The new Amazon Echo Dot, the small piece of gadgetry that brings the Amazon virtual assistant ‘Alexa’ into the home was both the top-selling Amazon device, as well as the top-selling product available from any manufacturer on Amazon over the recent holiday period.

With millions sold it appears that virtual assistants are hitting the mainstream, but will 2018 see these devices and similar ones from Apple and Google slowly move into the workplace?

Computerworld explored the concept of virtual assistants in the workplace coming to the conclusion that they are actually already there. Many individuals are already using them to accept meeting invitations, responding to messages and getting directions, but in all fairness, this is the way it’s been since their introduction into the technology landscape around half a decade ago.

As Computerworld suggests, virtual assistants could be used in a similar vein to how those at home create ‘scenes’, where an individual creates a workflow – e.g. “I’m going out” – and the virtual assistant then turns off the lights, adjusts the thermostat and locks the door. Such scene setting could be highly valuable in building sets of commands to configure a meeting room’s technology to how a user wants it – “Set up a VC conference with London” – and without meddling with cables, switches, a plethora of logins and lighting, you are connected. Now that would be nice.

During the coming year, it is anticipated that the world of cyber crime will continue to fester rapidly adopting new technologies to maintain its grip on the public consciousness.

CSO Online listed out a number of new attack vectors that are going to challenge even the most diligent CISO in the coming months, with AI leading the criminal charge.

AI could be applied to Spam/fraud/phishing messaging through the utilisation of chat bots. This level of intelligent automation can be used to gather information on an organisation before attacks are undertaken. AI could also be used for smarter brute force attacks on password guessing. It could narrow down probable passwords by geography, demographics and publicly available personal information significantly reducing the amount of password guessing effort.

Other threats include cyber-hijacking, cyber-war and attacks against cyber-currencies and blockchain systems. All of which may sound like they are ripped from a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster, but do need to be considered seriously.

The major change that 2018 will see is, of course, the introduction of GDPR, which is now only 101 working days away. All manner of websites, trade magazines and press are creating checklists and preparation guides to do what they can to get everyone to comply. Forbes magazine published one themselves that covers the fundamentals of what GDPR actually means and makes a number of sensible suggestions on preparation strategies.

These include simple snapshots such as :

  • Discovery: Identifying what personal data the organization is in possession of and where it resides.
  • Management: The governance of how personal data is accessed and used.
  • Protection: Establishing security controls to prevent, detect and respond to infrastructure vulnerabilities and data breaches.

…and many more.

Now if a virtual assistant could be asked the big question, ‘Are we GDPR Compliant?’ and automatically make the ‘scene’ changes to ensure that a business is, then they would be most welcome to enter the workplace – and the sooner the better.

External Links

Computerworld : The rise of virtual assistants in the office.

CSO Online : Some 2018 cyber security predictions to consider.

Forbes : It’s now 2018, the year that GDPR comes into force. Are you ready?

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