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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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Revealing the real cost of ‘free’ online services

A free service by Finnish cybersecurity provider F-Secure reveals the real cost of using “free” services by Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, among others.

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What do Google, Facebook, and Amazon have in common? Privacy and identity scandals. From Cambridge Analytica to Google’s vulnerability in Google+, the amount of personal data sitting on these platforms is enormous.

Cybersecurity provider F-Secure has released a free online tool that helps expose the true cost of using some of the web’s most popular free services. And that cost is the abundance of data that has been collected about users by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon Alexa, Twitter, and Snapchat. The good news is that you can take back your data “gold”.

F-Secure Data Discovery Portal sends users directly to the often hard-to-locate resources provided by each of these tech giants that allow users to review their data, securely and privately.

“What you do with the data collection is entirely between you and the service,” says Erka Koivunen, F-Secure Chief Information Security Officer. “We don’t see – and don’t want to see – your settings or your data. Our only goal is to help you find out how much of your information is out there.”

More than half of adult Facebook users, 54%, adjusted how they use the site in the wake of the scandal that revealed Cambridge Analytica had collected data without users’ permission.* But the biggest social network in the world continues to grow, reporting 2.3 billion monthly users at the end of 2018.**

“You often hear, ‘if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’ But your data is an asset to any company, whether you’re paying for a product or not,” says Koivunen. “Data enables tech companies to sell billions in ads and products, building some of the biggest businesses in the history of money.”

F-Secure is offering the tool as part of the company’s growing focus on identity protection that secures consumers before, during, and after data breaches. By spreading awareness of the potential costs of these “free” services, the Data Discovery Portal aims to make users aware that securing their data and identity is more important than ever.

A recent F-Secure survey found that 54% of internet users over 25 worry about someone hacking into their social media accounts.*** Data is only as secure as the networks of the companies that collect it, and the passwords and tactics used to protect our accounts. While the settings these sites offer are useful, they cannot eliminate the collection of data.

Koivunen says: “While consumers effectively volunteer this information, they should know the privacy and security implications of building accounts that hold more potential insight about our identities than we could possibly share with our family. All of that information could be available to a hacker through a breach or an account takeover.”

However, there is no silver bullet for users when it comes to permanently locking down security or hiding it from the services they choose to use.

“Default privacy settings are typically quite loose, whether you’re using a social network, apps, browsers or any service,” says Koivunen. “Review your settings now, if you haven’t already, and periodically afterwards. And no matter what you can do, nothing stops these companies from knowing what you’re doing when you’re logged into their services.”

*Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/05/americans-are-changing-their-relationship-with-facebook/
**Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/30/18204186/facebook-q4-2018-earnings-user-growth-revenue-increase-privacy-scandals
***Source: F-Secure Identity Protection Consumer (B2C) Survey, May 2019, conducted in cooperation with survey partner Toluna, 9 countries (USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, and Japan), 400 respondents per country = 3600 respondents (+25years)

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WhatsApp comes to KaiOS

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By the end of September, WhatsApp will be pre-installed on all phones running the KaiOS operating system, which turns feature phones into smart phones. The announcement was made yesterday by KaiOS Technologies, maker of the KaiOS mobile operating system for smart feature phones, and Facebook. WhatsApp is also available for download in the KaiStore, on both 512MB and 256MB RAM devices.

“KaiOS has been a critical partner in helping us bring private messaging to smart feature phones around the world,” said Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp. “Providing WhatsApp on KaiOS helps bridge the digital gap to connect friends and family in a simple, reliable and secure way.”

WhatsApp is a messaging tool used by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide who need a simple, reliable and secure way to communicate with friends and family. Users can use calling and messaging capabilities with end-to-end encryption that keeps correspondence private and secure. 

WhatsApp was first launched on the KaiOS-powered JioPhone in India in September of 2018. Now, with the broad release, the app is expected to reach millions of new users across Africa, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

“We’re thrilled to bring WhatsApp to the KaiOS platform and extend such an important means of communication to a brand new demographic,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “We strive to make the internet and digital services accessible for everyone and offering WhatsApp on affordable smart feature phones is a giant leap towards this goal. We can’t wait to see the next billion users connect in meaningful ways with their loved ones, communities, and others across the globe.”

KaiOS-powered smart feature phones are a new category of mobile devices that combine the affordability of a feature phone with the essential features of a smartphone. They meet a growing demand for affordable devices from people living across Africa – and other emerging markets – who are not currently online. 

WhatsApp is now available for download from KaiStore, an app store specifically designed for KaiOS-powered devices and home to the world’s most popular apps, including the Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps and Twitter. Apps in the KaiStore are customised to minimise data usage and maximise user experience for smart feature phone users.

In Africa, the KaiOS-powered MTN Smart and Orange Sanza are currently available in 22 countries, offering 256MB RAM and 3G connectivity.

KaiOS currently powers more than 100 million devices shipped worldwide, in over 100 countries. The platform enables a new category of devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience.

* For more details, visit: Meet The Devices That Are Powered by KaiOS

* Also read Arthur Goldstuck’s story, Smart feature phones spell KaiOS

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