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.
Which IoT horse should you back?
The emerging IoT is evolving at a rapid pace with more companies entering the market. The development of new product and communication systems is likely to continue to grow over the next few years, after which we could begin to see a few dominant players emerge, says DARREN OXLEE, CTOf of Utility Systems.
But in the interim, many companies face a dilemma because, in such a new industry, there are so many unknowns about its trajectory. With the variety of options available (particularly regarding the medium of communication), there’s the a question of which horse to back.
Many players also haven’t fully come to grips with the commercial models in IoT (specifically, how much it costs to run these systems).
Which communication protocol should you consider for your IoT application? Depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a summary of the main low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) communications options that are currently available, along with their applicability:
SigFox has what is arguably the most traction in the LPWAN space, thanks to its successful marketing campaigns in Europe. It also has strong support from vendors including Texas Instruments, Silicon Labs, and Axom.
It’s a relatively simple technology, ultra-narrowband (100 Hz), and sends very small data (12 bytes) very slowly (300 bps). So it’s perfect for applications where systems need to send small, infrequent bursts of data. Its lack of downlink capabilities, however, could make it unsuitable for applications that require two-way communication.
LoRaWAN is a standard governed by the LoRa Alliance. It’s not open because the underlying chipset is only available through Semtech – though this should change in future.
Its functionality is like SigFox: it’s primarily intended for uplink-only applications with multiple nodes, although downlink messages are possible. But unlike SigFox, LoRa uses multiple frequency channels and data rates with coded messages. These are less likely to interfere with one another, increasing the concentrator capacity.
Ingenu Technology Solutions has developed a proprietary technology called Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) in the 2.4 GHz band. Due to its architecture, it’s said to have a superior uplink and downlink capacity compared to other models.
It also claims to have better doppler, scheduling, and interference characteristics, as well as a better link budget of 177 dB compared to LoRa’s 157 dB and SigFox’s 149 dB. Plus, it operates in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, which is globally available for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so there are no regional architecture changes needed – unlike SigFox and LoRa.
LTE-M (LTE Cat-M1) is a cellular technology that has gained traction in the United States and is specifically designed for IoT or machine‑to‑machine (M2M) communications.
It’s a low‑power wide‑area (LPWA) interface that connects IoT and M2M devices with medium data rate requirements (375 kb/s upload and download speeds in half duplex mode). It also enables longer battery lifecycles and greater in‑building range compared to standard cellular technologies like 2G, 3G, or LTE Cat 1.
Key features include:
· Voice functionality via VoLTE
· Full mobility and in‑vehicle hand‑over
· Low power consumption
· Extended in‑building range
Narrowband IoT (NB‑IoT or LTE Cat NB1) is part of the same 3GPP Release 13 standard3 that defined LTE Cat M1 – both are licensed as LPWAN technologies that work virtually anywhere. NB-IoT connects devices simply and efficiently on already established mobile networks and handles small amounts of infrequent two‑way data securely and reliably.
NB‑IoT is well suited for applications like gas and water meters through regular and small data transmissions, as network coverage is a key issue in smart metering rollouts. Meters also tend to be in difficult locations like cellars, deep underground, or in remote areas. NB‑IoT has excellent coverage and penetration to address this.
The LPWAN technology stack is fluid, so I foresee it evolving more over the coming years. During this time, I suspect that we’ll see:
1. Different markets adopting different technologies based on factors like dominant technology players and local regulations
2. The technologies diverging for a period and then converging with a few key players, which I think will be SigFox, LoRa, and the two LTE-based technologies
3. A significant technological shift in 3-5 years, which will disrupt this space again
So, which horse should you back?
I don’t believe it’s prudent to pick a single technology now; lock-in could cause serious restrictions in the long-term. A modular, agile approach to implementing the correct communications mechanism for your requirements carries less risk.
The commercial model is also hugely important. The cellular and telecommunications companies will understandably want to maximise their returns and you’ll want to position yourself to share an equitable part of the revenue.
So: do your homework. And good luck!
Ms Office hack attacks up 4X
Exploits, software that takes advantage of a bug or vulnerability, for Microsoft Office in-the-wild hit the list of cyber headaches in Q1 2018. Overall, the number of users attacked with malicious Office documents rose more than four times compared with Q1 2017. In just three months, its share of exploits used in attacks grew to almost 50% – this is double the average share of exploits for Microsoft Office across 2017. These are the main findings from Kaspersky Lab’s Q1 IT threat evolution report.
Attacks based on exploits are considered to be very powerful, as they do not require any additional interactions with the user and can deliver their dangerous code discreetly. They are therefore widely used; both by cybercriminals looking for profit and by more sophisticated nation-backed state actors for their malicious purposes.
The first quarter of 2018 experienced a massive inflow of these exploits, targeting popular Microsoft Office software. According to Kaspersky Lab experts, this is likely to be the peak of a longer trend, as at least ten in-the-wild exploits for Microsoft Office software were identified in 2017-2018 – compared to two zero-day exploits for Adobe Flash player used in-the-wild during the same time period.
The share of the latter in the distribution of exploits used in attacks is decreasing as expected (accounting for slightly less than 3% in the first quarter) – Adobe and Microsoft have put a lot of effort into making it difficult to exploit Flash Player.
After cybercriminals find out about a vulnerability, they prepare a ready-to-go exploit. They then frequently use spear-phishing as the infection vector, compromising users and companies through emails with malicious attachments. Worse still, such spear-phishing attack vectors are usually discreet and very actively used in sophisticated targeted attacks – there were many examples of this in the last six months alone.
For instance, in late 2017, Kaspersky Lab’s advanced exploit prevention systems identified a new Adobe Flash zero-day exploit used in-the-wild against our customers. The exploit was delivered through a Microsoft Office document and the final payload was the latest version of FinSpy malware. Analysis of the payload enabled researchers to confidently link this attack to a sophisticated actor known as ‘BlackOasis’. The same month, Kaspersky Lab’s experts published a detailed analysis of СVE-2017-11826, a critical zero-day vulnerability used to launch targeted attacks in all versions of Microsoft Office. The exploit for this vulnerability is an RTF document containing a DOCX document that exploits СVE-2017-11826 in the Office Open XML parser. Finally, just a couple of days ago, information on Internet Explorer zero day CVE-2018-8174 was published. This vulnerability was also used in targeted attacks.
“The threat landscape in the first quarter again shows us that a lack of attention to patch management is one of the most significant cyber-dangers. While vendors usually issue patches for the vulnerabilities, users often can’t update their products in time, which results in waves of discreet and highly effective attacks once the vulnerabilities have been exposed to the broad cybercriminal community,” notes Alexander Liskin, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.
Other online threat statistics from the Q1, 2018 report include:
- Kaspersky Lab solutions detected and repelled 796,806,112 malicious attacks from online resources located in 194 countries around the world.
- 282,807,433 unique URLs were recognised as malicious by web antivirus components.
- Attempted infections by malware that aims to steal money via online access to bank accounts were registered on 204,448 user computers.
- Kaspersky Lab’s file antivirus detected a total of 187,597,494 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
- Kaspersky Lab mobile security products also detected:
- 1,322,578 malicious installation packages.
- 18,912 mobile banking Trojans (installation packages).
To reduce the risk of infection, users are advised to:
- Keep the software installed on your PC up to date, and enable the auto-update feature if it is available.
- Wherever possible, choose a software vendor that demonstrates a responsible approach to a vulnerability problem. Check if the software vendor has its own bug bounty program.
· Regularly run a system scan to check for possible infections and make sure you keep all software up to date.
- Businesses should use a security solution that provides vulnerability, patch management and exploit prevention components, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business. The patch management feature automatically eliminates vulnerabilities and proactively patches them. The exploit prevention component monitors suspicious actions of applications and blocks malicious files executions.