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Cyber health now key part of health and safety

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The International Labour Organization has recently recognized cybersecurity as a part of World Day for Safety and Health at Work as being hacked does not just put company’s assets or reputation at risk, but can also affect people’s health.

The World Day for Safety and Health at Work , an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work, held on  April 28th  has been observed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 2003. How does cybersecurity factor into it? It doesn’t, at least not yet. The World Day for Safety and Health at Work has typically focused on “occupational accidents and diseases”, with recent themes focusing on safety and health culture (2015) and workplace stress (2016).

But, it could be argued, cybersecurity awareness should factor as part of this day – officially or otherwise (it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness of workplace-related health and safety).

“Cybersecurity is now a global issue, affecting companies of all sizes and every employee, at all levels of a business,” says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO of ESET South Africa, “the time is now for enterprises to see this issue as an important consideration when it comes to health and safety.”

In fact, in today’s connected era – where the Internet of Things enables everything from smart fridges to connected pacemakers – it could be argued that security and safety now go hand-in-hand.

“We need to reverse the trend to connect everything to the internet,” said computer security guru Bruce Schneier in a recent article for New York Magazine. “And if we risk harm and even death, we need to think twice about what we connect and what we deliberately leave uncomputerized.

“If we get this wrong, the computer industry will look like the pharmaceutical industry, or the aircraft industry. But if we get this right, we can maintain the innovative environment of the internet that has given us so much.”

Why should you boost cybersecurity in the workplace?

Cybersecurity is increasingly important in the workplace, simply because of the impact it can have on every aspect of business, from the safe storage of information to the prevention of data breaches, which could impact revenue. Cyberattacks can, at their worst, put companies out of business, or cause firms to be penalized by huge fines from data protection authorities (DPAs) – something that will become increasingly significant when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation is introduced.

Fortunately, in many ‘switched on’ firms, cybersecurity has become more high profile – it’s a boardroom agenda item. Firms are conducting regular security training awareness programs, with security teams empowered by boards to protect themselves from latest threats.

The danger if you don’t is well publicized. Statistics show that 38% of breaches are internal, with a 2015 study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham revealing that three out of four companies view employee negligence as the greatest breach threat. The study also found that around 75% of employees upload classified work files to personal cloud accounts.

These figures are at risk of going significantly higher as companies embrace the cloud and become more connected through the IoT.

As examples of this connectivity – and the growing risk – the largest UK hospital was hit by a ransomware attack in January, while one month earlier a DDoS attack on automated buildings systems in Finland disabled heating controls.

Separately, two white hat security researchers from the US managed to hack into the building management system of an office belonging to a tech giant in Sydney, Australia, while – in an incident illustrating the dangers of IoT security – St. Jude Medical’s connected pacemaker was found vulnerable to attack. Cybersecurity and health and safety clearly go hand-in-hand.

Why should companies make cybersecurity as important as health and safety?

The introduction of health and safety regulation has steadily improved employee welfare over the years, from reducing stress and accidents to insurance claims.

Companies that prioritize cybersecurity will likely see even greater benefits, from better defense and fewer successful attacks to more funding from the board for technology solutions. Ultimately, a stronger defensive posture will help improve brand reputation (which is usually negatively impacted in the event of a data breach), safeguard revenues and – in certain critical operations – save lives.

Furthermore, some would argue that companies simply have to embrace cybersecurity – cybercriminals are leveraging the latest technologies, cybercrime-as-a-service is commonplace and the desire for businesses to use data for competitive advantages puts them at greater risk. Cybersecurity has to be a top priority from company boardrooms on down if digital businesses are to be truly protected.

Seamus Doyle, CIO at Northern Ireland Water, emphasized the importance of cybersecurity in relation to health and safety in an interview last year with Business Reporter.

“When I am talking with some of my senior colleagues, [cybersecurity] is not quite as serious as health and safety but it is the next step down,” he said.

“Companies have long since moved past sacrificing health and safety for productivity. It is not an acceptable way to do business and people are moving to the same mindset with cybersecurity.”

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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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