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Back to segmented networks?

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Organisations need to move back to the days of segmented networks, to gain full visibility of network traffic and combat growing threats inside their networks, says JOHN WARD, Systems Engineer, Africa at Fortinet.

The risks inside a corporate network are usually far greater than organisations think. In fact, there may be more threats within an organisation’s perimeter defences than outside of them.

Mobile devices used in unsecured environments may bring malware directly into the core networks. Cybercriminals who gain access to the network have free access to everything once they bypass the perimeter firewall. Internet of Things devices and cloud connected printers connected to the network are typically left unsecured and unmanaged.

In addition, a poorly managed network that offers little or no visibility typically performs badly, impacting productivity and efficiency and the overall cost of doing business. This too, should be considered a serious business and productivity risk.

Information security professionals and risk managers are well aware that an ‘insider threat’ exists, but typically don’t have the resources to effectively mitigate the risk, and often they do not realise how network configuration impacts their threat exposure. Most organisations put in bare minimum perimeter firewalls to meet auditor requirements, and run flat layer 2 networks for cost control and ease of administration.

In an environment fraught with increasingly advanced threats, this architecture can prove to be a costly mistake. Consider for one minute that any users’ pc could unknowingly be directly tethered to the internet via their phone yet still be connected to the internal LAN.

In many consultations with potential clients, we have discovered perimeter firewalls up to ten years old and long out of their support contracts, still in place as the organisation’s only network defence. When we put FortiGate behind these incumbent firewalls into the core to analyse the state of the network, we almost always turn up issues the organisation knew nothing about.

There may be broadcast storms impacting users across the network; there may be old applications still running that IT management thought were long since phased out; there are frequently configuration issues and legacy systems impacting the overall network performance and increasing its risk profile.   At least 60% of the time, when organisations get their first true view of network traffic, they are unpleasantly surprised.

To address the threats inside the network and optimise network performance, organisations need to move away from the flat layer and back to the segmented network model of the past. Only this time, they need to lock down the segmented network without compromising performance, for example by installing Fortinet’s FortiASIC powered internal segmentation firewalls.

Deployed transparently in L2 mode or bump in wire and ASIC driven wire speed capable, these do not require extensive network overhauls. They simply plug into the network to deliver visibility into network traffic as well as application control, web filtering, advanced threat protection, mobile security and antivirus.

However, it is crucial that these internal segmentation firewalls do not cause bottlenecks that slow down the overall performance of the network. An effective internal segmentation firewall should support wire-speed internal traffic with multi-tens-gigabit performance, sitting at strategic choke points of the internal network. There, it provides policy-driven segmentation, instant visibility of traffic in and out of the network asset and real time protection of the asset, serving as an important component of the overall security suite. If required, these firewalls can even provide a secure ring around the legacy equipment to assure security and control.

With segmentation and full visibility, organisations are able to significantly improve governance and risk management, monitor and manage threats in real time, and optimise network performance by discovering where to clean up the network, or reconfigure and remove redundant systems.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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