Thursday, April 24, 2014

Juniper Networks Sponsors New Global Report on the Economics of Cyber Black Markets

At one time, cybercrime consisted of individual hackers ready and willing to make a name for themselves or try to land a job. Whether it’s involving computer viruses, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, malware, or identity theft, the cybercrime market is not slowing down. Today, new global research has found that the cyber black markets are reaching economic maturity and growth at levels previously never before seen. To provide an economic analysis of the cyber black market, new global research was conducted by the RAND Corporation and sponsored by Juniper Networks, to provide a first of its kind report to reveal and learn more about the nature of the cybercrime black market. The goal was to examine these markets entirely and apply economic analysis to gain understanding of how they function.

In late March 2014 the results of this study were released, revealing that the hacker black markets are very similar to a flourishing metropolitan city with various industries, interactions, and communities. Significant levels of economic sophistication, accessibility, and reliability were found as well as resilience in the products, distribution channels, and actors involved in the black markets.  RAND’s findings show that the cyber black markets are rapidly growing with a vigorous infrastructure and social organization in a multi-billion dollar economy. Just like any other economy, black cyber markets react and change due to factors such as supply and demand while continuing to progress. 

RAND Corporation’s research uncovered various elements of the hacker black market economy: 
  • Storefronts – Goods can be purchased and sold in storefronts on the spot. 
  • Service Economy – Criminal services can be purchased as traditional software or leased like a managed service, enabling even the most unskilled hackers to perform the most extensive attacks.  
  • Hierarchal Society – There is a hierarchy among the cyber black market that requires connections and relationships in order to move up. Those considered top dog, or the most credible, are making the most money. 
  • Rule of Law – Even the cyber black market has an unspoken set of rules to abide by that are policed and well structured. Those who scam others are regularly banned and weeded out of the market. 
  • Education and Training – Many tools and resources are available on the cyber black market to train and teach criminals the ins and outs of the hacker world. From instructions on exploit kits to information on where to buy credit cards, these tools help facilitate entry into the hacker economy. 
  • Currencies – Transactions amongst the black cyber market typically only take place via digital currency exchanges such as Bitcoin and AlertPay. This is because these payment method programs have characteristics such as anonymity and security. 
  • Diversity – Focus and expertise varies among different countries. Cybercriminals from Latin America, Eastern Europe, and China typically take part in malware attacks, whereas Russia is thought to be the leader when it comes to quality. Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Romania tend to focus on financial institutions, China specializes in intellectual property, and the United States primarily targets U.S. based financial systems. 
  • Criminals – The cyber black market has its own criminals known as “rippers” who do not provide the goods and services they claim to deliver. 

All Juniper Networks-sponsored research was conducted by RAND between the months of October and December of 2013. Results are based on in-depth interviews with global experts who are currently or formerly involved in the market. These experts included law enforcement, security vendors, security researchers, reporters, and academic professionals. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

VMware Reveals Horizon 6 for a Better Application Experience

On April 9, 2014, VMware unveiled Horizon 6, the latest enhancement to the VMware Horizon offering which delivers, protects, and manages published applications and virtual desktops on a single integrated platform. Offering seamless, instantaneous, single platform access that takes full advantage of the cloud, it is exactly what end users have been looking for. Horizon 6 allows end users to reach new levels of innovation and help enterprises support IT and end-users in the mobile cloud era.

With an increasing number of access points including tablets, smartphones, and laptops, as well as employees taking part in the BYOD trend, IT departments are feeling pressured to deliver uncompromised access and high service levels to properly and safely accommodate these needs. To solve this issue, Horizon 6 provides innovations and upgrades to storage optimization, datacenter-to-device management, application delivery and flexible hybrid delivery, transforming the way enterprise applications and desktops run, maximizing cost-effectiveness to deliver, protect, and manage with ease. 

VMware Horizon 6 introduces new capabilities with a streamlined approach to centrally manage Windows applications and desktops, allowing updates to be made in a responsive and predictable fashion. Entire desktops or applications alone can be delivered in a flexible manner to end-users regardless of the use case. To accomplish this, Horizon 6 delivers capabilities virtually, for access from multiple devices and locations, physically, by syncing the desktop image to end-user laptops for both on and offline access, and securely, to support BYOD by delivering applications and content in a managed secure container. 

There are over 150 new features in VMware Horizon 6. A few highlights include:
·         Published applications and virtual desktops delivered through a single platform
·         A unified workspace for simplified access
·         Storage optimization with VMware Virtual SAN and delivery from the Software-defined data center
·         Closed-loop management and automation
·         Central image management of virtual, physical and employee-owned PCs
·         Hybrid cloud delivery

With the ability to deliver desktops and application services on your terms, provide virtualized or remote applications and desktops through a single platform to end users, and automate desktop setup and provisioning as well as self-service, VMware Horizon 6 brings ease and consistency to the data center. Applications and desktop services include RDS hosted applications, ThinApp packages, SaaS applications, virtualized applications, and many more. VMware Horizon 6 also allows users to quickly troubleshoot their environment, monitor, and pinpoint the root cause of errors without the guesswork typically involved with troubleshooting.

VMware Horizon 6 provides many benefits to SMBs and enterprises and extends the power of virtualization from the data center to the device, all within a single platform. Horizon 6 editions will ultimately replace Horizon Suite, incorporating the functionality of the suite modules and vCOPS into Standard, Advanced, or Enterprise versions of the Horizon 6 product. Horizon 6 is the evolution of customer feedback and technological improvements of VMware’s Horizon Suite.  vCenter Operations for View (V4V) was so well received that it is included with VMware Horizon 6 Enterprise licensing. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Watch Out HDDs - SSDs are Taking Over the Market

Although hard disk drives (HDDs) have current advantages in storage capacity and price per unit of storage, alternatives have been said to be the next advancement in storage. HDDs are data storage devices that store and retrieve data through fast rotating disks that are coated with a magnetic material and can retain data when powered off. Downfalls of HDDs include chances of erased data from magnetism, high power consumption, and slower file operating speeds. HDDs are also prone to failure and many manufactures do not provide a warranty over 12 months. Because of these issues, solid-state drives (SSDs) and onboard flash solutions have recently grown to be the most favorable storage alternative to date.

Solid-state drives (SSDs) are data storage devices that use integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently. Providing advantages such as durability, reduced power consumption, and speed, SSDs contain no moving parts to operate, which reduces its chances of failure.  Downfalls of SSDs include price, capacity, and an erasing limit on the flash memory cells. Once that limit is reached, data is erased when data is written - it cannot over-write like a HDD does. SSDs typically have lower access time, less latency, run silently, and are more resistant to physical shock. Other benefits of SSDs include no operational noise or vibrations, low heat production, and reliability.

As onboard flash solutions and SSDs continue to gain popularity as a storage alternative, many enterprises are seeking out the pros and cons between HHDs and SSDs. Cost is one of the leading barriers keeping enterprises from becoming an all-flash  enterprise storage environment. HDDs are typically around $0.15 per gigabyte, whereas SSDs are roughly $0.50 per gigabyte. The cost of consumer grade SSDs has continued to drop as of 2013 and as the adoption rate continues to increase, the price/performance ratio is at an interesting point. However, SSDs are still about seven times more expensive than HDDs per unit of storage. HDDs also win the capacity war by offering greater storage capacity than SDDs. Entry-level SSDs currently max out at 1TB, requiring the purchase of higher capacity drives for more storage, which can be costly. HDDs provide more capacity with less cost. Although SSDs typically have a longer life span, there is a tremendous amount of variation between the life expectancy and reliability of SSDs depending on the type and what it’s made for (laptop, servers, etc.). 

As HDDs continue to be the dominant choice for consumers, many are becoming more concerned with computing performance, not cost. Whether starting with a new storage system or upgrading to SSDs, we will continue to see the rise of flash-optimized storage grow. An HDD still might be the right choice if you need a lot of storage capacity, want to keep costs down, and speed is not a factor. SSDs could be the right choice if limited storage capacity is not a concern, but speed, form factor, noise, or fragmentation are important factors and you are willing to pay for faster performance.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

ICD-10: A Change in Healthcare IT

October 1st, 2014 is the cut-off for all physicians and insurers to switch over to ICD-10 from ICD-9. The International Statistical Classification of Diseases & Related Health Problems (ICD) is a medical classification list created by the World Health Organization. Its purpose is to use codes to identify known diseases and other health issues. ICD also helps with the retrieval and storage of diagnostic information and will classify and code all diagnoses, procedures, and symptoms that are recorded in conjunction with hospital care. The transition to ICD-10 is taking place because data about patients’ medical conditions and hospital inpatient procedures on ICD-9 is limited. This change will affect everyone covered by the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA).

For most, ICD-10 coding has been used for years, but the push will ensure every United States practice is uniform. Those who do not code correctly after the October 1st deadline will face penalties including denial of claims, which will likely force them to re-submit. This will dramatically slow reimbursement times and cash flow, leaving physicians’ offices with major operational inefficiencies. The ICD-10-CM revision includes more than 68,000 diagnostic codes, up from a previous 13,000 codes in IDC-9-CM, allowing physicians to provide more specific details in documentation. ICD-10 will provide details to ensure that reimbursements match the level of care actually given, along with accuracy in patient documentation to allow improved care. Changes to be aware of include laterality, disease pathophysiology, combination codes, encounter timing, identification of trimester, increased disease specificity, alcohol and drug abuse, expansion of injury codes, and post-procedure disorders.

Healthcare IT professionals can prepare for this change through an ICD-10 impact assessment by identifying systems, applications, and software that currently uses ICD-9 code and evaluating each step to see where ICD-10 codes will be needed. They should talk with their software and service vendors to get the conversation going about where they are in their transition to ICD-10, asking questions such as: How does this impact the software? Where are you in the transition process?  How are we going to reach full compliance? Training, coordination, and education to prepare for ICD-10 are very important. A clinical documentation improvement (CDI) documentation gap analysis should also be applied to super bills, charts, etc. Once a good ICD-10 impact assessment is completed, an accurate budget can be planned. Although some might struggle with the switch at first, once implemented, ICD-10 is expected to improve quality measures, reporting, and regulatory compliance.