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Employees invite cyber threats

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Cyber criminals are are turning more to connections inadvertently opened up by unsuspecting employees, making it more difficult for IT departments to control security, says ANDREW WILSON, CEO at LucidView.

In today’s always-connected world, companies face a new wave of threats as cybercrime continues to escalate. Cyber security is becoming more challenging as businesses are having a tough time trying to address growing threats while maintaining focus on their core business.  These evolving threats are more and more frequently external cyber criminals using connections inadvertently created  from within the organisation by unsuspecting users.  These criminals then piggy back off the connection to gain remote access into the organisation, circumventing the organisation’s Firewall Policy, thereby placing the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the organisation’s data  at extreme risk.

Most cyber breaches occur as a result of employee behaviour and all it takes to compromise an organisation’s network security is one employee.  One accidental malware download from playing an online game or clicking a phishing link and all of the organisation’s databases containing sensitive customer data could be at risk of encryption by external ransomware attackers. These criminals more often than not, are in locations where there are no consequences to their activity aside from their own profit and causing embarrassment to the organisation.

Visibility as a key threat intelligence tool

Without the ability to have a meaningful view of your organisations network traffic it is impossible to identify suspect connections into and out of an organisation’s network.  Employees frequently and unintentionally open the organisation to external risks by misusing and often abusing the Internet resources, going as far as to use these resources to download their favourite series and movies from torrenting sites.

The lack of meaningful visibility leads to huge potential security risks, impacts the performance of this key resource and results in  a loss of productivity to the organisation. The Internet is a shared resource and its misuse and abuse negatively impacts the performance of business-critical applications increasing risk to the overall functioning of the organisation. Yet, how can this be identified and managed without massive expense and skilled technical resources?

It’s time for businesses to take charge of their shared resources by gaining visibility and insight into its usage in order to manage resource performance, enhance employee productivity and maintain security integrity by reducing external threats brought into the organisation using internal sources, thus rendering firewall policies ineffective. To combat both external and internal risks requires a holistic approach to security, as well as the right technological tools to help businesses to manage both intentional and unintentional threats within the organisation itself.

The risky business of connectivity

Most cyber-attacks happen in order to steal confidential information through the use of malware like worms, Trojan horse viruses and phishing. Businesses are targets for cyber intruders for the simple reason that they hold valuable customer information. This personal information has a price tag, and stealing data (or even holding it ransom) is the perfect crime without consequence. In addition, we are seeing more and more cases reported in the media which means the number of companies being hit by this type of threat is likely significant and growing daily. These type of threats including Malware and Phishing are most frequently brought into the network inadvertently by users or employees accessing software through the web, allowing malicious attackers access to the internal network without their knowledge.

Because the employee acted in such a way that sensitive data was compromised and whether or not this was accidental, the effect is the same – your organisation’s security is now compromised. The organisation is now at risk of contravening laws such as piracy, business critical applications become unavailable due to slow response times and performance issues are brought about by users abusing the Internet. Worse still, your organisation’s sensitive data is now threatened by malicious cybercriminals who can hold it to ransom, costing you money and compromising your reputation.

It’s time for meaningful visibility

With so many threats businesses are faced with today, it’s tempting to panic and feel the need to block employees from using the Internet to access anything that isn’t work-related. However, that is not the solution. Business is highly dependent on the Internet, email and Wide Area Networks (WAN). Instead, companies should leverage the advantage of companies specialising in Big Data analysis  and Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions where emphasis is placed on visibility.  This is particularly relevant when it comes to identifying connection types, rather than those solutions that focus only on blocking types of content or certain activities based on known signatures and standard lists. Companies should look towards solutions that provide threat intelligence through visibility at a network router level on unsecure or unwanted connections, in order to monitor and provide reporting on network resources and their usage.

Simple solutions to complex problems

Fortunately, businesses don’t have to go it alone as there are already technology providers out there that can proactively identify threats and block them – before they have a chance to do damage. Such services are subscription-based and deliver easy-to-understand reporting functionality. Inexpensive and uncomplicated, all that is required to make use of such services is basic easy to access and easy to use hardware that is compatible with certain analytics software. This analytics software makes use of an analysis engine to crunch big data numbers and sift through network activity and connectivity logs for anomalies, identifying all the cyber threats that businesses would want to avoid: from malware, ransomware,  phishing attempts and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to engagement with explicit, illegal and pirated content. Once these threats have been identified, they can be neutralised and removed.

Such technology is a total game changer, as it empowers the Chief Information Officer (CIO) with all the tools needed to monitor network traffic and establish whether employees are abusing network resources and ascertain the impact of such abuse on productivity. It also allows CIOs to maintain an open Internet policy, as well as accommodate employee demands to bring their own devices, without having to compromise on security, network resource and application performance or employee productivity. It’s clear that it’s time for businesses to stop over-complicating the issue of cyber security and gain proper visibility of their risks. When businesses have a meaningful view of their Internet gateways and the right technology in place, they’re able to see the threats before they materialise and that can make all the difference.

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

Use the page links below to continue reading about Tan’s visions.

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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