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Fending off DDoS attacks

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DDoS extortion attacks seem to be the new threats to look out for. According to GAD ELKIN of F5 Networks, a hybrid security approach is a company’s best chance of mitigating these attacks.

It is a testament to the sustained evolution of the cybersecurity landscape that we are still regularly seeing the emergence of new threats. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and ransomware are both well-established methods of cyber-attack, but we have recently seen a new tactic that combines elements of both: DDoS extortion attacks.

From what we’ve seen of the attacks so far, there is an almost professional approach to the whole process; initially, an email will arrive at the target explaining who the attackers are and even linking to some recent blogs written about them and their extortion tactics.

The email goes on to state that unless a fee is paid (usually around 40 Bitcoin but demands can go into the hundreds), a large-scale DDoS attack will be launched. Alternatively, some emails will only arrive after the attack has started, stating that the attack will only be stopped if the ransom is paid, or the severity will be reduced if a portion of the fee is paid.

We’ve monitored some attacks that start slowly and increase in scale – DD4BC, the company behind the extortion, claims it can launch attacks up to 400-500 Gbps.  Such attacks are very rarely that strong, but they are known to last up to 18 hours, however, which is definitely enough time to seriously impact a business.

At this point, it seems that no particular industry is being targeted specifically, but there is one general theme. The targets we’ve seen so far have been those that rely on online transactions to operate, such as financial institutions and currency exchanges.

One endgame to this that we’ve seen is that the extortion element could actually be a diversion tactic, meaning the customer concentrates on the sheer volumetric high-end type of attacks, when the offenders are actually targeting a local application with a different attack vector. This means that hackers could be conducting local application level attacks involving any form of penetration into the application itself. So often the target isn’t actually to bring down or disrupt a website or service but to gain access to an application in order to steal information, whether it’s credentials, financial information, personal data or something else.

It’s understandable that some targets may think the email is junk and ignore it, but that’s not necessarily the best course of action. Of course, that doesn’t mean that paying the ransom is advisable either. That leaves targets with the option of mitigating the attack, despite the emails specifically stating that attempting to mitigate the DDoS attack is pointless. Whilst the protagonists may claim that the attack is too big for even the best technology to cope with, that’s just not true.

Mitigation is possible through a combination of on-premises and cloud-based anti-DDoS technologies. A hybrid approach allows a company to mitigate DDoS attacks that are launched from outside the infrastructure and also cope with local-level attacks targeting the application layer.

A DDoS attack up to 500 Gbps in size can only be stopped with cloud-based technologies. The local network and application level attacks (which will happen if the DDoS is a diversion tactic) has to be stopped with on-premises technologies. So one or the other won’t do; a hybrid approach is the key to protecting your business from the ever-expanding arsenal of the cyber-criminal.

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Legion gets a pro makeover

Lenovo’s latest Legion gaming laptop, the Y530, pulls out all the stops to deliver a sleek looking computer at a lower price point, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Gaming laptops have become synonymous with thick bodies, loud fans, and rainbow lights. Lenovo’s latest gaming laptop is here to change that.

The unit we reviewed housed an Intel Core i7-8750H, with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU. It featured dual storage, one bay fitted with a Samsung 256GB NVMe SSD and the other with a 1TB HDD.

The latest addition to the Legion lineup has become far more professional-looking, compared to the previous generation Y520. This trend is becoming more prevalent in the gaming laptop market and appeals to those who want to use a single device for work and play. Instead of sporting flashy colours, Lenovo has opted for an all-black computer body and a monochromatic, white light scheme. 

The laptop features an all-metal body with sharp edges and comes in at just under 24mm thick. Lenovo opted to make the Y530’s screen lid a little shorter than the bottom half of the laptop, which allowed for more goodies to be packed in the unit while still keeping it thin. The lid of the laptop features Legion branding that’s subtly engraved in the metal and aligned to the side. It also features a white light in the O of Legion that glows when the computer is in use.

The extra bit of the laptop body facilitates better cooling. Lenovo has upgraded its Legion fan system from the previous generation. For passive cooling, a type of cooling that relies on the body’s build instead of the fans, it handles regular office use without starting up the fans. A gaming laptop with good passive cooling is rare to find and Lenovo has shown that it can be achieved with a good build.

The internal fans start when gaming, as one would expect. They are about as loud as other gaming laptops, but this won’t be a problem for gamers who use headsets.

Click here to read about the screen quality, and how it performs in-game.

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Serious about security? Time to talk ISO 20000

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By EDWARD CARBUTT, executive director at Marval Africa

The looming Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act in South Africa and the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union (EU) have brought information security to the fore for many organisations. This in addition to the ISO 27001 standard that needs to be adhered to in order to assist the protection of information has caused organisations to scramble and ensure their information security measures are in line with regulatory requirements.

However, few businesses know or realise that if they are already ISO 20000 certified and follow Information Technology Infrastructure Library’s (ITIL) best practices they are effectively positioning themselves with other regulatory standards such as ISO 27001. In doing so, organisations are able to decrease the effort and time taken to adhere to the policies of this security standard.

ISO 20000, ITSM and ITIL – Where does ISO 27001 fit in?

ISO 20000 is the international standard for IT service management (ITSM) and reflects a business’s ability to adhere to best practice guidelines contained within the ITIL frameworks. 

ISO 20000 is process-based, it tackles many of the same topics as ISO 27001, such as incident management, problem management, change control and risk management. It’s therefore clear that if security forms part of ITSM’s outcomes, it should already be taken care of… So, why aren’t more businesses looking towards ISO 20000 to assist them in becoming ISO 27001 compliant?

The link to information security compliance

Information security management is a process that runs across the ITIL service life cycle interacting with all other processes in the framework. It is one of the key aspects of the ‘warranty of the service’, managed within the Service Level Agreement (SLA). The focus is ensuring that the quality of services produces the desired business value.

So, how are these standards different?

Even though ISO 20000 and ISO 27001 have many similarities and elements in common, there are still many differences. Organisations should take cognisance that ISO 20000 considers risk as one of the building elements of ITSM, but the standard is still service-based. Conversely, ISO 27001 is completely risk management-based and has risk management at its foundation whereas ISO 20000 encompasses much more

Why ISO 20000?

Organisations should ask themselves how they will derive value from ISO 20000. In Short, the ISO 20000 certification gives ITIL ‘teeth’. ITIL is not prescriptive, it is difficult to maintain momentum without adequate governance controls, however – ISO 20000 is.  ITIL does not insist on continual service improvement – ISO 20000 does. In addition, ITIL does not insist on evidence to prove quality and progress – ISO 20000 does.  ITIL is not being demanded by business – governance controls, auditability & agility are. This certification verifies an organisation’s ability to deliver ITSM within ITIL standards.

Ensuring ISO 20000 compliance provides peace of mind and shortens the journey to achieving other certifications, such as ISO 27001 compliance.

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