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How cyber crooks make money from your mistakes

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The IT landscape is changing at a rapid rate, leaving many CIOs scrambling to keep up. This makes it easy for cybercriminals to exploit flaws in an organisation’s legacy systems, writes BRANDON BEKKER, MD of Mimecast South Africa.

The IT security landscape is changing at a rapid pace, leaving security professionals scrambling to keep up. There is a lucrative industry for stolen private data, not to mention extortion with attacks like ransomware and so-called CEO fraud. Cybercriminals are making money hand over fist by exploiting flaws within organisations’ technology and processes.

CEO fraud or whaling is a highly targeted form of email spear-phishing. Here the criminal sends an email that appears to be from an individual or business that you know (often the CEO or CFO), the kind of person unlikely to be challenged to identify themselves properly. By impersonating your boss, cybercriminals use email to get you to send valuable data or wire funds to them.

Ransomware uses malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their systems, forcing them to pay a ransom through certain online payment methods. Only once they have done this will they be able to access their systems or get their private data back.

These types of malicious attacks exploit human frailty. The criminals know that computers don’t make mistakes, people do. So as technical defences have strengthened, they are turning to the people in front of the technology and exploiting them instead. They know that a successful attack on employees means they can effectively circumnavigate your traditional technical protections – a simple spear-phishing email with a malicious attachment or web link can open up your systems to further attack.

Cybercriminals know they can take advantage of the fact that employees often lack even basic cybersecurity awareness, making them vulnerable to well-crafted social engineering attacks like spear-phishing. So if you run a business (or its IT security) this targeted attack on your employees needs to be taken as seriously as an attack on your technology. Invest in technology and technical resources, but don’t forget staff training.

Dimension Data’s 2015 Global Threat Intelligence Report showed that attacks against businesses and professional services increased from 9% to 15% last year. The rise in threats, such as ransomware and spear-phishing, have seen cybercriminals cashing in, while businesses are left to deal with the devastation.

Cybercrime statistics posted by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) reveal that South Africans lose in excess of R2.2 billion to internet fraud annually. The statistics have pegged South Africa as the most targeted country on the African continent.

So, just how much are cybercriminals making? A lot. The Cisco 2016 Annual Security Report has pointed out that attackers make around $34 million (nearly R546 million) in gross yearly income through ransomware per campaign. And the FBI reported losses due to CEO fraud or whaling in excess of $2 billion in under two years. And these are losses recorded from just two ‘emerging’ attack strategies.

Keeping the bad guys out means building a human firewall around your business and its data, to match the capabilities of your IT firewall.

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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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