Tag: digital

The Cost of a Data Breach

Introduction

Data breaches are one of the biggest challenges businesses face in this digital world. A data breach can cost more than an organization’s worth when its reputation is threatened, and it has to pay for rectifying the damage.

 

What exactly is a data breach?

A data breach is when a hacker or third party gains access to systems, applications, or websites that contain personal data and are not authorized to possess. Data in these systems and applications are often electronic, such as credit card information and other personal information.

 

What are the different types of data breaches?

At some point, everyone will be affected by identity theft due to data breaches. On average, there is a data breach every day globally, and the number is only getting more significant.

Data brokers have discovered new ways data can be used for identity theft, from browsing history to social media accounts. There are four main ways in which data will get stolen:

 

  1. Hacking into a site.

 

  1. Exploiting vulnerabilities.

 

  1. Social engineering (tricking someone into giving up their personal information).

 

  1. Ransomware.

 

What are the costs?

A data breach often does not end in financial losses for customers or the company, but this is not always the case. Data breaches can be expensive for both parties. Once a data breach occurs, an organization loses control over its brand image and customers’ trust in its products and services. A data breach can cause significant financial damages to an organization due to the loss of sales and the payment of fines.

 

How to avoid data breaches

To avoid data breaches, it is crucial to conduct penetration testing and vulnerability assessments of the network regularly.

Companies should ensure their database are secure. There are many ways to do so. One of them is by making the most out of their passwords. Passwords can be stored with encryption, have a length that makes guessing near impossible, and include unique and ever-changing characters. Also, never work on files or other documents on a public computer or network.

 

Conclusion

The cost of a data breach is continuously on the rise, but taking action to secure data now can help protect data in the future.

Technology Spotlight Project Understood Russ Ewell

Technology Spotlight: Project Understood

Google is a seasoned pro when it comes to developing reliable and modern technology that promotes inclusion amongst all users. We are living in an era where voice technology is becoming the norm as pivotal software to assist users with a variety of tasks. Digital voice assistants like Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa have quickly become a necessity through all tech mediums like smartphones, tablets, and home devices. 

 

However, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) noticed that voice technology can lack the capability to correctly understand and transmit the voices of individuals with Down Syndrome. The way that individuals with Down Syndrome speak can be anomalous compared to those without, making the software difficult to use. Although, it is likely that individuals with a number of disabilities would benefit from the technology the most.  

 

With this mission in mind, the CDSS set forth to find partnership in one of these major tech companies to not only recognize the issue at hand but join them in developing a solution that they have named Project Understood. Google was quick to jump on board and, with the society’s help, is testing its technology. 

 

The initial test was to record 1,700 words and phrases spoken by individuals with Down Syndrome. From there, researchers could analyze whether or not Google’s voice technology was able to learn from the repetitive input of this voice data. They started with about nine volunteers. 

 

After the initial testing, researched could confirm that Google’s voice technology was able to understand about 2 of 3 words spoken by individuals with Down Syndrome and that it has the capabilities to learn more with further data. Now the project just needs to secure more volunteers to feed Google’s voice technology more data. 

 

Google and the CDSS are now seeking to collect about a thousand different voices of individuals with Down Syndrome to donate their time to developing this dynamic software. Not only will this help teach the system to learn to recognize speech from individuals with Down Syndrome, but it should also benefit other individuals with disabilities or atypical speech. 

 

Google and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society are just a few of a number of companies that are working to build a more inclusive future for individuals with disabilities. Voice recognition, along with other smart technologies, has the capability to enhance the lives of all users, no matter their differences. 

Video Games Provide An Outlet For People With Disabilities Russ Ewell

Video Games Provide an Outlet for People with Disabilities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 61 million individuals with disabilities living in the United States alone. That is 26% of the adult population or 1 out of 4 people.

 

These disabilities vary immensely between being physically or mentally centered, but having any can impact an individual’s quality of life. Social and physical isolation is common among people with disabilities. Not being able to perform day-to-day tasks, or even leave the house, can lead to crushing discouragement. 

 

However, especially with technological advances in the digital age, Video games can often provide an outlet for relief and inclusion for these individuals. This can be true for several reasons.

 

To begin with, video games are a great distraction from the real world. Regardless of genre, a good game pulls you into its world, allowing the user to forget about your problems. And for individuals with disabilities, they are offered the same opportunity to immerse themselves in a new world. 

 

Many gamers with disabilities call the virtual realms an escape from reality. The same is true for everyone. Video games are an outlet for gamers with or without disabilities, for anyone looking for another life.

 

The distraction isn’t the sole appeal of games. Video games can also become major hubs for socializing. Many games are driven by online, real-time interactions. As a result, games are incredibly connective. People from all walks of life can assume new identities and work together to complete a common objective.

 

Consistent teamwork builds strong friendships, even among strangers. People bond over mutual interests. By default, all of the users have a mutual interest – the game itself. There are even communities for single-player and offline games, which reside in forums and social media.

 

This is a huge benefit for gamers with disabilities as well. Not only do they enjoy a safe space to have fun (the game itself), but they also have an opening to make friends and join social groups. All of this is possible to do from home, most often times for free.

 

Video games bring friendship, activities, and entertainment directly into homes for children and adults alike. For those who can only leave the house with a great deal of effort, this reality (or, rather, virtual reality) is life-changing. In particular, individuals with disabilities are given new opportunities for fun and mental stimulation.

Google's New Accessibility Projects Russ Ewell

Google’s New Accessibility Projects

Google has recently unveiled 3 separate efforts to bring technology to those with disabilities to help make their daily lives easier and more accessible. The three projects are Project Euphonia, which aims to help those with speech impairments; Live Relay, which assists anyone who is hard of hearing; and Project Diva, which aims to give autonomy and independence to people with the help of Google Assist.

More than 15% of people in the United States live with a disability, and that number is only expected to grow in the years ahead as we grow older and start living longer. There has never been a better time to try to harness the power of our technology to help make the lives of the disabled more comfortable and fulfilling.

 

Project Euphonia

Project Euphonia aims to help those with speech difficulties caused by cerebral palsy, autism, and other developmental disorders, as well as neurologic conditions like ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), stroke, MS (multiple sclerosis), Parkinson’s Disease, or traumatic brain injuries. Google’s aim with Project Euphonia is to use the power of AI to help computers understand speech that is impaired with improved accuracy, and then, in turn, use those computers to make sure everyone using the service can be understood.

Google has partnered with the ALS Residence Initiative and the ALS Therapy Development Institute to record voices of men and women with ALS, and have worked on optimizing algorithms that can help to transcribe and recognize their words more reliably.

 

Live Relay

Live Relay was set up with the goal of bringing voice calls to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. By using a phone’s own speech recognition and text-to-speech software, users will be able to let the phone listen and speak on their behalf, making it possible to speak to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Google also plans to integrate real-time translation into their Live Relay software, allowing anyone in the world to speak to one another regardless of any language barrier.

 

Project Diva

Project Diva helps those who are nonverbal or suffer from limited mobility to give Google Assistant commands without needing to use their voice, but instead by using an external switch device.

The device is a small box into which an assistive button is plugged. The signal coming from the button is then converted by the box into a command sent to the Google Assistant.

For now, Project Diva is limited to single-purpose buttons, but they are currently devising a system that makes use of RFID tags which they can then associate with certain specific commands.

Navigate The City With These Assistive Technologies Russ Ewell

Navigate the City with These Assistive Technologies

Modern technology is empowering people to make simple changes to the way they live. For instance, voice-activated commands have become a common way for consumers to shop and self-driving cars are making their way into the general population. However, these innovations aren’t nearly as astonishing as the technology that’s empowering individuals with disabilities to live more efficient lifestyles – especially those who live in bustling cities.

It’s harder for people with disabilities to make trips outside of their homes. Consequently, the assistive technology business is a growing industry that’s set on changing the lives of people with disabilities by helping them get around their cities. This list gives a synopsis of the way technology is evolving to help the handicapped find accessibility in their cities.

 

  • Walking Stick of the Future: Visual impairments make living in a crowded and busy city extremely difficult. Imagine moving along a busy intersection without relying on the use of eyesight for guidance. Engineers from Young Guru Academy (YGA) in Turkey have developed a smart walking stick – the WeWalk Stick. This technology uses voice navigation to guide the user. It’s integrated with Google maps to help the user with navigation, and it warns the user with vibrations when the stick is approaching objects above chest height

 

  • Robotic Suit: A brilliant innovation in mobility is making marathon racing possible for people with disabilities. This exomuscular robotic suit has sensors that help control its movements and adds a layer of artificial muscle to support stability and mobility. A robotic suit sounds like it would weigh a ton, but this innovation weighs just 11 pounds.

 

  • Wheelchair That Climbs: A new innovation in handicapped assistance is set to become available by the end of 2019 – the Scewo. For individuals living in or outside of the city who have a physical disability, stairs are an unavoidable obstacle. It’s hard to imagine staying on the ground level when there’s a horizon of sky rises. Luckily, developers of the wheelchair technology created a wheelchair capable of facing a variety of terrains, including stairs.

 

These machines and the technology that powers them have the ability to dramatically change the lives of individuals with physical disabilities. While these innovations are relatively expensive, this technology is just becoming available to the public and this growth will come to more affordable options for all. It is hopeful that this technology will continue to grow at this rapid pace and soon navigating a city with a physical disability will not be a daunting task.

Microsoft's Focus On Inclusivity Russ Ewell

Microsoft’s Focus on Inclusivity

What started as a new controller intended for professional and intense gamers quickly became a sensation for a different group of video game lovers – those with mobile disabilities. When Microsoft launched their new Elite controller for Xbox one, it featured the ability for extreme gamers to customize some of the buttons and a textured grip for ease of grip. Microsoft had unintentionally created a customizable controller better equipped for video game enthusiasts with mobile disabilities. This was the start of a series of progressive improvements that Microsoft would make for inclusivity. 

 

After the buzz associated with the accessibility of the new Elite remote with disabled gamers, Microsoft launched a new software update with this demographic in mind. They updated the existing narrator and magnifying feature to assist those with vision impairments. They also debuted the copilot feature that allowed users to handle the buttons better with just one hand. 

 

Microsoft then developed its Xbox Adaptive Controller designed explicitly with disabled players in mind. This foot-long board features two large buttons that can be programmed to perform any function. It also has 19 3.5mm jacks that allow for a variety of input devices to plug into the controller. Some of these assistive inputs include foot pedals, microswitches, larger buttons, or joysticks. The standard-sized jack allows for gamers to utilize peripherals that users may already own for other functions as well. These features will enable each player to create a controller that can function with their unique disabilities. Creating a truly personalized gaming experience feeds into the inclusivity that Microsoft is yearning. 

 

While the controller itself is more substantial and looks different than the standard controller, it is specifically designed to foster inclusivity. The color scheme is in keeping with a standard Xbox one council, and it still features all of the standard buttons like menu, pause, and start. Microsoft’s intent with this design is to avoid an outcast appearance for individuals who need assistive technology. Instead, the purpose is for users to play together with others and face no different challenges than anyone else. 

 

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is making it easier than ever for children with differences or disabilities to enjoy the inclusivity that the gaming world has to offer. Children and adults can immerse themselves in a world where you can customize your avatar and roam around a foreign land with made-up storylines – all while connecting with users from across the globe. In the gaming world, your physical limitations don’t exist, and Microsoft is taking steps to make this authentic in the real world as well. 

Speech Technology For People With Nonverbal Autism Russ Ewell

VocaliD: Speech Technology for People with Nonverbal Autism

Close to 25% of all people with Autism are considered nonverbal. These individuals rely on gestures and movements or minimal vocabulary to communicate with others. As one can imagine, this comes with a series of challenges as well as social barriers for people with Autism. Many parents report that their child with Autism has experienced bullying at school due to their lack of communication.

 

In this technological era, there are copious technologies that offer automated voice assistance from a touch-screen device. An iPad now offers applications that show pictures of objects and, when clicked on, will project the word in a robotic voice. However, the personalization is still lacking from this technology, which can cause emotional distress for an individual with nonverbal Autism. Luckily, VocaliD founder Rupal Patel has a solution.

 

VocaliD is a new technology that combines the individual’s real voice with that of a ‘voice donor’ in their database. This combination provides the individual with nonverbal Autism with a unique pseudo-voice personalized to match their own. Patel’s technology starts by capturing a recording of the individual saying a word or syllable. From there, Patel’s database full of tens of thousands of voice donors filters by factors like age, gender, and regional dialect. Pitch and volume of the recipient’s natural vocals are also considered when matching with a donor.

 

The goal of this technology is not to provide just a voice to individuals with nonverbal Autism – this is available through many different applications and technologies. The goal is instead to give the individual a unique and clear voice that is representative of their real personality.  The psychological benefits of achieving this goal are immaculate.

 

Patel has found that most individuals who own this assistive technology can show hesitation in utilizing them. This could be because the voice cannot be completely personalized. Two individuals using the same technology will likely have the same “voice” regardless of their age, gender, or background. This naturally discourages people, especially children, from using their assistive technology for fear of being made fun of or misunderstood.

 

With VocaliD, Patel and the other developers hope that the utilization of the technology could also encourage children and adults with nonverbal Autism to become more verbal over time. There is evidence that suggests that children who use technology for speech assistance regularly will learn to form and say words in their own voices.

 

While this technology is still very new, the promise of personalized assistance to children and adults with any form of Autism is an inspiring step in the right direction.

Assitive Technology and Autism

Evolving over decades, technology has changed the way society functions. From advanced features in homes such as a refrigerator that plays music to a vacuum that roams your home all on its own. In addition to lifestyle convince, technology has had a huge impact in advancing the way we communicate and learn– particularly in the area of developmental skills with those who have disabilities. In a growing trend, technology is a tool used to enhance how students learn in school.  

About 1 in 68 children are identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This developmental disability can affect speech, language, cognitive learning, and more.

When technology first emerged for children, many parents were skeptical (and many still are) to allowing their children time with technology. Mindless video games and television shows seemed to have no educational value to their children, thus only wasting their time. In efforts to utilize this advanced power, teachers and engineers have drastically changed the idea of wasteful technology– enter what is called “assistive technology”.

For individuals with autism, developmental skills and communication are a challenge. Through assistive technology, someone on the autism spectrum can have improved quality of life. The Autism Speaks’ Innovative Technology for Autism Initiative (ITA) advocates to adapt and promote technology in order to positively impact individuals with autism

One of the common forms of technology for individuals with autism are PDAs. Personal Digital Assistants have come a long way since their creation. They are popular among businessmen and entrepreneurs, but are also a great tool for people on the autism spectrum. PDAs allow individuals to stay organized and on top of their schedule. A PDA eases frustration of an individual with autism by allowing them to be more independent and keeping track of their activities. PDAs provide reminders to move from one task to another, without the need of human interaction.

Many people with autism prefer computer interaction over human communication. Assistive devices create a world where they feel less anxious and reduced frustration for easier human communication. Think of a basic cell phone. People carry their phones everything. From cameras and calendars to speed dial and contacts, cell phones allow for easy functionality with everyday tasks. Quick phone calls or text messages make communicating through cell phones convenient and less stressful than in-person contact at times.

Another form of assistive technology that individuals with autism favor are ipads and mobile devices. Applications are readily downloadable with interactive games. Beyond general gaming, apps can help track migraines, seizures, sleep, medications and more. Apps can assist with cognitive development, behaviors/cues, and communication.

Assistive technology is a digital tool that improves cognitive learning and communication for individuals with autism. More importantly, it creates and builds confidence. These tools help people with autism navigate social situations. Thanks to technology, we are able to bridge a gap between typically developing children, and children on the autism spectrum.

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