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Cloud explosion in SA will demand cyber resilience

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by Mikey Molfessis, cybersecurity expert at Mimecast South Africa

Microsoft’s announcement that it has launched its first cloud data centres in Africa – one in Cape Town, another in Johannesburg – is a cause for celebration among South Africa’s business sector. As we hurtle into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, access to cloud infrastructure will be critical to power artificial intelligence and edge computing innovation. And while only Azure is supported at present, Microsoft plans to soon launch Office365 from these datacentres, offering organisations increased productivity. Amazon and Huawei also have plans to establish local data centres over the next few years.

However, organisations’ tendencies to rely exclusively on single cloud service providers for day-to-day operations have exposed them to undue risk. With services such as Office365, organisations are not only putting all their eggs in one basket: they are putting all their eggs in the same basket that everyone else is putting all their eggs. The volume of users on cloud-based email services like Office365 means there is more malware created for these environments. Criminals know they have only one lock to pick to gain access, so they focus their attention on these cloud services because of the potentially large payoff.

As more businesses move email and data to Office365, there’s an increased need to protect against malicious or accidental loss of data. Mimecast’s latest Email Security Risk Assessment (ESRA) report, an aggregated analysis of tests that measure the efficacy of widely used email security systems globally, including Office365, illustrated the scope of the problem. Of the more than 232 million emails inspected, organisations’ existing email security systems missed more than 26 000 malware attachments, 53 000 impersonation attacks and 23 000 dangerous file types.

Microsoft offers certain protection-of-data capabilities as part of its Office365 services, which are designed to protect against data loss caused by its own infrastructure failing. But these services don’t always offer protection against accidental deletion, data corruption, advanced cyberattacks, or malicious users or administrators. These can often lead to downtime which can bring business operations to a standstill. Continuity is essential to any modern organisation’s efforts to maintain productivity but is not always achievable when all business-critical applications run on a single cloud provider’s infrastructure.

It’s not only breaches, human error or technical error that can cause downtime for an organisation. Well-reported and widespread Office365 outages – the most recent of which took place in Europe in mid-January – highlight what can happen when email data becomes unavailable. As more organisations move to Office365, we’re likely to see South Africa featuring on Downdetector’s outage map. Outages pose serious productivity risks to users who rely on Software-as-a-Service monocultures to support their operations.  Even more concerning is the possibility that employees will turn to their unsecure personal Gmail or Yahoo Mail accounts when Office365 goes offline. You then have absolutely no control over email activity.

Important data stored on Office365 can also be lost due to accidental or malicious deletion or ransomware. If your organisation doesn’t have an independent backup in place, and deleted data passes through short term folders such as the Recycle Bin, Deleted Items folders or retention policies without being recovered, it is lost forever.

To mitigate the risks associated with cloud services, organisations should look to improve their cyber resilience. An effective cyber resilience strategy should include layered security protection, independent data storage and alternative access routes to key systems like email, for when the worst does occur. The cyber resilience strategy should further include a backup and recovery plan. This was always a priority for organisations when their systems were on premise. The fact that data is now in the cloud does not change this.

South African organisations are arguably a step ahead of their international counterparts in their cyber resilience efforts. The latest Vanson Bourne global data found that 49% of South African organisations have a cyber resilience strategy in place, against a global average of 46.2%. But this still means that half of organisations are yet to have a comprehensive strategy in place.

Recent Osterman Research titled “Why Your Company Needs Third-Party Solutions for Office365”, indicates that organisations globally are starting to supplement the service with third party products to achieve cyber resilience. The study found that nearly one-third of organisations implementing Office365 plan to use third-party solutions that will provide improved security, archiving or other capabilities, rather than relying on what is available natively in Office365. In fact, 37% of the typical Office365 budget in 2019 will be spent on a cheaper plan in conjunction with third-party security, archiving and other solutions.

Increased adoption of cloud services is a welcome development in the South African business sector and will support organisations as they strive for greater agility and scalability. But putting all your eggs in one basket – the same basket as everyone else – leaves you exposed to a broad range of risks that can have a debilitating effect on your operations. Using a third-party provider and having an effective cyber resilience strategy provides a safety net and enables organisations to quickly return to standard operations without losing critical data or productivity.

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Gaming gets rad at Rand Show

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With the opening of the 125th Rand Show at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, today, gamers and cosplayers have a new destination to strut their stuff.

A new addition to the show, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion, is offering anything from gaming and cosplay to dance-offs and  science displays.

The organisers provided the following information (although several million exclamation marks and exaggerations have been removed!):

Fortnite Tournament

There was a time when Gaming was a considered a solitary pastime, confined to single player consoles; but that truly is a thing of the past with a fully immersive Fortnite Tournament open to all Fortnite afficionados and even those just starting out. Players can battle it out over both show weekends, including a final on each weekend. Family fan clubs can also get in on the action with live broadcasts of the game as it happens across screens – a full-on Fortnite family affair. Sponsored by PlayStation, gamers are truly going to be spoiled and should get in on the action as fast as they can because R 100 000 in cash prizes is up for grabs.

Smart Technology Centre will deliver a super-fast FibreMAX 500Mbps fibre link, wholly dedicated to the gaming pavilion to ensure that absolutely nothing ruins the thrill of the National Fortnite Tournament. 

“As the exclusive connectivity provider, we have gone all out to ensure an amazing experience for gamers,” says Dillynn Els of Smart Technology Centre (STC), an internet service provider (ISP) and IT technology partner. “When it comes to gaming and the best experience possible, it’s all about ensuring we provide a dedicated, uncapped, unshaped connection that makes every second count.”

Keen players can come along and enter on the day, but don’t delay because space is limited.

Fortnite Inspired Dance Off

Visitors can come along and be entertained by the finalists in the Fortnite inspired dance-off. There will be daily dances to enjoy for the entire duration of the show.

Come and play – Cosplay, to be exact.

The stage is set for a celebration of creativity and imagination that is going to be literally out of this world. Super hero heavy weights and masters of the mysterious will be letting their creative vision loose and take part in various Cosplay Tournaments and a visually stunning Cosplay Masquerade. Come see what all the fuss is about and get lost in this world costumes, colour and creative talent.

Games, Games and Science

For those wanting to get their gaming on, there will be three free play areas sponsored by Xbox with a host of games available to play. Xbox will be giving away 3 Xbox 1’s and an awesome Xbox 1X, but you truly have to be in it to win it, so make sure you don’t miss out.

The Kalahari Scientist will be onstage delighting visitors with his explosive displays that are guaranteed to up the ooh and aah factor with audiences young and old.

But wait, there’s more

Along with the larger-than-life gaming entertainment offering, visitors will also get to be the first gamers on SA soil to get a sneak peak of PlayStation’s brand new Mortal Kombat 11. Don’t miss your chance to experience the continuation of this epic saga through a new cinematic story that is more than 25 years in the making. The iconic showcasing brutal battles like never before, along with a host of customisable fighters with enhanced graphics and animations.

Other activities at the Pavilion include VR Experiences, a full-on NAG Nerf Arena, Gaming vendors with awesome gaming content, retailers selling gaming related products and software, and tutorials and workshops on how to improve your gaming skills, Celebrity Fortnite match off for charity.

With huge sponsors such as PlayStation, Xbox, MMS, NAG, SABC 2 and Smart Technology, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion is geared up to become a hot zone of entertainment.

Win big

In case the entertainment offering just doesn’t get the heart beats racing fast enough, an all-expenses paid trip to TwitchCon USA, sponsored by PlayStation, in conjunction with 94.7 Highveld Stereo, is waiting for one lucky visitor to grab it. Every ticket purchased into the Entertainment Gaming Pavilion qualifies as an entry, so bring the whole family along for the ride.

Tickets to the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion can be purchased at the show for R 20 which gives the ticket holder access for  two hours.

The pavilion will be open from 14h00 to 19h00 weekdays and 10h00 to 19h00 on weekends from 19 to 28 April 2019.

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Riaad Moosa show debuts on Vodacom Video Play

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Riaad Moosa’s comedy special, Life Begins, will be the first major local title to be released on Vodacom’s video-on-demand service, Video Play.

As an award-winning comedian, actor, writer and presenter, Riaad Moosa is one of South Africa’s most renowned funny men. His one-man show is available for download on the platform from today, 26 April 2019. Life Begins is rated PG-16L

Vodacom’s says its affordable video-on-demand service, Video Play, has had an incredible uptake since its launch in August 2018, with over 2-million subscribers. 

“But with a proliferation of affordable video-on-demand platforms available to the South African market, what is it that gives Video Play the competitive edge?” it asked in a release this week. “Recognising the consumer’s need for flexibility and freedom of choice, Vodacom has ingeniously developed an adaptable subscription model that puts the power in consumers’ hands. Forget being tied down to a monthly subscription. Video Play gives consumers the liberty of choosing a daily, weekend or even monthly package. 

“Blockbuster movies can even be viewed for a once off cost, without subscription. Furthermore, these bundles can be purchased according to niche categories and genres, from Bollywood movies to gospel music.”

Consumers are able to pay for movies and series by using their airtime or adding it to their bill, eliminating the need for a credit card. Subscribers are also able to purchase video-specific data at a fraction of the regular price to consume constant content without overspending. Daily subscriptions start from R5 a day.

Zunaid Mahomed, Group Digital and Fixed Services Officer, says: “Video Play has enabled the company to provide a seamless and enjoyable customer experience. With the addition of Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins, we’re excited to offer consumers even more quality content and a wider variety of entertainment on demand than ever before. We’re putting quality entertainment, into the hands of anyone with a mobile device and an internet connection.”

Riaad Moosa describes his show as “very philosophical and existential”.

“It involves the normal issues of getting older while at the same time experiencing, at a maturity where I’m supposed to be wise, a world that is completely turned on its head.  It’s about how I negotiate all these things happening around me while trying to maintain a positive attitude. Through my comedic lens, I hope to put a different spin on that and hopefully I can enter my next 40 years with renewed vigour and excitement.”

To access Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins comedy special, register for Video via the Video Play website (www.videoplay.co.za).

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