There can be little doubt that technology is the single greatest factor affecting how, both as individuals and a society, we will shape the future. But the past is important as well. That’s why we think McGregor Boyall’s three decades of experience of information technology recruitment is vitally important. IT recruitment has been, and still is, at the heart of what we do. And what we do is introduce the very best information technologists to organisations who are looking for the very best information technologists. Our proven experience over thirty years has allowed us to build a wide-ranging client base that spans all sectors, not just the financial services sector for which we are perhaps best known.
So if you are a talented and skilled information technologist whose experience has been gained as a permanent employee or as a contractor, please contact us so that we can discuss career options with you. Whether your experience has been gained in analysis, development, support, infrastructure, project management or general management, we look forward to talking with you.
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Working from home has been vital to slow transmission of the coronavirus. However, a new threat has emerged: increased online activity, use of new applications and less secure home networks are opening up individuals and organisations to a host of cyberattacks.
According to a recent Forbes article, in an analysis of the first 100 days of the COVID-19 crisis security firm Mimecast reported a 33% increase in detected cyberattacks – including spam (+26%), malware (+35%), impersonation (+30%) and blocked URL links (+56%). Certain industries are being particularly targeted, such as healthcare (e.g. The World Health Organisation have reported a fivefold increase in cyberattacks and PPE themed scams have increased) and banking (increased use of online banking presents many opportunities for hackers – such as exploiting new users who may not be familiar with the service).
A recent report from McKinsey highlighted the multitude of potential cybersecurity risks exacerbated by remote working. For example, changes in app-access rights (such as enabling off-site access and lack of multifactor authentication) and use of personal devices or tools (such as a laptop without central control or an unsecured network) increase the opportunities for cyberattacks. While technology was vital to navigate our way through the COVID-19 crisis, rapid adoption of new digital offerings has increased risk. New tools such as video-conferencing have been particularly affected, where an unauthorised person joins a call to steal information or cause disruption. There are also fake tech support scams – increasingly sophisticated attempts to manipulate remote workers (especially those who may be working from home for the first time) with fabricated access and other tech support issues.
The weakest point in any technical system is the person sitting behind the screen. The majority (at least half, according to Trustwave’s 2020 Global Security Report) of cyberattacks occur via social engineering, a psychological manipulation process using tactics such as sending a scam from a trusted source. As always, cyber-criminals know how to target human vulnerabilities, and the number of phishing scams capitalising on our fear of COVID-19 has significantly increased. In addition, we are more likely to fall for a scam when tired or stressed – given the change to working from home, where many are juggling a variety of stressors – we might be even more vulnerable to these kinds of attacks right now.
What can you do?
Given that the person behind the screen represents a security weak-point, they also represent an area of improvement. We will need to learn how to practise good cyber-hygiene, similar to how we adopted thorough hand-washing and social distancing to reduce the risk of the coronavirus.
There are several excellent resources on improving cybersecurity. For example, Siemens have provided their eight top tips for cybersecurity in the home office, including only bringing home essential devices, not mixing personal and business use of devices and ensuring all software is always up to date. The Electronic Frontier Foundation provide more in depth advice on how to spot a phishing scam.
However, while this information is useful, it can be more difficult to establish reliable cyber-security habits. A reported three in four remote workers have yet to receive cybersecurity training, despite the clear increase in risk. More importantly, remote workers are falling for these cyber-attacks. This was recently highlighted by software development company, Gitlab, who found that 1 out of 5 of their own remote-working staff exposed user credentials by replying to a fake phishing message. Regular testing of existing cybersecurity plans in this manner can help to identify areas for improvement.
While cyber-attacks are growing ever more sophisticated, so is cybersecurity. Gamification is one fresh approach to cybersecurity training. Reading through countless tips and the odd video on cybersecurity is unlikely to translate to robust cyber-hygiene habits. However, gamified training results in increased engagement, knowledge and information retention.
Increased investment in cybersecurity may provide us with a host of interesting ideas. Cheltenham Borough Council recently announced plans for a £400 million campus development, situated next door to GCHQ, said to be the ‘Silicon Valley of the UK’. The complex will help to bridge the current skills gap and enhance the UK’s cybersecurity capacity.
Clearly, the coronavirus has highlighted a variety of cybersecurity threats. With remote working expected to continue for the foreseeable future and beyond, it is vital to address current shortcomings in security. Looking forward, the industry is an exciting one, poised for innovation and development.
Times of crisis have often sparked innovation. The Second World War, for example, brought us the forerunner of modern-day computer, advances in radar, the basis of microwaves and mass production of penicillin. COVID-19 is having a similar effect on digital development. Ideas that might have seemed far-fetched (such as the rapid scale-up of online grocery shopping and other e-commerce) are promoted by a crisis-inspired culture of experimentation. Here are five examples of how technology is developing in response to extraordinary demands.
1. Data Analysis Tools
Finding data is easy, understanding it is hard. To this end, the pandemic has inspired several AI tools to help us make sense of the large amount of available information. Data analytics company, Arria NLG, are involved in two projects helping to transform data into an easy-to-understand narrative – the COVID-19 Live Report and the COVID-19 U.S. Tracking Report. AI analysis is also being used by a group of Northwestern University researchers to identify which research will return reliable, usable results that will help aid the search for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
The power of blockchain was recently demonstrated in a $12 million cross-continent commodity trade transaction of wheat. Usually, a transaction of this kind can take up to a month. However, using dltledgers’s blockchain platform, this was reduced to just five days. More and more businesses are expanding their reliance on blockchain – such as Nestle, who recently extended their use of the IMB Food Trust blockchain platform to their Swedish coffee range. The implications for keeping supply chains running seamlessly – something the coronavirus has highlighted as a serious challenge – are remarkable.
3. Natural Language Processing
With varied applications, such as helping customers navigate online platforms or as efficient medical tools (such as those used by Providence St. Joseph to offer coronavirus-related information), chatbots are proving useful during the pandemic. Chatbots are most commonly used to increase efficiency by answering simple queries, while forwarding more complex requests to a human operator. However, natural language processing, which refers to the deep learning that allows the chatbot to extract meaning from human conversation, improves with increased data. With some custom-made chatbots already proving useful in advanced interactions (such as Replika’s virtual friends, helping some people cope with the effects of social isolation), the uptake in chatbot use may enable the AI underpinning them to become vastly more sophisticated in the years to come.
At their recent virtual event, IBM announced a new range of AI-powered services, designed to support businesses in automating their digital infrastructure. According to Verdict, the new offering will “use automation to detect, diagnose and respond to IT anomalies and will integrate with other products such as those from Slack and Box.” Developments such as these will allow businesses to successfully adapt to a more digital future.
Many companies have reported that they are looking to increase use of robotics for food service, warehouses and cleaning operations. Blue Ocean Robotics have responded to this increased demand by creating a cleaning robot, able to destroy viruses, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms with concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light. It can sanitise environments such as hospitals, offices, shops and schools without the need for chemicals, meaning that people can be present during the cleaning. Production was quickly accelerated due to coronavirus-related demand, and it now takes less than one day to create a robot. The general public have often been uncomfortable with the idea of robots (and the issue of replacing human jobs with robot labour remains). However, with social distancing likely to be in place throughout 2021, robot labour may become more acceptable, stimulating demand for and development of robotic technology.
This article has showcased a small handful of the exciting innovation occurring during the pandemic. Given that there is expected to be a permanent shift towards use of digital services and practices such as remote working, these developments could have far-reaching implications for the technology industry for years to come.
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Our Technology Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2019 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our Technology Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
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