What is a botnet

Academy Xi Blog

Cybercrime Update: What is a Botnet?

By Academy Xi

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What is a botnet

Short answer: something you want to protect all your devices from! Discover how botnets work, what they can control and how to bolster your security to keep the blighters at bay.

What is a botnet and how does it work?

A botnet is a network of internet-connected devices that are infected with malware and controlled by a single entity, known as a botmaster. These bots can be computers, mobile phones, or Internet of Things devices. 

 After the malware has infected a device, the botnet connects with it and receives instructions from the botmaster, which can use it to perform a host of malicious activities. These could include stealing personal data, continuing to spread the malware, mining cryptocurrency or launching a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack. 

What is botnet controllable?

Literally any device that has been infected with malware can be botnet controlled. Having a device that is botnet controllable is a serious threat to the security of your data and can disrupt any services you provide.

How do hackers control a botnet?

Anyone with the required tech know-how can create and control a botnet. The malware used to infect devices can be distributed through a wide range of approaches, including social media tactics, distribution of infected downloads and those oh-so popular phishing emails. Any devices with weak security measures in place are particularly vulnerable to being infected and used in botnets.

What are botnets used for?

Cybercriminals use botnets to conduct malicious activity such as theft and sales of finances and data, or to run crypto scams and sabotage services. They are a serious threat to online security and can cause endless reputational damage to organisations. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Financial and data theft

Using techniques such as keylogging or phishing, botnets can steal financial information including login and credit card details. Once obtained, this information can be used to make fraudulent transactions or steal funds directly from accounts.

 When it comes to stealing data, approaches such as data exfiltration or spyware can come into play and the information sold on to other cybercriminals.

  • Cryptocurrency scams

Mining of cryptocurrency is often done using botnets, with cybercriminals also using them to launch crypto scams like Ponzi schemes.

  • Service sabotage

DDoS attacks can be launched via botnets, resulting in a specific site or online service being inundated with traffic to the point it is no longer available for users to access. This approach can be taken as a form of protest, extortion or to disable a particular industry or competitor.

  • Selling on to other criminals

Existing botnets have been known to be sold or even rented out  on the dark web to other criminals. The new owner, or leaseholder, uses them to spread more malware or launch new attacks.

Botnet architecture

The architecture of the botnet is how they are structured and managed. The two main varieties of botnet architecture are the client-server model and P2P. Client-server models involve a central command and control server, which manages the bots, while the P2P botnet is decentralised, with no single point of control.

Types of botnet attacks

A range of attack types can be carried out by botnets, including Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, as mentioned earlier with regard to service sabotage. Phishing attacks are also common, when large volumes of phishing emails are distributed with the aim of tricking people into sharing personal data such as passwords or credit card details. 

The most extreme approach is a brute force attack, where every possible combination of username and password is attempted until the botnet finds the right one to gain unauthorised access to a system or network.

How to protect yourself from botnets

The best precautions to take to protect yourself from botnets include regular updates of your software, frequently changing your passwords and ensuring the passwords you create are strong (not predictable or used for any other logins). Implementing security measures such as antivirus software and firewalls can also help prevent your devices from being infected.

How to get into Cyber Security

Completing practical, hands-on training in cyber security is a great way to get a foothold in the industry. Whether you’re already an IT professional seeking to upskill, or keen to launch a tech career from scratch, ensuring you have all the fundamental skills under your belt is a must. 

Our Cyber Security Engineering: Transform course will give you technical skills and strategic mindset that today’s Cyber Security Professional needs, taking you from beginner to job-ready and also offering access to a Career Support Program that helps 97% of graduates straight into the industry. 

If you have any questions, our experienced team is here to discuss your training options. Speak to a course advisor today and take the first steps in your Cyber Security journey.

Product Roadmap

Academy Xi Blog

How to create a perfect Product Roadmap

By Academy Xi

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Product Roadmap

Want the direction and progress of your product development to be clearly communicated to all involved? Get everything aligned and documented with a product roadmap.

What is a product roadmap?

Product roadmaps are strategic project plans that include details of the goals and objectives for the development process over a predetermined time frame. One of the main functions of the roadmap is to align all teams and stakeholders involved with the product on the direction and progress of its development.

By using a roadmap, efforts can be prioritised, expectations managed, potential issues identified and teams kept focused on delivering value to customers, while also meeting business goals. 

In this article we’ll dive in and check out:

  • Essential elements of product roadmaps
  • Types of product roadmaps
  • How to build a product roadmap
  • How to start a career in Product Management 

Essential elements of product roadmaps 

Amongst other elements, a product roadmap typically includes a timeline, product features and goals. 

  • Timeline

Timelines capture the important milestones and overall schedule of your entire product development process. Having a timeline is critical and helps all teams plan and prioritise to keep the processes on track.

  • Product features

Key functionality or capabilities that the product will offer are covered in product features, as is the value proposition and a clear overview of what the product will actually offer or do. 

  • Product goals

Objectives of the business that are encapsulated within the product goals need to be crystal clear. These could include any key performance indicators, such as revenue targets. 

Types of product roadmaps

There are several product roadmap types. We’ve rounded up some of the most commonly used to get you started:

  • Waterfall product roadmap

A more traditional approach to product development, the waterfall roadmap involves a process of ideation, planning, design, development, testing and implementation. The timeline is often fixed and the features predefined. 

  • Agile product roadmap

Unlike the waterfall approach, agile roadmaps involve frequent product releases and ongoing feedback from customers. The focus here is quick delivery of value and adaptation to ever-changing market conditions.

Agile product roadmap

Image source. Agile Product Roadmap

  • Product launch roadmap 

New products or new product features are guided by this approach. Milestones, tasks and resources that are needed for a successful launch are all captured within the roadmap.

  • Sprint plan roadmap

Short term goals are in the spotlight for sprint plan roadmaps. Usually covering a shorter period, they outline the key tasks that the team will be working on in that time frame.

  • Kanban roadmap

Kanban roadmap
Based on the Kanban methodology, the core of this method is improving efficiency and reducing waste in the product development process.

How to build a product roadmap 

As discussed, the type of roadmap you select will have its own nuances, but the following steps are common to most map types:

#1. Define the product vision and strategy

The first step is to define your product purpose and this can be done by clarifying the vision and strategy. Having a clear understanding of the target audience’s needs and how your product will address and hopefully solve these needs is a vital starting point. 

#2. Collaborate with other stakeholders

Other teams such as development, marketing and customer support are all vital collaborations to nurture. You will be more likely to create a realistic and achievable road map by being aligned with relevant teams. 

#3. Determine features to prioritise

It’s vital to identify and clarify the most important features that will help deliver the most value to customers and achieve business goals. 

#4. Build a roadmap template

A visual representation of the product roadmap, a template should include key details such as the timeline, product features and goals.

#5. Make changes when needed

Product roadmaps are by no means a ‘set and forget’ document. Update your roadmap regularly based on feedback from customers, market shifts and team progress.

 

How to start a career in product management 

Whether you’re looking to upskill or venturing into a new career with Product Management, quality industry-focused training is highly recommended to ensure you’re equipped with the right skills and mindset.

At Academy Xi, our Product Management courses are built with experts from Accenture, MYOB, PwC and Deloitte, offering you only the latest frameworks and techniques to ensure you’re able to hit the ground running in your first Product Management role.

For those upskilling, Product Management: Elevate will see you gaining immediately applicable Product Management skills and give your professional development a serious boost.  

Product Management: Transform will take beginners to job-ready with in-depth practical training, live client projects and coaching from a Career Support Program.

If you have any questions, our experienced team is here to discuss your training options. Speak to a course advisor today and take the first steps in your Product Management journey.

artificial intelligence

Academy Xi Blog

State of the art: Creative AI and the future of Graphic Design

By Academy Xi

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artificial intelligence

You’ve heard of artificial intelligence, but how about artificial creativity? With state of the art AI now capable of producing custom designs, it’s time to explore the evolution of creative AI and what it means for the future of Graphic Design.

Designing with AI

The possibilities of AI have recently progressed at an astonishing rate, fuelling a heated design debate that’s become hard to ignore. 

While the majority of the public has been wowed by AI’s latest advances, some are fretting over the long-term prospects of their profession, fearing tech’s capabilities might soon make some roles redundant. 

Anxiety about AI’s impact has historically been less prominent in creative fields, where designers have been reassured by the assumption that “creativity can never be automated”.  

The situation for design professionals has now become more complicated, with AI demonstrating the capacity to quickly and cheaply churn out high quality design collateral. 

Traditionally, AI was used by companies to carry out mundane, repetitive tasks. Now, it’s responsible for ‘dreaming up’ bright new ideas and pushing the boundaries of visual creativity. 

How has AI reached its position as a state of the art ‘creator’? Moreover, what do the newfound possibilities of AI mean for the future of Graphic Design?    

How has AI evolved?

As you probably already know, the concept of AI is nothing new. AI was first introduced in 1956 when Marvin Minsky started programming computer algorithms to function like the human brain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Another milestone was reached in 1959, when IBM coder Arthur Samuel coined the phrase ‘machine learning’ while reporting that his latest computer program could “learn to play a better game of checkers than that of the person who wrote the program”. 

Using an early iteration of neural networking, Samuel’s algorithms were able to classify data and make choices about what to do with further data based on past experiences (which sounds an awful lot like thinking!).

However, before anyone would dare claim AI could ‘think creatively’, significant progress needed to be made with machine learning’s ability to make informed design choices.     

How did AI design develop?

British painter and University of California professor Harold Cohen began creating AI artworks in 1973. Cohen produced his digital art using an AI program called AARON, which was also powered by neural networking algorithms. 

By the 1980s, Cohen’s AI art was of a high enough standard to be entered into the Venice Biennale where his pieces hung beside the works of modern greats like David Hockney and Jean-Michel Basquiat. 

In art and design circles, Cohen’s work featuring at an international art festival caused controversy, and traditionalists even disputed if the artworks could truly be considered Cohen’s. Was it his art, or a computer’s? The situation only became more complex when Cohen clarified how AI assisted him in his creative process. 

Harold Cohen - artificial intelligence
Harold Cohen, exhibiting his AI artworks at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1979.

Designing with neural networks 

AARON generated Cohen’s artworks by processing the images the artist input into its database. The program’s neural networks scanned the characteristics of the images and classified them according to certain visual properties. 

 AARON’s AI then combined different components of the images in its database to form new images, based on a set of instructions which were written in code by Cohen. Ultimately, this process is similar to an artist or designer producing work in response to a brief. 

 In the decades since Cohen started producing AI art with AARON, how neural networking is used for design purposes has remained fundamentally unchanged. What has changed is the sophistication of the designs AI is able to produce. 

 While Cohen’s artworks were essentially amalgams of pre-existing images, modern AI combines neural networks with integrated design tools to create completely new images. It takes influence from other visual examples, just as any human designer does, but its final output is a true original. 

 So, AI can now produce unique, customised graphic designs in less time than it takes to pick up a pencil and pad. All this begs the question, where do professional designers go from here?

 AI’s impact on Graphic Design

While many people are celebrating AI’s newfound design uses, others are meeting them with fierce resistance, claiming tech should assist human productivity and not replace it. This kind of response is nothing new, with suspicions about the negative implications of tech innovations being a historical norm. 

 When photography was first developed at the end of the 19th century, many feared it would replace the much loved traditions of landscape and portrait art. However, older artforms have survived the advent of photography, cinema, television and, more recently, spreadable media.   

 Understandably, among those closely following creative AI advances are Graphic Designers. Many in the profession believe AI will make it easy for companies to produce visual content, leading to reduced demand for their services and slimmer employment opportunities. 

 However, it’s difficult to envisage an industry in which employers, clients and other stakeholders don’t want to have conversations with human beings in order to ensure their design ideas are properly realised. With this in mind, it seems likely the demand for Graphic Designers will remain strong even with the evolution of AI. 
Bob Dylan poster designs

Reframing the design process  

Graphic Design industry leaders are optimistic about AI’s possibilities, which they believe will complement the roles of professional creatives, rather than replacing them.

The CEO of design firm Coudal Partners Jim Coudal claims “the idea is about bringing in more human elements. Designers can use their time to make important creative choices and fine-tune the aesthetics, while using machine-based processes for any lower-thought tasks”. 

As Coudal suggests, designers who want to strategically benefit from AI will treat it as a functional tool that can automate parts of the job they find tedious or unnecessarily time consuming. 

For those who fully embrace AI, it will be viewed as a creative copilot, allowed to produce large parts of a design so an artistic vision can quickly take flight. 

Decisions concerning which parts of a design to automate and whether or not to use AI produced elements in the final design will all be made by a trained professional, meaning projects will always be steered by a human Graphic Designer.  

For anyone aiming to flourish in design industries, rather than resisting AI, finding ways to incorporate it into their creative process will be the key to success and longevity. 

If enough designers adopt this mindset, the fusion of AI and Graphic Design could become the perfect illustration of how tech innovations can positively enhance human creativity, without ever threatening to replace it.

Want to become a Graphic Designer?

At Academy Xi, we offer flexible study options in Graphic Design that will suit your lifestyle and training needs, providing you with the perfect foundation for your future as a Graphic Designer. 

Whether you’re looking to upskill or entirely transform your career, we have industry-approved training designed to give you the practical skills and experience needed to fast-track your progress.

Are you after a career change? Take a look at our Transform courses:

Are you upskilling? Our Elevate courses are for you:

If you have any questions, our experienced team is here to discuss your training options. Speak to a course advisor and take the first steps in your Graphic Design journey.

what is facial recognition? How does facial recognition work?

Academy Xi Blog

How face recognition technology works

By Academy Xi

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what is facial recognition? How does facial recognition work?

Used for everything from unlocking mobile phones and personalising ads to tracking criminals, let’s get under the hood to understand what makes face recognition tech tick.

What is facial recognition?

A technology solution where algorithms are used to analyse and identify the faces of individuals found in video footage or digital images.

 In the sixties, development had already begun on similar systems in the form of computer applications. Today, the level of sophistication in the technology enables detection, matching and recognition of a human face against a database of images of faces.

How does facial recognition work?

There are three main stages of the facial recognition process: detection, matching and recognition. 

  • The first stage involves locating and identifying a face within an image or video. This is done using algorithms that analyse the footage or image for specific facial features.
  • Once detected, a mathematical algorithm analyses the features against those in the database to calculate a similarity score during the second stage. 
  • If this score is above a predetermined threshold, then the face is considered a match during the third and final stage. Recognition generally relies on the accuracy of the first two stages.

Is facial recognition accurate?

Under ideal conditions it can be highly accurate, but this can be influenced by factors such as lighting, angle of the face and image or video quality. Facial recognition tech can also be impacted by biases in algorithms or within the datasets used to train the technology, which can result in false positives or false negatives.

Data from a recent evaluation by the U.S Department of Commerce shows that “each of the top 150 algorithms are over 99% accurate across black male, white male, black female and white female demographics.”

What are the benefits of facial recognition technology?

Benefits continue to increase with the developments in facial recognition systems. The current offerings support the following:

  • Efficient security

The identification, authentication, surveillance and forensics processes are all bolstered by facial recognition systems, enabling security professionals to quickly identify individuals entering or exiting secure areas or events, grant access to systems or locations, monitor and track people in real-time and identify suspects in criminal investigations.

  • Improved accuracy

Algorithms are able to consistently analyse and compare facial features and do so objectively without human bias or subjective judgement. These facts eliminate the risk of human error and increase accuracy of results.

  • Easier integration

Facial recognition technology can be easily integrated with existing security systems, such as cameras, access control systems or video surveillance systems, without requiring major hardware upgrades. It’s also quite flexible technology in that it can be customised to suit different applications, such as authentication for mobile devices, access control for buildings or public space surveillance.

  • Automation

The identification and authentication processes can be automated with facial recognition systems, reducing the need for manual intervention. This makes it easier to manage large datasets of facial images, saving on resources.

Where is facial recognition used?

Some of the key settings that the technology is used in include fraud detection, cyber security, airport border control and banking.

  • Fraud detection

Increasingly used in fraud detection, facial recognition is helpful in verifying the identity of individuals making high-value transactions or opening accounts and can be used to match faces against watchlists of known fraudsters or suspects. Biometric authentication can also be used to prevent unauthorised access to accounts or systems.

  • Cyber security

Facial recognition systems provide an additional layer of security when it comes to cyber environments. Multi-factor and biometric authentication can both be enhanced using the technology.

  • Airport border control

The speed and efficiency of passenger processing is increasingly supported by facial recognition technology, while also enhancing security. Some airports use the tech for automated passport control, allowing passengers to scan their passport and face at self-serve counters, and the systems are also used to track passengers throughout the airport to help improve security. Identity verification is also vital in identifying each passenger entering or exiting a country, reducing the risk of identity fraud.

  • Banking

Customer experience is streamlined, and security increased with facial recognition. It can be used to authenticate customer identity when they log into accounts and make transactions, while some big banks are exploring the use of the technology for ATM access, in place of using a card or PIN number.

Top facial recognition software in 2023

We’ve rounded up some of the top software for you to explore.

  • Amazon Rekognition

Developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS), this software uses deep learning algorithms to recognise, analyse and compare faces in images and video. 

  • Cognitec

This software company creates a range of solutions for biometric face recognition. Cognitec’s software uses advanced algorithms that are used for a variety of applications including security, surveillance, ID verification and access control and can detect if someone is wearing a mask. Their marketing states they are committed to ethical and responsible use of the tech and have implemented regular auditing and compliance with data protection guidelines.

  • BioID

With a strong focus on biometric authentication and security, features such as liveness detection assist with knowing if a face is real or not and the algorithms are designed to achieve high accuracy rates, even under challenging conditions such as poor lighting and varied camera angles. BioID is a solid option for businesses that require a high level of security for their systems and applications.

  • FaceFirst

FaceFirst has a strong focus on accuracy, speed and scalability. The algorithms achieve high accuracy rates and the real-time matching enables immediate alerts and notifications. Easily scaled up to handle large volumes of facial data, it’s well suited for use in large-scale environments and enterprise-level applications.

How to get into Cyber Security

Completing practical, hands-on training in cyber security is a great way to get a foothold in the industry. Whether you’re already an IT professional seeking to upskill, or keen to launch a tech career from scratch, ensuring you have all the fundamental skills under your belt is a must. 

Our Cyber Security Engineering: Transform course will give you technical skills and strategic mindset that today’s Cyber Security Professional needs, taking you from beginner to job-ready and also offering access to a Career Support Program that helps 97% of graduates straight into the industry. 

If you have any questions, our experienced team is here to discuss your training options. Speak to a course advisor today and take the first steps in your Cyber Security journey.

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