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How visibility fights hackers

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Despite the increase of high-profile security attacks, many local companies are not doing enough to secure themselves. SAURABH KUMAR, MD at In2IT, says that companies need to take note of these attacks and make sure they have adequate security measures in place.

The news lately has been full of reports of high-profile attacks on large organisations aimed at compromising or stealing sensitive customer information. Despite the increase in prevalence of data breaches, the majority of enterprises in South Africa are simply not doing enough to prevent these attacks. A prevailing attitude of “it won’t happen to us” typically results in less than adequate protection. The reality is however that with increased connectivity, anyone can access data over the Internet if it is not protected adequately. In order to protect themselves from the often-significant consequences of data breaches and data loss, organisations need to heed warnings and take data security far more earnestly. It is essential to ensure that identity and access management are in place. In addition, creating visibility is essential not only in preventing intrusions but also in detecting them as early as possible and mitigating negative effects.

Within any large enterprise, there are numerous ways that a security intrusion might take place, from a highly sophisticated attack right down to something as simple as human error. Visibility is therefore key to successful security, not only for preventing intrusion, but also to alleviate its negative effects. Without visibility, organisations will have no way of knowing that a breach or other security event has occurred. As a result, lack of visibility results in breaches that go unnoticed for months, giving cyber criminals plenty of time to steal valuable and sensitive information. Intrusion detection is a critical element of any organisation’s security protocol.

The flip side of the coin is intrusion prevention, which is a more proactive approach whereby various software solutions are implemented to detect breaches as they occur and effectively prevent them from infiltrating into an organisation. Identity and access management is a critical component of intrusion prevention, as with any large enterprise the majority of security threats originate from within. Organisations need to have clear roles defined with regards to governing access to data as well as to track and audit any changes to data. This ensures that all access to all data is thoroughly documented, and it is possible to pinpoint where security threats originate in an organisation. This in turn also assists with improving visibility, which is the starting point for all other security initiatives such as the ability to disable infected devices and remove access permissions from compromised accounts.

While the majority of prominent cyber attacks have occurred within global organisations, this does not mean local companies are safe from the threat. The Internet has resulted in the world as a whole becoming more connected and intertwined than ever before, and South African organisations are therefore at just as much risk as their international counterparts. Furthering this challenge, trends such as the cloud, mobility and social media, which have all become integrated with internal IT, have complicated matters and made it more important than ever to monitor access, secure devices and ensure permissions are up to date and are removed when no longer required. These are all aspects of identity and access management, a vital tool in the cyber and data security landscape.

One sector in South Africa that is ahead of the curve when it comes to adoption of these solutions is financial services. The major banks utilise identity and access management solutions to develop role-based access to relevant applications. These solutions not only prevent unauthorised access but also create a complete audit trail of any access attempts, instantly alerting relevant parties if a breach is attempted or occurs. Other organisations need to take the example set by financial services and apply the correct solutions for their industry and requirements.

When it comes to security solutions including identity and access management, there are packaged software systems that can be implemented so that enterprises do not have to develop solutions from the ground up. It is also possible to access managed services that can help to ensure a smooth roll out and that organisations configure their security effectively. In order to ensure the solution meets the organisations expectations it is essential to firstly understand existing security policies and processes, and then map them to the solutions that are available. The chosen solution must align with security and access policies which organisation have already put into place.

Choosing between insourcing and outsourcing these services is a decision that depends entirely on the organisation’s needs, requirements and infrastructure. A dynamic and experienced service provider can assist here to ensure the right balance is obtained for optimal protection given these criteria.

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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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