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Can quantum cryptography save the world?

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Quantum cryptography can ensure an ultra-secure future for the financial sector despite the evolving threats they face, writes RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa

With an increasingly connected world spurring on the perpetual rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), data is firmly establishing itself as the dominant fuel within many organisations, being central to the way they work. This data proliferation is taking place at an exponential rate – so much so that Cisco predicts a huge 14.1 zettabytes of data will be present in the cloud in 2020, compared to only 3.9 zettabytes in 2015.

With this shift taking place, encryption is an increasingly well-regarded protection tool in cybersecurity: over 80 per cent of mobile device data is encrypted – a significantly greater percentage than corporate data, despite its generally more revealing content. All data though, whether in the cloud or on devices, is a target for potential hackers. As the financial industry handles a significant amount of highly sensitive and valuable data, including Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of customers, focused attacks are to be expected.

Recent research found that the average cost of a data breach in South Africa is R32,36-million, a 12% increase since 2016. According to the study, these data breaches cost companies on average R1 632 ($124) per lost or stolen record.

The study shows how quickly an organisation can contain data breach incidents has a direct impact on financial consequences. The cost of a data breach was nearly R5-million lower on average for organisations that were able to contain a data breach in less than 30 days compared to those that look longer than 30 days.

As the foundations of computing begin to change from maths to physics with the introduction of quantum computing, so must the financial industry evolve the way it protects its data to ensure optimum and future-proofed security. Global Industry Analysts forecasts quantum computing’s global market to reach $2 billion by 2024, and it will pay dividends to keep abreast of its evolution. Quantum cryptography is emerging from this ongoing development as a strong protection method, necessary to combat ever-increasing security threats.

The building blocks of quantum cryptography

Quantum cryptography produces a message unreadable to all except its explicit recipient, due to the fundamental physics law of observation: to observe something is to change it. This specific type of quantum computing is known as Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), as whoever is receiving the message will still need a transmitted ‘key’ to decode its contents. Encryption is brought into a new era of online security by precisely how QKD communicates: keys are transmitted as photons, and usually light particles. If third-party interception is detected, the key instantaneously transforms state, rendering its contents indecipherable and, thus, useless. This change of state also indicates to the recipient that the transmission’s contents have been compromised. Until interference, QKD particles are able to exist simultaneously in more than one place and state, only having to select a behaviour upon coming into contact with something else – such as a hacker.

Toshiba works at the forefront of quantum cryptography, recently making a breakthrough at its Cambridge Research Laboratory by creating the world’s fastest QKD device. Approximately seven times faster than Toshiba’s previous record speed of 1.9Mbps, a speed of 13.7Mbps has now been achieved. Such a development brings the wider, practical utilisation of quantum technology one step closer.

Quantum cryptography’s role in shaping the security of the financial sector

Cost presently restricts the mainstream use of quantum cryptography, with it likely to be some while before the technology is widely-utilised. Now, however, is the best time to prepare in order to stay ahead in the race between hackers and cryptographers, both of whom stand to benefit from the new technology. A significant threat to the integrity of financial data in the cloud is the technique of harvest and decrypt. Already being deployed by cybercriminals, this technique sees sensitive files, which could include information such as account holders’ addresses and names, scraped and stored by malicious parties until they have the capability in the future to decipher the contents with quantum computers (the power of which vastly outstrips that of a classic computer). Even currently secure data is, therefore, already vulnerable to the hackers of the future. Vigilance now, with the security tools presently available, is crucial – it avoids attracting a cybercriminal’s attention as either an immediate data breach target or future harvest victim.

The financial industry must also recognise that leaked data doesn’t only cost in terms of the danger of personal and business critical data being readily obtainable online. Reputations will also be damaged, possibly irreparably, and the monetary cost will be high.

Quantum cryptography has the ability to usher in a new age of ‘unhackable’ online communication – as long as the finance industry ensures that education and awareness also remain high on the agenda. Support for IT decision makers will be vital in maintaining robust data security now and in the future, ensuring a mindset agile enough to update methods when the time comes. Cybercriminals often lead the way with new and inventive hacking methods – with quantum computing, financial organisations need to move to a preventative rather than reactive IT security infrastructure, or by the time they address any attack it will be too late. By understanding how quantum cryptography can work to fill the gaps in online defences, such as with the protection of abandoned historic data, the financial sector will be well-placed to stay one step ahead of any complex threats in the future.

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Now download a bank account

Absa has introduced an end-to-end account opening for new customers, through the Absa Banking App, which can be downloaded from the Android and Apple app stores. This follows the launch of the world first ChatBanking on WhatsApp service.

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This “download your account” feature enables new customers to Absa, to open a Cheque account, order their card and start transacting on the Absa Banking App, all within minutes, from anywhere and at any time, by downloading it from the App stores.

“Overall, this new capability is not only expected to enhance the customer’s digital experience, but we expect to leverage this in our branches, bringing digital experiences to the branch environment and making it easier for our customers to join and bank with us regardless of where they may be,” says Aupa Monyatsi, Managing Executive for Virtual Channels at Absa Retail & Business Banking.

“With this innovation comes the need to ensure that the security of our customers is at the heart of our digital experience, this is why the digital onboarding experience for this feature includes a high-quality facial matching check with the Department of Home Affairs to verify the customer’s identity, ensuring that we have the most up to date information of our clients. Security is supremely important for us.”

The new version of the Absa Banking App is now available in the Apple and Android App stores, and anyone with a South African ID can become an Absa customer, by following these simple steps:

  1. Download the Absa App
  2. Choose the account you would like to open
  3. Tell us who you are
  4. To keep you safe, we will verify your cell phone number
  5. Take a selfie, and we will do facial matching with the Department of Home Affairs to confirm you are who you say you are
  6. Tell us where you live
  7. Let us know what you do for a living and your income
  8. Click Apply.

 

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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