Businesses are putting themselves at increased risk of losing data, by not curbing the actions of current and former employees. 25% of workers in South Africa still have access to files and documents from a previous employer, putting the integrity of data and company livelihood at risk, finds new research — ‘Sorting out digital clutter in business’ — from Kaspersky Lab. Former employees can also use this data for their own purposes, for example in a new workplace, or they may accidentally delete or damage it. As a result, data recovery will require time and effort, which otherwise could be spent on more useful business tasks.
With every business today drowning in digital files, using collaboration applications, online documents, and file sharing services, it can be hard for them to keep track of what data resides where, who has access to it, when and how. However, this lack of clarity when it comes to ‘digital clutter’ is not only an organisational headache: failing to lock down data that lives online could pose a disadvantage or even a threat to business.
The risk of unauthorised access to work files may not come from the most obvious party: workers that are no longer with a company but were not cut off from the corporate email service, messenger app or Google documents. The situation is especially worrying as these assets include intellectual property, commercial secrets or other protected or confidential data that, if let loose, could be used by cybercriminals or competitors to their own advantage. Among the South African respondents that Kaspersky Lab surveyed, 76% admitted working with documents that contain different kinds of sensitive data.
The study also found that due to digital data mess, it takes employees’ time to find the right document or data stored in different places. 62% of office staff found it difficult to locate a document or file while at work. 52% also use the same device for work and personal use which means that information on different devices can be duplicated or become outdated, causing confusion and possible errors at work. This digital clutter may also lead to data compromise if it falls into the hands of a third party, or even a competitor. The consequences of this could take the form of penalties and lawsuits with clients, as a result of violation of an NDA or data protection legislation.
The problem of proper access to work assets is also highlighted by the fact that just under a third (28%) of South African workers admit to sharing their username and password credentials for a work device with a co-worker. In today’s office culture of open spaces and collaborative ways of working, employees are often more inclined not to set boundaries but to share everything with their colleagues, from paper clips and ideas, to desks, tasks and even devices. Bad password habits and a laissez-faire attitude to sensitive corporate data may seem harmless enough and might not directly lead to a breach, however it does point towards a need for wider education of the risks.
“Digital files in disarray and uncontrolled access to data can sometimes lead to breaches and cyber-incidents but, in most cases, will likely result in office work disruption, wasted time and lost energy associated with recovering missing files. For businesses — especially small and actively developing companies which strive to be efficient and competitive — the situation is very undesirable. Combating clutter, carefully managing access rights and using cybersecurity solutions is not only about protecting against cyberthreats. It is a guarantee of effective work without interruptions, where all files are in the right place and employees can allocate their time to achieving business goals, having all the data they need at hand,” says Sergey Martsynkyan, Head of B2B Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.
To make sure digital clutter does not cloud your data security practices, the following steps will help add clarity:
- Set up an access policy for corporate assets, including email boxes, shared folders, online documents: all access rights should be canceled as soon as an employee has left
- Regularly remind staff about the company’s cybersecurity rules, so that they understand what is expected of them and they become second nature
- Use encryption to protect corporate data stored on devices. Backup data to ensure information is safe and retrievable, should the worst happen
- Foster good password habits among employees, such as not using personal details or sharing them with anyone in or outside of the company. The Password Manager function in a protection product can help keep passwords secure and your confidential data safe
- If you are used to working with cloud services, you can choose a cybersecurity solution from the cloud that fits with your company size: Kaspersky Endpoint Security Cloud for small and medium companies, and Kaspersky Small Office Security for businesses with less than 25 employees. The products combine simple management with proven protection features for all employees’ devices
For more information about how to avoid digital clutter in your workplace or to read the report in full, visit this page.
Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa
A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.
The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.
While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.
Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.
The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.
“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”
Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen
To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:
- Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
- Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
- The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
- The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
- The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
- The startup can show a clear social impact
- Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)
Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.
The dark side of apps
Mobile device security threats are on the rise and it’s not hard to see why. In 2019 the number of worldwide mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.68 billion of which 2.7 billion are smartphone users. So, if you are looking for a target, it certainly makes sense to go where the numbers are. Think about it, unsecured Wi-Fi connections, network spoofing, phishing attacks, ransomware, spyware and improper session handling – mobile devices make for the perfect easy target. In fact, according to Kaspersky, mobile apps are often the cause of unintentional data leakage.
“Apps pose a real problem for mobile users, who give them sweeping permissions, but don’t always check security,” says Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager for Kaspersky in Africa. “These are typically free apps found in official app stores that perform as advertised, but also send personal – and potentially corporate – data to a remote server, where it is mined by advertisers or even cybercriminals. Data leakage can also happen through hostile enterprise-signed mobile apps. Here, mobile malware uses distribution code native to popular mobile operating systems like iOS and Android to spread valuable data across corporate networks without raising red flags.”
In fact, according to recent reports, 6 Android apps that were downloaded a staggering 90 million times from the Google Play Store were found to have been loaded with the PreAMo malware, while another recent threat saw 50 malware-filled apps on the Google Play Store infect over 30 million Android devices. Surveillance malware was also loaded onto fake versions of Android apps such as Evernote, Google Play and Skype.
Considering that as of 2019, Android users were able to choose between 2.46 million apps, while Apple users have almost 1.96 million app options to select from, and that the average person has 60-90 apps installed on their phone, using around 30 of them each month and launching 9 per day – it’s easy to see how viral apps take several social media channels by storm.
“In this age where users jump onto a bandwagon because it’s fun or trendy, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) can overshadow basic security habits – like being vigilant on granting app permissions,” says Bethwel Opil, Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa. “In fact, accordingly to a previous Kaspersky study, the majority (63%) of consumers do not read license agreements and 43% just tick all privacy permissions when they are installing new apps on their phone. And this is exactly where the danger lies – as there is certainly ‘no harm’ in joining online challenges or installing new apps.”
However, it is dangerous when users just grant these apps limitless permissions into their contacts, photos, private messages, and more. “Doing so allows the app makers possible, and even legal, access to what should remain confidential data. When this sensitive data is hacked or misused, a viral app can turn a source into a loophole which hackers can exploit to spread malicious viruses or ransomware,” adds Badenhorst.
As such, online users should always have their thinking caps on and be more careful when it comes to the internet and their app habits including:
- Only download apps from trusted sources. Read the reviews and ratings of the apps as well
- Select apps you wish to install on your devices wisely
- Read the license agreement carefully
- Pay attention to the list of permissions your apps are requesting. Only give apps permissions they absolutely insist on, and forgo any programme that asks for more than necessary
- Avoid simply clicking “next” during an app installation
- For an additional security layer, be sure to have a security solution installed on your device
“While the app market shows no signs of slowing down, it is changing,” says Opil. “Consumers download the apps they love on their devices which in turn gives them access to content that is relevant and useful. The future of apps will be in real-world attribution, influenced by local content and this type of tailored in-app experience will lead consumers to share their data more willing in a trusted, premium app environment in exchange for more personalised experiences. But until then, proceed with caution.”