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Summer Journal

Volume 27, Issue 3

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Jon Seals

The scandal surrounding the National Security Agency's Prism data-gathering programme will impact all businesses that rely heavily on the processing and analysis of customer information, according to experts.

Technology giants including Apple, Facebook and Google have denied that they have participated in Prism and have said that they have not enabled the US government to access their systems through a "backdoor".


There's a logical fallacy that mathematicians are fond of quoting when humans exercise their considerable built-in pattern-recognition abilities to draw conclusions that could just be coincidence: correlation does not imply causality. But, as Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger argue in Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, what Big Data brings with it is a profound shift in our attempts to understand How the World Works. In their view, correlation may now be good enough all by itself.




For centuries we have focused on causation as a way of deriving general principles from specific cases. For example, once we understood that plants grew in response to ready supplies of sunlight, water and nutrients in the soil, we were able to apply this knowledge to promote more rapid and reliable growth. What's happening now is that by churning through huge masses of data we can find patterns that would not be trustworthy in smaller samples, and derive value from them whether or not we understand the underlying causality.



In the wake of the recent collapse of data centre provider, 2E2 (the company ran out of cash and asked clients including the NHS and numerous businesses to stump up extra money to avoid losing their data), it’s more important than ever that companies take the right precautions and ask the right questions to ensure their data is safe and that they have peace of mind. The amount of data being collected, transferred and processed across all businesses is increasing exponentially and storing it is now a key element of business operations, as is keeping it secure.

Like any business partnership, the first and perhaps most important consideration for a prospective client should be the people that will look after their data on a day-to-day basis i.e. the employees of the firm they are evaluating. Around 70% of instances of data being compromised are down to human error; so you need a team you can trust.



My recent blog assessed how 'disasters' fared in the U.N. Secretary General’s High Level Panel report on post-2015 development goals. This time, I consider the report’s implications for setting priorities for the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), the global agreement on reducing disaster risk. The HFA, like the Millennium Development Goals, is also due for renewal in 2015. Here are some preliminary points.

The next HFA should:

1. Ensure ‘tacking vulnerability and its causes’ is the dominant message. Here, very clear links need to be made to the post-2015 development goals that help to underscore the critical intersection of disaster risk and the causes of vulnerability and poverty. If backed by a disasters target in a poverty goal, as suggested by the high level panel, the successor to the HFA can then become a vision, operational plan and implementation guide for governments and the global development community. This will take equal recognition of the small (‘silent’) disasters, as well as the headliners, and therefore place ‘development’-oriented policy responses at the core of the next agreement.



Hurricane Sandy, the recent, deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma and the Boston Marathon bombing are stark reminders that businesses and commercial and industrial properties are susceptible to a wide variety of emergencies.  Hurricanes, extensive flooding, blizzards, ice storms, fires and utility disruptions are just some of the emergencies that can impact a business’ operations, bringing fresh urgency to the need for business preparedness and resiliency efforts.

Such emergencies and disasters have the potential to cripple or even destroy businesses – of all sizes and scope – that are unprepared for such events; studies show that 40% of businesses that do not have emergency plans in place do not re-open after a major incident.

Having businesses that are resilient to emergencies ultimately helps local communities and citizens recover from disasters faster – which is why business resilience is so important to FEMA.   Engaging an entire community in disaster preparedness, response and recovery activities is a main responsibility of FEMA’s Private Sector Liaisons, who work in all ten FEMA regions across the country.  As the Private Sector Liaison for FEMA Region I (which covers six states and 10 Indian Tribes in New England), I arranged for our regional office to participate in the “Weathering the Storm: How Properties Can Prepare and Respond” event that NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, hosted on May 31, 2013.



Recent news of widespread phone and internet surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) has raised serious questions over the ethical and legal obligations private companies face to protect the privacy of individuals. To what extent is it ethically acceptable for companies to assist in legal surveillance of innocent individuals?

Telecommunications companies are caught between the rights of individuals to protect personal data about themselves and governmental demands for personal information under the guise of national security. The fundamental problem is that individuals place trust in companies to protect their privacy, while companies are legally required to pass this data on at the request of the government under increasingly broad interpretations of laws permitting surveillance.



GENEVA – Amid human infections from H7N9 and MERS-CoV, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday released an updated guidance to help coordinate national and international pandemic preparedness and response.

The "Pandemic Influenza Risk Management: WHO Interim Guidance," incorporating lessons learned from the Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 pandemic and other relevant developments, replaces the "2009 Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response: a WHO Guidance Document."

Following recommendations by a review committee on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, the new influenza guidance simplifies the pandemic phases structure, emphasizes the risk assessment and risk-based approach, and increases the flexibility of member states to take actions.



Computers, networks, and information security seem to fall comfortably under the heading of science, but science alone is not enough. Security system developer Tripwire recently conducted a survey in cooperation with the Ponemon Institute to find out whether IT professionals consider risk management to be “science” or “art."

Ponemon surveyed 1,320 respondents across the United States and the United Kingdom: IT professionals working in information security, risk management, IT operations, business operations, and compliance. Participants were asked, “In your opinion, is information security risk management an ‘art’ or ‘science’?”


Ponemon defined the two concepts for the purposes of the survey. “Science” means basing decisions on objective, quantifiable metrics and data. “Art” refers to analysis and decisions that are based on intuition, expertise, and a holistic view of the organization.



Can summer heat cause as big a disaster as a hurricane or tornado?  We turned to backup and disaster recovery specialist and MSP Strata Information Technology, Inc  to find out. President Pete Robbins follows three simple procedures to keep customers in check during the summer heat. We'll reveal the scoop in this MSPmentor exclusive.

Robbins suggested to MSPmentor that even MSPs located in an area that is less likely to be hit by a natural disaster, it's still important to stay focused and energized.



Today’s virtualized systems provide a sound platform for business continuity because the platforms and networking are stronger and more agile than they were even a few years ago.

One of the key benefits of the cloud model—and all cloud systems are virtualized—is how virtual machine-driven systems can help to ensure business continuity and speed disaster recovery. Companies of all sizes are always looking for affordable ways to deliver quality IT services reliably and continuously to customers and employees. Cloud computing using virtual machines presents a low-cost disaster recovery and business continuity solution for small and midsize businesses and a more cost-effective alternative to cost-conscious larger corporations.