Better Business Technology

Empired finds a secure silver lining in the cloud

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

THE BIG CHANGE in the last two years to remote working – and working from home brought on by the pandemic – has created a big challenge for cloud-based systems

Empired practice manager for the modern workplace, Jaen Snyman said the changes with the pandemic left many organisations unprepared to have most of their staff working from home.

“That’s where the cloud and public cloud make a big difference,” Mr Snyman told Talking Business.

“If you do have that set-up, then it doesn’t matter where you are accessing from, you can still get to your applications, you can still get to your business, you can still do your work as per normal.”

This, however, had changed the security landscape for businesses. 

“Previously, your devices would have been on your network at some stage, so you could patch it and manage your devices and make sure your laptops are patched to the latest security updates,” Mr Snyman said.

“Now it’s created quite a bit of a challenge where people rely on you to be on the network to do it but you’re not, you’re working from home.”

COMPANY IS STILL LIABLE FOR SECURITY

Securing the network would create major challenges for companies with remote workforces as the onus would be on the companies whose workers are now connecting to their environment from an unsecured location and unsecured network.

“I don’t know if your home network is secure, I don’t know if your neighbour is listening in to your wireless and tapped into it and what other devices might be on your network and if those devices are actually secure or if any of them has been breached,” Mr Snyman said.

He said hackers were now using the principle of “lateral movement”.

“That means if I hack one of your devices in your home and compromise that one, then I can move to another device on the same network laterally.

“I don’t need to hit your primary objective first. I can hit a soft target first, spoof your passwords that you use and try those passwords to other devices that might be on the same network.”

He said they could do this on any system, including business systems on home offices.

“If that is the CFO working from home, and I manage to hack into his kids’ computer, because the kid might not have a strong password, and dad uses that computer every now and again, and happens to use the same password he uses at work, then I know the CFO’s password and I can try it on his corporate identities.”

SUBSCRIPTIONS DRIVE THE CLOUD NOW

Mr Snyman said subscriptions were now driving the adoption of cloud technology, which is often used for CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource platform) systems.

Because it’s already built in the cloud, businesses can also configure it to add value to their applications, to arrange it the way they need it.

The back-ups are done and the disaster recovery is in place, he said.

“All of that plumbing and maintenance is done by the provider and you as a customer can solely focus on the business value side of it,” Mr Snyman said.

While cloud is secure, the onus still comes back on the company to provide their own level of security to ensure there are no breaches.

“The application itself is secure but you yourself can make mistakes and give people access,” Mr Snyman said.

“If you don’t implement proper procedures and policies, for instance for password controls, to allow your users to use very simple passwords, or no passwords at all, then you have a fairly high risk of being compromised,” he said. 

www.empired.com

www.leongettler.com

 

 

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.

 

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Unions welcome ' long overdue' offshore renewable energy laws, but it's ‘unfinished business’

THE Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) have welcomed what they are calling "long overdue laws to facilitate offshore renewable energy projects". 

It is a critical first step by the Federal Government in allowing the development of offshore renewable energy, especially offshore wind, which the ETU and MUA have long been advocating for, according to MUA assistant national secretary Adrian Evans

He said the unions were now calling on the Federal Government to immediately begin consultation on the location of Offshore Electricity Areas to give certainty to projects that will create jobs, clean energy and economic investment in regions already slated for offshore wind. The areas included are the Gippsland region of Victoria; the Hunter and Illawarra regions of NSW and; the Rockingham/Bunbury/Geographe Bay region of West Australia.

Mr Evans said Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor "must make the consultation on the Gippsland Offshore Electricity Area his highest priority".

“Star of the South, the Gippsland and Latrobe Valley communities, and maritime and electrical workers have already waited years for the government to get this legislation in place,” Mr Evans said.  

“The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is already planning for an Offshore Wind Zone in this area. The Federal Government needs to catch up and give project proponents the certainty they need.”

ETU assistant national secretary Michael Wright said the Minister "must complete this consultation and declare a suitable Offshore Electricity Area before any offshore wind developers can apply for a Feasibility Licence".

“Building offshore wind will play a critical role in creating thousands of jobs for workers affected by the energy transition, whether they work in coal-fired power stations, coal export ports or offshore oil and gas,” Mr Wright said.

“These projects can create a strong and consistent supply of renewable energy, next to the heavy industries that need it, and also create green hydrogen in bulk for use by these industries while delivering regional diversification and opportunities for workers.”

The MUA and ETU also cautioned there was still more work to do on the legislative framework for the industry with the need for further regulations to be developed for the licencing process for each project.

“The government needs to create regulations which must be used to maximise the use of local goods and services, the employment of local workers (particularly energy workers) to foster opportunities for training and skills development, and to increase employment and income opportunities for First Nations people,” Mr Evans said.

“However, this work must not delay the process of declaring Offshore Electricity Areas.

“The consultations needed to make appropriate declarations of these areas must occur now, to allow time for strategic environmental assessments, feasibility studies and planning.

“And while the important environmental, feasibility and planning is being completed there is unfinished business with the new offshore renewable laws.

“Despite union concerns the proposed framework requires offshore renewable operators to cross multiple Work Health and Safety jurisdictions each day and removes important rights for workers, the Government ploughed ahead," Mr Evans said.

“Substantial work is needed to ensure that the Work Health and Safety provisions are fit for purpose and properly harmonised with the national Work Health and Safety system.” 

Priority areas

The four areas the ETU and MUA are proposing that consultations begin on declaring Offshore Electricity Areas are:

  1. As a priority, a Gippsland Offshore Electricity Area, which is already being planned by AEMO as an Offshore Wind Zone, and is the site of projects planned by Star of the South and Flotation Energy.  Significant transmission capacity is available now.
  2. An Illawarra Offshore Electricity Area, which is already being planned by AEMO as an Offshore Wind Zone, and is the site of projects planned by Green Energy Partners and Oceanex. Significant transmission is available with a low expansion cost.
  3. A Hunter Offshore Electricity Area, which is already being planned by AEMO as an Offshore Wind Zone and is the site of projects planned by Oceanex and Newcastle Offshore Wind. 10 GW of transmission capacity is available now, making it the lowest expansion cost of any Renewable Energy Zone onshore or offshore.
  4. A Rockingham/Bunbury/Geographe Bay Offshore Electricity Area, which is the site of projects by Green Energy Partners and Oceanex.

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Fast way to e-commerce developed by Australia’s Holland

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

MAKING A SPLASH in the American capital markets is completely different from how it works in Australia according to Domm Holland, the Sydney-born, Florida-dwelling 34-year-old who is the co-founder of Fast.

Fast is a technology that provides a single-click checkout button. With a one-time sign-up, it claims to free consumers of the need to remember passwords or re-enter personal details, making it much easier for them to utilise e-commerce.

It’s a one-click checkout for every website. Fast operates as a third party loaded on to websites, providing users with a quick check out form where they put their email, name, phone, delivery address and credit card details. Once they have done it, they can do this on any website that has a Fast check out button. 

After coding the original version of Fast in 2019, Mr Holland attracted capital from Silicon Valley venture funds and has gone on to join the Australian Financial Review Young Rich List.

Mr Holland’s journey began when he teamed up with former Uber operations executive Allison Barr Allen. The two are thought to remain the largest single shareholders in Fast. They actually met on Twitter.

ALLEN AND HOLLAND DEVELOP FAST IN US

Domm Holland had arrived in San Francisco in June 2019. He didn’t know too many people so he connected with Allison Barr Allen on Twitter. They met for coffee and he explained to her what he was building.

This fitted in with a thesis she was writing about ‘frictionless finance’. She introduced him to one of the world’s leading fintech investors, Jan Hammer from Index Ventures, who invested $2.5 million.

Mr Holland then went back to Ms Allen and invited her to come on board as a partner, to build the company. Mr Holland has since gone on to raise $US125 million ($168 million) from payments platform Stripe and several Silicon Valley venture capital funds.

He said the big difference between running a tech venture in San Francisco versus Australia was that everything in the US had a larger scale and there was a better ecosystem for start-ups.

America has a population 15 to 16 times bigger than Australia’s and the capital markets in the US reflect that kind of scale.

As well as that, the start-up eco-system in the US is more mature than the one in Australia.

“There’s a lot more capital available and the capital is more readily available for earlier stage start-ups,” Mr Holland told Talking Business. “Australia prefers to de-risk opportunity further or invest in lower risk opportunities.at an early stage.”

MORE VIBRANT USA ECOSYSTEM

The second big difference is the ecosystem

“There is an incredibly dense ecosystem of talent here,” Mr Holland said.

“The vast majority of the world’s largest tech companies have come to a very small radius here, so all the staff of those companies all have stock in these companies and have made a lot of money. They all became angel investors or (have) founded their own companies.

“There is an incredible wealth of knowledge. It’s also a really sophisticated market in terms of start-up employees,” Mr Holland said.

“Typically sales people or admin managers of tech companies or office managers understand how start-ups work and the different stages that start-ups o through with different funding milestones and different revenue targets. They understand that better than a lot of Australian founders just because it’s a very sophisticated start-up market here.

 “This ecosystem is unparalleled, from experience. Australia just hasn’t had the density or wins of large tech companies – and start-ups that have sold for billions of dollars – that you have here.”

www.fast.co

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.

https://play.acast.com/s/talkingbusiness/talking-business40-interview-with-domm-holland-co-founder-of

CreditorWatch keeps an eye on the future while scanning the business past

By Leon Gettler >>

CREDITORWATCH chief technology officer (CTO) Joseph Vartuli says workplaces have changed tremendously with the pandemic.

Remote working will now become permanent – and businesses will have to have to make most of machine learning, data analytics and artificial intelligence

CreditorWatch was started about 10 years ago to manage the trend of ‘debt hopping’ where suppliers switch companies without paying their arrears. Generally, it’s been the same offenders, according to Mr Vartuli.

CreditorWatch was started as a crowdsourcing business to share the names of dubious businesses. It now has the technology to provide ‘deep dive’ insights into businesses and their practices.

With the impact of COVID sweeping through the economy, businesses are now turning to CreditorWatch to assess the risks on their ledgers. CreditorWatch also provides data for the Federal Government’s economic index, giving it insights into trade payment behaviour of individual businesses and industries. 

Mr Vartuli said that as technology experts, CreditorWatch was not shying away from the prospect of employees working remotely. But as it appeared working from home was going to become more or less permanent, then the big question for companies was about looking at the work environment of their employees.

Was it a distraction free environment? Were there enough rooms with a partner working from home as well? How did they manage to work from home while home schooling their kids?

“Flexibility is what we’ve always been proud of. We provide a lot of autonomy to our developers and give them goals. We need to be a lot more flexible during these periods,” Mr Vartuli told Talking Business.

GOODBYE 9-TO-5

Mr Vartuli said the 9-to-5 model does not work anymore.

“We’re finding it’s unrealistic,” he said. “People need breaks throughout the day.

“They need to find a little more autonomy in terms of how they manage that workload and deliver that weekly workload each and every week,” he said.

“So giving them that autonomy and giving them that ability to choose, themselves, when and how they work is a big part of it. Supporting them in terms of resources, whether that’s stand-up desks or chairs has played a big part as well.

“We’ve also given all our developers an extra day off every month to take a long weekend every month, to let them recharge during this pandemic.”

Because developers are less committed during the pandemic when people are working from home, CreditorWatch provides online team bonding, continual education, as well as packages every month.

“I think we’ll have a remote working lifestyle pretty permanently,” Mr Vartuli said.

EYE ON THE FUTURE

He said when developers came back to the office at the end of the first lockdown, the company implemented a two-day-a-week-in-the-office policy, which worked well.

He said businesses needed to watch out for machine learning, data analytics and artificial intelligence. These were the big trend ahead and had been going ‘gangbusters’ in the last few years because the technology had become more accessible.

Mr Vartuli said businesses could now examine the data coming in to see what they could monetize and examine the big trends ahead.

“I think 70 percent of CEOs globally think AI is going to play a big role in the next five years in most industries, if not all,” he said.

“So even if you‘re not keen or don’t understand it, I think you should start dabbling in it. It’s definitely going to be a big part of the next five to 10 years for every single business.”

www.creditorwatch.com.au

www.leongettler.com

 

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.

https://play.acast.com/s/talkingbusiness/talking-business33-interview-with-creditorwatchs-cto-joseph-

The FluBot virus: is it Android's COVID?

By Ash Klemm >>

THE Android malware called the FluBot virus is still spreading throughout South East Queensland and Australia, with people reporting up to 10 messages a day from random numbers. 

But, FluBot doesn’t just send annoying messages. It also steals passwords and login information to your online accounts, personal details, and banking information.

FluBot uses the data to steal your money, take over your accounts and perform online identity theft while sending SMS messages to new victims to spread itself further. All without the users’ knowledge. 

FluBot has so far been detected mainly in South East Queensland. However, it is likely to spread to the rest of Australia, as it has in Europe and the States.  

How the FluBot virus works 

An infected device sends an SMS message that contains a phishing link. The message claims the user has a missed call or has a new voicemail. 

The message provides a link to retrieve the voicemail or see who the missed call was from. Following the provided link will take you to a web page displaying a trusted brand (like Telstra or Optus) and prompt you to install an app to listen to the voicemail message. If you permit the install, the Flubot malware will be loaded on your phone.  

Once downloaded, FluBot, asks for accessibility permissions. If granted, it gives itself more extensive app permissions and becomes a system app. Then it wreaks havoc.

How to remove FluBot virus

Although many companies have offered ways to remove FluBot, they can be tricky, with no guarantee they work. The safest and surest way to remove the FluBot virus is to do a factory reset on your phone, which erases the malware. Here’s how you do a factory reset.

Remember, restoring any recent backup may restore the malware if your data was backed up while the malware was installed. Be sure to use a backup that is dated earlier than when you think you got FluBot.

After you’ve removed the malware/virus from your phone, change your passwords as a precaution. Do not change your passwords before removing FluBot.

Remember: A factory reset on your phone will delete everything, including photos, phone numbers, apps.

How to stay safe from FluBot and other mobile malware  

Mobile phones are not immune to online threats. Malware, phishing, unsafe networks, and other threats for mobile phone users also exist.

FluBot is just one of the newest threats out there. Here are a few things you can do to protect your mobile phone and digital life on the go.

Use antivirus for mobile devices: 

Malware targeting mobile devices is becoming increasingly common. A quality antivirus for mobile phones will help keep your data safe and warn you of any nefarious software. A lot of anti-virus companies offer bundle deals for PCs and mobile phones.

Don’t open suspicious links:

Stop and think critically about the message and the link, if you think it could be malware, contact the sender via a phone call before clicking any link. Mobile devices are used on the go, making it easier to fall for phishing scams, because we aren’t always paying attention. Remember, no reputable company or authority will ask for personal information through email or SMS.  

Avoid shady apps:

While there’s no unambiguous way to tell a suspicious app from a genuine app, start by thinking about what you use it for. If it’s not necessary, there’s no point in getting it.

If it doesn’t work for you, delete it immediately. In the case of voicemail, your phone can do that; you don’t need a separate app for it.

Don’t download apps from unofficial app stores. It’s not a good idea to enable the 'Install from Unknown Sources' option.

www.suretyit.com.au

 

 

About the author, Ash Klemm

Ash Klemm is Surety IT' s business development manager and senior relationship manager, with more than 20 years experience in sales and marketing. But it is his curiosity and natural problem-solving abilities that make him the perfect first call for all Surety IT's new customers, to help determine what is wrong, how Surety IT can help and what the best solutions are moving forward.

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Stripe Technology revolutionises payments

By Leon Gettler >>

STRIPE Technology is revolutionising payments for businesses of all sizes, ranging from start-ups to the world’s largest companies. It is actively bringing us closer to a cashless society and speeding up e-commerce.

Stripe Technology basically powers payments on the internet across the whole of Australia, and globally, and the company onboarded tens of thousands of customers during 2020, providing them with the tech stacks they needed to survive the economic after-effects of the pandemic.

Stripe is an international payment technology company providing Australian businesses with a platform that will accept payments from anywhere in the world. It offers 250 different payment methods in over 187 currencies around the world.

Importantly, Stripe Technology allows businesses to choose what sort of channel they want to meet their customers in, whether it be over the counter or through a mobile device, app or online. 

This is critical for any company planning to go global.

It is also perfect for businesses where the demographics of their market are quite young and looking for a buy-now-pay-later process or paying through a wallet.

SETTING THE STANDARD IN PAYMENTS

Stripe does it across different platforms, like buy-now-pay-later systems, All-Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, We Chat and Microsoft Pay.

Stripe’s customers are coming from all over the world and it’s processing billions of dollars. In Australia, Stripe’s big customers include Atlassian, Canva, Airtasker, Shopify, Vincomofo and Who Gives A Crap.

“We look at the infrastructure in a few ways,” Hayley Hopwood, head of growth at Stripe Technology told Talking Business.

“We make it easy and secure and compliant for businesses to quickly move money around globally or locally. Since COVID in the past year, 80 percent of Australian internet users have actually bought something from a Stripe-powered business, although very few people know about it or know about Stripe.”

Ms Hopwood said there were two ways to look at the Stripe infrastructure.

The first was to help businesses receive funds and also to help send and settle funds as well. She cites an example where someone has ordered food and the app sends a dual notification to the restaurant and the driver. The funds hit the platform and are split between the restaurant and the driver.

The stuff under the hood, the payment infrastructure, plays an invisible role

The other aspect of Stripe Technology was how it enabled business to transact in new and ever-evolving ways. Ms Hopwood said there had been a massive uptick in the business in the last 18 months with COVID changing the way people were buying goods.

“As we’ve opened and closed in Australia, we’ve seen a new normal being set. If I cast my mind back to March (2020) when the pandemic hit, from March until June, we saw 10,000 businesses on board with Stripe and that was in Australia alone,” she said. 

“If I drill down into some of those industries, we saw a massive shift for businesses that are in perishable goods and alcohol deliveries.”

As an example, she cited the High Street butchers which had never had an internet presence before now needing to move all their meat in a COVID-safe way.

There had also been a massive spike in tele-health platforms.

FOUNDATION FOR FINANCIAL GROWTH

Just as importantly, Stripe provided a platform to future-proof businesses from the impact of continuing lockdowns. She said businesses using Stripe had now developed new revenue streams and were looking to go global.

“In general, most businesses have become switched on to the importance of having a variety of ways to engage with customers and meet customers where they actually interact,” Ms Hopwood said.

“Millennials and Gen Y are happy to speak to a bot and they want that one-click checkout experience, regardless of what they’re paying for it.”

She said QR codes and mobile devices were creating a cashless society.

“The most adopted payment in Australia today is paying by mobile phone,” Ms Hopwood said.

Consumer behaviour was now being driven by ‘mobile’ and 78 percent of Australians were taking to subscription models.

Consumers now wanted to buy their goods how and when they felt comfortable and that is via a mobile device.

www.stripe.com

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

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Mindfulmeets: new Aussie technology helps fight global Zoom fatigue

A BRISBANE-BASED start-up, Mindfulmeets, has developed a technological ‘antidote’ for work from home (WFH) online meeting woes, including a clever video loop called ‘On Hold’, allowing participants to sneak away from Zoom calls without the others realising.

With more than 18 years in the tech space, developer and co-founder Ben Flux created the Mindfulmeets app with co-founder Karina Castex, after seeing their colleagues struggle with prolonged screen time during the pandemic.

The world-first free Google Chrome browser extension, designed to enhance video calls with a slew of mindful features, now has more than 3000 users around the world, including in the US where half the population continues working from home.

“Having a tech team situated globally, we were needing to navigate different time zones, varying lifestyles and the day-to-day realities of working remote,” Mr Flux said. 

“I started to think of ways to simulate the in-person interactions we had been missing, that help us survive the workday; shaking hands, clowning around and showing a bit of comradery. We need technology that considers the way we operate and live as humans as well as the value of time.”

Features include the ability to record a short video loop, so users can appear present while grabbing a coffee or answering the door – perfect for a quick and much-needed moment away, according to Mr Flux. 

CLEVER COMMUNICATING

Mindfulmeets can also create virtual agendas to keep discussions focused or send reminders to ensure meetings do not overrun.

Importantly, Mr Flux said the extension allowed users to break through awkward silences with emojis and GIFs.

“Without face-to-face interactions, we’re seeing an increase in people feeling overwhelmed, irritable and anxious – presenting a challenge to most modern workplaces,” Ms Castex said.

“While a free and simple to download extension won’t address all the impacts, we know Mindfulmeets will make a difference to the digital wellness of users.”

Research conducted by Mindfulmeets, to identify the top frustrations experienced by remote working, revealed overrun and unstructured meetings, the lack of quality social interaction and the quantity of meetings were key pain points.

With video conferencing established as a new norm, the reality of mental fatigue poses a real threat to the mental health of users and the productiveness of businesses and education providers, the creators believe.

FOCUS ON ‘FACE’ FATIGUE

The inability to read body language cues, intense focus on conversation and sustained eye contact are key factors contributing to the mental exhaustion resulting from over-use of video conferencing.

Susan Long, a registered psychologist and clinical services manager with Workplace Wellness Australia – a leading provider of proactive employee assistance programs – agreed that a mentally healthy workplace recognises the unique needs of its employees.

“Moving to working online and offsite from the physical workplace increased a sense of isolation and aloneness for many people,” Ms Long said.

“Our sense of connection and feeling heard is often related to eye contact and physical social interactions. This can be difficult to maintain when there are a number of participants in an online meeting.

“Without the reinforcement of connection through eye contact, the brain needs to work harder than it would typically in a face-to-face interaction causing people to feel fatigued.

“For many workplaces, the move to online highlighted the importance of checking in with their colleagues and employees who lived alone or were isolated. The pandemic caused many workplaces to relate to their peers and consider how each other were going,” Ms Long said.

“Staying well is important to work effectively and workplaces that can introduce a more psychologically appropriate format of how meetings progress are invaluable.”

Mindfulmeets is available to download and is compatible with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet.

The extension currently includes capabilities including the On Hold feature, letting users create a video loop to step away from the keyboard;  add an agenda to a meeting; see the profile of all attendees, including name and position; share emojis and gifs; see the time zones of each attendee; and gracefully exit and enter meetings with helpful prompters visible to everyone on the call.

https://www.getmindfulmeets.com/

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