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Cybersecurity is everyone’s biz

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Now more than ever before, businesses need to offer exciting opportunities to boost employee productivity, creativity, and engagement, but they cannot be at the expense of security, writes BRENDAN MCARAVEY, Country Manager at Citrix South Africa.

The future of work very much revolves around the future of security. New ways of working offer exciting opportunities to boost employee productivity, creativity, and engagement, but they can’t come at the expense of security. The work force in today’s businesses is predominantly young, and according to a Citrix commissioned study carried out by Opinium in 2016, younger people aged 18 – 34 are more willing to store private data on their computers when compared to their older counterparts.

Led by this younger generation in the work space, the practices that are already shaping the future of work like —BYOD, unprecedented mobility, any-network access, employee-centric experiences, have the potential of increasing risk for data, applications and networks. The attack surface has never been so broad or so inviting—and threats have never been more sophisticated. At a time when data is both more valuable and more vulnerable than ever, how will we secure the future of work? As a guiding principle, we can’t rely on add-on security technologies and teams operating in siloes.

Security must be woven throughout both the IT architecture and the organisation to ensure that no matter how or where people work, the organisation is protected. At the same time, the measures we rely on can’t be allowed to impair the user’s experience or productivity. Today’s workforce won’t accept arbitrary restrictions or barriers; the same creative spirit that fuels innovation will also lead them to seek consumer-market workarounds.

The key is to make cybersecurity everyone’s business. When employees are fully bought in to security—when they understand its importance and relevance, and they’re empowered to support it without sacrificing their own work, your security team becomes truly organization-wide.

To that end, here are six security best practices for the future of work.

1.       Educate users: User education has been a tenet of cybersecurity since the early days. But that makes it all the more important to reinforce its importance, so that we never overlook it or take it for granted. As people gain the freedom to work anywhere, on any device, knowing how to do so safely must be a top priority. In the employee-centric modern workplace, it’s also important to consider how this education takes place. It’s not enough simply to recite lists of rules and protocols.

2.       Engage with lines of business: Security doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The most effective policies are grounded in a firm knowledge of operational processes. Regular meetings with business decision-makers helps employees understands the implications of new initiatives. It also helps get crucial perspective into the tools, workflows and practices that enable to drive value, helping design measures that maintain protection and control without getting in the way of business.

4.       Modernize and mobilize your security policies: Mobility increasingly defines IT—in terms of both the mobile devices people use, and the constant movement of people, devices and data from one place to another. Ensuring security policies reflect the real world—not some antiseptic, locked-down cybersecurity dream (and employee nightmare). Creating clear rules and guidelines to help employees stay safe without losing the freedom and flexibility they’ve come to rely on. Specify convenient yet secure alternatives to consumer-grade technologies.

5.       Enforce policies fairly and consistently: Inconsistent enforcement can doom even the best security policy—and can undermine the credibility of any subsequent policy. When security becomes part of the culture, the whole organisation becomes safer for the long term no matter what the future brings.

6.       Make it seamless—and automatic: The less you have to rely on human intervention, the more reliable security becomes. This can include everything from conditional access controls that show employees only the apps they’re authorised to use in a given scenario, to business data encryption by default on mobile devices. Open-in controls can prevent email attachments from opening in non-corporate apps. Micro-VPN can ensure security over public Wi-Fi. Automated logging and reporting can facilitate compliance and audit readiness.

There are many opportunities to make security more seamless and transparent for users, and simpler and more efficient for IT to maintain. As the scale and complexity of the enterprise environment continues to grow, steps like these will be critical to stay one step ahead. The future of work gets a lot of buzz these days, and rightly so—it gets more exciting by the day. With these best practices, you can make sure it’s also growing more secure by the day.

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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