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Detection better than protection

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RSA, the Security Division of EMC, has released data showing that organisations that invest in detection and response technologies, rather than perimeter-based solutions, are better poised to defend against cyber incidents. 

The second annual RSA Cybersecurity Poverty Index, which compiles survey results from 878 respondents across 81 countries and more than 24 industries, attracted more than double the number of respondents as last year, and gave participants the chance to self-assess the maturity of their cybersecurity programs leveraging the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) as the measuring stick. The report found that, for the second year in a row, 75% of survey respondents have a significant cybersecurity risk exposure. Incident Response (IR) capabilities are particularly underdeveloped. Nearly half of organizations characterized essential IR capabilities as “ad hoc” or “non-existent”, but organizations are more likely to accelerate programs to shore up cybersecurity capabilities once they have experienced a security incident that impacted the business. The survey also showed that most organizations continue to struggle to improve cybersecurity because they don’t understand how cyber risk can impact their operations.

There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that companies tend to delay investments in cybersecurity until they experience the pain first hand. In addition, companies which primarily rely on a perimeter defence philosophy are disadvantaged in finding malicious activity, and risk public exposure of critical business assets. The results of the RSA Cybersecurity Poverty Index solidified this concept, reporting that the organizations that detect and experience frequent security incidents are 65% more likely to have developed or advantaged capabilities. This shows that organizations that regularly deal with security incidents accelerate moves to shore up security programs and end up with more mature capabilities. Organizations must focus on executing preventative strategies and make improving this a priority over other capabilities which are growing in importance such as detection and response.

One of the most significant changes from the 2015 survey was the increase in the number of organizations with mature cybersecurity programs. The percentage of organizations reporting advantaged capabilities – the highest category – increased by more than half over the prior Index, from 4.9% to 7.4%. But organizations’ overall perception of their cybersecurity preparedness continued to lag. The number of respondents reporting significant cybersecurity risk exposure stayed steady at nearly 75%, reflecting a growing disparity between the “haves and have-nots” in security preparedness.

The survey also showed that organizations continue to struggle with their ability to take proactive steps to improve their cybersecurity and risk posture. Overall, 45% of those surveyed described their ability to catalog, assess and mitigate cyber risk as “non-existent,” or “ad hoc” and only 24% reported that they are mature in this domain. The inability to quantify their Cyber Risk Appetite (the risks they face and the potential impacts on their organizations) makes it difficult to prioritize mitigation and investment, a foundational activity for any organization looking to improve their security and risk posture.

For the second year, the survey results highlight how critical infrastructure operators, the original target audience for the CSF, need to make significant steps forward in their current levels of maturity. Government and energy organizations ranked lowest across industries in the survey, with only 18% of respondents ranking as developed or advantaged. Organizations in the aerospace and defense industry reported by far the highest level of maturity with 39% of respondents having developed or advantaged capabilities. Financial Services organizations, a sector often cited as industry-leading due to the large volume of cyberattacks it faces, placed in between with 26% rating their firms as well prepared – down from 33% `a year ago.

The reported maturity of organizations in the Americas continued to rank behind both EMEA and APJ. Organizations in EMEA reported the most mature security strategies with 29% ranked as developed or advantaged in overall maturity while only 26% of organizations in APJ and 23% of organizations in the Americas rated as developed or advantaged. EMEA overtook APJ for the top ranking, moving up 3 percentage points while APJ dropped 13 points.

Methodology

To assess cybersecurity maturity, respondents self-assessed their capabilities against the CSF, which designed to provide guidance based on existing standards, guidelines and practices for reducing cyber risks, and was created through collaboration between industry and government. While the CSF was initially developed in the United States with the aim of helping to reduce cyber risks to critical infrastructure, organizations worldwide have found it to be a prioritized, flexible, repeatable and cost-effective approach for managing cyber risk. Thus, it serves as an excellent baseline to assess any organization’s core cybersecurity and cyber risk management capabilities.

Organizations rated their own capabilities in the five key functions outlined by the CSF: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. Ratings used a 5-point scale, with 1 signifying that the organization had no capability in a given area, and 5 indicating that it had highly mature practices in the area.

EXECUTIVE QUOTE:

Amit Yoran, President, RSA, The Security Division of EMC

“This second round of cybersecurity research provides tangible evidence that organizations of all sizes, in all industries and from all geographies feel unprepared for the threats they are facing. We need to change the way we are thinking about security, to focus on more than just prevention – to develop a strategy that emphasizes detection and response. Organizations need to set their agendas early, build comprehensive strategies and not wait for a breach to force them into action.”

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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