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How connectivity and security can go together

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While the interconnectivity has led to efficiency gains, it has also led to increased security risks, which is why it is important to have a good cybersecurity strategy in place, writes ROY ALVES, Country Manager at Axis Communications South Africa.

Within the modern business environment, employees can communicate and collaborate with customers and colleagues from anywhere and anytime, using virtually any device or platform because of technology trends such as mobility and cloud computing. In this era of interconnectivity, information can also frequently flow between the business and suppliers or partners, while employees utilise big data analytics solutions to gather and disseminate an ever-increasing amount of data on consumers and market trends as well opportunities. While the interconnectivity has led to efficiency gains on an individual and company-wide level, it has also led to increased security risk, because it has made cybersecurity and physical security more complex.

Where a security manager in charge of physical security systems might have exclusively focussed on creating a closed system that can never be breached, s/he must now adopt a more ecosystem-centric approach. This is the result of converging technologies, with the industry migrating from analogue to IP-based technology for instance, and making use of a new IoT ecosystem, which has culminated in every cybersecurity measure having an impact on everything else on the network.

Even if physical security is run on a separate network from the corporate IT infrastructure (an impractical and expensive solution) human beings are fallible: an inadvertent connection to a broadband router; an accidental cross connection in a wiring closet or any number of unintentional oversights. In the face of all these challenges, how do you develop an effective cybersecurity strategy?

Securing an interconnected web of systems

The solution is to find an optimal way of merging the best practices of both the physical security world with the best practices of a traditional IT domain, without introducing new cybersecurity vulnerabilities for other components in the converged system.

In a converged ecosystem such as an IP-based physical security scenario, the cyber threats and vulnerabilities become far more complex. Not only does the number of components increase, so do the number of vendors that are supplying that technology and the number of users accessing them. To mitigate risks in this kind of an open ecosystem, you need all the vendors operating off the same cybersecurity playbook.

Finding common ground to mitigating cyber risks

IT, physical security and technology manufacturers should be working as a cohesive unit – reaching consensus on current standards and current cyber mitigation technologies that really reflect “Highest Common Denominator” cyber risk mitigation techniques.

In most cases, the video surveillance cameras and video management system (VMS) are selected on two main criteria: their specific intended use – perimeter protection, surveillance in crowded public areas, etc. – and the strength of the vendor to satisfy that specific use. But there’s a third criteria that needs to be considered as well: does Camera Manufacturer A support the same security protocols as VMS Manufacturer B and do these protocols tie seamlessly into IT’s current suite of hardware, software and cyber protection protocols?

Who owns connectivity?

Since the ecosystem runs on IT’s infrastructure, it raises another important question: Who is responsible for the connectivity? Do cybersecurity strategies for the physical security network-attached systems and device now belong to IT? Or does the physical security department mandate that IT support the cybersecurity technologies built into physical security’s solutions? The simplest answer is that physical security management needs to work with integrators and manufacturers to devise solutions that are inherently supportive of IT’s current methodologies for cyber risk mitigation.

Making sure cybersecurity is a team effort

The similarities in cyber protection technologies between IoT and physical security might be self-evident, but there are some key concerns that should remain at the forefront of any system builder. No matter how sophisticated IoT devices and systems become they still operate in an IT world. And as such, they need to adopt a cooperative cyber protection strategy. Mature IoT technologies such as physical security will need to evolve to benefit from some of the emerging IoT cyber protection techniques.

In the meantime, those in the trenches will have to understand the environment their organisation exists in and address the increasing risk of cyber threats as a joint effort between vendor, security professionals and IT. We need to work with common tools to provide the end-user with the best possible cyber protection while living within budgetary constraints.

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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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