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Is email hurting your business?

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Email is the core of business communication. It is therefore critical for SMEs to make informed choices when it comes to the solutions available to them, writes LOUIS JARDIM, Commercial Director and co-founder of Turrito Networks.

Few could argue that in today’s world of always-on, hyper connectivity, email is the bedrock of business communication. For businesses of all sizes and across sectors, whether it is a design agency or a bike repair shop, email keeps the proverbial wheels turning within every modern enterprise.

Despite its importance, many businesses – and particularly SMEs – fail to make informed choices when it comes to the email solutions available to them. This impacts security, efficiency, productivity and long-term profitability for SMEs.

And given the escalating threat of corporate cyber fraud, with ransomware now a daily reality, security needs to be top of mind for every business owner.

So where does one start when considering email solutions for a growing SME?

Outsourcing vs. Insourcing

The first question to consider is whether to outsource the solution, and choose a cloud-based product, or to insource your email and go with a traditional on-site mail exchange service.

The cloud-based option makes far more sense for an SME from both a financial and security perspective, with leading cloud solutions from Microsoft Office 365, which has a dedicated SME bundle offering, and Google Enterprise.

The key financial benefit for SMEs is that there are neither expensive licensing costs to deal with nor long-term contracts associated with cloud-based email – which allows businesses to scale up or down according to changing needs. In addition, there are no maintenance fees and there is a guarantee that email will be up and running 99% of the time.

On-site mail exchange in contrast, requires businesses to pay for monthly licensing fees, IT maintenance and repair, and the costs associated with downtime when the server goes offline (this is inevitable).

Leave Security to the Experts

Solutions such as Office 365 and Google Enterprise have world-class security built into the offering. This enables business owners to rest assured that their email security is strong, and they can therefore focus on core business functions – keeping customers happy and growing their business..

Having an on-site email exchange, however, requires business owners to take responsibility for security, and to purchase various security solutions. They will then have to continuously update these solutions to ensure that they are relevant in addressing new threats.

Following the devastating WannaCry ransomware attack last month, it became very clear that SMEs are underestimating the threat of cyber fraud.

Contrary to popular belief, WannaCry impacted more SMEs than it did larger corporates, largely because SMEs think they are not targets, and often turn off automatic security updates and patches.

With cloud-based email solutions in place, SMEs benefit from high-level IT security at minimal cost, and are well protected against the growing number of ransomware attacks now threatening businesses everywhere.

Guarding Against the Threat Within

All too often, business owners fail to realise that the end users within their own environment are the biggest security concerns. When employees are retrenched, disgruntled or about to resign, there are very real threats around losing critical intellectual property and company data.

For example, if an employee sends out highly confidential and valuable information to a competitor, does the business have a way of flagging such emails? Sometimes, employees are unaware of their error, and can release sensitive data unwittingly and in a non-malicious manner.

Increasingly, cloud-based email solutions offer sophisticated gateway and mail filtering features that protect against data leakage and ensure both visibility and compliance across the business. With intellectual property laws (e.g. POPI) and data protection becoming increasingly critical, such solutions must be incorporated into SMEs today.

No more he said, she said…

Another important component of an email solution is archiving. This allows businesses to be not only compliant and gives them the ability to retrieve legacy emails if called upon.

So, for example, if an employee deliberately deletes his/her entire mailbox when leaving the business, there is a way to quickly and easily retrieve everything using an archiving solution.  This becomes a valuable capability in disputes over whether an email was sent before a certain deadline or not.

When submitting documents for competitive tenders, for example, businesses are often told that their information/application wasn’t submitted in time. This can be as a result of servers being down, bad connectivity, or simple deceit/misinformation on behalf of the receiver. But with Email Archiving, the business has a way of proving otherwise.

As the sheer pace and complexity of business heightens in a digitally driven world, SMEs need to ensure that their IT solutions are a help – not a hindrance to growth.

By starting with reliable and secure email solutions, SMEs can focus on their core purpose – and in so doing, drive innovation and expansion.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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