much worse

A cyber-security survey carried out by Ipsos Mori has revealed almost half of UK businesses were attacked by cyber criminals in the past 12 months.

The survey commissioned by the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport found that overall 46% of all UK businesses identified at least one cyber-security breach or attack in the last 12 months – the number of identified attacks rises to two-thirds among medium-sized firms (66%) and large firms (68%).

Although these figures are alarming, cyber-security experts say these figures only account for known breaches.

In reality the examples of cyber attacks might be even higher than figures show.

“This is probably an underestimate if anything. Two reasons for this, firstly, this assumes they even know they have been hit, secondly people are more likely to under-report,” said Anton Grashion, managing director of security practice at software firm Cylance.

“Evidence of our testing when we run a proof of concept with prospective customers is that we almost invariably discover active malware on their systems, so it’s the unconscious acceptance of risk that plagues both large and small businesses.”

Among the 46% of businesses that detected breaches in the last 12 months, Ipsos Mori’s survey found that the average business faced costs of £1,570 as a result.

However, this figure is much higher for the average large firm, at £19,600, though the average medium firm (£3,070) and micro and small firms (£1,380) also incured sizeable costs.

“Many businesses still remain unprepared for a cyber attack because it’s difficult to prepare for something you don’t understand, can’t visualise, and haven’t experienced,” said Paul Edon, director at security firm Tripwire.

“The dynamic nature of cyber attacks often makes it hard to pinpoint a root cause, so executives with a desire to prepare are faced with choices, rather than clear actions to fund.”

Image courtesy of Fabio Lanari

The survey found only a quarter (26%) of surveyed companies reported their most disruptive breaches externally to anyone other than a cyber security provider.

The findings suggest that some businesses lack awareness of who to report to, why to report breaches and what reporting achieves.

In addition to not knowing where to report attacks, companies also claim they are unsure of where to obtain advice on how to prevent cyber attacks.

While 58% of businesses have sought information, advice or guidance on the cyber security threats facing their organisations over the past year, only 4% had consulted government or other public sector sources such as the police or regulators.

“British business need to realise there is an entire global cyber criminal economy that out earns the illegal drug industry in terms of revenue.

“Cyber programs need to wake up and adapt into a detect and response approach that places equal investments in prevention as it does detection of hackers,” said Paul Calatayud, chief technology officer at security company FireMon.

The full Cyber Security Breaches Survey is available here.

In the face of a collapsing market, Acer goes once more unto the smartwatch breach

Despite the fact that smartwatches are generally seeing their sales plummet, Acer has decided to release a new product into the collapsing market. Taking “an elegant approach to fitness”, the Leap Ware smartwatch seems to be fairly standard fare, using an array of fitness-tracking sensors in combination with an app to keep tabs on all of the various statistics the sensors provide.

“As the pace of modern lifestyles become ever more hectic, people demand technology that can keep them on track and motivated to pursue their goals,” said MH Wang, general manager of Smart Device Products in Acer’s IT Products Business.

“The new Acer Leap Ware is designed to act as a virtual coach to help people go, track, and share, sending them reminders and alerts when they need them the most.”

Acer obviously has to promote its product but the above statement seems somewhat bizarrely unaware of the fact that not only is the company offering pretty much the exact same thing every other smartwatch does, but is are doing so in a market that is dying a fairly nasty death. With big names like Pebble going under, and Fitbit’s stock having been on a steady decline, the persistence in putting out new products is a bold move.

In October 2016, the BBC wrote about a new report by market analysts IDC that showed amartwatch shipments declined by 51.6% year-on-year. The Apple Watch held its place as the market leader, but shipped only a quarter of the units it had sold in the same period (July-September) of 2015. And of the five leading brands, only Garmin showed growth with that growth still being underpinned by low figures.

“It has become evident that, at present, smartwatches are not for everyone,” said Jitesh Ubrani from IDC. “Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity.”

Images courtesy of Acer

It was pointed out by experts that the period examined was before new versions were released, but there is still a clear lack in significant consumer appetite. The market has largely survived off the fitness aspects, with other products largely falling by the wayside as the novelty wears off. And Acer itself hasn’t exactly been the premium forerunner.

The Leap Ware watch certainly seems a perfectly fine entry into the marketplace. It’s got “diverse fitness tracking features thanks to an array of sensors with advanced algorithms” and supposedly has a battery life of three to five days so you don’t miss out on logging those all-important stats. My watch only tells the time and date. It also has a battery life of ten years.

There is a reasonable chance that initial sales for the Leap Ware may be strong, being all shiny and new as it is. There’s also a very good chance they will quickly plummet as Acer discovers what consumers are desperately trying to tell them: people don’t want smartwatches anymore.

For more information and discussion of the collapse of wearable technology, check out the latest issue of Factor magazine.

Premature lambs kept alive in artificial wombs

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Source: New Scientist

British engineer is using recycled plastic to build stronger roads

British engineer Toby McCartney has devised an innovative process that replaces much of the crude oil-based asphalt in pavement with pellets of plastic, made from recyclable bottles. The result is a street that’s 60% stronger than traditional roads, ten times longer-lasting as well as the obvious environmental benefits.

Source: Curbed

Elon Musk’s giant tunnel boring machine arrives at SpaceX

In February, Musk was looking at purchasing a used Herrenknecht boring machine: about 26 feet in diameter, about 400 feet long, and weighing about 1,200 tons. It’s not clear if this is the same machine, but one just arrived at SpaceX’s headquarters and can now be found in the parking lot.

Source: Electrek

Surgeon claims brain transplants are just three years away

A pioneering Italian surgeon has claimed people who have had their brains cryogenically frozen could be 'woken up' within three years. The claim is being made by professor Sergio Canavero who also claims he can carry out the first human head transplant within 10 months before he begins trials on brain transplants.

Source: The Telegraph

Facebook 'observed propaganda efforts' by governments

Facebook has revealed in a new report that it observed attempts to spread propaganda on its site, apparently orchestrated by governments or organised parties. The firm has seen "false news, disinformation, or networks of fake accounts aimed at manipulating public opinion", it said.

Source: BBC

Ex-head of Google China predicts AI will take half of all jobs in a decade

The ex-head of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, has said that AI will be bigger than all previous tech innovations put together. "These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50% of human jobs, create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty," said Lee.

Source: CNBC