The development in cyber attacks over the past couple of years has been rapid, but what is even more worrying, says BRYAN HAMMAN of Arbor Networks, is that companies are only now waking up to the idea that their current defences are inadequate.
The last couple of years have seen rapid and complex developments in the cyber threat landscape. A significant portion of cyber attacks are now being made up of brute-force, volumetric distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which look to disrupt on-line presence and conceal malicious activity, often with the aim of stealing data. What’s worrying is the fact companies are only now starting to realise their defences might not be ready for these types of attacks.
Adding to this concern is the fact that attackers are becoming increasingly adept at combining tools to their best effect and targeting all sorts of organisations. It’s not solely large companies that are being hit. Businesses large and small, across all industry sectors, public and private, even charities, are being targeted, for a variety of reasons. The rise of ideological hacktivism, the use of DDoS attacks to distract or disguise from other kinds of cyber-crime and the use of DDoS as a “competitive weapon’” in some industry sectors are just some of the key motivations behind those attacks, as shown in Arbor’s 11th annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report.
As a consequence there has been a clear increase in the level of interest from businesses in solutions and services to help protect themselves. Executives within a wide variety of businesses are now aware of the severe consequences of a successful DDoS attack – both in terms of financial and reputational damage – and businesses are starting to realise the fact that a one-size-fits-all approach to security is unlikely to be successful in the long term.
Specific threats require, in a lot of cases, specific solutions and DDoS is a good example. On-premise firewalls and intrusion detection system (IDS) products can deal with small, more simple attacks – but they can’t stop the more sophisticated application layer attacks that have become more prevalent over the past five years. As such, firewalls or cloud-only mitigation solutions are no longer comprehensive enough to protect the network. Firewalls can’t deal with volumetric attacks, which saturate Internet connectivity, while cloud-based solutions may not proactively detect more stealthy attacks and take several minutes to activate, by which time significant damage has already been done.
Clearly then, organisational defences, from all kinds of threats, need to be multi-layered. To successfully deal with DDoS attacks, businesses need specialised defences at the network perimeters to proactively protect their networks from attacks and at the same time, cloud-based DDoS protection that can be called upon when an attack saturates the connectivity.
This layered approach is also needed when organisations try and protect themselves from compromise via malware or insider misuse. Organisations can have firewalls, IDS and antivirus systems in place but these aren’t always enough. With modern network and service architectures and the increasing prevalence of obfuscation techniques available to malware, businesses now need to monitor “inside” their network perimeters, as well as “at” the perimeter, to detect suspicious and malicious activities or compromised devices on their networks.
When thinking about enterprise security, it’s important to remember that additional layers of security need not be more complex to operate or deploy. If the right solutions are selected, with the right workflows, then organisations can actually help their operational security teams to become more efficient and effective. This helps IT pros to protect the organisation against the growing number of cyber threats out there. Thinking proactively about security and combining different layers of defences will ultimately help companies keep the front foot in the cyber war over customer data.
* Bryan Hamman, territory manager for sub-Saharan Africa at Arbor Networks
Money talks and electronic gaming evolves
Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.
The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.
The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games.
It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.
MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.
“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”
New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.
“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”
Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.
Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.
This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.
A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.
Each block stores:
– A number of valid records or transactions.
– Information referring to that block.
– A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.
Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.
As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.
How is blockchain so secure?
Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.
Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.
In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.
What else can blockchain be used for?
Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.
Use of blockchain in healthcare
Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.
Use of blockchain for documents
Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.
Other blockchain uses
This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.
Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.
Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.