Monthly Archive November 2018

Avatar ByJayanthi

What is it that America cannot give and India can?

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I saw this question on Quora and as usual couldn’t resist writing about it… 🙂  This question is obviously aimed only at Indians wishing to move abroad or for the Indian population that is already abroad for a considerable time…So,what is it? what is it? 🙂 Read on… 

Most of us move to the US when we are young in our 20s to pursue higher education or career aspirations. Once all that has been accomplished and we have our dream education, dream lifestyle, dream house, dream car and finally understand what “America” is – we suddenly feel something is missing…what is that you may wonder? Those are family and relationships…

For most of the Indians in the USA, they might be the only member of their family who are there(with occasional extended families on the other coast)  After living in the US for 14 years and now living in India for the past 8 years – I can confidently say that not having your family close by is quite an interesting experience. 

family

Most Indian families in US, talk about their life’s ups and downs only on phone or Skype or Whatsapp or other technological advancements to their parents and occasionally their siblings. Most visit India only once in 2-3 years time to see their parents and families (though if you are in your 30s and beyond – you may visit every year)

Personal experiences:

From my personal experience, I realized we had missed a dozen family engagements, weddings and the next generation was here! Initially, it was alright to miss a wedding, but if we continuously have to miss all the weddings for 14 consecutive years – you definitely know we are living in another planet! We had missed the family outings and the fun conversations and the current family relationships! 🙂  Many people had passed away too and it was a pity to know about it just on the phone…. 

We missed our nieces/nephews/all our cousins and safe to say all of them knew only one thing about us – “That Uncle/Aunty is in America” 🙂

Maybe the most important thing that we miss is the change that time brings about in all of us… which cannot be expressed and which can only be seen and understood…What do you say?

Avatar ByMarshall Taylor

What Is Cloud Computing? | The Basics of Digital Outsourcing

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Cloud computing: the synergistic boardroom buzzword that you still pretend know about.

Luckily, it’s a pretty simple idea, technically demanding, but simple none-the-less. On paper, cloud computing is just another way for humans to share resources and increase production.

When you use cloud computing you are essentially outsourcing a computer-related task the same way a company may choose to outsource a task like accounting, manufacturing, customer support, or human resources to name a few.

Cloud computing instead outsources tasks such as data storage, web server hosting, Bitcoin mining (warning), and software management among others.

What’s All the Fuss About?

In order to really understand the perks of cloud computing let’s paint a picture of two similar e-commerce businesses. Both businesses are selling a product and using a website as their primary sales portal. Both are also new businesses with a small customer base but can reasonably expect to increase traffic to their e-commerce store in the future.

The first business, let’s call it Tod’s Toys, is running their website on locally installed servers and hosts all their own data. Not to worry though, Tod’s Toys has an excellent CTO running the operation and has the current hardware/software stack purring along.

The second business, this one named Gupta’s Guitars, is a little more bespoke and decided to instead opt for hosting their website on a cloud server. Gupta’s Guitars also has a capable CTO monitoring the online store’s health.

In their beginning stages, Tod’s Toys and Gupta’s Guitars are seeing similar traffic rate to their stores. However, Tod’s Toys is noticing a higher operating cost coming from their web servers; they have more than they currently need. The toy store doesn’t mind though, as they expect traffic to increase into the server capacity they have.

Gupta’s Guitars, on the other hand, paid for their server use much more ad hoc. Their server access scales with traffic, so the guitar store hasn’t noticed any waste. In fact, while their traffic volume was low so was their cost for using the cloud servers. Naturally, they threw a guitar-fueled pizza party with their savings!

As predicted, both online stores begin to see a precipitous uptick in volume and sales. Gupta’s Guitars rejoices and probably throws another pizza party. Tod’s Toys, on the other hand, doesn’t have as long to celebrate.

The online toy store quickly pivots to scaling their server hardware as demand on their self-hosted platform outpaces their capacity. Potential customers are served 404 error messages instead of the spectacular toys that Tod’s offers. *Sad face*

You can see, cloud computing let Gupta’s Guitars outsource their server needs and as a result, focus on other aspects of their business.

A ridiculously oversimplified example but the key point is there.

The Basics of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing for businesses, as in the above example, is typically referred to as enterprise cloud computing. This differs from other cloud computing services that may be more consumer-facing like Google Drive or MegaUpload (R.I.P.).

In either case, cloud computing is actually a stack of three generalized cloud provided services. At the base of the stack is the infrastructure cloud services also known as infrastructure as a service (IaaS). The middle layer is the developer’s layer known as platform as a service (PaaS). The top and the most visible layer is the software as a service (SaaS) layer also known as the application layer.

IaaS (infrastructure as a service) is the foundational layer made up of all the necessary hardware that makes the digital cloud tick. Despite the reference to watery vapor above us, cloud computing is made of some serious hardware, real, tangible, and often loud. IaaS is all of the physical hardware that stores and moves our zeros and ones.

Examples of IaaS providers: CloudSigma, Digital Ocean, Linode, Cisco Cloud Infrastructure Services, Microsoft Azure, Citrix Workspace Cloud

PaaS (platform as a service) is the next layer up, where the developers and programmers get involved. In this middle layer, IaaS providers lease chunks of cloud hardware to developers and programmers pre-installed with developer tools like Apache or MySQL. This middle layer is where IaaS providers and software developers overlap.

Examples of PaaS providers: Oracle Cloud, Salesforce Platform, Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services

SaaS (software as a service) is the topmost and more familiar layer of the cloud stack. This is where applications and software are, and we see some familiar names like Spotify, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Play Store, Storj, and Dropbox to name a few. The SaaS layer is essentially where cloud services become user-friendly for consumers and businesses alike.

Examples of SaaS providers: Slack, WordPress, Trello, Mailchimp, InVision, Zoom, Buffer, Contently, Netflix

Cloud Computing Stack

The basic cloud computing stack

Each layer of the cloud service stack enables the one before it. In short, you can think of the three layers like this: first, you need hardware. Second, you need a platform to build from. Third, you need applications so people can use the hardware.

The Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing

While each use case will have much more granular pros and cons, the following are a few general benefits and drawbacks of cloud computing.

The Upside to Cloud Computing

  1. A Lower Barrier to Access
    Cloud computing has a fraction of the initial costs compared to building and managing your own hardware, platform, or applications.
  2. Far Less Waste
    Cloud computing scales to the user whether big or small. If you only need ten terabytes of storage then only pay for ten, and when your needs shift, so can the storage.
  3. Take Risks and Break Things
    With faster scaling, faster iterations, faster hardware builds, faster developer environments, creators can be wrong more often and for cheaper, lowering the cost of success.

Downsides of Cloud Computing

  1. A Security Catch 22
    On one hand, a cloud service may be able to provide better security management than you could on your own. On the other hand, centralizing your data to a cloud service creates new incentives for security breaches.
  2. Performance Lags
    Sharing infrastructure with other users can affect its consistency. Demand on the infrastructure can impact the share you are receiving. There are mitigating factors, but this is something to be aware of.
  3. Internet Connection
    Not surprising, but cloud computing requires an internet connection in most cases. There are many variables for how much data you need to transfer and how often, but the understanding is that you will definitely be affected by internet downtime if present.

The Future of the Cloud May Be the Blockchain

The next evolution to the cloud service stack should be one that can support a distributed infrastructure layer. By fragmenting smaller pieces of a sizable cloud infrastructure, we might be able to shift the centralization of hardware and alleviate that security vector.

If only there were a system of organization that could incentivize hardware providers to come together in a distributed method in order to provide cloud-like services to platform and software developers. If only.

This article originally appeared here.

Avatar ByJayanthi

Proud InfoSec mom!

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I am sure you have heard of InfoSec professional, InfoSec geeks and InfoSec ninjas – but InfoSec mom? yeah – that is me 🙂 As I keep typing my Information security posts on my blog, there are two regular guests who read them and rate them diligently! 🙂 (there are many other diligent readers and I appreciate all your loyalty) – can you guess who the sincere readers are? – they are as you might have guessed – my kids! 🙂 

I am not sure how much they understand about the technical parts of my posts(my son can definitely understand but my daughter might still not be able to) but they do understand some ground rules of Information security.  She for example, always knows that I will not be sharing her pics on social media(except, very very rarely) and keeping the settings to the right level.  It is nice to see them understanding the fine rules of sharing on social media in this oversharing world!

Cyber security

While the son is old enough to have his own social media presence but has refrained from having one(either because of my InfoSec thoughts or it is his own online personality) He is on only one social media platform and is least interested in even having a profile pic for the same! He keeps all his online communication to a low level currently(so proud of him! :))

The daughter steps in diligently and comments “What anti-virus software do you use”  and “I know you will not be sharing pictures of me on social media”. These comments  just keep me smiling and happy! With the husband having this personality, the son staying aloof from social media for now and the daughter understanding the ground rules of Information security, it seems that I am the weakest link in the family perimeter with my constant blogging! 🙂 (but unfortunately, that seems to be my job! )

But still, there is a feeling of a “job well done”, when the house follows and echoes your thoughts…

Avatar ByJayanthi

Tracking

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As our dependence on electronic devices increases, from ordering food to paying bills and hailing cab services and making use of online maps to travel to different destinations,  the unseeing eyes are also following us everywhere tracking our every move.

We all know of GPS tracking when hailing a cab but did you know that you are being tracked at all times? By having the smartphone with you at all times, with the ‘Location’ being turned ‘on’, every move is being tracked. Some might not worry about this constant tracking by strange individuals, but I do think that it is necessary  to know all the possibilities that are present before forming our own conclusions about them.

It is quite a possibility that you will be using ‘Google maps’ for taking you to different places and you might be signed onto multiple devices using the same ‘gmail’ account. While, it looks perfectly harmless and seems that your life is getting simplified in every way in this electronic era – the reverse is unfortunately true.

How you are being tracked:

As an example, sign into your Google account and click on ‘Maps’ in the right hand corner. Once inside Google Maps, click on the menu and pick ‘Your timeline’. Now, you can see all the places you have visited in the last couple of years! You can also see the time of visit, the duration of visit,the latitude and longitude of the places that you visited! In addition, all these details are visible for a prolonged period of time too! 

You might have visited 100 places over a period of 5 years and chances are all of them might be listed right there on the screen! You may have forgotten where you went in October of 2017, but your device and ‘Location history’ does not forget!

So, what can be done?

If you would like to delete all of your location data and prevent your  location from being saved in the future, follow the steps below:

  1. After clicking on ‘Timeline’, click ‘Manage Location History’, disable ‘Location History’ under ‘Activity controls’. This makes sure that future Location tracking is disabled. 
  2. In order to delete previous ‘Locations’ go to ‘Timeline’ and under the settings tab click on ‘Delete all Location history’
timeline
Disabling Location history

Once this is completed, your Location history will neither be visible to you or anybody else(at,least for some time!) In today’s age, with so much information and power in our hands, it is up to us to do all the homework and control the data that is exposed to the outside world by disabling the various settings.

Avatar ByJayanthi

Can Blockchain prevent another economic crash?

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Like any other system, the global economy is susceptible to failure at many different points. Unfortunately, due to the interconnectedness of the world, an economic crisis in one country could have disastrous consequences for other countries. This was the case during the United States economic crisis of 2008 in which the stock market crashed.

Economic collapse on any scale usually happens as a result of disparities in the system that can easily be overlooked in the absence of clarity. However, blockchain technology could help avoid a financial crisis due to its transparency, security and decentralized mechanism. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are powered by this same technology which acts as a ledger for all transactions carried out on a network.

The endless benefits of the technology have attracted countless investors over the years. Now, it is fast becoming an addition to every major corporation, from IBM and Mastercard to Nasdaq. Its properties are also attractive to financial institutions which constitute the industry that is most in need of the benefits it provides.

The financial crisis of 2008 caused by a lack of transparency, greatly impacted various significant financial institutions and economies on a global scale. Blockchain technology affords banks full transparency, allowing them to spot such a crisis from a mile away. This way, they can take the appropriate preventive measures to ensure that it does not happen again. Banking authorities must make an effort to study the technology and better understand how it can be a force for the prevention of the next financial crisis.

What was the 2008 economic crash?

The economic crash of 2008 was the worst economic disaster in the U.S. and the world since the 1929 Great Depression. The crisis caused a great recession after the cost of housing fell by 31.8%, even lower than that of the Great Depression. Although the crash occurred in 2008, the first signs were observed in 2007 when the prices of homes were too high.

home

As a result, homeowners began to default on mortgage payments, leading to a downward economic turn which spread to the U.S. financial sector and eventually affected other countries. At the time, houses became extremely cheap, and homeowners were given loans worth up to 100% of the value of their new homes. Taking advantage of the profitable real estate sector, banks also made investments in subprime areas.

The affected institutions stretched from investment banking corporations to commercial banks, insurance companies, and lenders. The situation was so bad that financial institutions had to lay off their staff. Apart from financial institutions, the crisis affected individuals and businesses that were reliant on credit payments at the time. The economic disaster led to massive suffering on the part of businesses because banks stopped giving loans out. They did not trust anyone to pay back the loans due to the state of the economy.

Shortly after the crisis began, the American auto industry was on the edge of destruction and pleaded for a federal bailout. Unfortunately, banks were in the middle of damage control and bailouts were nearly impossible to get. Globally, share prices plunged, and the recession trickled down to other countries.

By the end of the year, most countries in the world including Germany, Japan, and China had gone into an economic recession as well. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the great recession had begun in December 2007, making it the third longest recession in the country since World War II.

In Europe, investors who had been involved with real estate securities in the U.S. took a hard hit. The same could be said for investors in smaller countries. However, China and Japan were able to escape that situation but registered huge losses where export was concerned. Their American and European markets were experiencing a fall in demand due to the recession.

Developing countries that depended on foreign investments for growth capital also lost their markets and investments. Since the largest countries were in a recession, the situation became a hopeless one with no chance of an easy recovery. Two years after the end of the recession, the unemployment failed to fall below 9 percent.

Why are banks looking to use this technology?

Banks are looking to use blockchain technology because its transparency can reduce the issue of financial losses that stem from a lack of it. There are three major ways in which the banks hope to achieve this:

1. Maintaining financial security

When banks have a bird’s eye view of all the financial transactions within an economy, it is easier to find discrepancies and adjust them. Due to the immutability and append-only function of a blockchain, it is easy for banks to keep open records of transactions that can be tracked easily.

Tracking cash flow can help institutions find and mitigate economic threats that may arise due to bad policy and bank operations. Using this technology, the banks can determine whether a financial institution, including shadow banks, requires support or control.

Another way that blockchain technology promotes financial security as a way to prevent an economic crisis is by providing access to information. With this information, these institutions can determine risks and potential points of failure within the system. It can also clarify the effects of various monetary policies and help out in the gathering of statistics for research purposes. Generally, if the banks have more information, then they can perform better and cut the costs associated with running separate systems as opposed to a single blockchain.

2. Preventing fraud

Banks can prevent fraud and bad debtors using smart contracts and digital cryptographic identities. Each institution can create smart contracts between the customers and banks, as well as between the banks and the central bank. This creates an immutable record of the exact terms of the contract and will only execute when the terms are fulfilled. Banks can also avoid loan fraud by using digital identities to find out the loan history of each customer, drastically lowering the chances of bad debt in the process.

The use of a cryptographic ledger ensures that stored information can only be accessed using cryptographic keys which are usually in possession of the owner of that information. A hacker would have to compromise every single system on a network to break such a system. This makes blockchain a secure way to store information.  

3. Eliminating shadow banking

According to the People’s Bank of China, shadow banking falls into three main asset classes–  entrusted loans, trust lending, and banks’ acceptances — which saw a $555 million increase in 2017. Using blockchain technology, banks can eliminate shadow banking since all transactions will be recorded.

Final thoughts:

The financial crisis of 2008 left many nations utterly devastated. The trickle-down affected various sectors even outside the financial sector, resulting in a near collapse of the economy. However, the world moved on from the effects of that event, and most countries have been able to pull themselves out of recession. However, it is essential to take measures that ensure that the crisis is not repeated.

For banks, the best bet may be the use of blockchain technology to securely store data, access information and ensure transparency in the system. Used properly, it can serve as an open system in which all transactions within the economy are recorded. With a clearer view of all banking processes, banks and other financial institutions can successfully prevent another economic crisis.

This article originally appeared on Mintdice.com

Avatar ByJayanthi

Halloween in India?

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When I first got married and moved to the US(several years ago! :)) I hardly knew what ‘Halloween’ was. All I knew was kids were dressed up as ghosts and goblins and asked for treats(and that is all I know today, too! ;)) Fast forward, to today – Oct 31st, 2018 and we are celebrating Halloween in Bangalore, India too! I thought I was done celebrating Halloween for my kids once we moved out of US! But no – we celebrated it from the very first year we moved to Bangalore, India and no one was unhappy! 🙂

And so, to answer my title question, yes, Halloween is celebrated in India! – with the usual tricks and treats! 🙂 But of course, not all of India celebrates it  – only the bigger cities of India which are the melting point of different customs and cultures celebrate it.

How do we celebrate it here?

It is a similar celebration as in the US. There are stores that start selling Halloween costumes and masks well in advance of the Halloween day. The entire Halloween preparation is exciting for the kids. While we don’t have explicit pumpkin patch visits and pumpkin carvings – we  still do the other fun things! 🙂

Kids deciding the costumes, picking them up, buying candy  are all the same fun things as in the US. The marked difference is the weather in Bangalore, India is not that chilly as in Detroit for this time of year.

Halloween

The kids go trick or treating in their respective communities and some communities like ours have close to 400+ flats and one can imagine the amount of treats from all the houses! 

The city of Bangalore boasts of Halloween parties for adults too. There are ‘Spooky Halloween Hip Hop night’ and ‘Halloween Vibes’ as you can eat and dance the night away! 

Did I ever feel I left the US?! 🙂