Just because a company has chosen a reputable cloud software provider for storing data and applications doesn’t mean it can neglect information security. STEVEN COHEN, MD for Sage One Accounting AAMEA provides ten tips for keeping cloud data secure.
If you choose a credible cloud software provider, it will host your accounting or payroll applications and data in a secure data centre underpinned by world-class technology. This will free you from doing backups, buying and installing new versions of the software, and fencing your data behind high security software.
Yet that doesn’t mean you can neglect information security in your business. You’ll still be using your own devices to access the cloud, so there are some security vulnerabilities you need to take care of on your side. Here are a few ways to protect your business from data security threats.
1. Choose the right provider
Buy cloud services only from reputable software vendors and Internet service providers. These companies will have put a range of processes and policies in place to secure their infrastructure and your data from information security risks. For example, our online solution, Sage One Accounting and Sage One Payroll, is hosted with Internet Solutions, who run one of the country’s most secure data centres.
That means our clients can rest assured that their data will be secure, backed-up, and accessible – safe from hackers, weather disasters, theft, Eskom and all the other challenges you need to manage if you run the software on your own computers.
2. Educate your end-users
Educate your end-users about the basics of information security – for example, make sure they know why they need to choose strong passwords and that they’re alert to the dangers of phishing emails designed to persuade them to give their log-in details to people with criminal intentions.
3. Install antimalware software
You should install antivirus and antimalware software on your laptops and desktop computers, and then keep it up to date with the latest definitions. This will help to protect you from malicious software programs such as Trojans and keyloggers. Such software can be used to steal information such as your log-ins for online banking or cloud applications.
4. Enforce strong passwords
Cloud services can usually be accessed through any device connected to the public network. You will authenticate yourself to the service with a username and password. Protect yourself by choosing a strong password that is difficult to guess, but easy for you to remember. It is just as important to change your password periodically. You must also take care not to let your password fall into the wrong hands.
5. Get serious about mobile security
It’s great that you can access your accounting software or payroll through your smartphone or tablet, but there’s also a risk attached to this. If you save your passwords on the device, anyone who steals your device or finds it if you lose it will be able to access your information.
Thus, be sure to lock your device behind a PIN code or password when not in use. Also, most mobile devices today allow you to track their location or remotely wipe data. It’s a good idea to enable this functionality just in case the device goes missing.
6. Keep software up to date with security patches
When it comes to desktops and notebooks, be sure to keep your operating systems and browsers up to date with the latest security patches. These close off known vulnerabilities in the software, making your computer more secure.
7. Apply two-step verification
Where your cloud provider allows it, enable two-factor authentication. For example, you could set your account up to ask for a code sent to you by SMS when you log in or use a fingerprint in addition to a password. Thus, even if someone steals or guesses your password, they won’t be able to access your sensitive data.
8. Be careful about where you log into cloud services
If you sometimes log into your cloud applications using public, borrowed or shared computers, make sure that you opt to not save your password and ensure you log out of your account after you are done. Also, if you’re working with particularly sensitive data, be aware that public wireless networks are usually not secure.
9. Keep your passwords secret
Look after your passwords. Don’t keep them in an easily accessible file on your computer or scribble them on sticky notes that you paste on your screen where everyone can see them.
10. Check the security certificate
Get in the habit of checking that any cloud sites you use have a security certificate in place. The certificate should be valid for the vendor providing the cloud service, should not be expired, and must be issued by a reputable certificate company.
On Sage One Accounting or Sage One Payroll, data is encrypted and utilises a Verisign security certificate. This certificate is fully authenticated and verified, encrypting your data with up to 256-bit encryption (browser dependent).
How to rob a bank in the 21st century
In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.
As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.
“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”
Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.
But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.
“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”
The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.
“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”
Beaten by big data? AI is the answer
by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle
In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.
The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.
Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.
The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.
In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.
AI now embedded into day to day applications
To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.
In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.
This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.
According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.
Informed decisions, now and in the future
As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.
More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.
While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.
The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.
¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018