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How to avoid ‘Shadow IT’

Shadow IT, or devices that have not been approved by an organisation can allow ransomware to invade an organisation’s network. BRENDAN MCARAVEY, Country Manager at Citrix SA offers some tips on how one can avoid these shady devices.

What is Shadow IT? It is technology used within an organisation without explicit approval — could be aptly terms as the modern Trojan horse! Since these technologies are not IT approved, they have the potential to allow ransomware and malware to invade an organisation’s network, cause data leaks and even introduce compliance risks.

It is critically important to fightback the malware, here are five easy ways to avoid shadow IT:

1. Understand the risks

Part of what makes the threat of shadow IT so insidious is a common lack of knowledge about the problem. More often than not, employees use unsanctioned technology, not for malicious reasons but rather because they are trying to find an intuitive solution for common business tasks. If a company’s existing technology solutions fail to address the needs of its employees, they will be forced to look to consumer-facing products.

It is integral to prevent that from happening and the response should be twofold:

·         Organisations must educate all employees about the risks of shadow IT, and there needs to be an enterprise-level solution that offers ease-of-use as well as advanced cybersecurity protections.

·         IT managers and business owners should develop a plan to pinpoint where employees implement non-IT-approved technology, then develop a strategy for eradicating the problem.

2. Boost your cybersecurity

It seems like nearly every day there’s a fresh headline about a major cyber-attack on a corporation or government office. The most recent local security breach reported was about sensitive information of 30 million South Africans being stolen from the credit bureau. And, prior to that more than six million accounts were at risk when the Ster-Kinekor’s website was hacked.

It is integral for an organisation to have a strategy for security technology that encompasses the virtualisation of applications, desktops and networks, as well as the centralisation of data to avoid exposure to risk at end points. Additionally, layered security and controlled access to mission-critical documents should become a priority.

3. Find replacements for shadow IT

To keep employee productivity levels high, organisations need to be able to access critical documents from any device, at any time. The modern business world waits for no one, and client expectations for timely delivery of services are on the rise.

Bring-your-own-device plans should follow secure-by-design protocols that allows for flexibility and mobility while ensuring that sensitive business information remains protected and private. Utilising enterprise-level file sharing solutions with consumer-grade UI and UX is one of the best ways to ensure employees remain productive and protected. When an organisations IT-approved solutions are easy to understand and use, employees will be less likely to turn to shadow IT.

4. Deploy additional security measures

Modern businesses cannot work within a vacuum. To be most effective, your data needs to travel – between employees, contractors, executives and other stakeholders. However, the more your data moves, the more opportunities there are for data loss and theft.

In recent years, data loss prevention (DLP) solutions have become more robust, taking advantage of new technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and behaviour analytics. A scalable DLP suite is a good solution for small to medium businesses because it can grow with your company.

Information rights management (IRM) is another highly useful tactic IT managers can rein in data when it goes for a walk. IRM can apply file-level encryption and authorization controls, so you can control who has access to sensitive information. For instance, documents can be restricted to view-only, view- and print-only or fully editable.

5. Develop a preventive strategy

Preventing ransomware and malware attacks is nearly impossible. Walling off employees within a proxy network and deploying firewalls may prevent unskilled attackers from successfully breaching an organisation, but those solutions aren’t enough anymore. Your business needs to be prepared for the worst.

Investing in responsive strategies is the only way to deal with security breaches as they happen. Organisations need to utilise solutions designed to rapidly detect, identify and respond to cyber-attacks as they happen.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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