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Encryption will be key to compliance under new laws

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With consumers required to divulge personal details to access many apps, ensuring the safety of data has become a collective responsibility. NEIL COSSER, Identity and Data Protection Manager for Africa at Gemalto, believes encryption is key to safeguarding data.

As technology continues to shift and shape how we connect with each other and brands, personal data has become a highly valuable and lucrative commodity. With consumers required to divulge personal details to access most of the plethora of apps available, ensuring the safety of data has become a collective responsibility: shared between service providers, app developers and the individual themselves. What does this mean for mobile providers, banks, government and brands, especially as South Africa starts grappling with the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI)? And what does it mean for consumers and corporates doing business across our shores, many of whom are still blissfully unaware of the risks involved?

Driven by relentless news of security breaches and data loss, many governments around the world are considering introducing or are in the process of introducing legislation that will help protect the personal data of their citizens. For example, the European Union has adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in April 2016. There are obvious signs that significant risks lie ahead if companies do nothing to change how they protect data because the new regulation will have major implications for all the ways in which data is collected, stored, accessed and secured.  Locally, certain sections of the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) have already commenced (under proclamation No. R. 25, 2014).

But what does compliance mean for local businesses?

Given the proliferation of technology and what it has come to mean for companies, it is now an imperative for businesses to deploy suitable mechanisms to process personal information of employees, customers or other business stakeholders. This is done with the view to implement organisation-wide privacy initiatives in order to comply with the conditions of the Act. Compliance will have an impact on the processes, technology and manner in which stakeholders – particularly within the employer and employees parameters – handle and process personal information.

According to renowned provider of legal solutions, Michalsons, GDPR’s grace period has been earmarked to end on 24 May 2018 – thus making it legally enforceable from that period onwards. Locally, we can expect PoPI’s grace period to end soon after the GDPR’s. Organisations that have to comply with both the PoPI Act and the GDPR might focus on complying with the GDPR first and then POPI second. Taking this approach could offer prudent lessons for businesses through the compliance of GDPR that can be applied to PoPI.

The writing on the wall

The release of Gemalto’s 2016 Breach Level Index (BLI) report has offered an intriguing backdrop to the issue of data management (particularly where data protection is concerned) in the local context. A key takeout from the 2016 report highlighted that that we cannot argue that we have a growing data security crisis evidenced by the almost 1.4 billion records being compromised during 2016. The sad truth is that this number is actually higher, because most breaches go unreported worldwide. This is particularly worrying given the impact that a data breach can have on an organisation’s reputation and ultimately revenue.

The Ponemon  2016 Cost of Data Breach Study indicates that the average cost of a data breach to a businesses now stands at $4 million (average cost per record $158), with reputation and the loss of customer loyalty most heavily impacting the bottom line. In fact,  our research revealed that two thirds (66%) would be unlikely to do business with organizations responsible for exposing financial and sensitive information.

It’s all about action

The debate surrounding data protection vs. impact on reputation and revenue is not a new one but it seems that many executives agree that the issue is of data security is still taken for granted by those businesses with a big user base. This was the sentiment shared by the panelists who formed part of our Gemalto BLI roundtable event hosted on 28 March 2017 in Johannesburg.

Justin Williams, Executive: Group Information Security at MTN reiterated that consumer data is a prized commodity and it cannot and should not be taken for granted. “There is a concerning lack of regulation in Africa. Beyond the strict requirements of the regulations, what companies really need is to shift to a new data security mindset,” he explained. He added that now is the right time for businesses to start taking steps now to prepare for implementation of the new rules.

Williams’ advice begs the question, what should organisations do to limit their risk of breaches and ensuring that consumer data is protected against all odds. The answer to this is simple; securing a breach is the first point of call. Organisations should consider three factors when building a comprehensive data protection strategy. Firstly, we need to analyse where data being stored – is it in a database, file servers, virtual environments or the cloud? Secondly, how and where are encryption keys being secured? Finally, who’s accessing the data and more importantly, how is this access being controlled?

Once these three factors have been understood, this can then be converted into a three-step approach to data protection which includes encrypting all sensitive data, storing and managing encryption keys and lastly, controlling access.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Today’s security strategies are dominated by a singular focus on breach prevention that includes firewalls, antivirus, threat detection and monitoring. But, if history has taught us anything, it is that walls are eventually breached and made obsolete.

The next and last layers of defense need to be around both the data and the individuals that access the data by surrounding them with end-to-end encryption, authentication and access controls that provide the additional measures necessary to protect customer data.

Security professionals will always need to consider the need to perform specific risk analysis in order to implement the organisational and technical measures that are needed to prevent, detect, and block data breaches. Data encryption solutions provide an essential basis for achieving reliable data unintelligibility. When encryption is combined with other measures, such as secure key management and access controls, these mechanisms provide a robust foundation for achieving compliance with applicable EU data protection laws.

The reality is that our world is quickly becoming an Internet of Things where every person, place, thing and organisation is connected to each other through the Internet. The proliferation of the cloud, digital content, mobile device usage, online banking, e-commerce, and social media means that we are creating, accessing and storing data and conducting transactions in more places than ever before.  We simply have more to manage and more places of exposure.

For Joe Pindar, Research & Development Director: Identity & Data Protection at Gemalto, transparency is the best paved road to ensuring consumer trust. Security should be a key consideration for all businesses going forward. Telling customers about the security measures your organisation has put in place to protect their data can go a long way in cementing customer loyalty. “If you are doing something better than the rest of the industry, like encrypting data end-to-end, then you might be seen as a trusted innovator.”

In conclusion…

As we look towards the future of data management and in order to be ready for upcoming legislative changes, companies need to start taking steps now and change their security mindset about protecting customer data. The signs for taking action are obvious. It’s clear that being breached is not a question of “if” but “when. Companies should move away from the traditional strategy of focusing on breach prevention, and move towards a ‘secure breach’ approach. This means accepting that breaches happen and using best practice data protection to guarantee that data is effectively useless when it falls into unauthorised hands. Traditional approaches to data security do not work anymore, and if companies don’t wake up to this new reality soon, the consumer revolt will come.

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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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