As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q3 2016 Issue

Malware and Ransomware Update

Mobile devices, in this country at least, have been relatively safe from malware attacks because most apps are downloaded from Google Play or Apple’s App Store, which run security checks on approved apps. But security experts warn that 2016 might be the year malware attacks begin to plague mobile phones and tablets.

The IT news source eWeek reported that infection rates on mobile devices could start to grow if a technique known as overlays, allowing the theft of login information in real time, pays off for criminals. In an overlay attack, the criminal overlays user interface elements on top of an application, tricking the mobile device’s user into entering information that the attacker then steals. An IBM security researcher told eWeek, “a lot of people in the underground are buying it,” presumably meaning the tools to effect an overlay.

To date, though, most reported malware attacks on mobile platforms mirror successful attacks on PCs.

More worrisome to enterprises than the theft of login information is ransomware, which encrypts the data on the hard drive and holds hostage the company owning the computer system until payment is made. If you do pay, you might be funding unsavory activities, potentially incurring liability for your company down the road.



Downsides of Trusting Robotics

The finance industry is rapidly automating information retrieval and analysis. A New York Times Magazine article, “Stocks & Bots,” profiled one company, Kensho, that created software to automate analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report, providing information that investors want immediately about two to five days faster than they’d had it before from their in-house analysts. It was a boring job, but someone had to do it, and now it’s the work of robots.

Meanwhile, researchers at Georgia Tech have discovered that people will put their lives in the hands of a robot who commands attention, even if it leads them where their memories and instincts tell the humans they shouldn’t go.

In the study, 30 volunteers followed a bot into a conference room to take a survey about robotics. When an alarm went off and smoke filled the hallway, 26 subjects followed the robot, which led them away from where they’d entered the building.

If we are to benefit from inventions that use bots — from Google cars to robotic surgery to financial software — people have to trust the artificial intelligence. But too much trust is foolish, and all too human, it seems.



Multitaskers, Take Heart

Researchers have proved that jumping from task to task is not only harmful to productivity, it actually alters your physiology, reducing brain density in areas that control empathy and emotions. Today’s workplace, however, provides incessant, occasionally relevant, and sometimes important stimuli (email, social media alerts, colleagues asking for input), making multitasking seem necessary, and monotasking an increasingly archaic practice.

A concept called “deep work” may be the way to rebuild the damaged brain. In a book released in January, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, computer science professor Cal Newport writes that cultivating a focus that lets you concentrate on a cognitively demanding task and ignore all distractions will produce massive benefits. Those benefits might accrue to the individual, to your organization, or even to humanity, as some of his examples suggest (e.g., Carl Jung, who did his deep thinking in a tower in the woods).

The amount of time spent on the work and “the intensity of your focus,” are factors in deep work, Newport told Fast Company. The key: isolation from devices.

The primary tool you’ll need is isolation from devices. But realize this: Your brain is happy multitasking (MRIs of multitaskers’ brains show the release of dopamine). So you’ll have to make an effort to train yourself to do deep work.

Copyright 2017