SA: Gadget Nation

Date:1 June 2012 Tags:, ,

Getting connected is becoming easier day by day. But as you rush to take advantage of Internet-ready devices, beware the cyber crooks lurking in the shadows.

The average South African family with an Internet connection has four personal electronic devices with Internet
access and massive data-storage capacity.

And that’s only the average. There’s a small, but fast-growing elite, the 2,6 per cent of “highly connected” South Africans who own today’s gadget equivalent of poker’s full house: desktop PC, laptop, smartphone and tablet.

We’re well up among the 20 countries and 7 000 respondents surveyed during 2011 for top antivirus company Kaspersky Lab.

But that connectivity comes at a potential cost: even as new elite revel in their super-capable gadgets, they’re opening themselves up to the risk of cyber crime, says Kaspersky.

We’re not far behind the world’s most gadget-happy nation, Saudi Arabia, which averages 4,3 devices per household. At the other extreme is Romania, on just 2,6.

So what are these devices? Smartphones, mainly: two out of every five households surveyed report having at least two smartphones. Add to that 27,1 per cent of the respondents with two or more desktop PCs, with slightly more having two or more laptops at home. Tablets may be slow to take hold, but when they do… watch out. Currently just under 12 per cent of respondents have one.

We’re under increasing threat as online activity becomes an everyday occurrence, as social networks take up increasing chunks of our time and as we spend more time checking mail or browsing the Net. You don’t need a conventional computer for this, either: a smartphone will do.

In 2011, the experts at Kaspersky Lab observed a dramatic growth in the amount of malware for the majority of platforms. On Windows, the default operating system on most of the world’s PCs, malware increased 80 per cent last year. Think you’re immune on a Mac? Think again: malware aimed at Mac OS grew 35 per cent.

It’s the mobile platforms that should really have us worried. The runaway success of Android as a mobile platform has been mirrored by a similar ballooning of threats. A year ago, there were barely a couple of dozen threats; by the end of 2011, the total breached the 2 000 mark. The overall increase in malware targeting Android for the year came to almost 12 000 per cent.

You shouldn’t feel too smug if you’re using the alternatives. Windows Mobile viruses grew 13 per cent and Symbian 16 percent. Java2ME is used on the majority of basic phones – so naturally it’s a favourite target for virus writers, who boosted their output on this platform by 160 per cent.

“Regardless of the type of device or operating system, users need to be sure that all their gadgets are protected. With such a variety of devices and platforms, comprehensive protection is only possible with the help of universal solutions that have already become a major new trend in IT security for end users,” says Alexander Erofeev, Kaspersky’s head of strategic marketing and brand communication. “When you have several devices, purchasing an integrated solution makes more sense economically than protecting each device separately, and it makes installation much easier.” Naurally, he pointed out the company’s ONE system as “just the sort of flexible solution that can protect your PCs, laptops, Macs, smartphones and tablets”.

Small outfits head for the cloud

If you’re planning to make a success of your small business, you’d better have your head in the cloud. In fact, you are probably already using the cloud without even being aware of it: hosted e-mail, hosted mobile messaging services such as BlackBerry’s BBM, Dropbox… they’re all in the cloud.

Within the next two years, cloud computing is set to grow even bigger and to transform the way that small South African businesses consume ICT services, is the word from Nashua Mobile.

In the past, we’ve been hampered by local broadband’s erratic quality and high price. That’s changed thanks to innovative and affordable data products such as uncapped ADSL products.

What’s the big deal about the cloud?

For a small business, cost is a huge inhibiting factor: it simply can’t afford the cost of technology applications. But the
cloud would give access to tech applications as online services provided by telecommunication service providers. No need to install applications on PCs and servers, and payments per-user, per-month.

It isn’t just about cost, either. The cloud adds improved operating functionality and flexibility. You can scale up or down as required.

That will entail moving beyond the basic cloud applications mentioned earlier to bigger, more complex business and even telecoms applications. That, in turn, will cut down costs on a range of areas from IT support to internal staff or service providers.

Another plus is how neatly the cloud approach dovetails with the growing tendency towards remote and mobile work – workshifting. There’s secure access to applications and data stored in the cloud from anywhere in the world. Your office is wherever you are.

Nashua Mobile believes that cloud computing will become mainstream in the SMME market within the next year and is
working to offer a range of hosted products in the second half of 2012. According to market researcher, IDC, 63 per cent of South African organisations are already investing in some form of cloud technology or plan to do so in the near future.

With mainstream software vendors like Microsoft aggressively pushing the cloud, Nashua is convinced it will be the computing model of the future.

 

For a video demonstration of Microsoft’s cloud applications click here: “Demo of Microsoft’s cloud applications