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Ransomware antidote: education

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Ransomeware is quite possibly the most damaging online threat. Although there are numerous defences against it, DREW VAN VUUREN, data protection officer at ESET South Africa, believes the best is user education.

Ransomware is a very real threat to businesses and individuals alike, and when it comes to online security, it is arguably the most damaging threat. Yet, many people still don’t know what ransomware is, even though this type of cyber threat has been aggressively spreading over the internet, with results that can impact both a company’s finance and reputation.

And the threat is only going to get more hostile.

The simple fact is that there is limited protection against ransomware, with no antivirus or end-point security solution technology able to protect you. Protection comes down to user-education and good business practice, and for any business, it is a must have that disaster recovery is in place if they hope to come out of a ransomware breach relatively unscathed.

Ransomware is a malware that infects a computer and encrypts all its files. Cybercriminals then offer an ultimatum to their victim: pay the demanded ransom or lose your data forever. If you are susceptible and become a target you have no choice, either you pay or rebuild your system – there is no third option. However, if you take option number one and you pay the ransom, the chances are you will again be targeted and you end up perpetuating the cycle of infection and victimization.

There are two different types of ransomware – opportunistic and targeted.  The principle is that targeted ransomware will look for individuals who have access to critical and valuable information, for example, a CEO or CFO of an organization.

If you are a business that has mitigating controls in place, and you are targeted by a successful attack, then it will be a matter of invoking the disaster recovery process. This will be based on the the businesses information classification criteria and management principles.

Every organisation will have information that is deemed to be valuable – and without access to this information, a business could suffer inadvertent loss and eventually begin losing money.  Therefore, the disaster recovery controls around the businesses critical information will need to allow for that data to be readily available within a certain timeframe, for business to continue.

So, what is best practice for Ransomware attacks?

  1. Back Up is key

The best defense against ransomware is to reduce your vulnerability in the first place.  This means backing up the company’s critical and valuable information on a regular basis.  Hence, if your businesses become a target of a ransomware attack, having to pay the ransom may not bear consideration as the business will have access to its valuable information that has been backed up. It is important that the companies maintain offline back-ups so that the back-ups are not readily accessible to an attacker.

  1. Trusted sources

Businesses should exercise good email and website safety practices – ensuring that individuals download attachments, click URLs or execute programs only from trusted sources.

  1. Trust warnings

When you get a security message from a web browser, take heed of it.

  1. Administrator Rights

Manage administrator rights accordingly. Many businesses still use the default administrator account on their network.  Instead you should delete or rename the administrator account or create an account with administrator privileges.

  1. Educate! Educate! Educate

It should be an executive management imperative for businesses to educate their employees about the challenges around ransomware making staff aware of any security issue that arises, or is currently topical – this could be ransomware, PoPI, encryption – your people need to be aware of it.

In summary, organisations should prepare themselves for the likelihood that they may be targeted by a ransomware attacker by implementing the mitigating controls of back-up and more especially user awareness. If they maintain the vigilance outlined above they will be able to reduce the impact of the ransomware as recently evidenced by the WannaCry attack that was so effective.

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Samsung unfolds the future

At the #Unpacked launch, Samsung delivered the world’s first foldable phone from a major brand. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK tried it out.

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Everything that could be known about the new Samsung Galaxy S10 range, launched on Wednesday in San Francisco, seems to have been known before the event.

Most predictions were spot-on, including those in Gadget (see our preview here), thanks to a series of leaks so large, they competed with the hole an iceberg made in the Titanic.

The big surprise was that there was a big surprise. While it was widely expected that Samsung would announce a foldable phone, few predicted what would emerge from that announcement. About the only thing that was guessed right was the name: Galaxy Fold.

The real surprise was the versatility of the foldable phone, and the fact that units were available at the launch. During the Johannesburg event, at which the San Francisco launch was streamed live, small groups of media took turns to enter a private Fold viewing area where photos were banned, personal phones had to be handed in, and the Fold could be tried out under close supervision.

The first impression is of a compact smartphone with a relatively small screen on the front – it measures 4.6-inches – and a second layer of phone at the back. With a click of a button, the phone folds out to reveal a 7.3-inch inside screen – the equivalent of a mini tablet.

The fold itself is based on a sophisticated hinge design that probably took more engineering than the foldable display. The result is a large screen with no visible seam.

The device introduces the concept of “app continuity”, which means an app can be opened on the front and, in mid-use, if the handset is folded open, continue on the inside from where the user left off on the front. The difference is that the app will the have far more space for viewing or other activity.

Click here to read about the app experience on the inside of the Fold.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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