Macau rides the cloud, big data wave
By Stefan Hammond, Computerworld Hong Kong
Panelists at the Macau ICT Forum 2012
Computerworld Hong Kong and the Macao Computer Society co-hosted a late-April event at Macau Tower attended by Macau’s digerati. ICT experts in the fields of telecom, security, predictive analytics, logistics and gaming attended, drawn by the theme: “Securing the new tech trends — Big Data, Cloud and Mobility.
Lock down that mobile device
“Mobile devices continue to evolve,” said Kok Tin Gan, senior manager, risk and controls solutions for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Kok said that new features and capabilities would increasingly include m-commerce as devices acquire payment-capabilities. “Near-field communication (NFC) will offer much more than mere payment,” he said, giving an example from [South] Korea where customers can wave their phone over a convenience store touch-processor and summon a taxi to that location.
“But as m-commerce increases, the potential for attacks also increases,” cautioned Kok. “The rush to develop mobile apps creates a development life-cycle that lacks sufficient security focus.”
He cited statistics showing 54% of enterprises do not have an accurate inventory of employees and customer’s personal data. “Mobile app breaches becoming more frequent and sophisticated,” said Kok. “SMS attacks are now popular as hackers can include links — messaging-service WhatsApp is also being targeted.”
The PwC manager said other attack routes include purchasing used phones which may have saved-passwords, and ‘jailbroken’ iPhones, as the jailbreaking password reveals the root-password.
Kok then showed a pair of short videos showing how Siri on iOS can be used to break iPhone security, and how Android’s facial recognition can be spoofed using another device with a facial image of the owner. In spite of these vulnerabilities, Kok urged the development of mobile technologies for businesses. “Don’t give up,” he concluded, “if you don’t leverage mobile, your competitors will.”
Asian cloud evolution
“The government role in promoting the cloud seems to be based on a centralized data center, and it’s in the initial stage.”
— Rui Marcelo, CIO, CTM
Per Dahlberg, CEO of the Hong Kong-based non-profit Asia Cloud Computing Association , urged Macau’s ICT community-leaders to join his organization. The ACCA regularly updates its Cloud Readiness Index , which gives an indication of which Asian region is best suited to specific cloud requirements.
The ACCA’s metrics are expanding to include cloud security, according to Dahlberg, but the big push is directed towards SMBs. “We plan to form an SME working group within the next few months,” he said. “We’ll also develop an SME Cloud Index and resource center.”
Dahlberg asked for questions from the floor after his presentation, and was asked how his organization ensures neutrality in its analyses of cloud providers. He said that the ACCA delineates different models of cloud-provisioning, that there is no “one-size-fits-all” cloud-provider, and that providers tier their services — much like datacenters.
Cloud computing in Macau
“Cloud is perfect for local SMBs. They basically have no IT and no security concerns. A lot can be done to enable cloud adoption in Macau.”
— Kent Tong, deputy director general, Macao Computer Society
A lively panel discussion tackled the issue of cloud computing in Macau “We’ve taken important steps in the last two years, towards creating a good foundation for the provisioning of Cloud Services” said Rui Marcelo, CIO, CTM . “We established the Digital Campus Program. This is an educational cloud, built to accelerate the use of IT in Macau’s educational institutions. The response has been great, and so far more than 50 institutions are involving at it. We’re also collaborating with IT suppliers to provide cloud services such as IaaS and SaaS, and are considering a virtual data center to benefit corporates in Macau, particularly for SMBs.”
“Cloud is perfect for local SMBs,” said Kent Tong, deputy director general for the Macao Computer Society. “They basically have no IT and no security concerns. A lot can be done to enable cloud adoption in Macau.”
“Globally and in the region governments are taking a more active role to encourage cloud,” said Per Dahlberg from the ACCA. “We’re seeing it in Hong Kong and the US. Is the Macau government encouraging public sector departments to move in this direction?”
“I cannot speak on behalf of the government,” said Tong, “but they have built a data center to share with different [government] departments, especially the smaller ones. They are promoting the concept.”
“The government role in promoting the cloud seems to be based on a centralized data center, and it’s in the initial stage,” said Marcelo. “We are very interested in helping to accelerate this process. The government doesn’t have to run the infrastructure, their role is to promote the development and adoption of the technology — and we would like to collaborate in triggering a faster pace of adoption.”
By Stefan Hammond, Computerworld Hong Kong
Panelists at the Macau ICT Forum 2012
Single point of control
“Taking the data and putting in the cloud, whether its Amazon or Azure or Google, you can save enormous amounts of money, and the privacy issues can be dealt with,” said Andrew Pearson, Managing Director of consulting firm Qualex Asia. “These firms understand ‘big data’ and credit card security. Right now, scalability, privacy and security are the main issues, but having a single-point-of-contact in the cloud can improve security.”
“The issue is not so much the actual security, but the understanding of it,” said Dahlberg. “Enterprises tend to do patch-management separately, but with cloud technology, this can all be done at a single point.”
“Widespread data leads to a lack of regard for security and privacy,” said Marcelo. “To be able to provide these services, a change in the security paradigm has to occur. IP traffic must be controlled at all layers. The way the Internet is built today, does not offer the required reliability and security for cloud globalization. Thus, the roles of telcos are important in bridging the gap and offering the necessary guarantees to corporates and consumers in cloud services. We’ve been working on this for years, and we have adopted the best standards like the ISO 27001 (the first in the Greater China for telcos), and ISO 20000.”
“People tend to view bandwidth as a ‘dumb pipe’ but that’s not true: it’s sophisticated,” said Dahlberg. “While the technical information is there, not all firms — especially SMBs — know how to find and understand it. Another point: cloud’s ability to scale up is lauded but the flexibility to scale DOWN is also powerful.”
“The ACCA another independent organizations have an important role in setting up a framework which is currently absent,” said Marcelo. “Macau is definitely interested.”
“Mobility is a great challenge, as we seek to guarantee the level of security that will not compromise operations” said the CTM CIO. “More devices are being built with sensors capability. We will witness a more rapid evolution towards context-aware computing in the next two to three years, bringing with it a bigger challenge to the industry.”
Leveraging Cloud for BCP
The event concluded with a panel discussion featuring José Chan, head of the computer service center at Macao Polytechnic Institute and Thomas Chan, head of Electronic Government Planning and Infrastructure Division at Macau’s Electronic Government Department, together with Hong Kong-based Emil Chan, chairman of the Cloud Computing SIG at iProA .
“The Macau government started developing a centralized government data center back in 2006, with the plan to provide a shared DR facility,” said Thomas Chan. “Back then we hadn’t started talked about cloud computing — the purpose of the data center was to provide shared resources to reduce duplication and cost of IT infrastructure.”
Macau Polytechnic’s Chan said that community and organization can also benefit from cloud computing. “Cloud computing helps to transfer your risk,” he said. “It also provides more options in DR/BC plans — we’re also considering share our private cloud environment for K-12 [schools] to enable them to develop electronic educational programs.”
Emil Chan said that IT leaders can take advantage from incidents like the recent outage experienced by Hong Kong’s SmarTone mobile network to gain more resources for DR and BC. “The lesson here is that project management is critical,” he said. “Incidents on this scale are the best time to demonstrate the significance of IT infrastructure and its backup of it,” he said.