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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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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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