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Prepare for ransomware

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Ransomware is on the increase and it is costing companies billions in fines due to loss of data and cleanup costs. How can you safeguard your corporation?

Ransomware attacks are on the rise, costing organizations billions of dollars in paid ransoms and cleanup costs, while crippling employee productivity and customer service during the down times. The FBI reports that ransomware attacks cost victims $209 million in the first three months of the year, which is about $330 000 an incident. And, almost 40% of enterprises have been hit by ransomware in the last year.

So, what is ransomware? It’s a strain of malware (malicious software) that cybercriminals upload onto organizations’ computers, servers or user devices and lock them down, before demanding payment of a ransom – usually in the form of Bitcoin or some other non-traceable currency – in exchange for decrypting and releasing their data. In a ransomware attack, the hacker is literally holding your users’ workday hostage, cutting off access to vital productivity tools like email, calendars and contact lists or back-end systems such as databases, file servers, email servers and other systems. What’s worse, 99% of ransomware attacks start with an email message, often enabled via phishing.

Unfortunately there isn’t much information about the threat landscape in South Africa but according to the U.S. government, ransomware attacks in America have increased in frequency by 300% year-on-year in 2016, with 4 000 incidents a day now being reported – AND that is just the U.S.

Ransomware is also not exclusive to big businesses, in fact many smaller organizations are being targeted because they are ‘easy targets’ who may not have deployed the latest security technology or have a dedicated person managing their malicious inbound emails.

The reality

  • Ransomware cybercrime kits are readily accessible (for as little as $39) on the black market, and thus non-technical cybercriminals can easily license them and deploy them. All you need is an email address and an attack is born.
  • There is no single “ransomware security product.” Since no single product can provide adequate protection because of the multifaceted nature of ransomware and the creativity of the attackers who wield it, protection from ransomware must also be multi-faceted.
  • Once a ransomware attack happens:
    • Organizations suffer from crippled productivity.
      • Employees are locked out of vital productivity tools like email, calendars and contact lists as well as other applications and files on affected systems.
      • Customers are often impacted because customer-facing operations that are highly dependent on IT are not functional.
    • Organizations often succumb to the pressure to pay the ransom to regain access to their applications and data, motivating and financing attackers to expand their ransomware campaigns.
    • Recovery can be difficult and time consuming.
    • Data can be lost, damaged or corrupted after an attack, as not all ransomware is bug- free. And, in some cases, the attackers, if not paid in a timely manner, will destroy the decryption keys in retribution.


A service like Mimecast can tackle ransomware with a layered solution. By bringing together security, continuity and data replication capabilities in a single cloud solution, customers can:

  • Prevent an email-borne ransomware attack.
  • Ensure that employees can continue to work with email during an attack.
  • Store your data in a third-party archive so it’s not lost forever after an attack.

“Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and insidious. They are constantly revising, updating and re-inventing their tactics and technologies to launch attacks”, says Brandon Bekker, MD of Mimecast Middle East and Africa. As a result, preventive systems, such as antivirus and intrusion prevention systems, are no longer sufficient.

“It’s time for organizations to implement a total cyber resilience strategy that includes security, continuity and data replication,” Bekker continues.

The ideal approach is to layer state-of-the-art preventive systems, point-in-time recovery measures, and a means to maintain business continuity during a ransomware attack.  “And don’t forget about the human defense: Employees need to be educated and aware of the different (and evolving) strains of cyberattacks so they can be an effective line of defense.”

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

Use the page links below to continue reading about Tan’s visions.

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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