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.
Online retail gets real
After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.
Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.
The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.
This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping.
But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.
On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.
He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.
According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.
In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature.
Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.
A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand.
In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.
Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.
It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time.
It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.
Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.
The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.
Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.
Reliable satellite Internet?
MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company.
“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.
The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.
The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022.
The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data.
C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.
MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity. Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.
Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content.
The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.
Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online.
“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”