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How WannaCry changed the world

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A year ago, after multiple days of digital bombardment, the cyber-security world changed forever.

Over one weekend, the notorious ransomware attack that would become widely known as WannaCry infected more than 200,000 machines around the world, causing billions of dollars in damages. Ransomware attacks occur all the time, but the speed and the scale of this particular attack – likes of which were never seen before – made international headlines as WannaCry spread to 150 countries. And just a few months ago, we saw WannaCry’s fingerprints on the ransomware attack that shut down the city of Atlanta.

WannaCry changed the cybersecurity game not just through its outsized impact; it made waves because of its outsized influence on the cyber-threat landscape. Marking a turning point in the cybersecurity environment, we were looking at the first global-scaled, multi-vectored cyberattack powered by state-sponsored tools. WannaCry marked a new generation – the fifth generation – of cyber-attacks.

And it certainly wasn’t the last Gen V attack. It’s time for organisations to adjust to our new normal of cyber-attacks, which involves…

Leaked State-Sponsored Tools:

About a month before the WannaCry attack, a hacker group called the Shadow Brothers leaked an exploit developed by the National Security Agency (NSA). This exploit, labeled EternalBlue, would later be used as part of the WannaCry attack.

In the past, cyber criminals traditionally used simplistic, homegrown tools for their hacking activities. WannaCry marked the shift toward using military-grade weapons, hacking tools that are powerful enough for a national cyberdefense agency to use on international cyber-warfare. Just six weeks after WannaCry, NotPetya used the same exploit in its infamous attack on mostly Ukrainian critical infrastructure systems. And just recently, the SamSam ransomware attack that shut down the city of Atlanta relied on DoublePulsar – another NSA-developed exploit.

Cyber-criminals are upgrading their firepower and setting their sights higher than ever before.

Globally Scaled Tools:

As mentioned earlier, the WannaCry’s impact sparked an upswing in severe large-scale cyber-attacks.

In 2015, ransomware attacks caused $325 million in damage. By 2017, the attacks were up 15x at $5 billion, as companies lost productivity through the downtime and reputational hit. Along with the impact, WannaCry spawned hundreds of variants of ransomware. Recorded Future showed that before WannaCry, at the end of January 2017, they were tracking 635 variants of malware. Fast forward to February 2018, where 1,105 different malware variants were discovered – a 74 percent increase from just a year ago.

This globalised ambition is a defining element of the new generation of cyber-attacks – Gen V hackers are thinking bigger than ever before, as more and more criminal organisations are developing lucrative hacking operations.

Multi-Vector Tools:

Cyber-attacks are thought to be “computer hacks,” where they infect your personal computer.

Spreading through cloud networks, remote office servers, and network endpoints, WannaCry was able to “divide and conquer” because it needed just one entry point in order to infect the entire system. This multi-level approach allowed WannaCry to easily overwhelm companies that followed the usual security strategy of picking their favorite product from different vendors for each entry point.

This best-of-breed strategy means that companies often pick one specific product for their mobile devices, a different one for their cloud networks, and another unique product for their network security.

It’s not an illogical strategy, per se, but that’s what WannaCry (and other Gen V attacks) want: a disparate, disconnected defense that isn’t working in unison to cover all bases.

Conclusion: 

As we acclimate to our new normal, organisations simply have no choice but to adapt.

We’re a long ways away from organisations getting up to speed with their cybersecurity infrastructure. Our recent survey revealed that only three percent of companies are equipped today to handle a WannaCry-style Gen V attack.

Three percent.

Taking on an attack like WannaCry requires cyber security that can proactively prevent threats (as opposed to reactively detecting them once the damage is done). To combat Gen V attacks’ multivector approach, organisations must also secure their cloud and mobile system. Together, unified threat prevention systems that secure all vectors are able to defend against these modern, innovative attacks.

Yet today, the vast majority of organisations are as vulnerable to WannaCry as they were exactly a year ago. Whether they’re ready or not, the new normal is here.

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The myths of microwaves

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We all know microwaves make cooking a breeze and it helps save those minutes, we rarely have enough of these days. However, some people do have those lingering doubts about whether microwaving food destroys nutrients or that it emits harmful radiation. However, the truth is a lot more comforting and positive.

“The microwave makes life so much easier,” says Tracy Gordon, Head of Product – Home Appliances at Samsung South Africa. “It’s human-centred technology at its most helpful. The Samsung Hotblast for example, has revolutionary functions, which are tailor-made to create fast, tasty and healthy meals in minutes.”

A recent article by Harvard Health Publishingclaims stated that “microwave ovens cook food using waves of energy that are remarkably selective, primarily affecting water and other molecules that are electrically asymmetrical. Microwaves cause these molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal (heat) energy.” The article debunks two common myths about microwaving food.

Myth 1: Microwaving kills nutrients

Whether in a microwave or a regular oven, some nutrients, including vitamin C, do break down when exposed to heat. However, the fact is, cooking with a microwave might be better when it comes to preserving nutrients because it takes a shorter time to cook. Additionally, as far as vegetables go, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients seep out into the cooking water,” states the report by Harvard Health Publishing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe and has the same nutrient value, as food cooked in a conventional oven.

Myth 2: Microwaving food can give you cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that microwaves do not make food radioactive. Microwaves heat food but they do not change the chemical or molecular structure of it. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that microwaves pose a health risk to people when used appropriately, the organisation added.

With those myths well busted, it’s comforting to know one can make full use of the convenient kitchen appliance. And when the time comes to use a microwave to heat up a tasty meal in no time, one can trust the Samsung Hotblast to do the job. The HotBlast has multiple air holes blowing out powerful hot air, which reduces cooking time. Samsung claims the Slim Fry technology ensures that food is perfectly crisp on the outside and delicious and juicy on the inside. Additionally, this versatile microwave has a wider grill, making it easier to brown food fast and evenly. The turntable is wider, measuring 345mm, making it possible to prepare bigger portions of food. And with its Eco Mode power, it significantly reduces energy consumption with its low standby power. Its intelligent features and stylish design makes it very useful and as we now know – a safe, healthy way to enjoy a meal.

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New BMW 3-series ushers in autonomous future

The new BMW 3-series is not meant to be an autonomous car, but it is so close, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers.

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It was not meant to be a test-drive of an autonomous vehicle. But the Driving Assist button on the steering wheel of the new BMW 330i was just too tempting. And there I found myself, on Sir Lowry’s Pass near Cape Town, “driving” with my arms folded while the vehicle negotiated curves on its own.

Every 10 seconds or so, yellow or red lights flashed to alert me to put my hands back on the wheel. The yellow lights meant the car wanted me to put my hands on the wheel, just to show that I was in control. The red lights meant that I had to take over control from the artificial intelligence built into the vehicle.

With co-driver Ernest Page, we negotiated a major highway, the bends of Sir Lowry’s pass, and the passes of Hell’s Heights (Hel se Hoogte) above the Cape Winelands.

As the above video of the experience reveals, it can be nerve-racking for someone who hasn’t experienced autonomous driving, or hasn’t been dreaming of testing it for many years. For this driver, it was exhilarating. Not because the car performed so magnificently, but because it tells us just how close true autonomous driving really is.

There was one nervous moment when the autonomous – or rather, Driving Assist – mode disengaged on Hell’s Heights, but fear not. A powerful sense of responsibility prevailed, and my hands hovered over the steering wheel as it took the curve. Assist disengaged, and the car began to veer towards the other side of the road. I quickly took over, and also sobered up from the giddiness of thinking I was already in the future.

In reality, Driving Assist is part of level 2 of driving autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. A presentation on the evening of the test drive, by Edward Makwana, manager of group product communications at BMW Group in South Africa, summed up the five stages as the driver having Feet Off, Hands Off, Eyes Off, Mind off, and finally, only being a Passenger.

However, the extent to which the hands-off mode of Driving Assist mimics self-driving, and easily shows the way to eyes-off and mind-off, is astonishing.

Click here to read about the components that make the Driving Assist work.

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