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Botnets aim at World Cup

KEIRON SHEPHERD, Senior Security Specialist, F5 Networks, discusses why advanced application security is a match for today’s sophisticated cyber-attacks.

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Hackers across EMEA are warming up for the FIFA World Cup. As all eyes turn to the pitch, they’ll be booting up the botnets ready to take on the excitable businesses who are increasingly giving away the ball on app protection and data security.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – the cyberspace equivalent of the omnipresent Video Assisted Referee – will also be making its presence felt this Summer. The penalty for a breach is 2% to 4% of global turnover or €10 to 20 million, whichever is the bigger hit. The GDPR supervisory body can also flash the proverbial red card by immediately suspending all data processing if the risk to an EU citizen’s privacy is deemed unacceptable.

According to the Ponemon Institute’s 12th annual Cost of Data Breach study, the global average cost of a data breach currently stands at $3.62 million. The ongoing reputational costs are harder to quantify, so it’s not worth being sent off over compliance complacency. Like any competition, every company must now train hard and be ready to take a stand against cybercrime with the goal of protecting data.

Bots take to the field

Football is a game of two halves, and so too is the Internet. Recent research by F5 Labs suggests that half of the Internet’s traffic comes from bots, 30% of which are malicious. Most bots search for vulnerabilities, scrape websites or participate in DDoS attacks. They can speed up password-guessing to break into online accounts, mine cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, and attack anything requiring a large network of computers.

Most botnet based attacks are designed for disruption and exploitation. Typical attacks include the creation of Spam email relays and Denial of Service (DoS) activities designed to prevent access to websites. Another concern flagged by F5 Labs is the inexorable rise of Thingbots: botnets which are built exclusively from IoT devices and are fast becoming the cyberweapon delivery system of choice for today’s attackers due to their poor security and ease of compromise.

Year over year (2016-2017), F5 Labs found that Telnet brute force attacks against IoT devices rose 249%. Moving ahead, IoT’s destructive arsenal is set to explode in scale. Gartner recently reported that there are 8.4 billion IoT devices in use and the number is expected to grow to 20.4 billion by 2020. Botnet risks rise significantly when moving to multi-cloud environments as many businesses are now doing out of operational necessity. In particular, many cloud consumers assume that security is inherently better in the cloud and do not realise the same vulnerabilities that plagued them in their datacentre are just as present in the cloud.

Tackling advanced app security

A threat defence is only effective if it safeguards sensitive data. Visibility is fundamental to understanding normal application behaviour, detecting anomalous traffic and being able to report data breaches to the relevant data protection authorities. Visibility means having insight into all traffic that passes between users and applications. It is essential that security systems understand the application, the protocols and can see into encrypted traffic. Context is equally important and the key to understanding the characteristics of an application’s environment, including behavioural insights that enable rapid adaptation where required. Incisive visibility and context are crucial to informing decision-makers, which means that robust security controls can be implemented to protect your apps and data.One of the best first lines of defence in the game is a web application firewall (WAF). The 2018 State of Application Delivery (SOAD) report revealed that 98% of F5’s surveyed customers protect at least some part of their application portfolio with a WAF. More than 40% protect half or more of their apps.

However, not all WAFs are capable of safeguarding against the full scope of today’s hyperactive threat spectrum. This is where Advanced WAF (AWAF) solutions are more effective. Capable of supporting a variety of consumption and licensing models, including a per-app basis, as well as perpetual, subscription, and utility billing options, AWAFs provide a new level of flexibility in both the cloud and the data centre. Important benefits include facilitating better collaboration between SecOps, DevOps, and NetOps teams to deploy app protection services in any environment.

Crucially, AWAFs provide powerful defensive capabilities against malicious bots going beyond signatures and reputation to block evolving automated attacks, prevent account takeovers (with encryption at the application layer), and protect apps from DoS attacks (using machine learning and behavioural analytics for high accuracy). AWAFs also provide comprehensive protection from mobile attacks through an Anti-Bot Mobile SDK rich security services, including application whitelisting (i.e. index of approved software), secure cookie validation, and advanced app hardening.

Blowing the whistle on cybercrime

Organisations need to prove they are responsible data custodians. Security and transparency are now essential attributes for customer service. It’s time to blow the whistle on cybercrime.

Investing in integrated security solutions protects what matters: your applications. The net result is that data are protected, the business upholds compliance standards and your customers remain enthusiastic, loyal fans – a world class winning combination.

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Meet the ambassador to the future

Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.

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Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.

That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.

Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.

“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia. 

“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.

“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”

The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.

Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.

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How Tilly Lockey became a Hero

Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.

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Picture courtesy SingularityU South Africa 2019 Summit

This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.

Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.

Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.

Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”

That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.

“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.

“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”

The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.

“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”

It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.

“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “

Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school

“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”

What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.

In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.

“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”

Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.

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