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How SA business can get cyber-ready

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Digital technology continues to transform the world of business by exposing organisations to a multitude of opportunities and threats. It is, therefore, not surprising that cybercrime continues to escalate rapidly, says GRAHAM CROOCK, Director of IT Audit, Risk and Cyber Lab at BDO South Africa.

Ranking as the second-most reported crime in South Africa. Corporate breaches in the headlines are turning hackers into the new super rogues, as these dedicated, organised, and well-financed cyber criminals bombard organisations through alternating attack tools and paths.

This trend has established cybercrime as a growing industry, which has accelerated in the last five years complete with automated tools, customer support, and guarantees for product effectiveness. The commoditisation of new attacks and automated tools has culminated in even the most amateur hacker being able to effectively deliver professional-level threats into a targeted organisation.

Complexity is the major cause of today’s cybersecurity problem, owing to extreme intricacy and solutions being costly. Data is extremely multifaceted, extensive and difficult to manage in a timeous way. This begs the question: How to manage the involvedness at a reasonable cost?

A common but often mis-understood and over relied on solution is the implementation of firewalls. However, the major pitfalls of this so-called “trusted” solution is that firewall configuration is often not aligned with changing cybersecurity policies. In short, the rate of change with regard to cyber-related risk is accelerating rapidly, increasing the security gaps organisations contend with, and leaving them more exposed than ever before.

Keeping pace with new attack techniques, and effectively defending against advanced threats, is perhaps the biggest challenge facing security teams today in a world of cyber threats. Therefore, architecting a cybersecurity solution that dynamically adapts to ongoing change is crucial. This, however, is expensive and for many organisations, unaffordable.

Consideration must be given to the underlying key themes affecting the management of cybersecurity in South Africa today, these include the following:

  • Monetisation of malware (Ransomware),
  • Imposition of collateral damage,
  • Changes in attackers’ mindsets to shift their efforts to the direct attack of applications,
  • Political pressure attempting to de-couple privacy and security attempts, and
  • Implementation of faster and wider reaching infrastructure, which is not supported by skilled security experts due to the current “brain drain” associated with unprecedented levels of immigration of trained and skilled engineers and technicians who chase “real money” as opposed to the weakening Rand.

It’s no wonder that cyber security professionals keep asking: “What can we do to protect ourselves and our customers from these new found criminals ?”

As a security professional in today’s business space, we need to enable a productive work environment while providing all of the controls needed to protect the integrity and ownership of the  organisation’s data as well as that of the business’s clients or customers.

To achieve appropriate levels of security is not quick nor easy, but rather complex and extremely specialised, thus requiring extensive planning, design and architecture. Therefore, the precautions that businesses who wish to survive and achieve true cyber readiness will have to take incorporate include:

 

·         Treat security breaches as “when” and not “if” situations

·         Invest meaningfully in people processes and technology

·         Put cyber, network security and survival in the business context

·         Stop deployment of and reliance on “end point fix solutions”

·         Practice resilience scenarios and Business Continuity Plans (BCP)

·         Understand the attack lifecycle and plan accordingly

·         Ensure that you have an active education programme in place to ensure your staff understand the threats and are trained to react appropriately to an attack

It takes time and substantial management, as well as executive involvement, to strengthen your company’s defenses against cybersecurity risks. The ten most important cyber risks companies should be considering are:

  1. Failure to identify cyber risks and implement basic cybersecurity controls
  2. Failure by executives to identify and understand what generates corporate cybersecurity risks
  3. Lack of a cybersecurity policy
  4. Confusing compliance with cybersecurity
  5. Failure to recognise the importance of social engineering and the risks associated with the  human factor
  6. Bring your own device policy (BYOD) and the cloud
  7. Lack of adequate funding, talent, training and implementation of inappropriate resources
  8. Insufficient information security training
  9. Lack of a business continuity and data recovery plan
  10. Failure to identify, accept and understand the rate at which cyber risks are evolving (polymorphic risk)

 

A few years ago, the concept of cyberattacks in the context of constantly moving targets was considered impossible, but now, the future is here and this is, for all businesses the new reality.

Effective governance and management are two critical elements for implementing effective cybersecurity. In moving to your next cybersecurity solution, a key goal must be to simplify security management wherever possible. Survival will be achieved through cyber-readiness!

Cyber criminals constantly innovate their threat tactics to breach organisations and make off with valuable data. As cybercrime evolves, we see increased innovation in the hacking tools and techniques used to evade known security mechanisms.

In the past few years, we have consistently noticed more advanced and targeted attacks where hackers spend ample time investigating their targets and tailoring their attack methodology. The attacks are becoming more sophisticated and are comprising multiple layers and techniques, each outsourced to specialty groups, ensuring zero-day effects.

Hackers are achieving this by making sure nothing remains constant. Each stage of the attack changes by leveraging morphing techniques, such as dynamic DNS, fresh URLs for command and control (CnC), self-destruct tools, and more. These tools are available on the Web and are easy to access as “freeware”. Yesterday’s zero-day code has already been developed, packaged and is available to cyber criminals for use in secondary campaigns.

It is crucial to understand the economies of hacking and to accept that these attackers recycle many of the same attack components. In fact, as many as 90% of these so-called “new” attacks can be prevented simply by appropriately using existing security technologies as part of an end-to-end cybersecurity plan.

Attackers typically use the most proven forms of attacks because they work, knowing that organisations are often several steps behind in patching up their systems and updating their defenses against the latest attack methods.

Boards need to have appropriate composition with cyber ready professionals, capable of demanding and positioning oversight for effective cyber readiness. It takes time and involvement to strengthen your company’s defenses against cyber security risks, but this process can help your organisation maintain shareholder value and even achieve new performance peaks.

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Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon

On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

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Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.

“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.   In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.

A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.

David Noton advises:

  1. Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.  Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.

 

  1. Invest in a lens with optimal zoom  

On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.

  1. Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

  1. Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

  1. Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.  By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

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How Africa can embrace AI

Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.

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To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.

These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.

Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed

AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.

According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.

It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.

Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.

It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.

Combining STEM with the arts

Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.

As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.

For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.

“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.

Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.

Revisiting laws and regulation

For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.

Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.

Preparing for the future

With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.

To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.

It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.

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