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BYOD: Bring Your Own Damage

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Companies need to start determining the impact BOYD plays on them and implement appropriate policies that would balance the security concerns, as well as their employees’ requirements, writes CATHERINE BERRY.

It is estimated that, by 2018, there will be approximately 10 billion mobile devices in use globally. The harsh reality is employers cannot prevent employees from utilising their personal mobile devices in the workplace, whether it be for personal or professional use. Further, organisations typically expect a high level of productivity from employees, and the utilisation of mobile devices supports this due to the large degree of flexibility it introduces for the employee. Unfortunately, the issue is exacerbated further by the fact that employees expect the organisation’s information technology to provide support in respect of these devices. What most companies do not understand is that they are in fact liable for the consequences of employees using their own personal devices for work.

Most employees would also be shocked to discover that that their devices may be subject to discovery request in the context of litigation involving their company, and may have to surrender their personal devices (containing browser history and including personal information, photos, etc).

The challenge facing organisations is that this employee IT ownership model, generally referred to as Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD), significantly influences the traditional security model, particularly since these devices are being used to access corporate data. BYOD typically includes end users who provide their own mobile phones, use their personal tablet device at work, or where there are unsubsidised devices required for business utilisation. Organisations now have to determine what the exact impact is, in order to establish appropriate procedures and policies that would balance the security concerns, as well as their employees’ requirements.

BYOD without Borders

In an attempt to establish the organisation’s exposure to BYOD, an exercise should be undertaken to determine exactly what type of data and functionality is being exposed. Consideration should also be given to legislation which may impact hereon, such as the imminent POPI Act, as well as PCI-DSS requirements (if applicable to the organisation). Other considerations include geographical spread of the devices, given that this would not only increase risk levels, but would also require absolute clarity in respect of legislation applicable to those areas.

Password Protection, Remote Wipe & Lock & Disclosure

One of the primary concerns surrounding the security of mobile devices is the loss of such devices. Particularly in respect of the content on the mobile device being accessed, or the possibility of corporate data being accessed through channels such as VPN connections. Clearly security considerations must include password protection, encryption, as well as remote wipe procedures. Many organisations enforce ActiveSync policies, pre-installed in most consumer mobile devices, to enforce password protection and remote wipe and lock. As a further measure, employees should be encouraged to keep sensitive devices in their possession, and sight, at all times. Ensuring that regular backups are made will not only salvage lost information, but will also assist with minimising downtime by easing the transfer of the information onto a new device. Last and perhaps even more importantly, having a backup of the data will make identifying what information has been lost (and thus determining whether a disclosure needs to be made in terms of regulations) that much simpler.

Verizon’s 2014 Data Breach Investigation Report considered 63,437 security incidents, of which 1,367 were confirmed data breaches. Of this, incidents where an information asset went missing, whether it be through misplacement or malice, accounted for 9,704 total incidents, and 116 confirmed data disclosures. Out of the 9,704 incidents, the theft / loss of laptops accounted for 308 incidents, desktops for 108, flash drives for 102 and a staggering 8,929 “other devices” (where the type of device has not been stipulated). Interestingly, loss of devices is 15 fold more prevalent than theft of a device. The statistics show that, in terms of location, 43% occurred at the victim’s work area, 23% from a personal vehicle and 10% from a personal residence.

Another concern posed by the use of mobile devices in the corporate network, is the risks posed by the integration of applications into our daily lives.

Vulnerabilities within the application could potentially expose the corporate network. Malware presents a major concern, particularly given the risk of it being injected into the corporate network at large.

Effective Policing Improbable

It is vital that organisations proactively engage with employees to manage their expectations relating to the support of personal mobile devices, particularly as this may impact upon information technology support resources required. It should also be borne in mind that help desk staff may require additional training to ensure that they are able to render the necessary support. Hinging hereon is the fact that organisations have less control over these devices. This makes identifying vulnerabilities which may exist, by utilising anti-virus software, ensuring patches are regularly installed, and implementing fire walls near impossible. Even if employees do agree to BYOD policies, it is questionable as to how effectively the organisation will be able to monitor the devices for compliance.

The complexities of cybercrime risk management are more intricate that imaginable; regardless of the complications – it takes just moments from connection to infection.  While staff may be protecting their personal computers, the general lack of awareness to safeguard BYOD tablets and smartphones poses a major risk to organisational cyber security. For all these reasons, businesses would be remiss to leave protection to chance, particularly in a country that is home to some of the best hackers in the world.

* Catherine Berry, Camargue Director, Commercial and Cyber Crime Division

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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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.

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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.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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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.

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