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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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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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