Breakfast bytes on menu at TechFast

By Mike Lewis
Stephen Deming, senior partner technology strategist with Microsoft, talks during the first TechFast at Hagerstown (Md.) Community College.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — About 20 people took in some tech talk with their morning meal recently at Hagertown Community College.

They came for TechFast, a collaboration of the Hagerstown Community College Technical Innovation Center and the Washington County Department of Business Development.

“Our plan is to hold this quarterly,” said Janice Riley, TIC manager.

The idea, Riley said, is to bring in representatives from top tech companies to talk about trending news and critical issues. The next TechFast is scheduled for April 17.

At the first event, Stephen Deming, senior partner technology strategist with Microsoft, talked about advances in cloud computing and cyber security.

‘You buy what you need’

Deming said computer users have seen three “eras,” starting with the introduction of personal computers to businesses and homes. Next came what he called the “internet era” of sharing data. Now the world is moving into the “cloud era.”

In the cloud, he said, applications and processing power reside in the cloud along with data. Most often users don’t know, or care, precisely where it all lives.

Some strengths of the cloud, he said, is that both digital functions and information can be portable and on-demand. That can translate into savings for businesses.

“In the cloud, you buy what you need,” he said.

But users must have sufficient connectivity and bandwidth for the cloud to work well.

In many instances at this stage, he said, a balance must be struck between keeping some functions and data on local servers and using others in the cloud.

‘Passwords are dead’

Turning to security issues, Deming went through a brief history of major computer breaches. In many cases, he said, people feel powerless to stem the tide of breaches and hacks.

He said there are weapons, such as multiple-factor authentications, that can be used to help protect computer systems. Microsoft is encouraging people to move to a new level of computer security.

“Passwords are dead,” he said. “Stop using passwords. … Your face is a better password than anything else.”

Deming said the laptop he was using for his presentation relied on facial recognition. The system is sophisticated enough that a mere photo will not allow access.

“Biometrics is a solid mechanism at this point,” he said.

The cloud also offers some increased protection against hackers, he said. Tech companies have many specialists and a lot of tools to monitor and prevent cyber security problems, and to help organizations recover if something happens.

“We see things that are going to impact the U.S. before they impact the U.S.,” he said.

In most instances computer security problems still start with a simple act — a person opening an email, for example, or clicking on a malicious website.

“It’s a system that’s based on humans, and humans make mistakes,” he said.

‘European data’

An additional complication looms for companies and organizations that deal with people in the European Union.

A new European privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation, is to take effect May 25. It imposes rules on companies, government agencies, nonprofits and other organizations that offer goods and services to people in the EU or that collect and analyze data tied to EU residents.

Deming said GDPR applies no matter where you are located.

Among other things, GDPR gives people the right to access their personal data, correct errors and, in some cases, have the data erased. It sets out requirements for companies to report breaches, and it mandates certain principles of transparency.

A company can be fined up to $25,000 per day for violations, Deming said.

The question an organization’s leader must ask, he said, is “Do I have European data in my system, period.”

“We don’t know how all this is going to play out in the court system,” he said.

Microsoft is taking steps to comply and is among organizations posting information about GDPR. For information, visit www.microsoft.com/en-us/trustcenter/privacy/gdpr.