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The Next Generation Smart Applications

A smart application is an software that uses data from user interactions (historical and real-time) for providing actionable insights for better user experience. The insights may be in the form of recommendations, estimates or suggestions to complete a task. A common example of smart applications is retail apps that provide product suggestions to the user based upon previous buying behavior and choices made by the user.

As a business owner, following are the reasons why you should consider to invest in smart applications:

  • Operationalize Data: If you are investing your resources for collecting data related to your customers, it will hold no value if this data is not used. Smart applications operationalize the information collected by your data scientists. These applications utilize this information to provide insights to customers and systems for helping them take profitable actions. For example, a smart app utilizes data about the buying history of a user to provide a list of your products that may garner user interest and improve the chances of a sale. This leads to desired outcomes that support your business goals.
  • Improve Operational Efficiency: Smart applications are also available for machines, not only human users. Machine-to-machine smart applications can be paired with event-driven architecture for automating the operational processes based on real-time insights. This helps in improving the operational efficiency of an organization.
  • New Business Models: Smart applications can be used to analyze data for providing predictive insights for developing more productive business models. The model is based on extensive user data, market research, and thorough analysis. The smart app helps the organization in predicting the results of a business model before investing resources for its implementation.
  • Dynamic & Evolving: As new data, insights, and user feedback are collected regularly; the data scientists and developers use this newly acquired information for continuously evolving the smart application. Thus, the smart application is able to provide relevant insights based on real-time data. Also, smart apps have a loosely coupled microservices-based architecture. This makes it easier to implement changes and support continuous evolution.

Undoubtedly, it has become important to adapt smart applications for your business. However, here are some points to be considered before making a decision:

  • Do you have robust data practices? Smart applications are data-driven. Thus, an organization requires robust data practices for finding actionable information from a large amount of data.
  • Do you imply an agile methodology? For running a smart application, it is important for both data scientists and developers to adopt an agile methodology. Thus, make sure that your data scientists must be able to analyze data and update the algorithms regularly. Also, your developers need to continuously update the smart app.

For more information about next generation smart applications, call Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

What Is Edge Computing?

As the IoT network continues to grow, the data has to travel long distances in order to be accessible to every device connected to the IoT network. As the data was formerly stored at a central location, it requires high bandwidth for pushing the data to and fro the nodal devices where it was actually needed. This also resulted in high latency rates. The need to reduce bandwidth requirements and latency rates gave rise to ‘Edge Computing’.

Definition: Edge computing is defined as a part of a distributed computing topology in which the information processing is located close to the edge – where devices or people connected to the network produce and consume the information.

Thus, it is a Microdata center network that processes or stores the vital data locally and pushes all data inward to a central location or cloud storage. Broadly speaking, edge computing is all computing that happens outside the cloud, at the edge of the network, where real-time processing is required. The basic difference between cloud computing and edge computing is that cloud computing feeds on big data while edge computing feeds on real-time data generated by sensors or users.

How Edge Computing Works?

In order to understand how edge computing works, let us consider a corporate scenario. Think about monitoring devices in a manufacturing company. While it is easier for a single device to capture data and send it to cloud storage, the problem arises in the case of multiple monitoring devices as they would produce a large amount of data.

Thus, the edge gateway collects data from the devices and processes it locally to separate the relevant information from junk data. Once the processing is complete, only the relevant information is sent to the cloud storage. Additionally, in case an application needs this information, the edge gateway sends it back in real-time reducing the latency period which would have occurred if the information request was to be processed at cloud location.

Privacy & Security Risks:

As the data is handled by different devices, it gives rise to security and privacy risks.

  • Bots: A great degree of edge computing is done via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Failing to encrypt the data and authenticate third-party APIs result in a lack of control. This gives rise to a loophole that can be exploited by hackers to steal data or infect the connected devices with malicious code or bots.
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): The hackers may lay silent for an extended period after infecting your system. This gives them time to spread the infection through a larger number of devices while staying unnoticed. Once their code is deep-rooted, they may initiate a DDoS attack which will spread at a greater speed owing to the low latency of edge computing paired with the upcoming 5G network.

It is imperative for organizations to pay attention to data security before implementing an edge computing model in their network. For more information about edge computing and ways to manage privacy issues related to it, call Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

UX & UI in Website Design

As quoted by Steve Jobs, ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ UX & UI are an integral part of a website design process that make it more responsive and user-friendly. In order to understand the future of UX & UI, it is first important to understand the terms individually.

 What Is UI?

UI or user interface is the point of contact between human and computer. It includes anything that a user interacts with in order to use an application or website like screens, touchscreens, keyboards, sounds, lights, etc.

What Is UX?

As defined by ISO 9241-210, UX or user experience is "a person's perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service".  It includes all the users' emotions, beliefs, preferences, perceptions, psychological responses, behaviors and accomplishments that occur before, during and after use. 

Talking in terms of business websites, UI is more focused on how a product’s surface looks and works; whereas UX is focused on a user’s journey of using your product.

Here are some future trends that you should look forward to:

Future UI Trends For 2020

  • Custom-Made Graphics: Your business website should help people relate to your brand. So, making use of photos or imagery with people who are relevant to your business is a good idea. Instead of using stock photos, the future will see creation of custom-made graphics for business websites and other digital content.
  • Motion Graphics & Motion Effects: With the rise of 5G, it will become easier to load complex animations. So, this will pave way for websites with a creative UI having animated texts, fonts, graphics, etc. instead of static images.
  • Responsive Colors: This trend has been around for a while and is expected to be adopted by more brands. Instead of sticking to a single symbolic color, the brands tend to include an array of responsive colors to the website design. These may include a set of pre-defined colors or a dynamic color system that adapts according to the color of environment for a more symmetrical view.

Future UX Trends For 2020

  • Designing For Speed: As data transfer speed and latency rate are improving significantly, UX is directly related to loading speed of your website. For 2020, the focus will be on optimizing your website for speed. Also, some good UX practices such as loaders (button that shows your webpage is loading) will become irrelevant. The only use of loaders will be in call-to-actions such as order confirmation, transferring funds, etc.
  • AR & VR: AR & VR are becoming an integral part of UX design. Common examples of including AR & VR in design are apps like Snapchat, Sephora, etc. The trend is being extensively adapted to offer user convenience.
  • Device Synchronization: Users tend to use a website across multiple devices like desktop, laptop, smartphone, etc. With increasing use of mobile devices, device synchronization is an important future trend for UX design.

For more information on UI & UX, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

Cybersecurity Practices For Small-Medium Size Businesses


Small-medium size businesses (SMBs) pose as an easy target to the cyber criminals. The reason behind an increased number of crimes against SMBs is that majority of cyber-attacks have an underlying motive of stealing personal data for identity theft and credit card fraud. Since SMB networks tend to be less secure, it becomes easier for the hackers to launch a breach successfully.

As there is an alarming increase in breach incidents, it has become important for SMB owners to pay more attention to cybersecurity. Some cybersecurity practices that SMBs should adopt are:

Document Your Cybersecurity Policies: It is important to document the cybersecurity policies, installed updates, analysis reports, etc. SMBs can make use of online planning guides to initiate the documentation process. Also, many portals offer online training, tips and checklists related to prevailing cybersecurity trends. This is an important step for SMBs to keep a track of their cybersecurity protocols.

Educate Your Employees: As the cyber-attacks are becoming more complex, the cybersecurity policies are also evolving. In addition to regularly updating the protocols, SMBs should define internet use guidelines and establish consequences of cybersecurity violations. The employees that have access to the network should be thoroughly educated about these updates and guidelines. They should be properly trained on security policies and ways to detect malware or infection.

Firewall: Make sure that your employees should use a firewall when accessing business network in office or at home. Firewalls act as fist line of defense against cyber-attacks targeted to access sensitive data. For an additional line of defense, SMBs should consider installing internal firewalls in addition to external firewall.

Mobile Device Security: As the BYOD culture is gaining popularity, most employees prefer using their own mobile devices to access business network and sensitive data. Since employees tend to download numerous applications or software on their mobile devices, they pose as a threat by accidentally downloading malware. A hacker can compromise the mobile device and gain access to the sensitive business data. Thus, educate your employees on the requirement to encrypt their data, install trusted security apps and password protect their devices.

Password Policies: Teach your employees to use strong passwords. You can ensure this by setting well-defined password policies for network access. Also, it is advisable for SMBs to use multi-factor authentication for granting network access to the employees and consumers. SMB owners can also lay out the policy that requires employees to change their passwords after a few months.

Data Backup: Invest in off-shore backup plans to ensure data retrieval in case of any disaster or data loss. Make it a point to back up the data at regular intervals. If possible, consider using automatic data backup settings.

 For more information about cybersecurity practices for SMBs, call Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

Reasons Why Companies Fail In Securing Data

      

Companies accumulate large amount of data every year. The data may include important information like trade secrets, customer information, client database, product/service information, marketing strategies, etc. It is important for the companies to keep this data secured to prevent financial, trade and reputation loss. However, an increasing rate of data breach incidents indicate that most companies fail to secure their data.

Here are some common mistakes that the enterprises make leading to loss of data:

  • Lack of Security Testing: New security features are launched at regular intervals. While it is recommended that businesses should update their security features with newer versions; the switch should be made after proper testing. The companies make the mistake of skipping the beta phase of testing (a testing phase where vulnerabilities of a new security feature are detected and rectified by the technical team of organization). Implementing any new security feature without thorough testing puts the business data at the risk because hackers get the chance to exploit the vulnerabilities and launch a data breach.
  • Forgetting To Map Data: Data movement is an essential component for managing the operations of any business. As the use of online resources is increasing, data movement forms the basis of marketing/ sales strategies, collaborative meeting of on-shore & off-shore employees, process handling between different teams, etc. As the data is regularly moving, it becomes important to keep a track of it. Mapping data is the process of marking the origin, journey and destination of data flow. It also involves keeping a track of every person who interacts with the data, and the changes made to it. This helps the data monitoring team to detect data handling patterns and recognize unexpected interactions at an early stage. However, companies usually commit the mistake of neglecting this important process.
  • Relying Solely On Anti-Virus: Although it is important to install anti-virus software into the computer systems of the organization to detect the malware; it should not be treated as the backbone of the cybersecurity strategies of the organization. Businesses make the mistake of relying solely on anti-virus software instead of installing other security measures that can detect and flag potentially malicious incoming data before it enters the network.
  • Using Outdated Versions Of Security Networks: When considering security networks, companies have to pay attention to three aspects namely security software, security hardware and internal network of company’s systems. Companies often update one or two of these aspects which leaves them at the risk of improper integration of security networks. The outdated versions lead to vulnerabilities in the system which can be exploited by hackers.

It is advisable for the businesses to focus on proper cybersecurity strategies to prevent data breach instances.

For more information about ways to secure data, call Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

 

Understanding The Difference Between AI, Machine Learning & Deep Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Deep Learning are commonly used interchangeably. However, in technological context; Machine Learning and Deep Learning are subsets of AI. In order to understand the difference between these terms, it is important to know the actual meaning of individual term.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): Artificial Intelligence is a term that defines the simulation of human intelligence processes by computer systems. The processes include learning, reasoning and self-correction. AI is broadly classified as weak (narrow) AI and strong AI. Weak AI systems are designed to do a particular task. The most common example of weak AI is the virtual personal assistants. On the contrary, strong AI systems are equipped with generalized human cognitive abilities. These systems are able to find a solution to any problem independent of human intervention.

Machine Learning (ML): ML is an application or subset of Artificial Intelligence. Under this application of AI, a machine is programmed to access and manipulate data. The machine can analyze the data to identify patterns and learn from these patterns. This allows the machine or computer system to modify decisions as per any change in data without explicit programming. Machine Learning is driven by algorithms and stat models. The common usage of Machine Learning can be found in apps such as email filtering, optimization, internet fraud detection, etc. Machine Learning methods are widely grouped as supervised and unsupervised ML.

  • Unsupervised ML: These methods group interpret data based only on input data. Clustering methods are an example of unsupervised ML.
  • Supervised ML: Supervised ML methods use both input and output data to develop a predictive model. Classification and Regression methods are listed as supervised ML.

Deep Learning (DL): It is a broader subset of AI. Deep Learning involves collection of large unstructured data and combing through it to generate classified structured information. The basic difference between Machine Learning and Deep Learning is that ML is task oriented learning, whereas DL is more general. It is used to derive meaning or identify patterns in unstructured data. This, in turn, helps in spotting large scale trends or irregularities. Some common applications of Deep Learning include self-driving cars, fraud news detection, natural language processing, visual recognition, etc.

For more information about Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning, call Centex Technologies at (972) 375-9654.

Things You Need To Know About Mobile Device Management

Most of the employees at workplace connect their mobile devices to secure corporate networks. The trend is gaining popularity as it offers flexibility and convenience. However, this has given rise to concerns over security, privacy and connectivity. With the rapid adoption of BYOD culture by organizations, there is a requirement for more dynamic security solutions. Without a MDM (mobile device management) software, business information on lost or stolen devices will not be secured and can lead to loss of data. Also, personal devices used by employees have increased exposure to malware and viruses that could compromise confidential data.

This results in a rise in number of incidents involving data breach and hacking. Such events are detrimental for a company’s reputation among customers and other business partners. As there is an increase in corporate cyber-attacks, businesses are seeing the value of comprehensive MDM solutions.

Mobile device management is a system that is designed for IT administrators to secure policies, permission rights and applications across multiple platforms. It enables easy monitoring of all mobile devices to safeguard all business applications and credential assets. The organizations, through MDM software, can have complete control over their data.

For effective results, MDM solutions should be executed effectively. Essential criteria for successful MDM solution are:

  • Enforcement of security policies and passwords
  • 24/7 monitoring and fully manageable
  • Cloud-based system (to have automatic updates)
  • Remote configuration and monitoring
  • Restricting access to specific data and applications through Geo-fencing
  • Remote data wiping to prevent unauthorized access
  • Data restoration facility for corporate data
  • Rooting alerts for any attempts to bypass restrictions
  • Logging for compliance purposes
  • Remote disabling of unauthorized devices
  • Scalable – to accommodate new users and sophisticated devices
  • Device troubleshooting
  • Device location tracking

Other factors to be considered while implementing MDM solutions are:

  • Architecture: MDM software should be implemented depending upon the preferences of an individual business. Even with the increase in cloud services and infrastructure; organizations still have some systems that are run in their own data centers. In this case, solutions are required for on-site, cloud and hybrid options.
  • Direction: MDM solutions should be opted by a company depending upon the development of the enterprise. It should best fit current and future needs of the business.
  • Integration: It is essential for MDM solutions to comply with the existing security and management controls of the business. The right software will enhance both security and efficiency, enabling IT administrators to monitor and control from a single access point.

For more information about Mobile Device Management, call Centex Technologies at (972) 375-9654.

Importance Of Multi-factor Authentication

In recent years, there is an increase in number of cases related to password breach. The main reason for upsurge in number of such instances is the ease to crack an account password using modern algorithms and software. Accessing personal, financial or business information using a hacked password has become a lucrative option for cyber criminals; while it poses a great threat to businesses around the world.

In order to avoid falling prey to password theft, organizations are making a drift towards MFA (Multi-factor Authentication). MFA is a security system that requires the user to verify his identity using more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials at the time of login or a transaction.

Why Do Organizations Need MFA?

Following are the primary motivations to incorporate MFA in organization’s cyber security protocol:

  • Stronger Authentication: As per a study, 80% of hacking-related breaches are a result of weak or stolen passwords. MFA modifies the traditional practice of granting access based on username and password. It adds another layer of protection to the resources of an organization which is based on multiple weighted factors. This reduces the risk arising from compromised passwords.
  • Adaptive Work Culture: As organizations are promoting BYOD and work from home culture, more employees request access to the organizational resources from their personal devices. The employees may access their email accounts over unsecured Wi-Fi networks outside the organization’s protected premises. This gives the hackers greater opportunities to steal passwords.
  • Common Passwords: As employees are required to set up and memorize passwords for multiple accounts or resources, they tend to keep easy passwords. Alternatively, they may keep a common password for multiple accounts. This puts the organization at a higher risk for password breach.
  • Higher Risks: Most of the password breaches result in identity theft. The cyber criminals may impersonate the victim employee and gain unauthorized access to the data, financial information, trade secrets, customer credentials, etc. The hackers may even erase the data files hampering the functionality of the organization for a long period of time.
  • Defamatory: A password breach may allow hackers to access the customer records including personal details, address, personal health information, etc. They may leak this information resulting in defamation of the organization in the market. This may cause serious business setback.

How Is MFA Set Up?

A commonly used MFA practice is implementation of TOTP (time-based one-time password). A user now requires two pieces of information to access the resources; password set by him and a TOTP generated on his registered smartphone or email id. This helps in significantly reducing the incidents of breach. However, there are numerous other factors that are used to set multiple layers of security.

Some of the factors used for setting up MFA are:

  • Factor 1: Password, security question, PIN, etc.
  • Factor 2: HMAC-based OTP, TOTP, Personal Identity Verification, etc.
  • Factor 3: Biometric
  • Factor 4: Geolocation Security Checks, IP address, etc.
  • Factor 5: Picture password, gestures, touch, etc.

For more information on Multi-factor Authentication, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

Watering Hole Attack

A watering hole attack is an opportunistic cyber security attack where the attacker targets a specific group of end users, usually an organization.

What Does ‘Watering Hole Attack’ Mean?

The attack gets its name from a wildlife predatory tactic. Many predators in a forest lurk around a watering hole or an oasis to wait for their prey. As the prey comes to drink water from the oasis, the predator grabs the opportunity to attack. The cyber-attack follows a similar approach and is thus named as ‘Watering Hole Attack’.

How Is The ‘Watering Hole Attack’ Executed?

For executing the attack, hacker traps a single user to gain access to a corporation’s server. The attack is executed in a stepwise process:

  • Finding The Waterhole: The attackers begin the process by finding the waterhole. They conduct thorough research and observe their target user to find out the website that is frequently visited by him. This website acts as the waterhole.
  • Compromising The Website: Once the attackers identify the frequently visited website, they look for existing vulnerabilities in the website. They inject malicious JavaScript or HTML code in the ads or banners displayed on the website. When the end user accesses the compromised website, this code redirects him to a separate site where the malware is hosted.
  • Infecting the server: When targeted user accesses the site, a script containing the malware is automatically downloaded on the user’s system. This malware collects personal information from user’s device and sends it to the C&C server. In some cases, the malware script may allow complete access of the victim’s system to the attacker. The infection is then spread across other systems on the organization’s server.

Avoiding ‘Watering Hole Attack’

In order to increase the impact of an attack, hackers choose trusted websites for launching the infection. Also, they make use of zero-day exploits for infesting these websites. This makes it difficult for traditional tools like antivirus to detect these attacks at an early stage. Thus, employing preventive measures is the best way to keep yourself safe from Watering Hole Attacks.

  • Keep your system updated with latest software patches.
  • Configure firewalls & other network security protocols.
  • Monitor the popular websites visited by your employees to ensure that these sites are not infested with any malware.
  • Regularly monitor your organization’s websites to detect any malware at its earliest stage.
  • Use browser’s private settings and VPN services to hide your online activities.
  • Configure your security tools to keep users notified about compromised websites.
  • Educate your employees about ‘Watering Hole Attacks’ and ways to avoid them.

For more information on Watering Hole Attack, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.

Cyber Security For E-commerce Portals

In simple words, an E-commerce website is an online portal that facilitates the exchange of goods (or services) through transfer of information & funds over internet. Common examples of E-commerce websites are shopping portals, ticket booking websites, auction websites, music portals, etc.

Need For Data Security In E-commerce:

E-commerce operations involve exchange of user’s data like payment details, delivery address, contact information, etc. If there is an instance of data leak, the users can become victims of serious financial frauds, privacy violations and identity thefts. This makes it vital for e-commerce portals to keep the data secure through advanced cyber security solutions.

Below are a few most common security measures that e-commerce portal should adopt:

Choose The E-Commerce Hosting Service Wisely: The hosting service plays an important role in keeping the website secure. Following are some factors that should be considered while choosing a hosting service for an e-commerce portal:

  • The hosting company should have a strong cyber security policy and should deploy required solutions to keep the servers safe.
  • Hosting server should be configured by keeping in mind the security level desired. The configuration should allow advanced cyber security solutions to work well without compromising the performance of the portal.
  • The hosting provider should have a good backup management.
  • The hosting server company should provide technical support 24/7.

Use HTTPS: It is recommended to buy SSL certificate and move your E-commerce website to HTTPS. SSL or Secure Sockets Layer encrypts the traffic and creates a secure layer between user’s browser and your server to prevent data breach by hackers.

Secure User Information: An important aspect is to keep user login information secure as hackers tend to steal it. Also, it may help to have unique password requirements like using a combination of alphabets, numerical values and special characters.

Store Selective Information: It is understandably important to store the data required to contact customers or plan your marketing strategies. However, avoid storing data that is not required. Also, it is advisable that E-commerce websites should not store sensitive user data like credit card details.

Audit Your Website: Regularly audit your E-commerce platform to keep a check on vulnerabilities. Also, keep an eye for security updates and patch up your settings accordingly. It is important to have a stringent security policy and update it on regular intervals as new threats arise.

For more information on cyber security solutions for E-commerce portals, contact Centex Technologies at (972) 375 - 9654.