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Cybercrime now enterprise grade

Attacks on enterprise are becoming cheaper and easier for agents to execute, writes BRIAN PINNOCK, cybersecurity expert at Mimecast



Email attacks are cheap, easy, low risk and high reward. And based on the recently launched 2019 State of Email Security Report, they are on the rise: 53% of South African companies saw an increase in phishing attacks containing malicious links or attachments in the past year, and 63% reported increases in impersonation fraud.

Not only is the volume of attacks increasing, they are becoming more sophisticated and the pace at which criminals are innovating is cause for immense concern. A single email breach can hit your revenue and reputation hard. Protecting against this is not easy: the sheer amount of emails that pass through an organisation each day complicates the process of securing yourself from email-borne threats. In fact, Mimecast’s latest Email Security Risk Assessment, an aggregated report of tests that measure the efficacy of widely used email security systems, found that many email attacks ranging from opportunistic spam to highly targeted impersonation attacks are getting through incumbent email security systems. It found that 26,305,457 spam emails, 27,156 malware attachments, 55,190 impersonation attacks and 466,905 malicious URLS, were all missed by these incumbent providers and delivered to users’ inboxes.

Don’t underestimate the enemy

Are we – as business and IT leaders – sometimes guilty of underestimating cybercriminals? Thinking of them as lone thieves out to make a quick buck ignores the fact that cybercrime is now driven by criminal organisations that rival the drug trade in size and scope. It’s a well-oiled, thriving multinational criminal enterprise that is expected to cost the global economy $6-trillion by 2021. According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) it costs South Africa R2.2-billion a year. In fact, South Africa currently has the third-highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide, with mobile banking losses alone increasing by 100% over the past year, according to the latest SABRIC data.

Thinking of cybercriminals as part of complex business structures that rival your own helps you keep up with them more effectively. Rather than thinking of a clandestine hacker working out of a basement, you need to see it for what it is: a sophisticated, professional operation working out of an office tower, replete with systems, top talent, and a drive to succeed. And since cybercrime is a highly lucrative business, you can assume they’re well-funded too.

Understanding cyber risks

To strengthen your cyber resilience, you need to first understand what the cybersecurity risks are, and that cyber resilience starts with email. Email is the number one channel for breaching organisations’ defences. Phishing is the leading email attack type: fraudulent emails written under the guise of an important stakeholder, such as a bank, SARS, or regulator that solicits an unsafe action from the recipient, for example clicking on a seemingly innocuous link that exposes personal or company information or triggers a malware install.

These types of attacks are untargeted and rely on volume and human weaknesses to break through cyber defences. The amount of information we readily share online, and the speed at which we use internet based services, leaves us exposed to clever tricksters.

Spear-phishing attacks are far more sophisticated. Emails are targeted at specific individuals or organisations for which the attacker has extensive information. Think of them as targeted ads for premium customers. There are significant increases in more sophisticated types of targeted attacks, such as impersonation fraud, recorded in South Africa.

Data from The State of Email Security Report shows that 38% of South African organisations saw an increase in impersonation fraud involving email-based spoofing of vendors or business partners asking for money, sensitive intellectual property, or login credentials. Thirty-three percent also saw an increase in impersonation fraud involving CEOs and other high-ranking company executives. Even the largest tech companies fall prey to this type of attack: workers at Facebook and Google fell for an impersonation fraud scam that nearly cost them $100-million.

Ransomware is one of the more well-reported types of attacks. The most worrying aspect of a Ransomware outbreak is its tendency to disrupt entire organisations by freezing critical IT systems. It is a type of malware that locks victims out of their IT systems or data; to regain access, you need to pay a ransom.

What you need to ask yourself to protect yourself

You need to adopt a competitive mindset if you’re going to have any hope of staving off the myriad cybersecurity risks endangering your data – and your business. Think: how would someone make money from attacking your organisation?:

  • What data or systems would fetch the highest ransom in the event of a successful attack? What is easiest to monetise on the black market?
  • Which employees hold the most financial power or influence? Who are their associates? How would you trick them into exposing sensitive information? How much information about them is available online, and can that information be used in the service of impersonation fraud?
  • Which systems, data or business process are absolutely essential to the organisation’s survival?
  • Which partners or suppliers have access to the organisation’s digital assets?

Once you can answer these questions, you can get to work on improving your cyber resilience. Starting with email, employ advanced security controls that include a modern, secure email gateway system instead of just an email security system that focuses purely on stopping spam or known types of malware. Threats are no longer just sent to all and sundry with a ‘hope-for-the-best’ attitude; cybercriminals are too clever for that. A standard email security system is not going to stop targeted threats.

Remember that security is a business problem more than it is an IT problem. Treat it as such. Understand the value of your data: after all, it’s the bargaining chip in every ransomware attack. Have powerful backup and recovery capabilities to restore systems and data quickly and with minimal interruption to the business. Are you patching your system vulnerabilities as soon as possible? Many attacks capitalise on unpatched systems. Abandon your old, unsupported operating systems and applications and never use pirated software.

Finally, remember that your employees are your last line of defence. Train them. Give them the knowledge and tools to spot and avoid cyber risks. Make security a critical part of your organisation’s culture. Only 1% of South African organisations think end-user training and awareness is not important; and yet, only 63% have included end-user awareness in their cyber resilience strategies. Your employees are your most valuable resource; they become even more valuable when they are clever and cautious.

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It’s printing, Jim, but not as we know it

Selling printing services is not only about the hardware anymore, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



The seminal science fiction series Star Trek generated many catch-lines, like “The Prime Directive” and “Live long and prosper”. One of its most parodied lines, however, is Doctor Bones McCoy’s words to Captain Kirk on encountering an alien species: “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.”

That’s exactly the way one could describe the printer industry today. Every time an HP, Epson or Konica Minolta releases a new machine for this sector, one can sense the puzzled frowns of people taken by surprise that it still exists.

The difference is that it has evolved from a focus on paper to an emphasis on document management.

One of the first companies to spot that shift in the market, Japanese-headquartered Konica-Minolta, pioneered the concept of a dedicated printer company introducing its own software development division.

“We’ve always believed our role is solving problems for the customer, and not just to provide print, copy and scan solutions,” says Marc Pillay, CEO of the company’s South African division. “Our primary focus is multi-functional devices, but we always look at adding value to clients. Our real job is to assist in achieving a better return on investment.”

The proof of the pudding is that the local division is one of the biggest Konica-Minolta distributors in the world. The reason is simple: unlike most other countries, the South African operation has both a direct and indirect channel. That means it is able to supply companies through its reseller network, while also having a presence on the ground in the form of a dealer network across the country. That, in turn, has given it access to municipalities and other organs of state.

“Our value proposition is based on quality products, service and an unparalleled supply chain,” says Pillay. “When everyone was afraid to do business with government, we thrived on it. It comes from being located in areas where it’s easy to do business with us.”

One could call that the secret of success for existing demand. The coming era, however, will require an appreciation of the next big shifts in printing, says Pillay.

“We’ve seen the big shifts from analog to digital, from monochrome to colour, and from decentralisation to centralisation of printing. The next shift is unbundling printing into a hybrid approach, using both cloud and managed solutions. It’s all going to become subscription-based, and it will be print-on-demand. The high-end customers go into that very quickly, but we still have to cater for people who just do copying.”

Pillay believes that the opening of Microsoft’s Azure data centres in South Africa in March has already made a difference.

“Now you can scan from a device into Microsoft’s SharePoint online or Google Drive. It’s not about screen size anymore, but what you can do to make an impact.”

Where people don’t print, says Pillay, they’re absorbing documents digitally.

“We have to make sure that, where we lose the print, we are gaining the management of the scan, digitisation of the document or management of the workflow. Our income will come out of the workflow.

“Clearly, we’re not just focused on selling a piece of hardware anymore.”

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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SA chooses most loved local businesses



A new World Wide Worx research report identifies and names South Africa’s 12 Most Loved Local businesses, and places the spotlight on the vital role commercial businesses play in the South African economy. The country’s favourite local businesses include the Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay – famed for its calamari, celebrity chef David Higgs’ Rosebank eatery Marble as well as Rouge Day Spa with branches in Kenilworth and Constantia in Cape Town run by a dynamic mother and daughter duo.

The aim of the Most Loved Local report was to celebrate those businesses South Africans love the most and to investigate exactly what makes consumers big fans of these entities. It further offers these enterprises insights into what it takes to succeed in business, highlights the qualities that convert clients into fans and encourages more South Africans to ‘shop’ local.

Report results

Commissioned by Santam, results were compiled using a combination of digital listening tools and traditional research. Social media listening using organic search analysis looked into which business categories were being searched for most. This was followed up with a trend analysis to assess whether a business category was growing in popularity, keyword volume analysis to refine the categories and finally social listening within the categories which businesses were being spoken about in the most positive terms. Thereafter, a poll was conducted among 2 489 respondents to find out what made them love a local business – or not. The sample was nationally representative and aligned to the economically active population per province. A respected independent research house World Wide Worx conducted the research.

The full list of businesses that came top across 12 categories are:

  1. Place to Stay: Chapmans Peak Hotel (Cape Town) – the one with the perfect calamari
  2. Eatery: Marble (Johannesburg) – the one with the celebrity chef in the kitchen
  3. Butcher: The Butcher Man (Cape Town) – the one that people cross town for
  4. Bakery: Fournos (Johannesburg) – the one that is way more than a bakery
  5. Spa: Rouge Day Spa (Cape Town) – the one run by a dynamic mother-daughter team
  6. Entertainment Spot: Gold Reef City (Johannesburg)  – the one with the heart of gold
  7. Gym: Dream Body Fitness (Johannesburg) – the one that is completely unintimidating to work out at
  8. Interior Designer: By Dezign Interiors (Johannesburg) – the one that really, really gets its clients’ style
  9. Market: Bryanston Organic & Natural Market (Johannesburg) – the one that was an organic market before it was trendy to be an organic market
  10. Laundromat: Exclusive Dry Cleaners (Johannesburg) – the one that treats every single client like family
  11. Car Wash: Tubbs’s Car Wash (Johannesburg) – the one that cleans your car while you have a haircut
  12. Construction company: Radon Projects (Pretoria) – the one that is ready all day and all night

Delving into what makes a consumer go from ‘client to fan’, the key factor standing out above all others was service. Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx, says it seems South Africans will forgive a multitude of ‘sins’ if they are treated well. “Good service was the number one factor that makes 40% of those surveyed support a local business. This was followed by quality products at 18%. Third place went to value for money at 10%, proving the old adage that competing on price alone is not a sound business strategy,” said Goldstuck.

When asked what makes them loyal to a local business, some interesting views across age groups emerged. “Younger clients are more swayed by quality, while older ones are impressed by service. This seems to fit with younger people wanting the status of nice things, and older people wanting to feel valued and respected,” said Goldstuck.

Unsurprisingly, all 12 Most Loved Locals called out service as one of their guiding lights and core pillars when interviewed. Theo and George Parpottas, owners of Exclusive Dry Cleaners, the selected company in the laundromat category, believe when someone walks into their shop, they should be greeted with smiling faces and courteous people. “We don’t care if it’s the president or a beggar, from the moment they walk in, they are a client. We greet them, we are courteous, and we treat them with respect. It doesn’t matter what they bring.”

For Gary Karycou, who co-owns Marble in Rosebank with celebrity chef David Higgs, it is all about attitude. “You can teach someone anything if they want to do it, but we employ on attitude. You get the basic skills but if someone really wants to learn, you can transform them.” He continues, “Giving the best service to our clients, is our motto. It’s something that’s lacking in South Africa and even globally. Businesses just become a bit complacent.”

Famed Green Point butchery and restaurant, The Butcher Man, is owned by Arie Fabiani. He says people will drive past other butcheries and come all the way to the Butcher Man because “we deliver a great service. Good service is critical, and our team knows it.”

Another key finding was that people are more likely to recommend a business if there is a good deal or excellent value for money. Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe, Chief Marketing Officer at Santam, says this is an interesting finding. “Perhaps we are more likely to share a good deal with others and keen to help others find great nuggets of the positive trade-off between value and price. So, it is worth ensuring that, in addition to service and quality, your clients feel like they are getting value for the money they spend with you. That way, they are more likely to tell family and friends the good news!”

Dilotsotlhe added that the report’s release has been well-timed as the need to stimulate sectors of the economy which can create jobs has never been more vital. Commercial enterprises are responsible for a significant percentage of the labour-force in South Africa, and the impact thereof is significant. Due to the fact that these enterprises remain a largely underinsured sector, the campaign also seeks to highlight the need for insurance as a vital aspect of business continuity. When they thrive, it benefits the whole nation, and from a Santam perspective, this translates into sustainable growth for our business.

To download the full report, click here.

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