How the Internet of Things is reshaping the future of security

The emerging model of the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly changing the way organisations think about IT security – but IoT’s unique characteristics are also likely to send ripples through conventional security architectures by forcing a fundamental rethink about how corporate data is managed and protected.

That rethink began years ago, when the idea of allowing employees to bring their own mobile devices into corporate networks put an end to the idea that corporate information security was a product of how well businesses controlled what devices connected to their networks. The explosion of bring your own device (BYOD) policies quickly put an end to that: these days, IT security managers need to expect any kind of device to be connected at any time, in a broad range of ways.

BYOD “has really shifted the discussion within IT from ‘can we trust external devices?’ to ‘what can we trust them for?’,” explains Matt Hyne, director of the Citrix Technology Office and member of the Citrix CTO Council.

“People are bringing their own devices – and this increasingly includes IoT devices – and it has moved beyond a BYOD mentality to the point where it’s BYO anything. People are bringing in whatever they need to be more productive at work.”

As a superset of the BYOD trend, IoT is uniquely positioned to shape discussions about network and data security moving into the future. Because devices can no longer be trusted or blocked based on their own characteristics, in the future security will be based not on the hope of interoperable, cross-platform security features – but around unified computing architectures that focus on controlling data access based on corporate policies.

Under lock and key

Designers of smartphones and tablet computers have recently realised one aspect of this new architecture, using heavily secured ‘sandbox’ designs that can be managed centrally by IT-security staff.

This approach allows data-protection policies to be enforced within ‘data enclaves’ on mobile devices while preventing the data inside them leaking out – and work regardless of the applications installed outside the sandbox. In this way, sensitive intellectual property can be more reliably made available to employees where and when it’s needed – without compromising the protection of that data.

Yet sandboxing is only one step towards a future where data can be effectively secured and controlled regardless of where it is stored. While the use of data enclaves “might be OK if an enterprise enclave can be established and maintained on the device all through its lifecycle,” says Kurt Roemer, chief security strategist with Citrix.

Achieving and maintaining that level of control, he warns, is still difficult. “You need to get the point of having very clear metrics around what needs to be protected, and focusing your efforts on what matters. Some of the data out there is very difficult to call back once it gets breached.”

Data enclaves protect corporate data from leaking off of mobile devices, but many organisations are already taking the concept to its next logical step by preventing data from being sent to the remote device in the first place.

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Many companies are making this happen by turning to a well-established application delivery model that traces its roots back to early efforts to simplify overly-complex client/server computing architectures.

Thin-client frameworks, which run large numbers of virtual computer desktops on a centralised computing cluster and delivers them to distant employees’ home or office desktops, have long been effective at enabling centralised, secure computing environments accessible from smartphones, tablets, and other devices.

Whereas this approach used to be primarily about remote access, its extension to a broad range of devices has turned it into what Roemer calls a ‘pixel air gap firewall’. “We’ve got the ability to use virtualisation to centralise and secure access,” Roemer explains.

“We’re only providing pixels to the end display. Because the data never hits the endpoint – it’s only being displayed there – people can’t bulk exfiltrate the data by downloading it to the endpoint, the way they’ve been able to do for years.”

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Sandboxing and thin-client access may have provided ways to better control the flow of data within and outside of an organisation’s network, but it is less relevant in the IoT context because IoT devices are not generally designed as general-purpose computers in the way that a smartphone or tablet is. They cannot, therefore, be used as thin clients through conventional means.

The limited form factors of IoT devices have already pushed their developers into a broad range of workarounds – providing configuration and management through in-built Wi-Fi connections, for example, or using Bluetooth to synchronise the devices with nearby smartphones that serve as control points and gateways to the broader Internet.

Such security mechanisms are still developing, however, and often lack the rigour necessary to meet compliance and governance requirements within larger organisations. Worse still, research suggests that inexpensive, often single-use IoT devices are being created using a broad range of security approaches of which many consumers are unaware – or, in a worryingly large number of cases, with no security at all.

These early experiences, Hyne says, highlight the need for BYOD and IoT to be rolled into new security and application paradigms that focus on building and enforcing tight controls around corporate data.

“We’re going to be talking about billions of IoT devices coming online every year,” he explains, “and you’re going to have devices from vendors from anywhere. Providing an end-to-end solution in this environment is particularly difficult, which is why we don’t want a high-touch endpoint.”

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Instead, he says, organisations need to take a ‘defence-in-depth’ approach built around providing flow points between these many devices: “You must make sure you have adequate security at those flow points.”

Equally important in ensuring a secure future will be the use of identity-management services, which have rapidly evolved from simple user-id-and-password combinations to far-reaching frameworks that manage access credentials between a broad range of users and devices.

“With the emergence of SaaS applications and personal devices that are now accessing these applications,” says Hyne, “the ability for the local IT administrator to control everything is reducing, and a lot of the control over the information is being pushed outside the organisation. Being able to tie those behaviours together to provide a security layer and security map is very important.”

With cloud now well entrenched within Australian businesses, vendors are making real progress in extending identity frameworks across hosted and onsite applications to build unified, secure and flexible computing environments that more equally support onsite, cloud-hosted, remote-desktop, IoT and other access paradigms.

The key to making it all work together in the future, Roemer says, is a fundamental mindshift away from focusing on the security capabilities of any one particular device – and instead focusing on protecting data, and controlling access to data, at every step of its lifecycle.

“You can’t have full trust in any model anymore,” he explains. “This is an ongoing process and will continue to be an ongoing process. For every policy and hole that we find a solution for, another one opens up.”

“There will always be vulnerabilities and there will always be mistakes made. What’s important is being able to mitigate against those, and to have an acceptable level of risk. Once your data is out there, it’s out there forever.”

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Tags VulnerabilitiesCitrix TechnologyCitrixMatt HyneIT SecuritysandboxingKurt Roemer(IoT)CSO AustraliaBYODsecurity managerscorporate dataSaaS applicationsInternet of Things

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iPad Pro Faces Gloomy Future as Tablet Sales Projections Plummet

There’s been much talk over recent weeks as to the fate of the tablet PC market as a whole going forward, with slipping sales having painted a rather gloomy picture. That being said, with all-new devices on the horizon like Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, there’s reason to believe things aren’t quite headed for the depths of the abyss quite yet.

That is of course, unless you read the latest analyst projections for the former of the two at least.

For most, the idea of a 12.9-inch iPad with more power than God and a hybrid operating system sounds too good to be true…at least in theory. However, in terms of how many of us are actually planning on going out any spending the estimated $1,000+ on one of the things, all signs point to less spectacular tidings entirely.

iPad Pro Faces Gloomy Future as Tablet Sales Projections Plummet

According to KGI’s take on the subject, the iPad pro “contribute meaningfully to shipments momentum anytime soon” regardless of the fact that it will indeed bring something wholly new to the game. The reason of course being that ‘new’ doesn’t always translate to millions of sales – especially when said new gadget has a much more refined and specific target audience than any of its predecessors.

On the whole, KG Securities see sales of iPads on the whole plummeting even more dramatically this year – a full 30% or even 40% being shaved off last year’s tally.

“We forecast iPad shipments will decline 52.7% QoQ in 1Q15 to 10.1mn units, and continue to lose momentum in 2Q15F, dropping another 30-40% QoQ to 7-8mn units,” the report warns.

What’s also expected to have something of a double-edge-sword effect on iPad sales for the year is the expectation biblical Apple Watch sales come April, not to mention vast volumes of Retina MacBook Air units flying off the shelves when and where it finally lands. With these scooping up much of the interest directed Apple’s way, it could prove to be as simple as there being really no room left at the inn for the iPad Pro.

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Apple has become synonymous with innovation and intuitiveness, giving the world the powerful, yet simple to use, iPhone, the MacBook Air, and different versions of the iPod suited for every personality. But if there was a crystal ball that could predict the next creations that Apple makes, what would it show?

Holographic Keyboard

This idea was already tossed around when the world was waiting for the new iPad to come out, but it seems like it’d only be a matter of time instead of a wish in the air. TVs have long capitalized on image projection, allowing watchers to see their shows and movies anywhere there’s a white surface. So, why not Apple, too?

A holographic keyboard would work similarly to projection TVs, only the keyboard would be touch-sensitive. And because the size of it would be larger than the keyboard itself, users would be able to increase their speed of use and maximize the already super fast chip inside Apple products.

. .

Hands-Free iWatch

A watch, by definition is hands-free, but the Apple products that have the most buzz surrounding them still need to be synced to phones. While this may not seem like a bad idea, it doesn’t eliminate the need for phones entirely—which is the point of an iWatch. But once Apple hits their stride with this creation, the iWatch will operate as its own independent device and completely render the need for pulling out the phone constantly moot.

Flexible Devices

Ask any iPhone user and they’ll tell you there’s been at least one close call with their phone and the ground, which is why bendy devices are badly needed. LG seems to be furthest ahead on the curve with this one, but LG also isn’t exactly known for their innovation, durability, and widespread use. But if Apple can configure flexibility for their devices, their stranglehold on the market will increase.

Portable Desktops

Usually, a portable desktop is called a laptop, but imagine if you could retain all the power and performance of a desktop, but be able to take that with you everywhere? A portable desktop would utilize the holographic keyboard in the first point, borrow on the flexibility of the above by allowing screens to be rolled up, and cause the user to only worry about the mouse.

. .

Apple Version of Netflix

Apple’s already sniffing around the TV market, but the rumors surrounding that aren’t very substantial or constant. But what if, instead of creating a TV that forced users to be in one spot to watch it, they just let users watch whatever movie or TV show they wanted, wherever they wanted? It’s true they sort of have that right now with iTunes Radio, but it’s not the same: it’s far easier to download music than it is to get shows and movies, if only for the fact that music occupies much less space.

If you think Apple should come out with something big or overdue, let us know! And while you’re dreaming up the next big Apple idea, take a look at our cases for iPhone/iPod, iPad and MacBook Air. Each high-quality case is always shipped super fast, and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.

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The future of the Mac: What will the next 30 years bring us?

The future of the Mac: What will the next 30 years bring us?

The future of the Mac: What will the next 30 years bring us?

Does the Mac have staying power to last another 30 years or are its best years behind it?

With the Mac’s 30th anniversary now receding into our rear view mirrors, I’ve begun to wonder about the future of the Macintosh. Will we be celebrating Mac’s 60th anniversary in 2044? Or will the Mac just be a footnote in the annals of technology history? And what do you think the future of the Mac might look like?

At the time the Mac debuted in 1984, the personal computer industry was at a crossroads. Apple had struck gold with the Apple II, becoming the most popular computer of its era. But already when the Mac hit the market, the Apple II’s glory days were gone. Apple had fierce competition in the form of IBM’s own PC.

Thirty years on, the landscape of the computer market looks very different. Macs have taken a larger chunk of the PC market than they have in years, but they’re still the minority. Having said that, personal computer sales in general continue to dive as more and more consumers and businesses alike find more uses for iPads and other tablet devices.

The Post PC era

Steve Jobs famously predicted the “Post PC era” after the advent of the iPad. “PCs are going to be like trucks,” he said. They’ll still be around, Jobs opined, but not everyone will need one.

It’s a great analogy. I don’t own a truck but I’m very content to borrow my parents’ Toyota Tacoma when it’s time to do spring cleaning or buy new furniture.

And the downward trend in PC (and more recently, Mac) sales suggest that Jobs was on the right track. Is this a long term trend, though, or a simple fad, like the netbook craze of a few years ago?

I think it’s safe to call it a trend at this point. Many people prefer to have tablets for their computing needs rather than a full-fledged laptop or desktop computer. Apple and other tablet makers have improved processing power and capabilities to expand the usability of these devices, too.

But that doesn’t mean the Mac – or the PC – is headed for the dustbin. I suspect they’ll level out eventually, since businesses and consumers alike still need computers to do what they do.

Continuing Jobs’ truck analogy, what’s the best-selling vehicle in America for the last three decades? The Ford F-150, a pickup truck.

PCs fall but Macs ascend

Mac sales may be falling along with PC sales, but the actual percentage of Mac sales against PC sales has steadily increased over the years – in fact, Mac sales have outpaced the PC market for most of the last seven years, which has resulted in the Mac slowly but inexorably increasing its market share against Windows. Admittedly, it’s still the minority, and will be for a long time, but things have improved.

Bottom line is that people continue to buy Macs, and lots of them. Macs still have a strong seat at the table when it comes to the traditional content creation markets where they’ve always done well – graphic design, publishing, video editing, music. Many small business have turned to Macs to help defer IT costs in the belief that Macs are more reliable or less reliant on staff-based tech support than PCs.

One of the biggest market segments for Apple is in the home, however, as people have turned to Macs after years of dealing with PC malware, mediocre updates from Microsoft and just general disappointment with their purchases. About half of the people walking in to buy Macs at the Apple Store are new customers, according to Apple – people who either owned a PC before or haven’t owned any kind of computer before.

Equilibrium with mobile devices

Accepting for a moment that tablets and other mobile devices are here to stay for many people’s general computing needs, I wonder what the landscape of the Macintosh is bound to look like. Is the Mac relegated to “truck”s status as Jobs opined?

I don’t think so, and here’s why. Tablets are great for a lot of things, but they don’t replace computers. For any kind of long-form data entry, whether you’re working on a spreadsheet or database or writing a report for work or school, you really need a good keyboard and text entry system.

Some people can fake it with a keyboard case for the iPad, and that’s fine. But it’s an edge case. Typing in text or numbers using a Bluetooth keyboard on a tablet is an awkward experience, because before too long, you have to reach for the screen anyway, to activate on-screen controls or to do editing. And that means marking up the glass you’re looking through with fingerprints and breaking the plane you’ve set your hands in, changing them from a horizontal to vertical orientation.

Or trying switching between different applications on a mobile device like an iPad. It’s an awkward experience. If you’re writing a paper that requires you to research information online, you’ll go mad switching between Safari and your word processor or text editor, especially if you’re citing references and using copy and paste. It’s ugly.

Not only that, but computers still dramatically outperform tablets, which are optimized for battery life more than they are for performance. The gap has narrowed since the first iPad hit the streets in 2010, but computers still have the edge.

Looking down the road

Apple senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi said that Apple was making the change from the “big cat” nomenclature of OS X to something that would last Apple the next ten years – place names (Mavericks is named after a surfing spot in Northern California not too far away from Apple’s headquarters).

Federighi’s “next ten years” comment was probably just a lyrical conceit, but it’s comforting to think that somewhere in Cupertino, he has a 10 year plan for OS X. I’d love to see what it looks like. I don’t pretend to have any insider knowledge here, but I’d love to imagine it.

I admit that I was a bit concerned when it seemed like OS X and iOS were moving together. I’ve even read alarmist analyst comments about a forthcoming “iAnyhwere” OS that will blur the line between Mac and iOS device entirely.

I think that’s nonsense and bunk. iOS and OS X will coexist for some time to come, and the line will blur where it makes sense – in a Maps app for Mavericks that enables you to easy transfer directions to your iPhone, for example, or in seamless exchange of data through iCloud for calendar, contacts and even iWork documents.

OS X will remain its own, distinct entity because inherent to Apple’s design philosophy is that form follows function, and OS X is designed to answer a very different set of consumer and business needs than iOS.

The future of the Mac itself

The Mac is still undergoing a transition from old technology to new technology. The iMac, Mac mini and standard MacBook Pro all employ conventional hard disk drives, for example, while the rest of the Mac line has moved along to solid state.

But solid state drives (SSDs) don’t have the same sort of density or cost per megabyte that hard drives do, which has left Apple in the position of having to rely more on cloud-based document sharing to help fill in the blanks. I can’t even buy an iPod touch with the same storage capacity as my three-year-old iPod classic, for example.

But the writing is on the wall – Apple’s moving away from conventional hard drive storage and has almost completely worked itself away from optical drives (the standard MacBook Pro – still available but unchanged since 2012) is the last model with an internal SuperDrive). That will continue as higher density flash storage becomes available and as consumers find alternatives to hard drives and CDs/DVDs.

I’m no expert on display technology, but I’ve been reading up on organic light emitting transistor (OLET) and seems really promising. Maybe we’ll see something like that emerge for laptops and iMacs in the not too distant future. And it seems like we’re inevitably headed towards 4K and “Retina Display”-class resolution, too.

I don’t think we’re going to see any short-term revolutionary changes to the Mac platform. After 30 years, Apple’s taking an incremental approach, promising developers yearly updates to the operating system to help the Mac keep pace with both consumer expectations and developer needs.

Ultimately the Mac will have to change with the times, just as Apple has made it do a number of times in its life – from System 6 to 7, later to OS X, from PowerPC to Intel architectures.

One thing I know for sure – in 30 years’ time, I’m willing to bet that the Mac will be recognizable to anyone who’s using it today, just as the first Macs are to modern Mac users. And I’m sure we’ll view much of the Mavericks interface with the same sort of quaint nostalgia and anthropological detachment we do today when we look at how the first Mac Finder and apps looked back in 1984, marveling at how Apple, developers and users were able to do so much with such limited resources.

What are your hopes and dreams for the Mac in the next 30 years? Share your thoughts in the comments – I’d love to know.

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Future Gen iPad Could Be Even Smaller While Maintaining Same …

One look at the iPad Air and you can easily tell how Apple was able to make it so much thinner than every previous iPad. The landscape bezel is significantly slimmer. The reduction in finger space is well worth the cost to have a lighter tablet. However, the missing edge can cause accidental actions in some instances. Personally, I’ve only noticed that error once or twice in the past few months. It has happened, though. According to a new patent from Apple, there may be a time in the future when the iPad will shrink even smaller in size and the bezel won’t even be an issue thanks to smart sensor technology that would detect whether the screen was being touched for action, or simple being held.

The technology, called “Force Sensing” would allow gestures like swipes to still work when directed off of the screen, but would actually allow for some interactions, like scrolling, to take place in the bezel area.

Force SensingVirtual buttons could be used to detect a force signal corresponding to an object exerting force on it. Basically, the iPad would know how hard you were pushing, so it would know whether you are trying to perform an action or simply holding the device.

The technology in this patent might make it possible for Apple to use the bezel to its advantage to make certain controls that normally appear on the screen hidden from view. For example, you could use the side of the tablet to swipe downward to scroll or press on the corner to trigger a function. At the same time, the Force Sensing would detect when you were holding the device and not activate touch gestures.

If Apple ever did make such technology, it probably won’t be implemented into tablet devices for a few more years.

[Via: CultofMac]