Making sense of a digital web of data

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eepublishersPosted by EE Publishers on 23 February 2016

There is a myriad of digital data being generated on a daily basis, with bring your own device (BYOD), social media and the internet of things (IoT) becoming increasingly prolific as internet users progress in what is referred to by local research firm World Wide Worx as the “digital participation curve”.

For companies, making sense of it can be a headache, not to mention a major drain on resources. What follows are some of the challenges – and possible solutions – around security issues that should be top of mind in today’s business environment.

It has been a constant battle for the past two decades to ensure a secure internet and, although massive advancements have been made, the internet is still not 100% secure. As we start connecting hardware devices that control things like domestic and business security systems, smart devices, personal fitness devices, tracking devices and electrical appliances – to name a few – the situation will only become more complex.

The hardware appliance is the weakest link – no matter what it is – so the hardware device needs to be built to accommodate security features like encryption, multi-factor authentication and password strength validation.

BYOD boom

While BYOD indisputably brings with it a number of benefits for companies, it also comes with its fair share of security concerns. Organisations that permit BYOD can benefit from a reduced investment in hardware and enable employees to be more mobile and have 24/7 access to network resources.

On the flip side, the possibility of jeopardising company data is a reality that cannot be overlooked. This can be caused by lost or stolen devices, insecure applications, unauthorised access by non-employees and the fact that devices can connect to company networks over insecure wireless networks.

Interlinked with BYOD is IoT – a relatively new phenomenon bringing with it similar challenges. Although IoT is not a mainstream reality in South Africa as yet, it is said to be rapidly heading that way. IoT will become a reality in South Africa without doubt. Every time our devices become smarter and faster, we move forward towards a fully connected IoT.

While growth offers a lot of opportunities, IoT, in essence, is still not mature, or secure. Adding millions of new devices, billions of lines of code, along with more network infrastructure to cope with the load, will create a new set of challenges, probably far exceeding those of the past two decades.

Despite this, it is believed that local businesses do not take security seriously enough. Even though larger, more security-conscious organisations like banks take security very seriously, they do not necessarily align their security strategies to accommodate for future demands or what the impact of their security strategy has on customer experience. So-called midstream businesses in South Africa generally have very poorly managed security policies, if any.

IAM solution

In both instances of BYOD and IoT, security is key, but this does not mean that businesses need to have specialised security needs.

One of the products in PBSA’s software division, pbDigital, advocates is identity and access management (IAM). IAM outsources all required security requirements to run on the latest international identity and access management on one centralised solution.

IAM is a customer-centric identity and access management solution that empowers users to manage their own identities, enabling the organisation to reduce customer care costs by automating the identity processes.

IAM improves customer convenience with verified social identities and provides strong, multi-factor authentication for business-critical transactions. In other words, IAM takes care of centrally managing the identities of online users, eliminating the need for organisations to spend time and recourses on manually managing user access to their networks.

This is one of the means that companies can use to address the security challenges they face amid the burgeoning of data-intensive phenomena like BYOD and IoT. IAM is designed to centrally manage hundreds of thousands – even millions – of identities, devices and their associated access to multiple networks, which is simply not doable with physical customer service or manually managed security.

IAM involves linking the correct person (device owner) to the device. The second application is managing the access rights the device has to one or more networks, and the third is encrypting the channels of communication between the device and the various networks. All of these instances are centrally managed by IAM.

IAM is one of a range of solutions companies can employ to protect their digital empire, says Van der Merwe, and security can not be ignored by companies operating in today’s digital world.

Weak security when it comes to BYOD and IoT in the workplace will affect the confidence of consumers and organisations. This, in turn, will slow the process down until strong security is adapted and users and organisations can enjoy the benefits of IoT confidently and securely.

Contact Leon van der Merwe, PBSA: leon@pbsa.co.za / Tel: 011 516 9459

Electronic signatures vs digital signatures

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SignFlow LogoWhile many consider electronic signatures and digital signatures as interchangeable terms and, indeed, use them as such, this is not the case. In fact, the two phrases have vastly different meanings – and the respective technologies very different bearings.

Leon van der Merwe, co-founder of workflow and digital signing solution SignFlow, explains: “Depending on where you are in the world, ‘electronic’ -and ‘digital’ -signatures are often mixed in conversation and in law. Although described in unison, they are different technologies, have different meanings and in most countries carry a vastly different legal weight.”

So, what exactly is the difference?

Let’s start with the most commonly used of the two, electronic signatures. An electronic signature (also referred to as an ordinary electronic signature) can be as basic as a scanned image of a wet (hand-written) signature that is copied onto a signed document. These types of signatures are difficult to maintain and proof of identity, security, authentication and integrity is low.

Electronic signatures are often created by hardware signing devices, such as signature pads, which create an image of the signature as a person draws it on the pad.

This image is then transferred onto the document. Verifying the authenticity of the signature at a later stage is difficult and much the same as trying to verify a handwritten signature.

These signatures do not have the ability to lock documents for editing after the signing process. There is no active verification capability built into the applied signature area, leaving it open to fraud and repudiation.

On the other hand, a digital signature (also known as an advanced, standard or secure electronic signature) is based on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology using accredited personal X.509 digital certificates to provide the highest levels of security and universal acceptance.

Digital signatures are created using a cryptographic operation that creates a hash-code unique to both the signer and the content, so that it cannot be copied, forged or tampered with.

This process provides strong proof of the signer’s identity, protects the data integrity of the document and provides non-repudiation of signed documents.

Digital signatures can be verified without the need for any special proprietary software. Depending on the format of your document, the latest versions of free Adobe Reader or Microsoft Office application can verify the signature. Simply click directly on the digital signature to view the properties, signer’s identity, time and reason for signing – all of which are embedded in the document.

SignFlow only uses Digital signature technology. Every signature on a document signed with SignFlow is a Digital signature that carries the unique cryptographic credentials of the signer.

PBSA unveils new digital signature technology

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itologoPosted by IT Online on 17 February 2016

Up to 80% paper resources reduction, an 80% decrease in power consumption, up to 90% time savings and a largely reduced usage of petroleum and diesel are all reasons PBSA (formerly Pitney Bowes SA) has launched digital signing and electronic workflow solution SignFlow.

This is according to PBSA business development manager and SignFlow co-founder Leon van der Merwe, who notes the software product – “a first in South Africa” – has now officially launched, following its BETA release in October.

This comes three years after PBSA introduced digital signatures into South Africa with its CoSign digital signature solutions. Van der Merwe says the advantage of the solution was immediately evident. “We saw the potential to drastically cut down on costs associated with printing.” He adds that about 80% of businesses’ printing is as a direct result of the need to archive and wet-ink sign documents.

But while the CoSign solution solved the problem of businesses having to print, sign, scan and email documents for signing, it did not solve the problem of documents having to be signed by multiple parties, notes Van der Merwe.

He says this is where SignFlow plugs the gap. “SignFlow was designed, using the latest X.509 cryptographic digital signature technology, to workflow documents to multiple parties that all need to sign or action a document.

“[This means] the document originator/owner can, by using SignFlow, automatically and sequentially distribute any document to multiple parties to legally sign a document through an intelligent workflow system or from any popular document management platform like Microsoft SharePoint Online or Office 365.

“By signing documents electronically with SignFlow, the electronic version of the document becomes the original,” explains Van der Merwe. “This has a huge impact on archiving of documents as it is not required at any stage to print these documents for long term archiving.

Extensive application

“The amount of money and time that businesses spend on getting documents approved and signed is staggering. Signflow bridges this gap by offering a secure digital signature workflow solution so powerful, it eliminates all the inefficient, costly processes relying on print, scan, fax, email and courier completely.”

PBSA’s SignFlow product is designed to benefit any business that signs documents or has others sign documents, contracts, mandates, agreements, etc, with the main verticals to have benefitted thus far being the financial, auditing, engineering, legal and government sectors.

While the solution has seen interest and “extremely positive” feedback primarily from the corporate world, consumers stand to benefit just as much, says Van der Merwe. “Every consumer in South Africa that has ever been asked to sign a document will benefit,” he says, citing the end of brick and mortar banks and the need to print, scan and email or fax documents as obvious advantages. He adds that there is no cost to the consumer to sign documents using SignFlow.

Ultimately, he says, PBSA would like to see every individual consumer, as well as business and government department in South Africa having access to this technology.

All-round impact

Should this goal be realised, Van der Merwe says, the implications would be immense.

According to The Paperless Project – a grassroots coalition of companies focused on transforming the way organisations work with paper and electronic content – the world produces over 300 million tons of paper each year.

“This will eradicate the need for anyone to print documents for signing ever again. [As far as the environment is concerned], this would mean paper usage in a business being cut down by up to 80%, while power consumption [will be reduced] by 80% on the devices (printers, copiers, scanning machines, etc.) that are being used to produce paper documents.”

On a macro scale, he adds, documents would be able to be electronically distributed anywhere in the world, so there would be no need for courier services – which in turn would mean reduced usage of petroleum and diesel.

On the IT infrastructure side, universal adoption of the technology would mean a significant reduction of file replication. “At present, a document in need of four signatures is typically printed and scanned four times, but it is also emailed eight times, which means there are eight different versions of the document. With SignFlow there is always just one instance of the document.

“In addition, not having to print, scan and courier documents would result in an estimated time reduction of up to 90%, noticeably increased business efficiency and an easy means of tracking progress.”

According to a survey by UK-based research company YouGov, the UK’s SMEs waste over £42,2-million per day in revenues just looking for documents.

Local tech

SignFlow comprises two core technologies, both of local origin. The cryptographic public key infrastructure was launched by PBSA in South Africa in 2014 and forms the core X.509 cryptographic infrastructure that allows users to sign digitally in SignFlow.

Secondly, the SignFlow platform itself was 100% developed in South Africa by South African developers in partnership with Jena Solutions using the latest Microsoft .Net technologies.

Speaking about the challenges of launching a new technology, Van der Merwe says – as with any new technology – the market takes time to get to understand the technology. “The technology has an impact on legal, infrastructure, security and business departments within a corporate environment, so all these departments need to be involved in the decision to implement the solution, which is something that takes time.

“We are a pinnacle point in South Africa, where the realisation of the benefits have become the new driving force, rather than just seeking latest tech.”

Turn waste into valuable material with pbOffice’s baling solutions

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Baling press picTurn waste into valuable material that large companies will purchase with pbOffice’s HSM baling presses.

Perhaps one of the most underestimated cost centres for manufacturers and retailers in particular, is that of waste management. While packaging is essential for transporting products safely, it can very quickly become a problem as materials start to pile up and block valuable space – not to mention involve high personnel costs.

pbOffice, a division of PBSA (formerly Pitney Bowes SA), has an affordable and effective solution to this quandary – HSM Vertical Baling Presses.

Considered as part of the recycling chain, used packaging becomes a valuable secondary raw material. What pbOffice offers, are solutions for handling and compacting this raw material, using innovative technology.

HSM’s baling presses compress cardboard or packaging material into compact bales weighing up to 550 kg. This high degree of compression not only saves storage space, it also makes transport and handling much easier.

Conveniently sized, cost-efficient and high-capacity, HSM baling presses are perfectly suited for industry, manufacturers and retailers alike. Impressively, the volume of on-site packaging can be reduced by up to 95% with these machines.

Added advantages

The HSM V-Press series, currently available from pbOffice, combines the outstanding quality standards of HSM environmental technology with a high level of profitability. Due to both their performance and durability, they are the economic waste management solution par excellence.

In this series, you are sure to find the right baling press to suit your exact needs. For instance, you can choose the machine according to the volume and pressing power required for your operations.

The bales have the ideal size for perfect HGV (heavy goods vehicle) load utilisation. This saves on transport costs and increases the marketing efficiency of the bales, which – being valuable material – large disposal companies will purchase.

HSM baling presses could not be easier to use. The entire pressing cycle, beginning with closing the door, is fully automatic. A text display informs you in detail about the respective status of the process and, when the pressing procedure comes to an end, the sliding door opens automatically. Extracting the bale is simple and easy, and it can be comfortably transported on a pallet.

Another benefit of the presses is that of high operational flexibility. With the HSM V-Press you can decide whether you prefer to press cardboard or plastic film – all at the touch of a button.

Finally, you can rest assured HSM baling presses will deliver optimal process reliability. Thanks to the newly developed HSM TCS (TorsionControlSystem), the angle of the press ram is monitored continuously in every direction. This avoids one-sided overcharge, optimises the pressing procedure and assures longer service life.

For more information on the various HSM configurations, models and specs download the HSM Vertical Baling Presses brochure.

pbOffice adds new air washer to IDEAL portfolio

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AW60In the continued quest to bring healthy, pure air to your indoor spaces, pbOffice – a division of PBSA (formerly Pitney Bowes SA) – has just introduced a new IDEAL air purifying combination unit, the AW60.

Suitable for rooms of up to 60m², the IDEAL AW60 builds on its popular predecessor, the AW40, and features an additional HEPA combination filter and automatic function. The latest addition to the air washer family combines air purification with optimal humidification, for ideally purified and humidified air.

The device has a HEPA combination filter with integrated carbon anti-odour filter. Water, as a natural filter, works together with the HEPA filter to efficiently bind dust, allergens and particle-bound odours in the air. At the same time, the AW60 provides optimal air humidity through specifically structured humidifying disks and by applying cold evaporation.

To create a healthy indoor climate, air humidity is kept within the optimal range of 40% to 60% by a fully automated function on the AW60.

Additionally, the automatically selectable PlasmaWave system actively removes bacteria, viruses and mould spores from the indoor air, while antibacterial CleanCel technology on the water tank and humidifying disks inhibits the growth of bacteria, fungi and acarids.

The device features high-quality touch control and modes for automatic, manual and sleep. In automatic mode the AW60 monitors the air humidity by means of the hygrostat, and automatically adjusts the power – although this can also be controlled manually.

Night mode allows for ultra-silent operation – an ideal mode for bedrooms. There is also a timer function for optimal pre-selection of the desired runtime, including two, four or eight hours.

Easy to clean and maintain, the AW60 is also very energy-efficient.

PBSA unveils digital signature tech

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itweb_logo_smlPosted by ITWeb on 16 February 2016

PBSA, a provider of customer communication solutions, has introduced a digital signing and electronic workflow solution, in an effort to boost paperless offices.

SignFlow is cloud-based software that reduces the need to print documents to obtain signatures, says PBSA (formerly Pitney Bowes SA). It utilises cryptographic technology to apply verifiable, personal digital signatures to documents, it says.

This comes three years after PBSA introduced digital signatures into South Africa with its CoSign digital signature solution.

But while the CoSign solution solved the problem of businesses having to print, scan and e-mail documents for signing, it did not solve the problem of documents having to be signed by multiple parties, says Leon van der Merwe, PBSA business development manager and SignFlow co- founder.

He says this is where SignFlow plugs the gap. It was designed for workflow documents that need multiple parties to sign or action a document.

According to Van der Merwe, the software product has now officially launched, following its beta release in October.

He says the solution is focused towards a paperless SA and solves one last important and complicated part of digitisation of documents – the signature.

He says the drive to go paperless in most businesses is hampered by the need to obtain a signature on the document.

“This, up to now, had far-reaching consequences as it is not so much just the cost of the paper, but rather the far-reaching costs and environmental impact of processing the paper.”

Van der Merwe points out the amount of money and time businesses spend on getting documents approved and signed is staggering.

“Signflow bridges this gap by offering a secure digital signature workflow solution. It eliminates all the inefficient, costly processes relying on print, scan, fax, e-mail and courier completely.”

According to The Paperless Project – a grassroots coalition of companies focused on transforming the way organisations work with paper and electronic content – the world produces over 300 million tons of paper each year.

BMI-TechKnowledge says printing on paper is costing the taxpayer around R2.3 billion per annum, says Van der Merwe.

This is largely due to paper-based processes or digital processes that still break out into paper at some point, he adds.

He believes SignFlow, together with a good culture to drive paperless initiatives in organisations, can reduce this cost with as much as 80%.

SA definitely seems to be taking longer to adapt to a truly paperless environment, says Van der Merwe. “Our culture to want to touch what we read is definitely still very much a part of doing everyday business – this needs to change.”

Van der Merwe points out turning a paper-based process into a digital one requires commitment and buy-in from all stakeholders.

“It’s truly only a change in culture that is the hardest challenge. We are so used to handling paper, it has become ingrained in our ways and we don’t think about the consequences of using it.”

PBSA serves medical sector with new IDEAL air purifiers

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Removing impurities from the indoor air we breathe is perhaps nowhere more important than in the medical industry, where optimal health is the ultimate aim.

Air pollution (both indoor and outdoor) has been tagged by the World Health Organisation as the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Hospital environments in particular are very complex environments, which require special attention to indoor air quality, for the sake of patients and healthcare workers alike.

Recognising this, PBSA (formerly Pitney Bowes SA) has introduced two new IDEAL air purifiers designed specifically for the medical sector – the AP40 and AP100.

Both devices are professional air cleaners with individually replaceable high-quality filter elements, which filter a range of pollutants – including fine dust, pollen, allergens, pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and mould spores, cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, chemical vapours and even odours – from the air.

With invaluable features like low energy consumption and quiet operation, the AP40 and AP100 are the ideal indoor solution. Both feature a PlasmaWave system, making them the superior choice for spaces where there is a high risk of airborne infections and occupational diseases.

PlasmaWave produces positive and negative ions in an optimal ratio that form hydroxyls, together with hydrogen from the humid air. These hydroxyls neutralise and destroy viruses like influenza, and eliminate bacteria, chemical compounds, poisons and odours at molecular level. Basically, PlasmaWave cleans indoor air in the same way nature cleans outdoor air.

AP40IDEAL AP40

The IDEAL AP40 is made for rooms up to 40m² and features a HEPA filter system with an antibacterial coating and anti-odour filter.

The antimicrobial CleanCel equipment of the device and the antimicrobial coating “MedShield” of the HEPA filter inhibit the growth of microbes and remove pathogens.

It features a high-quality touch display for intuitive control and provides auto, manual, sleep and turbo function modes. In Auto mode, the device continually monitors the air quality with intelligent sensor technology and automatically controls the power. In addition to the automatic adjustment, the fan speed can be manually adjusted at five levels – sleep, low, middle, high and turbo.

A timer can optionally be pre-set to a runtime of either one, four or eight hours and the device features a child-proof key. Convenient function indicators indicate the operational state at any given time, while the filter change display informs users as to when a filter change is pending. Filters need to be changed on average every 12 months.


AP100IDEAL AP100

The AP40’s “big brother”, the IDEAL AP100, is made for rooms up to 100m². In addition to a high-performance filter system and LCD touch screen, this device also features a WLAN (wireless local area network) connection and the corresponding app.

The AP100 has a 7-level cleaning system, featuring the following:

  • Level 1 – Fine pre-filter that filters particles such as dust, hairs, pollen and lint.
  • Level 2 – CleanCel equipment inhibits the growth of microbes.
  • Level 3 – PM2.5 filter filters ultra-fine air pollutants of a size of 2.5 μm.
  • Level 4 – Antimicrobial coating “MedShield” – removes 99.9% of pathogen viruses, bacteria, and mould spores from the air.
  • Level 5 – A high-performance activatedcarbon filter removes various odours and harmful gases.
  • Level 6 – The optionally selectable PlasmaWave system actively supports the removal of bacteria, viruses, mould spores and ultrafine particles from the indoor air.
  • Level 7 – The true HEPA Filter filters 99.97% of the ultra-fine particles of 0.3μm such as fine dust, dental dusts, and sooty particles.

For hygienically pure air and peace of mind, PBSA’s IDEAL AP Med Edition devices are the way to go.