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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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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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