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SA still not ready for threat to private data

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Digital businesses need to adopt a more proactive approach to cyber-security that entails a better understanding of the risks. This is according to LUSHEN PADAYACHI, Head of Security, BT in Africa.

With the size of the internet economy alone estimated to be about $4.2 trillion in 2016 and online trade accounting for an ever-increasing share of global GDP, criminals inevitably see opportunities in the vulnerabilities of digital businesses. And although awareness of the threat has never been higher, the majority of businesses do not comprehend the methods and motivations of the attackers or fully understand the scale of this threat. In fact, according to research2 97% of companies surveyed have been the victim of digital attacks, yet only 22% are fully prepared to deal with such incidents in the future.

This, Lushen believes, is reflective of global security trends where malicious users are targeting business and its sensitive back-end data, and businesses globally and locally are struggling to keep up with effective protection methods, tools and strategies.

“While there is increased awareness around security issues in corporate South Africa, a lot more work needs to be done to educate the market. Far too many companies adopt a reactive style of cyber-policing. While this might have worked a few years ago, the increasingly sophisticated types of attacks occurring means that it might take months before some data breaches are even discovered – and this can be fatal to a business’s operations,” says Lushen.

By then, the damage would be significant especially considering how data has grown in recent times and its importance to derive competitive advantage. In fact, digital crime currently costs the world in the region of $400 billion3 every year – a massive risk to the continued growth of our digital economy.

“With data playing such a critical role in the digital business, and the digital economy becoming a significant driver, corporates need to take cyber-security more seriously than ever before. In South Africa with its complex regulatory and compliance environment, the pressure is even more significant on ensuring that customer data is protected.”

Pointedly to this, businesses must be as agile and quick on their feet as their criminal assailants, but many feel that their response is hampered by regulation (49%2), lack of skills and people

(45%), reliance on legacy systems (46%), inflexible processes within the organisation (38%) and reliance on third parties (94%).

This, he says, plays to the fear of losing private data and what it means for not only consumers, but the organisations that need to safeguard it. Irrespective of the financial loss these breaches could have, the reputational ones are substantial.

“Security is about trust and transparency. Organisations who fail to develop a clear idea of the risks and the strategies that are required to protect data, will not survive long in this new digital age. One of the best ways to go about doing this is to understand how attacks take place. By taking the time to invest in understanding the threats, the organisation will be able to identify the weak points in its cyber-security policies.”

As with all things related to ICT, the security landscape is constantly changing. Companies therefore need to understand both the imminent threats as well as the ones they might face in two or three years’ time. Part of this is to conduct a thorough audit of the corporate network. By examining all channels associated to data input and output, the business will get a clearer idea of the security priorities.

“Thanks to the growth of internet connectivity in South Africa, the country is becoming less isolated in the global market. However, this also means that companies are likely to attract the attention of malicious users – many of whom might pursue a hacktivist agenda. Ultimately, behaviour needs to change when it comes to cyber-security. The way forward lies in ensuring the security is central to delivering strategic goals of the company. This takes us way beyond putting up fences. Companies need to take initiative and start being more proactive now,” says Lushen.

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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