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June 2018
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FIRE SAFETY: HIGH ON THE AGENDA FOR HIGH RISE REFURBISHMENTS

Blackwall Reach

SAFETY checks have been carried out on hundreds of high rise buildings* in the last 12 months, with many having to be reclad to meet regulations*.

In June 2017, all local authorities and housing associations were told by the Department for Communities and Local Government to carry out safety checks on external cladding to ensure that any potential fire spread does not pose a risk to the health and safety of tenants*.

When recladding existing developments, it is important for councils to ensure that safety measures are met whilst still creating a modern and attractive building exterior to appeal to future tenants.

When choosing a material to replace existing cladding due to safety concerns EQUITONE is a durable fibre cement facade material. It achieves the perfect balance between aesthetics and safety, meeting the reaction to fire classification A2-s1,d0 whilst offering an extensive palette of subtle and inspiring shades in a variety of textures and finishes. EQUITONE also has a life expectancy of at least 50 years.

Constructing beauty

EQUITONE’s versatility allows the architect to put their own creative stamp on the building, making it suitable for both traditional and modern schemes. It can also be cut and fabricated into a wide range of shapes, allowing the architect to use their imagination to create striking patterns in the exterior design whilst being mindful of the surrounding environment and existing buildings.

EQUITONE in practice

EQUITONE has been specified on high rise buildings throughout the UK, with a recent example being Blackwall Reach. Around 6,400m2 of EQUITONE [natura] was specified for the £300m housing development in Poplar, East London.

Almost 1,600 new apartments were created as part of the regeneration project of Blackwall Reach, which replaced the former 1970s Robin Hood Gardens housing estate.

EQUITONE [natura], which offers a tactile, smooth surface that allows the textures of the fibre cement to show through, helped to create a modern and attractive building exterior.

Request your samples here LINK

*Information from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Building Safety Programme, which was developed to ensure that residents of high rise buildings are safe now and in the future.

Digital Transformation in Government Must be Holistic and Practical

Paul Parker: SolarWinds Chief Technologist for Public Sector

By Paul Parker, Solarwinds Chief Technologist

Let’s start with the basics: the government does not exist to provide or sell IT services. It’s easy to forget this when we’re talking about public sector digital transformation, especially when current IT strategy focuses on investment in infrastructure, ROI, and innovation. That said, it’s imperative for government leaders and policy makers to keep top of mind the fact that the function of IT services in public sector is to support each organisation in delivering real services to real people, whether that be in the healthcare, protection, or civic services space.

Bearing this in mind, it’s no surprise that confusion surrounds digital transformation in the public sector. Broadly defined as the change associated with the application of digital technology to all aspects of how the organisation functions, certain recent statistics reflect how much more difficult this can be than it sounds.

For example, while the NHS has a Five Year Forward View, and has invested £4 billion in NHS digital transformation, nearly a fifth (17%) of NHS trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have no digital transformation strategy in place. A further 24% have only just begun to develop a strategy. Similarly, the Cloud First policy is low in uptake—less than a third (30%) of NHS trusts surveyed as part of an FOI request and under two-thirds (61%) of central government departments have adopted any level of public cloud in their organisation.

Governance

This highlights one of the big differences between the U.K. and the U.S. that I have experienced: policies with clear enforcement strategies. For example, FedRAMP in the U.S. provides a clear benchmark for U.S. federal organisations—you need to shift from insecure IT to secure, nimble, and quick IT. In addition, it provides a list of accredited vendors and partners that can help organisations achieve this. In the U.K., the Cloud First policy is comparatively vague. While it sets a strong intention that the public sector should favour public cloud ahead of all other IT solutions, there are no clear ‘teeth’ to the directive, and no regimented exceptions system.

At a policy level, clearer processes are required to better define what systems need to be transformed, what should be moved to the cloud, and the rationale behind the change. Simultaneously, there needs to be consequences for trusts that choose not to comply, with the overseeing body taking a “trust but verify” approach to ensure the policy is being implemented. To support this, a clear “exception” process is needed for public sector organisations to clearly demonstrate their reasoning if they chose, for any reason, to opt for a different tactic to the public-cloud-led approach prescribed by the Cloud First policy.

Leadership

Then, at the organisational level, leaders need to think about the rationale behind their digital transformation strategy. IT investment, especially in the government, can’t be about having the shiniest toy. It has to be about serving the organisation’s core function, whether that’s saving lives in the NHS or provisioning welfare benefits for citizens.

From a strategy perspective, leaders should consider what tools and services they need to better support their service function, as opposed to what technology they want to adopt. For example, is this technology or service something that will eventually save on maintenance costs and allow us to improve this offering for our public? If it doesn’t meet these two criteria, it may be worth considering if this really is the strategic priority it first seemed. This is especially important when looking at trends such as Al or blockchain. While these both hold considerable promise for security, efficiency, and ROI, it’s important to implement these for a specific use case and business need, rather than ‘just because’ it’s on trend or another trust is deploying it.

When it comes to implementing that strategy, there is huge benefit for an organisation in leadership going that one step further—asking their team ‘what do you need from me to achieve this objective?’ By opening a dialogue with the IT teams actually executing the plan, leaders can ensure that the approach is feasible, affordable, and in line with organisation objectives.

Implementation

For the IT teams on the ground, it’s important to ensure that the leadership strategy is realised in a scalable, agile, sustainable way. One of the most staggering observations for me is the number of IT professionals working retroactively to keep systems updated. Considering that downtime is impossible with critical services, it’s about embedding redundancy so that IT practitioners have no need to service systems on the go, especially when it’s a reactive response.

Over half (58%) of public sector respondents to the SolarWinds IT Trends 2018 survey say that their IT systems are not performing at optimum levels, while three-quarters (73%) of public sector IT professionals spend more than 25% of their time reactively working to optimise performance. This is crazy—it’s like trying to fix up a car as you drive it down the highway. You can’t effectively fix the bodywork, change the oil, or inspect the brakes while hurtling down the road at 70 mph.

In IT terms, these are tasks like patch management, system updates, updated policies, and security protocols. While they seem mundane and ‘small potatoes’ compared to the excitement around AI, the impact of not properly maintaining them is significant. The WannaCry disaster in 2017 is a case in point. Overlooking basic IT hygiene can have serious implications for patient care, service delivery, and citizen trust in public entities.

Pressure to achieve “digital transformation” with limited budgets, an unclear strategy, and ageing infrastructure is unfortunately paralysing public sector IT teams. As technology offerings mature and develop at a previously unheard of rate, it’s essential that we take a step back at a governance, leadership, and practitioner level to make sure our approach to public sector IT is really grounded in helping us deliver real services to real people.

Failure to protect data after hackers access 5.9m bank cards at Dixons Carphone

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Dixons Carphone says it has been the victim of an “unauthorised data access” in which millions of customer bank card details were targeted over the past 12 months.

The company believes there were hacking attempts since last July but these were only discovered over the past week and is thought these have compromised around 5.9 million cards in one of its processing systems for Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores.

Dixons Carphone told GPSJ: “As part of a review of our systems and data, we have determined that there has been unauthorised access to certain data held by the company. We promptly launched an investigation, engaged leading cyber security experts and added extra security measures to our systems. We have taken action to close off this access and have no evidence it is continuing. We have no evidence to date of any fraudulent use of the data as result of these incidents. We have also informed the relevant authorities including the ICO, FCA and the police.

Our investigation is ongoing and currently indicates that there was an attempt to compromise 5.9 million cards in one of the processing systems of Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores. However, 5.8m of these cards have chip and pin protection. The data accessed in respect of these cards contains neither pin codes, card verification values (CVV) nor any authentication data enabling cardholder identification or a purchase to be made. Approximately 105,000 non-EU issued payment cards which do not have chip and pin protection have been compromised. As a precaution we immediately notified the relevant card companies via our payment provider about all these cards so that they could take the appropriate measures to protect customers.

We have no evidence of any fraud on these cards as a result of this incident. Separately, our investigation has also found that 1.2m records containing non-financial personal data, such as name, address or email address, have been accessed. We have no evidence that this information has left our systems or has resulted in any fraud at this stage. We are contacting those whose non-financial personal data was accessed to inform them, to apologise, and to give them advice on any protective steps they should take.

Dixons Carphone Chief Executive, Alex Baldock, told GPSJ: “We are extremely disappointed and sorry for any upset this may cause. The protection of our data has to be at the heart of our business, and we’ve fallen short here. We’ve taken action to close off this unauthorised access and though we have currently no evidence of fraud as a result of these incidents, we are taking this extremely seriously. We are determined to put this right and are taking steps to do so; we promptly launched an investigation, engaged leading cyber security experts, added extra security measures to our systems and will be communicating directly with those affected. Cyber crime is a continual battle for business today and we are determined to tackle this fastchanging challenge.”

Simon Cuthbert, Head of International at 8MAN by Protected Networks told GPSJ: “This breach is just another example of an organisation failing to protect their most important asset – data. The repercussions will likely be extensive in terms of financial damage, reputational damage and customer loyalty. Not to mention – this is the first breach case since the GDPR deadline passed on the 25 May. It will be interesting, and noteworthy, to see how the ICO respond to this breach as it will likely set a precedent for those that follow, and certainly kick others into action if they haven’t already ensured they are meeting, or at least attempting to meet, the new requirements.

If Dixons Carphone are unable to provide information on who accessed the data, when, and what they did with it, and deliver a report that evidences this, then they stand a risk of really falling foul of the regulator. Organisations need to ensure they have visibility of who has access to what data, and what they are doing with it, and demonstrate they are taking the necessary steps to protect their data.”

GPSJ asked if the data stolen had been “encrypted” at any stage but has not received a response from Dixons Carphone.

Zeta completes £2m LED upgrade for RBWM six months ahead of schedule

RBWM – Eton College background – SmartScape Macro

As part of its ‘spend to save initiative’ the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) awarded Bicester-based Zeta Specialist Lighting a £2m contract to replace all of its existing street lighting estate with energy-efficient LED luminaires.

The council’s overriding objective was to reduce both its carbon footprint and annual street lighting budget, by saving on maintenance costs and energy bills.

In the competitive tender process, Zeta’s SmartScape range of street and area lighting solutions which are manufactured at the firm’s UK-based production facility, were deemed to offer the most competitive and efficient solution. 

The tender specified a requirement to meet precise design criteria and supply in excess of 16,000 LED luminaires that would deliver significant savings in energy consumption as well as have a guaranteed design life of one hundred thousand hours. All products were to be supplied and installed within a maximum period of 18 months.

The contract win included approximately 14,000 SmartScape Nano and Macro LED street lights which were installed in residential areas and traffic routes across the Borough. Zeta also provided over 1,000 SmartScape Heritage LED conversion kits which met RBWM’s objective to retain rather than replace heritage-style lanterns in historic positions, including in the centre of Windsor and in some local parish areas.

The legacy lighting on major roads into cities including Windsor and Ascot were upgraded with Zeta’s SmartScape Macro. Zeta supplied 2,500 of this versatile LED street light which is designed specifically for distributor and traffic routes within both urban and rural areas and consumes in excess of 70 per cent less energy compared with conventional SOX, SON and CFL luminaires.

RBWM – Windsor Eton Bridge – SmartScape Heritage

All lights were fitted with the Telensa control system which provides real-time reporting of the lights’ functionality as well as the ability to dim or increase the lighting output if required.

In addition, Zeta provided a number of other LED products including the Zeta Bespoke Retrofit Subway Kits and Zeta SignLite retrofit kits. Some 200 subway lights across the Borough were re-glazed, upgraded and retrofitted with 18W and 36W variants of Zeta Bespoke Retrofit Subway Kits, replacing energy-hungry lighting which ranged from 24W to 65W. Zeta’s SignLite retrofit kits featuring low-energy 6W LEDs, are providing long-lasting illumination for over 1,000 roads signs in cities including Ascot, Windsor and Maidenhead.

As well as manufacturing and supplying the luminaires, Zeta worked closely with all other parties involved (including CMS provider Telensa and contractor AA Lighting Ltd), to project manage and co-ordinate the rollout to ensure it ran smoothly.

Overall, Zeta’s low-energy solution will deliver in excess of a 60 per cent reduction in energy consumption and associated costs. Furthermore, Zeta’s LED systems require significantly less maintenance, which lowers the cost and time requirement for RBWM to manage and maintain the lighting.

Additionally, with CMS systems integrated within each street luminaire, light levels can now be controlled centrally; improving estate management and maintenance.

Cllr Phill Bicknell, Cabinet Member for highways, transport and Windsor and Deputy Leader of the council, Royal Borough Windsor and Maidenhead told GPSJ: “This was a major project and Zeta successfully rolled it out in the short timescale of 12 months. We made the decision to undertake this project to provide our residents with better value for money street lighting and to reduce energy usage for the benefit of the environment.”

www.zetaled.co.uk

Public servants look to the future at this year’s Public Sector Show

Exclusive research published in April, carried out by the team behind the Public Sector Show, has explored the views of over 200 public servants, gauging their views of the current state of affairs in the sector and the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Top of the list of concerns for those leading, delivering and managing public services is finance and resource, cited by seven in ten (71%) of those surveyed. So much of a concern is this for public sector employees that almost two-thirds (64%) expect the quality of public services to decline in the coming years, with a majority expecting it to get harder for the sector to provide value for money for the taxpayer.

Issues related to the skills and expertise of those working in the sector are not far behind on the list of concerns. More than three in ten cite staff shortages (38%) and staff skills (31%) as important challenges facing the public sector – perhaps unsurprising when over two-thirds (64%) believe the increased use of technology in the public sector will lead to job losses, with a majority (54%) expecting the challenge of building a workforce with the right skills to get harder.

However, among the challenges identified were also opportunities. Technology, in particular, was seen as a “double-edged sword”, with a significant majority of those surveyed predicting that its increased use would also lead to better (68%) and more efficient (65%) public services. Collaboration across public sector bodies, and to a lesser extent between public and private sectors, was identified as another opportunity to deliver better, more efficient public services.

Further research carried out by the Public Sector Show team, published in June in association with Burges Salmon, explored the views of over 200 infrastructure professionals on the country’s major building priorities for the coming years.

The research revealed that almost six in ten (59%) people involved in planning and delivering infrastructure projects across the UK think that leaving the EU will make it harder to deliver improvements to the nation’s infrastructure. With the UK’s impending departure from the EU casting uncertainty over the future, half (49%) of those surveyed called for clearer direction from central government as key to improving the nation’s infrastructure.

When it comes to infrastructure spending priorities, almost three times as many people (75%) chose digital (5G/full fibre broadband) compared to air capacity (27%), while seven in ten (72%) opted for energy over just four in ten (40%) favouring the nations roads.

These findings, and others from the report, will be used to develop the agenda for the third annual National Infrastructure Forum which, for the first time, will be held as part of the Public Sector Show, the must-attend event for those looking to deliver smarter, better and more efficient public services.

Helping public servants to navigate the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities ahead is a key theme of this year’s show. Covering four key themes (Digital & Technology; Finance & Corporate; Estates & Infrastructure and Workforce & Leadership), attendees will hear from over 140 leading speakers from across the sector, including Chris Grayling MP – Secretary of State for Transport; Jacky Wright – Chief Digital Information Officer, HMRC; Malcolm Harrison – Chief Executive, Crown Commercial Service; and John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport.

Meanwhile, over 150 leading suppliers to the public sector, including Airbus, KPMG, Cisco, TechUK and Specsavers, will be exhibiting at the Public Sector Show, showcasing products and solutions that can support the public sector in delivering the services the UK relies on.

The Public Sector Show will take place at ExCel London on 26th June and is free to attend for those working in the public sector. Its sister event will be held in Manchester on 20th November. Find out more and register here.

RIGHT TO BUY REPLACEMENT WILL BE ALL BUT ELIMINATED IN JUST FIVE YEARS, WARNS LGA

Councils’ ability to replace homes sold under Right to Buy (RTB) will be all but eliminated within five years without major reform of the scheme, new analysis from the Local Government Association has told GPSJ today.

The current Right-to-Buy system only allows councils to keep a third of each RTB receipt to build a replacement home and prevents local authorities from borrowing to make up the shortfall.

A new analysis by Savills, commissioned by the LGA and published today, examined the impact of continued restrictions on councils’ ability to borrow to build new homes.

It reveals that:

  • Two thirds of councils will have no chance of replacing homes sold off under Right to Buy on a one-for-one basis in five years’ time unless a significant restructuring of the scheme takes place.
  • Around 12,224 homes were sold under RTB last year. Faced with ongoing borrowing restrictions and based on the levels of sales remaining consistent, the analysis estimates that in 2023 councils would only be able to replace approximately 2,000 of these homes.
  • Less than a third of councils would be able to sustain any kind of one-for-one replacement of homes sold under the scheme in five years’ time.

Additional rules applied to Right to Buy, including a significant portion of all receipts being handed over to the Treasury rather than the communities in which the homes are sold, are hampering the ability of local authorities to re-invest in housing.

The LGA said that, in the last six years, more than 60,000 homes have been sold off under the scheme at a price which is, on average, half the market rate, leaving councils with enough funding to build or buy just 14,000 new homes to replace them.

This leaves a shortfall of 46,000 homes which could have provided secure affordable housing for key workers, victims of domestic violence, veterans, people facing homelessness, and others in desperate need of a home they can afford.

The UK’s average family size is 2.4. Applying this to the number of homes sold off reveals that councils have lost enough homes to house the populations of Basingstoke, Worcester or Lincoln.

The LGA is warning that without a fundamental re-examination of how the scheme is funded, the Right to Buy, which helps families and individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get on the housing ladder into home-ownership, faces becoming a thing of the past.

Councils are therefore calling for a comprehensive package of reform to the funding of Right to Buy, including allowing all councils to borrow to build new homes, enabling local authorities to keep 100 per cent of all sales receipts, and for councils to have the ability to set Right to Buy discounts locally to reflect community needs.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, told GPSJ:

“We know that the Right to Buy changes lives – it helps people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get on the ladder experience the security and independence of home-ownership. It is essential that it continues to do so.

“However, we are now in a situation where without fundamental reform of the way the scheme is funded, this vital stepping stone into home-ownership is under threat. Councils urgently need funding to support the replacement of homes sold off under the scheme, or there’s a real chance they could be all but eliminated. Without a pipeline of new homes, future generations cannot benefit from the scheme.

“Enabling all councils to borrow to build and to keep 100 per cent of their Right to Buy receipts will be critical to delivering a renaissance in house building by councils. However, if we’re to truly make Right to Buy sustainable, we must also move towards greater flexibility on discounts locally so we can reflect local community need.

“Councils are closest to their communities and it’s essential this money is reinvested in homes in those areas so our residents can access secure, affordable housing. This money is badly needed to deliver homes for our residents – instead of resting in an account in Whitehall, it should be sent back to where it belongs.”

More Than Two Thirds of Companies Were Not Confident of Being Fully Compliant Ahead of GDPR Deadline

Data handling is number one concern relating to non-compliance

Apricorn, the leading manufacturer of software-free, 256-bit AES XTS hardware-encrypted USB drives, recently announced new research highlighting that companies were massively ill-prepared for the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforcement deadline. Less than a third (29%) of surveyed organisations felt confident they would comply, and when questioned further and asked whether there were any areas they might be likely to fail, 81% could think of some area of the new requirements that might cause them to fail when it comes to GDPR compliance.

Fifty percent of organisations who know that GDPR will apply to them admit that a lack of understanding of the data they collect and process is their number one concern relating to non-compliance.  On top of this, almost four in ten (37%) believe they are most likely to fail because of gaps in employee training, and almost a quarter (23%) say their employees don’t understand the new responsibilities that come with the GDPR.

“Data or personally identifiable information (PII) is at the heart of GDPR and mapping and securing it should be every organisation’s number one priority. By now, all employees, from the top down, should have an understanding of the importance of GDPR and the role they play in keeping this data safe”, said Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn. “While we know that many organisations have provided some form of employee training, clearly in some cases this hasn’t been effective and organisations should address these gaps urgently.”

While almost one in ten still regard the GDPR as a mere tick box exercise, a substantial proportion do view it as being of some benefit to their organisation – for example 44% agree that the new regulation is a welcome opportunity to overhaul their organisation’s data handling and security processes. However, three in ten (30%) worry they could fail to comply due to mobile working, and almost a quarter (22%) of respondents are concerned they may fail due to a lack of encryption. “There is a lot more awareness amongst companies since our first survey last year, but we continue to see a huge amount of confusion amongst organisations as to what to prioritise in order to tackle the regulation,” added Fielding.

In line with this, 98% of respondents recognise that they will need to continue investment in policy, people and technology even now the deadline has passed. Investing in the necessary tools to make security processes easier and more efficient is vital, particularly when taking into account that Article 32 of the GDPR requires the pseudonymisation and encryption of personal data. “The best form of defence is to make sure everything you have is as locked down as possible and all PII is encrypted in transit and at rest,” advised Fielding. “Organisations should research, identify and mandate corporate-standard encrypted devices and educate employees on their use to avoid the risk of a breach and being fined for non-compliance.”

About Apricorn

Headquartered in Poway, California, Apricorn provides secure storage innovations to the most prominent companies in the categories of finance, healthcare, education, and government throughout North America, Canada and EMEA. Apricorn products have become the trusted standard for a myriad of data security strategies worldwide. Founded in 1983, numerous award-winning products have been developed under the Apricorn brand as well as for a number of leading computer manufacturers on an OEM basis.

About the survey                                                                            

The research was conducted by Vanson Bourne, an independent specialist in market research for the technology sector. Vanson Bourne interviewed 100 IT decision makers in the UK, during April 2018. Respondents to this research came from private sector organisations with more than 1,000 employees.

Vanson Bourne’s reputation for robust and credible research-based analysis is founded upon rigorous research principles and their ability to seek the opinions of senior decision makers across technical and business functions, in all business sectors and all major markets. For more information, visit www.vansonbourne.com.

Data governance – making sure sensitive information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands

By Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn

Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn

Deciding how an organisation’s sensitive data should be protected and who is responsible for this is an important process. A wrong decision could not only cost a company its reputation, but also result in huge financial fines.

In the third quarter of last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined the Verso Group, a lead generation and data gathering company, £80,000 due to non-compliance with data protection laws. In the same period, data security incidents rose by nearly 20 percent, with general business, education and local government reporting the most occurrences. This comes as no surprise: according to recent news, Wigan County Council had experienced more than 80 data breaches over two years. With the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) promising a no-holds-barred approach to data protection negligence, and risks continuing to evolve, what can organisations do make sure they are protecting their sensitive data?

Understand your data

Companies need to carefully monitor the data that is both being created and leaving their respective organisations. For government, healthcare, finance, and education industries that generate, store and move copious amounts of sensitive information on the network, the implications are dire if the correct controls are not in place.

Is some instances, mandatory designation of a data protection officer (DPO) is required as stated in Article 37. Where this is necessary, the DPO will not only implement a security policy and strategy alongside the IT team, but will also be responsible for reporting. The DPO will need to document exactly what data is collected and how it is processed, stored, retrieved and deleted throughout its lifecycle to pinpoint where data may be unprotected and at risk. This thorough analysis will then enable them to delete all unnecessary data and to identify appropriate technologies, policies, and processes to remedy any shortcomings, allowing for a proactive rather than reactive approach. This is especially important where employees use third-party devices such as USB sticks, the Cloud, and other external devices.

Create effective policies

With the GDPR coming into effect in May 2018, it is more important than ever for businesses to ensure comprehensive security policies are in place and enforced. Data security must not only be considered internally but also when data is taken out of the office and beyond the confines of the internal corporate network.

London-based consultancy Willis Towers Watson found that 90 percent of all cyber claims stemmed from some type of human error or behaviour and a survey by Apricorn also found that 50 percent of companies did not require employees to seek permission for external USB drive usage. These two factors are risk enough for any business to fall foul of a breach, but combined, they are merely an accident waiting to happen. A case in point was when personal details of more than 130,000 current and former US Navy personnel were exposed in a breach linked to the compromise of a third-party supplier’s laptop in November 2016. This is a prime example of lax security policy, and how it can leave organisations vulnerable to data compromise and attack.

With all this in mind, companies need to start taking control of their data by implementing foolproof security policies. These should include whitelisting of allowable removable devices and blocking of all non-approved devices.

Encryption safeguards the sensitive data of organisations and their employees both at rest and in transit, protecting from human error and aiding GDPR compliance. In fact, encryption is one of the very few technical mandates in the GDPR articles; specifically Article 32. The cost of standardising on encrypted USB drives to protect data is nominal in comparison to the financial consequences of a data leak – which under the GDPR could be 20 million Euros or 4 percent of the company’s global annual turnover, whichever is higher – and their deployment offers a simple step towards GDPR compliance.

Layered defence

In today’s business environment, it is critical that companies supply employees with secure devices, including hardware and software that can defend against data breaches and cyber attacks. While employees are often the weak link in protecting data, organisations also need to make sure they’re taking a multi-layered approach to security tools.

With remote working becoming more popular, there is now not only emphasis on protecting workstations and internal networks, but also emails, browsers and removable devices. Working through a secure VPN and storing information on cloud platforms is also becoming popular with employees who are used to storage platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive in their personal lives. These platforms are easy to use and easy to integrate with personal devices, compared to corporate tools that are sometimes user-unfriendly. However, many businesses do not have policies to cover these cloud services, which leaves data unencrypted and at risk.

While there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution, organisations do need to invest time and money to establish the right security strategy for their needs. For example, using different vendors and products can increase the risk of exposing data due to incompatible solutions. Integrated approaches might not work for other organisations as they might not want to replace existing solutions or might not have the budget. Security and IT teams need to analyse the requirements of the company and implement toolkits that will make security processes easier and more efficient to follow. For example, providing employees with devices that include on-board authentication and encryption will help with data security, efficiency and cross-platform compatibility.

What remains the most important aspect of successful governance of sensitive data is consistency. IT teams, C-Suite and employees all need to be educated on, and adhere to, the policies in place to ensure that sensitive data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Pivot Power to work with National Grid to future-proof energy system and accelerate electric vehicle revolution

World first 2GW network of batteries and rapid charging stations planned

Pivot Power today unveiled plans to build a world-first 2GW network of grid-scale batteries and rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across the UK.

The £1.6 billion programme will provide infrastructure to support the rapid adoption of EVs and underpin clean air policies, while introducing valuable flexibility into the energy system to accommodate the demands of mass EV charging and higher levels of intermittent renewable generation.

Pivot Power plans to develop 45 sites around the country, installing grid-scale 50MW batteries at electricity sub-stations connected directly to the extra-high-voltage transmission system. These will give the electricity system operator National Grid a huge resource in managing supply and demand.

The battery network will be the world’s biggest, storing enough electricity to supply 235,000 average homes for a day. It will have the ability to release or absorb two thirds the power of the planned Hinkley C nuclear power plant in response to grid balancing requirements.

Sites have been chosen near towns and major roads where they can also power rapid EV charging stations. These will be fed directly by the transmission system, and so will be able to offer mass charging at competitive rates, supporting up to 100 rapid 150KW chargers. They will also be able to support rapid 350KW chargers when they are available in the UK.

It will also be the world’s largest network of rapid charging stations, addressing the three biggest barriers to EV adoption identified by the Department for Transport: availability of chargers, distance travelled on a charge, and cost.[1] By offering affordable charging it will also lower the costs of car ownership for the next generation, the third biggest barrier.

Graeme Cooper, National Grid Project Director for Electric Vehicles, said: “We expect the use of electric vehicles to grow rapidly. This innovative solution will help accelerate adoption by providing a network of rapid charging stations across the country enabling cars to charge quickly, efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible.

“It will also give the system operator more choice and flexibility for managing the demands in the day to day running of the network, and also help mass EV charging”.

Pivot Power aims to have operational batteries at 10 sites within 18 months. Each will provide a hub that can support a variety of infrastructure such as public rapid charging stations, electric bus depots and bases for large transport fleets. A site on the south coast could be operational by the middle of 2019, subject to planning approval, and more details will be announced in the coming months.

CEO Matt Allen said: “We want to future-proof the UK’s energy system and accelerate the electric vehicle revolution, helping the UK to clean up its air and meet climate targets. Big problems require big solutions, and we are moving fast to put in place a unique network to support a clean, affordable, secure energy system and embrace the low-carbon economy.

“We are keen to hear from anyone who shares our vision and wants to ‘go electric’, particularly partners with large fleets such as local authorities, supermarkets and logistics companies.”

Pivot Power has financial backing from Downing LLP, a UK-based investment manager which has funded over 100 deals into renewable energy investments since 2010, totalling more than £500 million. Pivot Power is already in talks with institutional and strategic investors, and potential partners, such as car manufacturers, charging providers, and technology and energy companies.

Downing has provided financial support for the initial phase of the project and plans to provide further funding as the rollout of rapid charging stations progresses.  Members of the public including EV drivers will have the opportunity to invest alongside institutional investors through the Downing Crowd platform.

Colin Corbally, Partner at Downing LLP, said: “The prospects of a future ban on petrol and diesel vehicles, coupled with the threat of a potential energy crisis in the UK, mean Pivot Power is extremely well-positioned to help UK investors benefit from supporting the low-carbon transition. Through our partnership with the Pivot Power team, we have developed an exciting but robust business plan to seize this unique opportunity to play a pivotal role in the battery and electric car revolution.”

Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, an advisor and investor in Pivot Power, said: “Renewables, batteries and electric vehicles are going to completely transform our power system, not just because they help clean up our horrible air quality and meet our climate targets, but because their costs are falling far faster than people realise. Pivot Power were quick to understand the scale and nature of the opportunity and have positioned themselves brilliantly.”

The core of Pivot Power’s strategy is connecting batteries and rapid charging stations directly to the extra-high-voltage transmission system. This will give it a competitive advantage over existing batteries and charging stations linked to the lower voltage regional distribution system.

  • It will be able to buy power at lower cost and it is committed to keeping prices as low as possible for drivers.
  • Its rapid charging stations will have access to abundant power – each will have a 20MW connection, enough to supply a town of 10,000 homes.
  • Combining batteries with EV charging maximises the value from each grid connection, and economies of scale should drive down building and operating costs.

Each site offers a range of revenue streams. The batteries will earn money from providing a range of services to National Grid, from sales of electricity to chargers, and from energy trading. They could also potentially provide services to energy-intensive industries. Rapid charging stations will earn income from EV drivers.

Pivot Power has assembled a high-calibre team with the specialist planning, financing, development and management skills to build this business. It was founded and is led by:

    • Matthew Allen, Chief Executive Officer. Previous experience as Global Commercial Head, Bloomberg New Energy Finance; Director at Good Energy; Chief Commercial Officer at Tempus Energy.
    • Michael Clark, Chief Technical Officer. Previous experience as Head of Network Optimisation, Tempus Energy; Low Carbon London Programme Director, UK Power Networks; Principal Electrical Engineer at Engineering Services Partnership.
    • Matthew Boulton, Chief Operating Officer. Previous experience as COO at Solarcentury and European Supply Chain Director at Sony Electronics.

[1] Public attitudes towards electric vehicles: 2016 (revised), Department for Transport.

Public sector cloud and hybrid IT adoption: research finds with great risk comes great reward

Paul Parker: SolarWinds Chief Technologist for Public Sector

Cloud and hybrid IT will be one of the top five most important technologies for U.K. public sector IT professionals in the next three to five years. This is the view held by 88% of the industry surveyed in the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2018. Further insights from the report uncover that, even with challenges implementing cloud services, the sector remains positive about the opportunities the cloud presents, both today and in the near future.

Despite cloud and hybrid IT representing one of the top challenges in rollout and performance (with 62% of respondents ranking it in the top three challenges), the public sector continues to see the benefits of the cloud, primarily for creating efficiencies (72%*), ROI (81%*) and productivity (79%*).

Barriers to success

At the same time, over half (58%) of public sector respondents say their IT systems are not performing at optimum levels, and a further quarter (23%) are not sure. Three quarters (73%) of public sector IT professionals spend more than 25% of their time reactively working to optimise performance, while just 47% spend a similar amount of time proactively optimising. When asked what was causing barriers to performance, nearly half (44%) cite inadequate infrastructure, while a staggering 56% cite a lack of organisational strategy.

“With these results, we see continued public sector commitment to the cloud and hybrid IT,” commented Paul Parker, chief technologist of federal and national government, SolarWinds. “However, what is most striking for me is the amount of time IT professionals spend retroactively fixing their systems. I would liken it to trying to fix a car as you drive it down the motorway – trying to maintain systems while they are still in use is near impossible, and ineffective in the long run. Without having the time, strategy and budget to get core systems working first, it is no surprise that public sector entities are taking longer to adopt and benefit from the Government’s Cloud First policy than perhaps was originally hoped.”

The promise of emerging technologies 

Alongside their focus on the cloud, public sector respondents also voice interest in emerging technologies. While automation and AI prove more popular among for-profit organisations than the public sector, there is still strong interest in embracing these advances. Over half (56%) rate automation as a top three technology with the greatest potential of improving productivity and efficiency, and a third (33%) see the same potential in AI.

When it comes to Software Defined Everything (SDx) and big data analytics, the public sector is more optimistic than its for-profit counterparts; over half (56%) of public sector respondents think SDx is one of the top three technologies in terms of ROI potential, while a similar percentage (51%) rank big data analytics among the top three technologies with the greatest potential to provide productivity and efficiency benefits. This is compared to equivalent responses from for-profit organisations, where just 17% rate SDx, and 34% rate big data analytics similarly.

Further findings from the research are as follows:

  • 77% of public sector respondents think the cloud is the most important technology in their IT strategy today, compared to 62% of U.K. for-profit organisations
  • 72% of public sector respondents consider the cloud to be one of the top three technologies for creating and increasing efficiencies, and 79% consider it among the top three in terms of productivity benefits
  • In the next 3-5 years, the public sector expects AI to be one of the top five most important technologies in their strategy, according to 51% of respondents
  • 81% rate cloud and hybrid IT as one of the top three technologies in terms of ROI potential, compared to just 60% of for-profit organisations

*percentage of U.K. public sector respondents who rated the cloud as one of the top three technologies with the greatest potential in these areas

The SolarWinds IT Trends Report is now live: IT Trends Index

Zonafide: Why the public sector is ready for blockchain technology

Paul Worrall, Founder, Zonafide

Blockchain. Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency. These are just some of the buzz words that have been seen widespread usage on the front pages of mainstream media in recent months. Despite the increasing noise around these terms, the practical applications and uses of them has been hotly debated.
Within this context, few are talking about how the public sector fits into this equation and how this technology can bring new opportunities to provide value and generate revenue from existing public services.

At Zonafide we see significant scope for public sector organisations to embrace blockchain technology and are excited about the future having already developed a first use case with Local Government Register Services.

Zonafide: a Digital Wallet leveraging blockchain and collaboration technology to ensure a person’s Activities are secure from fraud and cybercrime
In 2013 after we and people within our wider community experienced various forms of identity theft. I started thinking more closely about how people share their personal information and how they had to interact with organisations and companies around this sensitive data.

It was also clear that this was a growing and increasingly costly problem. According to the ONS, there were a staggering 6 million fraud and cybercrimes in England and Wales in 2015/16 with a total cost of £11 billion to the UK economy. Moreover, this trend showed no sign of abating with the cost implications for individuals, companies and organisations set to rocket further.

Looking at this growing phenomenon it was evident that the current relationship and the principle of trust between individuals and organisations needed to be readdressed.

Historically, different organisations have different ways to identify people making it harder for customers to manage their credentials. Verification processes are fractious and inefficient in and between organisations, as well as the fact people have to trust organisations to secure their information. Evidently, from the number of data breaches and cyberattacks this is proving hard for organisations to do – the case of Equifax and the breach of 143 million consumer’s data being one of the most high profile recent cases.

In short, legacy technology and centralized systems are vulnerable to attack and aren’t able to guarantee the job they set out to do.

In response to this issue and drawing upon my thirty years of experience in software development and distributed computing in investment banking, we have developed a digital wallet to help users secure Activities and take back control of their personal information – we call it being self-sovereign.

An Activity is something important people are doing, such as a house purchase payment or changing credit limits with a bank and takes the form of an Ethereum-based smart contract. By using a digital wallet, users can securely share their Activities to prove they’re legitimate.
In addition, as the blockchain network is decentralised, it avoids the inflexibility, inefficiencies, costs and weaknesses embedded in centralised systems.

The public sector and blockchain: opportunities to provide value and generate revenue. So how does Zonafide and its blockchain based technology fit with the public sector?

We have identified and developed a first use case with Local Government Registers Services for life events, such as births, deaths and marriages.
Specifically, we have developed a Newlywed Name Change Service where Registrars can help couples looking to change their name do so efficiently and securely. No longer does a recent bride or groom who needs to change their name with multiple service providers – think utility services, banks, insurers – have to go through the laborious and time intensive process of contacting them separately, sending off different paper work and having to follow their different verification process. Through the Zonafide app, this can be achieved through a few simple taps.

With over 262,000 marriages across England and Wales annually (87% of which are performed by Register Services), this is a significant market. The wider births, deaths and life events market is also worth £600m a year, so again this one application has significant market opportunity.
We currently have Letters of Intent from four London Boroughs for the Newlywed Name Change Service. As part of their onboarding, we have also been the first private sector organisation to train public officials on a specific blockchain-based product and its benefits. Through Zonafide, there’s also the potential for Local Authorities to grow new revenue streams. Within the Zonafide ecosystem one of the key roles are the Authoritative Acknowledger Oracles (‘Oracles’). Oracles are specialists in their domain, for example in the Newlywed Name Change Service, and are responsible for onboarding the necessary parties to ensure an Activity is authoritatively Acknowledged. Oracles charge for this service, thereby earning revenue from playing a role within the Zonafide ecosystem.

Our ambition is to take this initial use case to councils across England and Wales, which collectively would translate into significant new revenue for authorities throughout the country.

Beyond Register Services the opportunities for adopting blockchain in the public sector are vast. From the NHS handling sensitive patient information, submitting planning applications to preventing electoral fraud and applying for a new passport, everywhere you look there are opportunities to make processes that involve the public sector organisations and individuals more secure and frictionless.

In particular, there is also the benefit with Zonafide for supporting vulnerable people, as they often need greater protection when navigating important transactions. By including family members in the Activity verification process, it will help add an extra layer of protection to ensure vulnerable people are not the victims of fraud and that potentially life changing actions don’t happen unless they are meant to.

The public sector and blockchain: the future

A few years from now I envisage blockchain technology being integrated with processes across both the private and public sector. However, the truth is that the technology and importantly, viable applications, are here now.

As Zonafide and its Newlywed Name Change Service shows, blockchain could provide the public sector with many opportunities for value creation and increased revenue from existing services.

By Paul Worrall, Founder, Zonafide

About Zonafide

Zonafide is a Digital Wallet that leverages blockchain and collaboration technology to ensure Activities are secure and legitimate. An Activity is something important that an individual carries out, for example, a house purchase or changing credit limits with a bank. Zonafide is one of the first business uses of blockchain technology and is designed to empower people to protect themselves from cybercrime and fraud.
Zonafide’s first use case is with Local Government Register Services for life events (births, deaths and marriages) which represents a market opportunity of c.600 million. The founder, Paul Worrall, has over 30 years’ experience in distributed computing and software development in investment banking.

For more information, please visit: www.zonafide.net/

Wigan County Council reinforces the importance of data security to all its staff

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Following the news that Wigan County Council have experienced more than 80 data breaches in the past 2 years, the council has reinforced the importance of data security to all its staff.

Brendan Whitworth, assistant director for legal services at Wigan Council told GPSJ: “Information security is a high priority for Wigan Council.

“When a data loss happens, officers from internal audit work with the council’s data protection officer to ensure the breach is properly investigated, that adequate remedial action is taken (including disciplinary action if required) and lessons learned are communicated widely.

Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn

“We continue to reinforce the importance of data security to all our staff with relevant training to support this.”

Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn told GPSJ today: “80 breaches over 2 years is significant and is rightly of concern to the council. However, in their defence, they have recognised this fact and are taking action in conjunction with their Data Protection Officer.

“This also tells me that the council is aware of, and taking steps to be complaint with the upcoming GDPR regulations that will require compliance in 2 months.

“They have caught the issue at the right time, i.e. before GDPR is in force, and I would encourage all businesses, whether they are in the public or private sector, to do the same.”

For more information on Apricorn please visit: www.apricorn.com/GDPR

ATOS AGREES PARTNERSHIP WITH BLOCKCHAIN SPECIALIST ZONAFIDE TO HELP COMBAT IDENTITY THEFT AND CYBERCRIME

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Zonafide, the mobile app leveraging blockchain and collaboration technology to ensure Activities are secure and legitimate, today announces a partnership with Atos to help combat identity theft and cybercrime.

The partnership will see Atos assist their clients in the use of Zonafide’s blockchain-based technology in order to drive efficiencies and improve security when processing life events such as marriage and deaths. Atos’ clients span all major industries and sectors, including £3 billion of UK Government contracts ranging from the NS&I to the BBC.

Zonafide helps prevent fraud and cybercrime by securing Activities – an important transaction such as a house purchase payment or updating personal details with a bank – using blockchain technology. Ultimately, Zonafide prevents things happening unless the individual wants them to, ensuring that Activities are secure and legitimate.

As well as helping fight identity theft and cybercrime, Zonafide reduces the friction in verifying transactions and increases efficiency.

Moreover, as Zonafide’s blockchain network is decentralised it avoids the inflexibility, costs and weaknesses embedded in centralised systems. All these advantages look set to benefit Atos’ clients who adopt Zonafide and its technology.

Commenting on the partnership, Paul Worrall, Founder of Zonafide said: “This is a landmark partnership for Zonafide. Atos provides our clients with the confidence that our blockchain-based solution has the commitment of established IT services companies. This partnership is also a recognition of the power of blockchain to disrupt traditional processes and legacy centralised systems currently used by most organisations.

“Whilst Zonafide will initially be used in Activities relating to life events in Register Services in UK Local Government, there are many more potential applications that we look forward to working with Atos on.”

Ivo Luijendijk, Group Industry Director Data Analytics, IOT & Blockchain at Atos added: “Discussions with Zonafide have been greatly appreciated by our clients and we have already identified a prospect. I think this will be a fruitful partnership for both Atos and Zonafide.”

In addition to providing Zonafide’s software, the firm’s founders will also be hosting blockchain-focused workshops with Atos’ senior management, to further embed their knowledge of the technology’s potential and to discuss commercial opportunities.

Unifying communications and IT in the cloud can produce great benefits, but take care when sourcing suppliers

Joseph Blass, CEO, WorkPlaceLive

By Joseph Blass, CEO, WorkPlaceLive

Voice over IP, often known as VoIP, may no longer be a new story. Pioneered nearly 20 years ago and made famous by Skype, there are now many providers of this service which allows you to “speak over the internet”, with the quality of the calls and pricing packages making it a real contender for organisation-wide telecom solutions.

VoIP is a cornerstone of cloud-based Unified Communications [UC] which is changing how we work – and even holiday, for those who need to stay in touch when on a break. Many of us do. We also need to work away from the office at times; i.e. not just when on holiday.

UC is a descriptive term for integrated enterprise communication services: VoIP telephony, email, call control, instant messaging/chat and conferencing.

UC really scores when it’s combined with IT, especially when accessed via common hosted desktops. What this means in practice is that employees can work regardless of where they are based. All they require is an internet connection and access device [tablet, laptop, smartphone etc].

In the public sector, a solution like UC combined with IT should be at the centre of all processes, bringing together teams, enabling collaboration and offering scalability and integration with existing systems. In this sector, where procedure and process is necessarily stringent and time consuming – and price paramount – getting it right, including being able to work with trusted suppliers, is key.

The first step is to work with a UC provider who can offer you the best solution for your organisation’s needs and not just the solution that they can provide.

Bespoke services like VoIP can be designed to a precise need, but changes in IT can feel like a daunting move, in part because of the immense possibilities offered. So, when considering a move from the more traditional landline-based communcations services provider, how can you differentiate between the competitors in front of you?

The answer to this is two-fold.

First, you can look at how a “standard” package compares from one supplier to another. One supplier’s “Standard” may not be the same as that of another.  Consider the service, particularly functionality at basic package level, support, call quality and price. Can you get a testimonial from a current customer? Has the provider achieved accreditations to prove service standards? These headline questions will help you to whittle down your first tranche of possibilities.

Secondly though, what can really make a provider different from its competitors is when it can not only solve your telecom requirements but potentially unify all of your business IT, allowing an experience greatly superior to your current arrangements.

An enterprise solution will increase available functionality and combine all the benefits of a traditional system as well as all the benefits of a cloud-based phone and IT service.

Most organisations have dipped their proverbial toes into the cloud-based IT waters but what comes next is increasing the efficiencies they have already began to discover by allowing them to connect and integrate.

A great VoIP provider will enable your organisation to unify your IT system alongside your cloud-based phone service thus unlocking the benefits, functionality and efficiencies available from integrating those services. They will see past the standalone positives of VoIP and offer access to increased positives by allowing the solutions to work together for the benefit of your staff and working environment.

Hosted desktops (aka virtual desktops/Desktops as a Service) take your usual desktop experience into the cloud and allow your organisation flexible, secure access to all of its usual office data and software. “Working from anywhere” becomes a possibility. When you bring VoIP into the equation, employees, contractors or volunteers can login to their desktop and, using either a physical handset or “soft phone”, continue using their telephony in the same way, regardless of their location.

An extension number will connect to your mobile and follow you around without the caller needing to know you are not at your usual office location. User to user calling becomes free. One click calling via the desktop comes into play. The VoIP solution is a flexible reply to a need to work in a more flexible way than traditional services have allowed or, a sophisticated handset at your desk in the office, as you wish.

The insinuation here is that you should never be away from your day job. However, where you don’t want to incur roaming costs while abroad, or a contact to know that you are out of the office, the flexibility offered is clear.

Here’s how it can work

Consider you wanted to talk to a caller whilst away from your usual office desk. VoIP will allow you to take the call as if you were. Then, if your caller has questions about a specific subject, your hosted desktop will allow you to access all relevant spreadsheets, CRM or existing files without the need for apologies or excuses. Essentially, the unified communications will offer you a choice, never available with your previous non-hosted solutions.

This second comparison measurement, a step forward from the basic “cost” questions, is where you can truly identify whether you can go forward with VoIP or unified communications; where all your efficiencies are heightened.

The plethora of VoIP providers in the system (or on your shortlist) can be further reduced when you assess their capacity to answer just one of the possibilities available by internet telecoms or the complete range. It is worth considering whether a move to VoIP is good enough when technology has already moved past that and can offer so much more, and where VoIP is a cornerstone, not just a standalone.

That’s where UC, combined with IT in the cloud, comes into its own.

More at www.workplacelive.com