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Why SMEs and ransomware go together

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SMEs believe they are not vulnerable to ransomware attacks mainly due to the fact that they think they are unlikely targets. This is however a dangerous misconception, writes BRIAN TIMPERELY Managing Director and co founder of Turrito Networks.

Over the past year, cyber security experts and analysts have been warning businesses and individuals about the growing threat of ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system and data until a sum of money is paid (usually in bitcoin). On Friday May 12, all the doomsday predictions of crippling global cyber fraud became a rather frightening reality, as ransomware dubbed ‘WannaCry’ infected 114 000 Windows machines in just 24 hours. The attack quickly spread to over 150 countries, affecting hospitals, interior ministries and major corporations – with hackers demanding US$300 in bitcoin per machine, to unlock encrypted data.

As the global fallout from what has been called the worst ransomware attack in history continues, it provides a stark wake up call for businesses of all sizes to begin to take this threat very seriously….

1. Acknowledge that you are a target

Arguably, SMEs are currently the most vulnerable to ransomware attacks. This is simply because many businesses believe that they are unlikely targets. Indeed, there is a mistaken belief that banks and major multinationals are primarily the ones who have to worry about vicious cyber fraud. This is a dangerous outlook! Cyber criminality, and ransomware in particular, is about volume – it’s a numbers game. Attacks are conducted at random, on mass, and these criminals do not discriminate between size, sector, individuals, business, etc.

Worryingly, most local SMEs are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to ransomware – and are consequently placing themselves at massive risk. They are just as vulnerable, if not more so, than the bigger corporations and organisations that have very publicly come under attack.

2. Partner with a business Internet provider

On a very practical level, one of the factors currently leaving many SMEs at risk is their choice of Internet providers. All too often, small businesses look to keep costs down by choosing a provider that specialises in consumer solutions – instead of choosing a provider that specialises in business solutions. By opting for cheaper consumer solutions, SMEs do not get the built in security features and support – such as automatic data backup, firewalls, cloud-based systems, etc – that business providers offer. The consequences of this decision can be disastrous. If an SME falls victim to ransomware (or other types of cyber attacks), the costs extend far beyond the initial ransom that has to be paid for the data to be released. The business will experience extended downtime, damaged brand equity and a considerable loss of trust in the marketplace. Added to this, a compromised business tends to overreact to the attack and then overspend on security solutions thereafter.

In reality, guarding against ransomware is both straightforward and relatively inexpensive. It does require, however, partnering with an Internet provider who will take a consultative (as opposed to purely transactional) approach to your business. The right partner will understand both your needs and risks as a business, and then provide solutions that protect your data from day one.

3. Call your provider (today)

Finally, understand that there are no symptoms or warnings that come attached to ransomware. If you are attacked, your data will be held ransom until the fee is paid. No one can unlock the data once it has been encrypted. This means that preventative action is everything. Either take the threat seriously, today, or run the risk of finding a ransomware note splashed across your desktop.

On the other hand, if preventative measures are in place, and your data has been properly backed up by a trustworthy provider, then a ransomware attack need not bother your business at all. You can simply refuse to pay the ransom, and call your provider for support. Your data will be safe, and immediately accessible.

The more businesses and individuals that take this approach, the less powerful and common ransomware attacks will be. Cyber criminals are getting their way because people and businesses have yet to attach real value to their data. But once this connection between money and data has been made, and preventative measures are put in place, ransomware will lose its power.

So call your Internet provider today. There is only one question to ask: Can you assure me my data is safe? If they are not able to help you here, immediately find another provider who can.

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Inside Netflix: Quest for content will sweep Africa

In the second of a series of behind-the-scenes reports from Netflix studios, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers an appetite for new stories.

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It may have started out as a better way to rent movies, but now Netflix is revolutionising the entire American film and TV industries. That’s not news. The next big shift, however, is likely to be the transformation of content production worldwide, and Africa is squarely in the Netflix sights.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, chief product officer Greg Peters said that South Africa and Nigeria were among the many key markets in which it expected to make significant investments in content.

Greg Peters at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re looking to increasingly find storytellers from around the world, especially ones who haven’t been able to tell the story they want because traditional production partners are not willing to tell it, or they can’t find a big enough audience,” he said.

“Our job is to provide a platform, both a production platform, and then a distribution platform, because we are really good at finding audiences that are much much bigger than any storyteller has ever been able to find before. We’re going to invest in every part of the world, including Africa.”

Peters emphasised the need for fresh stories, as opposed to those that repeated traditionally popular formulae.

“We feel like it’s exciting that we don’t have a lot of restrictions. We want compelling stories, a strong vision, authentic story telling, that can come from a whole different range of formats. To open up storytelling in ways that was not opened before.”

Peters was speaking at the end of a two-day Netflix event called Labs Day, which exposed a small group of media from around the world to the inner workings of the business.

Peters revealed that, when he joined Netflix in 2008, he was just one of eight people working on streaming. At that stage, the company was making most of its money from distributing movies on DVD through the mail, with subscriptions and orders managed entirely on the Web.

Click here to read about how Netflix was founded, what it meant to competitors, and what Netflix means to traditional pay-TV.

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Apple unveils TV+ and News+ subscription service

Apple’s video streaming service is set to launch in over 100 countries in the second half of this year, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Late to the premium video streaming game, Apple has unveiled its video streaming platform called Apple TV+.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced yesterday that the service will feature Apple Original content, along with a redesigned Apple TV app that integrates major TV streaming platforms like Hulu and HBO directly into the Apple TV app.

In maintaining the company’s premium image, Cook claims the service will be the “destination for the highest-quality originals”. He backed the statement by handing over to multi-Oscar winning director Steven Speilberg who led the company’s “The Storyteller’s Behind” video. The video below shows off big Hollywood names, including J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Aniston, M. Night Shyamalan, Octavia Spencer, Reese Witherspoon, endorsing TV Plus.

Speilberg announced he would be bringing the 93-year-old Amazing Stories book series to TV on Apple’s streaming service. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrell discussed their involvement in a predominantly women-hosted Morning Show that deals with “issues that are spoken about behind closed doors”. The stage was filled with major TV personalities, including Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Big Bird (Sesame Street), and even Oprah.

Apple still has some catching up to do, because Netflix has already spent billions on acquiring and creating new content in 2019 alone.

In a move to remain competitive, subscribers to the service will have access to Apple TV+ through the new Apple TV app on iOS, Mac, Roku, Fire TV, and smart TVs from Samsung and LG, among other.

But will this service be sustainable for Apple in an already saturated market? Mark Skilton, professor of practice at Warwick Business School, said: “Apple TV is not just about seeking a new growth market, it is about a technical shift to “connected smart services” of the future that offer everything online.

“But is Apple going to beat Netflix? Even if they roll out the red carpet for movie stars, it will be a challenge for Apple to provide a compelling new TV experience.”

The service is set to launch in over 100 countries by the end of the year.

Click here to read about Apple News+.

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