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Cyber essentials for SMEs

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As a small business owner, the last thing you need is an online security breach. That’s why it’s well worth getting the right security measures in place and reviewing them on a regular basis, writes PAUL MACPHERSON, Head of Security, Xero.

Most of us couldn’t get through the day without using the internet. Whether it’s helping us get to work or schedule plans with our family, one things certain – this access to the internet has massively transformed our lives for the better.

The same goes for small businesses, giving them access to a connected, global world and the ability to transact and operate with far greater efficiency. However, as more small businesses take advantage of the exciting opportunities that the internet offers, it’s crucial that cybersecurity is the number one priority.

According to security software company Norton, globally 689.4 million (31%) people were affected by cybercrime in the past year. What’s more 63% of people also believed it’s become more difficult to stay safe and secure online over the past 5 years. Criminals are getting smarter online – and small businesses, with often limited resources at their disposal, can be particularly vulnerable.

In many security breaches, cyber-criminals simply exploit insecure remote-access software, employee activity and weak password security to gain access. Hacking methods such as phishing and social engineering, as well as sophisticated malware are popular methods used to breach seemingly secure systems.

As a small business owner, the last thing you need is the consequences of an online security breach. That’s why it’s well worth getting the right security measures in place and reviewing them on a regular basis. Here are four focus areas that should be deployed immediately to safeguard your business from attack:

  • Choose the right security software, and don’t forget to update it

It pays to install reputable anti-malware software and regularly update it.  Malware often tries to exploit known vulnerabilities in software and this could seriously compromise your systems. Anti-malware will detect and stop most malicious software including computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware and scareware from entering your systems.

As well as keeping your anti-malware software up to date, you need to keep your operating system and application up to date with the latest security patches. It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of businesses who don’t do this. Look at the recent WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware instances in which a known Microsoft SMB vulnerability was exploited which organisations should have patched.

  • Equip your employees with the right skills

Many scams and attacks rely on manipulating people to do something that gives hackers the information or access they’re after. Known as social engineering or phishing, these tactics include using personal information to earn trust from unsuspecting employees. All it takes is two seconds for you or one of your team to click on a link or attachment in an email, or enter a password on a fake login page, and you’ve let the criminal in.

No matter what industry your business operates in, you’ve got to educate every last member of staff – including yourself! There are easy-to-use online tutorials available that help train people in the dos and the don’ts when it comes to staying safe online.

  • Use 2SA

The 2SA or Two-Step Authentication is like putting an extra deadbolt on your front door. It involves two layers of security. First, enter your existing password and then input the verification code generated by an app on your smart device. This significantly reduces the risk of account takeover – the cybercriminal may get hold of your password but that’s not enough for them to gain access.

2SA (or 2FA, MFA or 2SV) is also an important security measure to protect your email account. An insecure inbox is incredibly risky; once hackers get hold of it, they’ll be able to reset all your passwords. A compromised business email account is often used for invoice fraud, by intercepting and changing the payment bank account numbers on invoices attached to emails as PDFs.

  • Enforce strict password protocol

The number of passwords most people have these days can be quite overwhelming. So it’s natural for you to pick something that is relatively easy to remember, but this can a dangerous move. A basic password is easy to hack – a dictionary attack can crack a basic code in a couple of seconds.

Make sure you reinforce just how important it is that everyone picks a robust password. Ask them to run it through a password checker to make sure they’re being as safe as possible. Rather than changing your passwords regularly (this can lead to bad password habits and predictable passwords), create a strong password from the get-go. This should include a mix of at least 12 characters of different types. Of course, if you suspect that your password has been compromised then change it immediately.

Using a different password for each login is also good practice. Having a unique password helps prevent a compromise of one login becoming a compromise of many. Consider installing a Password Manager to help generate strong, unique passwords for each site.

A small, agile business typically allows employees to access email or other business apps from their phones. If this is the case, ensure that your employees protect their phones with a password, PIN, or biometric (fingerprint) authentication. A mobile device manager (MDM) can enforce security policies and delete access to business data if the phone is lost or stolen.

Unfortunately, we are living in a world in which these online threats are only going to get more frequent and more sophisticated. Global research tells us that more than 50% of cyber attacks target small businesses. But, the measures you can take to combat these threats are also getting wiser. It might seem like a large commitment with not much ROI, but in the long run it could be the making or breaking of your company.

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SA consumers buy 3.2m smartphones in Q1

Smartphone sales in South Africa grew by 12.4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, reaching around 3.2 million units for the period.

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However, the value of the smartphone segment increased by 22.8% as sales of entry-level devices to low- and mid-income consumers continued to drive the market, according to point of sale data from market research firm, GfK South Africa.

GfK South Africa’s data reveals that telecommunications retail enjoyed a strong start to the year, with revenue growing 22.4% year-on-year. The growing popularity of phablets and higher unit prices (as a result of a weaker rand) helped to drive this increase in revenue, against a backdrop of low or negative growth in many segments of the consumer technology market.

“The mobile device market showed good growth in the quarter, despite rising prices during the period under review,” says Norman Muzhona, Solutions Specialist for Telecommunications at GfK South Africa. “In addition to the exchange rate, the introduction of popular, new mid-tier devices by several leading vendors helped to drive higher retail revenues in the telecoms market.”

Information technology retail revenues for the quarter contracted 4.8% compared to 2017, largely because of decreasing monitor prices and a 38.9% decline in tablet revenues. However, desktop computer revenues grew 39% and mobile computing revenues grew 6.5% year-on-year, thanks to higher prices and increased sales of higher-end products.

Says Berno Mare, Solutions Specialist for IT, Office Equipment and Value Added Services: “Retailers introduced new computing devices priced in the R3000 band during the quarter and enjoyed surprisingly strong demand for these entry-level units.

“Telcos enjoyed robust growth in mobile computing retail sales, thanks to credit deals, subsidised contracts and attractive data offers. However, South African consumers are heavily indebted, which may dampen growth for the rest of the year.”

With consumers rapidly migrating to smartphones, sales of traditional mobile phones continued to decline, down 1.6% year-on-year to around 2 million for the quarter. However, the exchange rate and the introduction of higher-priced brands helped to drive a 8.9% year-on-year revenue increase in mobile phone revenues during the period under review.

This follows the 21% drop in mobile phone unit sales in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. “Operators continue to lead the transition from feature phones to smartphones as they pursue higher data revenues,” says Muzhona. “The entry-level market for smartphones is fiercely competitive, and the minimum specs of lower cost smartphones is improving all the time.”

GfK South Africa expects the migration from mobile phones to smartphones to accelerate in 2018. However, it remains to be seen if the introduction of 4G-enabled, Voice-over-LTE-ready feature phones will have any impact on the South African mobile phone market.

Sectors of the consumer electronic market that showed strong growth for the first quarter of 2018 include loudspeakers—revenues up 21.6% year-on-year, thanks to demand of Bluetooth-enabled product—and ultrahigh definition (UHD) panel TVs—where revenues grew 33%, thanks to the growing affordability of the technology. UHD unit shipments were up 76%, while the average selling price of the products fell 24%.

Other market highlights for the first quarter of 2018 include:

  • Photo category revenues were up 8.1% year-on-year.
  • Small domestic appliance revenues grew 8%, following a 10.3% decline in Q1 2016 over Q1 2015. Hot air fryers sold well, as did kettles and toasters.
  • Major domestic appliances showed small year-on-year growth over Q1 2016, despite a decline in average selling price in many sub-categories of this market. Cooling products continued to make the highest contribution to growth in this segment.
  • Office Equipment revenues declined 18% year-on-year, led downwards by lower printer and cartridge sales volumes.
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What kids want online

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Kaspersky Lab’s latest report on the online activities of children – based on statistics received from its solutions and modules with child protection features – highlights children’s online activities and the importance of protecting them when online. For example, video content globally, comprised 17% of searches over the last months. Although many videos watched as a result of these searches may be harmless, it is still possible for children to accidentally end up watching videos that contain inappropriate content.

The report shows anonymised statistics from Kaspersky Lab’s flagship consumer solutions for Windows PCs and Macs that have the Parental Control module switched on and from Kaspersky Safe Kids, a standalone service for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

In South Africa, communication sites (such as social media, messengers, or emails) were the most popular pages visited by computers with parental controls switched on – with users in South Africa visiting these sites in 69% of cases over the previous 12 months. Software, audio, and video accounted for 17% of searches. Websites with this content have become significantly more popular since last year, when it was only the fifth most popular category globally at 6%. The top four is rounded off with electronic commerce (4.2%) and alcohol, tobacco, and websites about narcotics (3.9%), which is a new addition compared to this time last year.

The report presents search results on the ten most-popular languages* for the last 6 months. The data shows that the video & audio category – including requests related to any video content, streaming services, video bloggers, series and movies – are the most regularly ‘googled’ by children (17% of the total requests). The second and third places go to translation (14%) and communication (10%) websites respectively. Interestingly, games websites sit in fourth place, generating only 9% of the total search requests.

We can also see a clear language difference for search requests: for example, video and music websites are typically searched for in English, which can be explained by the fact that the majority of movies, TV series and musical groups have English names. Spanish-speaking kids carry out more requests for translation sites, while communication services are mostly searched for in Russian.

More than any other nationality, Chinese-speaking children look for education services, while French-speaking kids are more interested in sport and games websites. In turn, German-speaking requests dominate in the “shopping” category. The leading number of search requests for porn are in Arabic, and for anime are in Japanese.

“Kids in different countries have different interests and online behaviors, but what links them all is their need to be protected online from potentially harmful content. Children looking for animated content could accidentally open a porn video. Or they could start searching for innocent videos and unintentionally end up on websites containing violent content, both of which could have a long-term impact on their impressionable and vulnerable minds,” says Anna Larkina, Web-content Analysis Expert at Kaspersky Lab.

As well as analysing searches, the report also looks into which websites children visit or attempt to visit that contain potentially harmful content which falls under one of the 14 preset categories** for the last 12 months.

The mobile trend is again highlighted in the figures for computer games, which are now in fifth place locally on the list at 3%. As kids continue to show a preference for mobile games rather than computer games, this category will only continue to decrease in popularity on computers over the coming months and years.cleardot.gif

“No matter what they are doing online, it is important for parents not to leave their children’s digital activities unattended, because there’s a big difference between care and obtrusiveness. While it is important to trust your children and educate them about how to behave safely online, even your good advice cannot protect them from something unexpectedly showing up on the screen. That’s why advanced security solutions are key to ensuring children have positive online experiences, rather than harmful ones,” adds Anna Larkina.

The Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky Internet Security consumer solutions include a Parental Control module to help adults protect their children against online threats and block sites or apps containing inappropriate content. In turn, the Kaspersky Safe Kids solution allows parents to monitor what their children do, see or search for online across all devices, including mobile devices, and offers useful advice on how to help children behave safely online.

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