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Cyber threats: Don’t panic!

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Building and running your own website can be a daunting task, especially with the cyber crime that you are exposed to. But, says MYRON SALANT of Webafrica, there is no need to panic as there are various services to keep you safe.

The cyber-world can be a dark and daunting place, especially if you are building and running your own websites or have an online business. Cyber-crime in the form of hacking could result in your website being blacklisted by Google, equating to a drop in search rankings, a damaged reputation, and a loss of revenue as you try to get your site back up.

“But there is no need to panic,” says Myron Salant, web services product manager at Webafrica. “Many website owners only think about security after their site gets hacked, but knowledge is power: if you know what the threats are you can arm yourself appropriately and get one step ahead of the hackers.”

Myron has identified the top 10 threats to your website that you should be aware of:

Injection

Injection happens when hostile data is sent to an interpreter as part of a query or command. This data tricks the interpreter, resulting in unintended commands and corrupt data. It’s a common problem in web applications, particularly with SQL injection.

Cross-site scripting

When an application sends user-supplied data to a web browser without first validating or encoding it, cross-site scripting (XSS) can occur. This lets hackers execute scripts in the victim’s browser that hijack user sessions or vandalize websites.

Insecure direct object references

Web applications don’t always verify that the user is authorized for the target object. Without an access control check or similar protection, supposedly secure data can be accessed and stolen by attackers.

Cross-site request forgery

CSRF tricks a victim into submitting fake HTTP requests via cross-site scripting or image tags. It’s an issue for web applications that inadvertently allows hackers to predict the details of a transaction – for example, automatically-generated session cookies. Attackers create hostile web pages which generate forged requests indistinguishable from real ones.

Insecure cryptographic storage

It’s hard to believe but many web applications still do not properly protect sensitive data such as credit card numbers and personal details. Attackers can easily access poorly encrypted data and use it to commit credit card fraud, identity theft and other data-related crimes.

Failure to restrict URL access

An application may protect sensitive functionality only by not displaying relevant URLs to unauthorized users. By accessing those ULRs directly, attackers can exploit this weakness to perform unauthorized operations.

Invalidated re-directs & forwards

Web applications may re-direct and forward visitors to other pages and websites without proper validation. Attackers can then re-direct victims to phishing or malware sites or use forwards to access unauthorized pages.

Broken authentication & session management

Account credentials and session tokens are sometimes not properly protected. Attackers simply use stolen passwords, keys and authentication tokens to steal other users’ identities and commit crimes.

Security misconfiguration

Attackers exploit security configuration weaknesses at any level whether it’s the platform, web server, application server, framework or custom code. These flaws give attackers unauthorized access to default accounts, unused pages, un-patched flaws, unprotected files and system data.

Insufficient transport layer protection

When applications fail to authenticate, encrypt and protect sensitive network traffic, they may support weak algorithms, use expired or invalid certificates, or execute commands incorrectly.

“The above threats can simply be avoided by implementing an online security system, such as SiteLock, for example,” says Myron. “If you are unsure about the right security solution for your website, speak to your web developer – as the cliché goes, prevention is better than cure!”

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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