Going Pro With Cyber Security

Sri Lanka’s First Cyber Security Degree Programme Launches

It’s very reasonable to suggest that you’re more likely to get hacked than smacked these days. In 2016 we saw massive increases in cyber security breaches affecting everyone from major governments, companies and the ordinary fellow on the street. In this heightened environment of ‘Cyber Tension’ the CICRA Campus, Sri Lanka’s pioneering information security training and consultancy provider, has taken the very prudent step to introduce, for the first time in Sri Lanka, a Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Cyber Security. The Degree programme is offered and conducted by CICRA in partnership with Deakin University in Australia.

Cyber Security as a profession is growing rapidly in Sri Lanka and around the world. A report published by Cisco indicates that there are currently more than 1 million job opportunities for Cyber Security Specialists and Forbes magazine has projected that by 2019 there will be more than 6 million openings for qualified experts in the field.

The Bachelor’s Degree in Cyber Security offered by CICRA, in partnership with Deakin University, will focus on this critical area and provide extensive, in-depth knowledge and training. CICRA says that the program will provide students with a solid foundation in Cyber Security Literacy and all of the technical skills required of a Cyber Security Professional by the industry, allowing graduates to stand out in the job market. To complete the programme a minimum of 100 hours in an internship position is mandatory, which only adds to the student’s experience and employability.

What we really like about the programme is that it’s flexible. CICRA has obtained a special license to offer the complete three-year degree programme right here in Colombo, allowing students to affordably complete their studies without leaving the country. The programme is also ideal for students interested in studying abroad or even migrating, allowing for the first year of study to be completed in Colombo and the remaining two years to be completed at Deakin University in Australia where, according to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (a US Think Tank), there is plenty of opportunity, with Australia leading the world in the shortage of Cyber Security Experts.

Cyber Security has been an issue ever since the advent of the internet. Still, it has largely remained a niche area of interest until events like the Snowden Revelations showed us the extent to which technology can be misused and abused. That and the advent of high profile Hackings and groups of Hackers like Anonymous have firmly thrust Cyber Security into the spotlight. Given that the world is only becoming more connected and therefore more vulnerable, we feel that choosing a career in Cyber Security is an admirable way to serve one’s country and society at large. In this age of ‘Cyber Psychos’, kudos to CICRA for taking the initiative to provide Sri Lankans with the means to fight the battle right here at home.

 

If you are interested, check out the Degree Programme in detail here.

Coding Our Future

ICTA Launches the ‘All Children Coding Initiative’

Little is being done in Sri Lanka aimed at equipping students to take advantage of the opportunities available within the IT Industry, here and abroad. In this environment, it’s refreshing to hear about the ‘All Children Coding Initiative’ announced by the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), advocating the inclusion of Coding in the school curriculum.

Little known to most people, Sri Lanka has a vibrant, innovative software development, engineering and servicing industry. Sri Lankan IT companies have even developed the software that runs some of the world’s largest stock exchanges. Foreign earnings from Sri Lanka’s IT sector were expected to surpass USD 1 Billion last year, making it hugely profitable and creating abundant opportunities for computer programmers.

The ‘All Children Coding Initiative’ will begin with the development of a comprehensive Coding Curriculum, covering both primary and secondary schools. The initiative will start with a relatively small group of schools, teachers and students, with the goal of training 200 teachers and reaching at least 7,000 students within the first year. The project also hopes to reduce the gender gap that currently exists within Sri Lanka’s IT Sector, with women comprising less than 30% of the workforce. According to the ICTA, engaging and exposing children to coding at a young age is expected to result in more equitable gender participation rates within the sector, in the future.

Learning to code will serve you well, whether you’re a kid in school or somewhere further along in life. The modern world that we live in is driven by computers and computers are driven by code. So, if we want to change the world, we must be able to change what drives it. Think of Facebook, Google or Uber; they’ve all changed the world for the better.

Coding can be used to build anything, so it encourages creativity and makes us better at solving problems. It’s essentially what coding is, taking a problem, creatively solving it and mapping out the process of solving the problem in a logical, methodical way. Being able to solve your own problems or having the ability to help others solve their problems gives you a great sense of confidence and confidence makes you better and better at everything you do.

The ‘All Children Coding Initiative’ will surely have an uphill battle to fight, going against the (can we say, ‘archaic’?) Education System in Sri Lanka, but we feel that this is a great and essential step on the road to a knowledge-based economy and an increasingly digital world. We hope that the ‘All Children Coding Initiative’ will be a resounding success.

This YouTube Video provides an inspiring take on why coding is so important. Do check it out.

Tell us what you think about the ‘All Children Coding Initiative’ and if and how coding has impacted your life. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Huawei’s New ‘Non-Exploding’ Phone

The New Mate 9

On November the 3rd, in Munich, Germany Huawei unveiled the ‘Mate 9’ smartphone. With a 5.9 inch 1920×1080 display it’s actually a ‘phablet’, a form factor we love. At the launch, Huawei took a jab at the unmitigated disaster that is Samsung’s Exploding Galaxy Note 7, unveiling the new Mate 9 as a ‘non-exploding’ phone 😛 The device is clearly targeted at the high end of the market and is intended as competition for the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7.  

Did you know that many of the world’s mobile telecommunications networks are powered by Huawei technology and many people in Sri Lanka use Huawei products without even realizing it? If you use an internet dongle, odds are it’s Huawei. Google’s Nexus phones are also made by Huawei.

They are the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer and still, to many consumer’s, Huawei seems like an obscure mobile phone brand. That’s because they’re quite new to consumer mobile phones. It’s also possibly because they focus on creating great, beautiful looking, reliable technology and not on blowing their trumpets. Did you know that Huawei introduced dual cameras almost a year before the ‘revolutionary’ iPhone 7? Yep.

The Mate 9 boasts a 4000mAh battery, dual-SIM functionality, Octa-Core Kirin 960 processor with 4 cores at 2.4GHz and four cores at 1.8GHz, dedicated GPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage, micro SD expandability up to 256GB, 20MP second-generation dual camera, 8MP front camera and all the other stuff you normally get with a great smartphone. All of this runs on Android 7.0. Phew! We’re blown away.

According to Huawei, the new Kirin 960 Chip is their fastest to date, so speed and smoothness will never be an issue. The 4000mAh battery is likely to be more than plenty and Huawei has finally included its own fast charging system, called Super Charge, which takes your battery from 0 to 60% in 30 minutes, full charge in 90.

By Huawei’s own admission, the new Mate 9 is designed for use by productivity fiends, business-types and young entrepreneurs. So its design is likely to appeal more to suits and ties and less to skinny jeans, hipsters beware. Still, we’re absolutely sure that when buying phones people look more at performance and what’s inside and less at what’s outside, possibly why the iPhone is so popular 😛

All in all, for us, the new Mate 9 is just about great across the board, except in one area. The screen resolution at 1080p is a bit of a let down on such a large and high end device but there was no visible impact when compared to its competitors. Everything still looks great.

Also, while it doesn’t bother us one bit, in fact we love it, some users might find the sheer size of the device to be somewhat logistically challenging and its plain, clear cut looks to be less than enthusing. Still, we feel the Mate 9 may turn out to be one of 2016’s best and it’s definitely the competition Apple and Samsung need and deserve.

Common-Sense – The Best Anti-Virus

How to Protect Yourself and Your Devices Online

Did you know that nearly all malicious attacks require the user’s authorization for them to be successful?

‘Really?’ you ask, ‘But then, how do so many people get affected?’ Well, because they don’t think before they click. To be more specific, they don’t read, spare a thought for the plausibility of the situation or exercise any common-sense before they click.

People are generally ‘clicker-happy junkies’. There’s no blame in this, though, because it’s common human behaviour and the ruthless, vile scum who perpetrate malicious attacks prey on common human tendencies. For example, most would click the ‘click to see Miley Cyrus naked’ button without hesitation, though we think such links have lost some of their potency in the post-twerking age. But that has not changed the common human curiosity to see other people, especially famous people, in saucy states of undress.

So how do you protect yourself? We can’t go into great detail because we don’t want this post to read like a dossier, but we will give you a general idea that you can expand on with some research, putting your clicker-happiness to some positive use. Attacks fall into two broad categories:

  1. Malware (includes Viruses)
  2. Phishing & Spam

Malware, short for malicious software, includes a broad range of evil, viruses amongst them. They commonly arrive via email attachments/downloads from the web and must be executed by the user for a successful attack.

Protect yourself by reading emails carefully before opening attachments. Verify that the email is from a trusted source. Be very cautious of generic subject lines like, ‘CHECK THIS OUT!!!’, ‘YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS’ and the like. Ask yourself whether, in your experience, the sender would use such language. Always remember, WHEN IN DOUBT DO NOT CLICK. Be especially weary of executable files and office files. Always check that the email address of the sender is correct.

Phishing is a malicious attempt, by a third-party, to obtain sensitive information from you by masquerading as a legitimate organization. A typical scenario might go something like this; you receive an email from what appears to be Facebook Support asking you to verify your password and phone number. You are to click a link and follow the instructions and graphically, everything will appear to be legitimate.

Here’s what to look for, though. First always ask yourself, how likely is it for Facebook, or whatever the organization may be, to ask me for this? Next, check the email address and the URLs. If it is a button, hovering over it will show you the URL. This applies to pop-ups too.

Do the URL and email address make sense? In the Facebook example above:

A legitimate request might have a link like this: http://www.facebook.com/verify

But never: http://www.facebookverify.com

Or there could be subdomain used, like this: http://www.verify.facebook.com

But never: http://www.facebook.verify.com

Always make sure the domain that the URL is pointing you to is the same as the domain used by the legitimate service. This is important when verifying email addresses too. Here’s an example:

Legitimate Email Address: “yourbestfriendsname@yahoo.com”

Malicious Email Address: “yourbestfriendsname@yahooo.com”

Spam is more irritating than harmful, but it can lead to malware infections and you exchanging hard earned money for copious quantities of snake oil. No, those penile enlargement pills don’t work, you won’t find the solution to your financial problems in your inbox and no, you cannot win the lottery or anything for that matter without having actually bought the lottery or entered the draw.

We are not in any way suggesting that Antivirus software isn’t essential, but being aware of what you’re doing, reading, paying attention and thinking before you click, “SITUATIONAL AWARENESS” is the best first line of defense.

Common-sense is a method of prevention and antivirus a method of cure and as the cliché goes, prevention is better than cure.

 

Tablets May Have To Swallow the Pill Soon

The Age of the Hybrid is Upon Us.

The tablet computer was a revolutionary leap in terms of personal computing at its inception. Enough computing horsepower for the average user was packed into one, often sleek device. They are excellent for web browsing, reading, photos, videos, light gaming and even some light word processing or spread sheets (if you have the patience :-P). No peripherals meant complete freedom. But tablets always lacked a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.

With the arrival of hybrid devices like the Microsoft Surface Book and others like ASUS’s line of ‘Transformers’, the traditional tablet has been given a dose of steroids and has mutated into something that could and, in fact, already is turning out to be a dream come true. Hybrids retain all that is best about the tablet form factor that we all love, but then, plug it into its base and it’s like Popeye had some spinach.

Let’s just look at the Microsoft Surface Book for a second. While it is a very high end device it’s certainly a dream come true for many. Packing excellent features such as Core i7 Processors and dedicated Nvidia graphics and a gorgeous touch screen display, it’s quite the charm. Unplug it from its base, which consists of the keyboard, track pad and extra battery power and the Surface Book becomes a tablet with which you can do tablet stuff, like reading in bed or watching a movie on the couch. Plug it back in and you do actually, finally have a powerful laptop or even a desktop replacement. While the price is steep, buying a hybrid means you don’t need to have a desktop, laptop and a tablet so, really, it’s good value.

The move to hybrids has been made possible largely due to the windows platform. Since Windows 8, Microsoft has offered a seamless, cross platform operating system. With the exception of nearly all mobile phones, the Windows OS is able to run in both mobile and full desktop modes. This has seen a huge drop in the sales of tablets powered solely by a mobile OS like Android.

Just to put all of this into perspective in qualitative terms, consider these figures. In the last quarter of this year, 43 million tablets were shipped. This number is down 14.7% when compared to the same period last year. All the major manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Lenovo posted declines in tablet sales. The only segment of tablets to see a rise was the very, very low end. Hybrids on the other hand, surged.

But we suppose that this is just the normal course of things. Tablets always lacked a certain something and when hybrids originally came out, they were awkward and a bit of a disaster. But they’ve come of age now and with beauties like the Surface Book, Transformers and others, well, we’d be unlikely to consider buying a traditional tablet ever again.

 

 

New Ways to Interact with Mac

macbook-pro-explosions-800x369

Apple Introduces MacBook with Pro with Touch Bar

A couple of weeks ago we spoke of rumours that Apple has plans to revolutionize the standard QWERTY keyboard with the introduction of infinitely customizable keyboards using e-ink displays. During the launch of the new MacBook Pro Last week at Apple’s Cupertino, California event, they’ve possibly taken a step closer to that idea.

Yes, yes the new MacBook Pro is thinner, lighter, probably faster than its predecessor blah, blah, blah… What is really exciting and interesting is the introduction of a Touch Bar and no it’s not called the iTouch Bar:-P

So what is it? Basically a tiny strip-like OLED touch screen located above the numbers on the keyboard and powered by its own ARM processor, which is interesting in and of itself because there’s been a lot of speculation about when Apple might introduce a MacBook with an Apple designed ARM Processor.

While the new MacBook Pro can in no way claim to be ‘powered’ by an ARM processor, it’s inclusion and exclusive use for some tasks like handling security for the Touch ID sensor and Apple Pay dialogs may herald the possibility of a shift away from Intel Processors to Apple’s own custom designed processors.

The new Touch Bar is Mac OS’s first ever official foray into touch sensitive input. Apple has said that, while touch enabled MacBooks have been considered in the past, they do not believe that they would be particularly useful, which is true to an extent, especially for non-hybrid devices.

So what does it do?

Lots of things, lots of fun things… It displays different ‘buttons’ depending on what you’re doing. Watch a movie and symbols appear allowing volume adjustments, pause/play functions and more. If you’re the DJ at a house party, the Touch Bar changes into a mini DJ kit. Best of all, when you’re typing, the Touch Bar becomes filled with emojis, which are fun and fill otherwise dull text with emotion and life.

While the use and evolution of emojis predates Apple’s interest in them, in the last five years Apple has become a major supporter and influencer of the medium. They’ve made some great changes to emojis over the years making them friendlier and more fun.

Apple says, though, that the new Touch Bar does not herald a move toward fully touch enabled Macs. They don’t want to turn Mac OS into iOS or iOS into Mac OS. According to Apple, both are good at what they do for different reasons.

What will be interesting to see is the development of the technology, which will add new functionality without complicating everything like Window’s has gone and done with their metro apps interface. It’s also exciting to see what new functions will be delegated to the integrated ARM processors on MacBooks in the future.

The Touch Bar has received some criticism from Windows Fan Boys, claiming that a simple full touch screen would have been better. While we are fan boys of neither Apple nor Microsoft, we cannot help but disagree with these criticisms. In this instance, Apple’s decision to stay away from full touchscreens and complicated, idiotic UIs is commendable. So hopefully, in the future, Apple will showcase Macs with more touch functionality without letting the feature become a dysfunctional mess.

Spook and be Spooked this Halloween – 3 Must Have Halloween Apps

halloween-apps

It’s that time of year again! Time to spook or be spooked… It’s Halloween!!! It’s also a great time to ‘spook out’ your phone. Here are 3 apps you must check out this Halloween:

  1. Into the Dead

You have survived in a world overrun with the dead. How long can you hold on?

Into the Dead is a freaky game set in a zombie apocalypse and you must stay alive. Move as fast as you can, protect yourself and when the dead are rising just run!

The app features intense gameplay with stunning visuals, audio and an arsenal of powerful weaponry and tricks to stay alive. The app is free and available on both Android and iOS.

  1. Turned: Zombie Effects

It’s Halloween and time to spook up. Turned lets you transform yourself into a zombie with photo-real wounds and effects that move with your facial movements. Basically, Turned turns you into a proper living, talking zombie or a survivor in a zombie apocalypse, whichever floats your boat.

The app is powered by tech previously used exclusively for Hollywood special effects. Now it’s available to anyone who dares to use it. Record and send videos to friends and social media as you battle a zombie apocalypse.

The app is free and available on both Android and iOS. Go ahead, be Turned.

  1. Halloween Live Wallpaper World

Have your Android device ‘possessed’ with fun live wall papers from Halloween Live Wallpaper World. Be careful! Your fingers will brush dangerously close to witches, vampires, ghosts and other scary, shady characters as they lurk on your Android screen 😛

All live wallpapers are interactive, letting you control characters and unlock crazy cards to share with friends. It even has an ‘Arachnophobic Mode’ you can use to make friends who are scared of spiders wet their pants and then send them e-cards wishing them Happy Halloween 😉 The only buzz kill with this app is that it’s not free. But at just USD 1.09 it’s damned well worth the fun.

These three apps are sure to keep you entertained and ready to spook or be spooked this Halloween.