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How business and consumers can stay safe against cyber-attacks

As hacker attacks, breaches and ransomware escalate in 2019, these 5 tips could keep you safe, writes SIMON MCCULLOUGH of F5 Networks

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Data breaches and cyberattacks are on the rise in 2019 as hackers become increasingly sophisticated. Across the globe, businesses are finding it difficult to grapple with rapidly shifting cybercriminal motivations, tactics and appetites for destruction. 

To both understand and keep pace with cybercrime, businesses and consumers should both be wary and adopt the tools to fight fire with fire. With edge computing – its data and the application thereof – distributed across multiple locations,  cybersecurity remains a very critical part of business. This is most imperative in the case of South Africa where digital banking is growing and research has shown that South Africans lose more than R2.2bn to internet fraud and phishing attacks annually.

The reality is that both organisations and consumers are affected by cyberattacks and fraudulent activities, making education around cybersecurity more relevant than ever before as the country moves to greater reliance on digital technology.  Here are some key cybersecurity tips for any growing business, and consumers, to avoid any cyber-fraud tricks.

Tips for organisations:

  1. Get an annoying mail to ask if you have logged on to one your usual platforms from a different device? Don’t ignore it. To help detect fraudulent activity, business should be monitoring regular customers and the devices they normally use for purchases. If an alternative device is used, they can challenge the transaction with additional checks – which includes the above-mentioned mail you should head.
  2. Organisations must ensure that they can gather enough transactional data, and therefore evidence, to prove the fraudulent nature of a transaction, or its validity in the case of ‘friendly fraud’. Tactics such as using e-signatures or voice verification can help keep high-value transactions secure.
  3. It’s vital to be able to detect new accounts that have been opened on an online store that may be used for fraud purposes. This information can be hooked into shared real-time fraud databases to cross-reference known fraud data such as flagged delivery addresses and mobile numbers, as well as highlighting inconsistencies in sales transactions.
  4. Cyber-attacks also mainly involve distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that saturate bandwidth, consume network resources, and disrupt application services.  To defend against this it’s important for organisations to look at deploying an advanced firewall manager that can mitigate threats before they disrupt critical data centre resources.
  5. App security that detects financial malware, identifies fraudulent transactions, and combats phishing scams without requiring customers to download anything is also quite essential. Solutions such as F5’s WebSafe and MobileSafe help organisations in this regard.
  6. Teach and learn – often time many organisational cyber-attacks are due to minor mistakes like opening a link in phishing email or unintentionally allowing backdoors into a network. As a result, it is critical for organisations to keep abreast with the latest hacking tricks and educate employees on how to best stay protected.

Tips for consumers:

  1. Limit your transactions on public Wi-Fi networks, hackers can easily tap into public networks and install malicious malware that gathers sensitive information and passwords.
  2. Consumers should use well-established, trusted websites, which are much easier to find if you avoid shopping via search engines. Signs of flawed authenticity such as wording or formatting errors are often an indication of fake websites.
  3. Only shop on locations that are encrypted demonstrated by the ‘https’ prefix in a retailer’s website and a padlock symbol in the browser.
  4. It’s important to keep an eye out for phishing emails and SMSes. These usually appear to come from a well-known brand and ask for personal or financial information – something a retailer would never normally do.
  5. Consumers should avoid retailers that ask for payments via money order, pre-loaded money card or wire, methods often associated with scammers.

Download apps from the trusted sources – each device comes with operation software and a store where users can download verified and safe applications instead of downloading application of the internet where links may very well direct you to an untrusted site or replica of the application you wish to download.

* Simon McCullough is major channel account manager at F5 Networks in South Africa

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3D printing set for $20bn boom

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3D printing is starting to be realized in a wide variety of industries, but its potential in the aerospace and defense industry is significant. The 3D printing industry was worth $3bn in 2013 and grew to $7bn in 2017. By 2025, the market is forecast to account for more than $20bn in spend, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The company’s report, ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’, reveals that most major militaries and companies are exploring options with the technology. Some are still in the testing phase, while others are deploying the technology in final production. This is particularly true in the aerospace industry, where engines, aircraft and satellites are currently using 3D-printed components.

Listed below are the militaries that have taken an early lead in implementing 3D printing technology, as identified by GlobalData.

US Marine Corps

The US Marine Corps currently has the highest uptake of 3D printing of any military service worldwide. In particular, the additive manufacturing team at Marine Corps Systems Command has created the world’s largest 3D concrete printer with the ability to print a 500-square-foot barracks hut in 40 hours.

US Air Force

The US Air Force is integrating 3D printing into its supply chain. Overseen by ‘America Makes’, the US national additive manufacturing/3D printing innovation institute, it is investigating how current systems can be used to reproduce aircraft components for decades-old planes that may no longer have reliable sources of replacement parts, without minimum order quantities.

US Navy

The Navy has created new logistical units such as Navy frontline attachments, which can rapidly create spare parts for incredibly complex military equipment such as the F-35B – and are currently operational for this purpose. The navy has also worked with Oak Ridge National laboratory to produce the first 3D-printed submarine hull.

US Army

The US Army is working on 3D-printed, modular drone systems. The army wants 3D printers that can be deployed to a forward base camp and used to produce aviation backup when necessary for troops on the ground. This plan aims to create bespoke unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems and is said to be at an advanced stage of development.

Chinese Air Force

A 3D Systems ProJet 4500 printer has been acquired by the Chinese army and has been working on replacement military truck parts for the army’s fuel tanker fleet. A number of Chinese fighter jets are believed to be carrying 3D-printed parts and are currently in operation.

Russian Army

Russia has been testing multiple applications for 3D-printed parts in its newest main battle tank, the T-14 Armata. During the development process, 3D printing was used for prototyping, but it is expected that parts will be used in the final product, of which 2,300 have been ordered.

South Korean Air Force

Collaboration between South Korea’s InssTEK and France’s Z3DLAB is producing parts for South Korean warplanes that see heavy use along the border with North Korea. The aim is to upgrade existing components, rather than replace worn parts, with a new titanium composite material.

Information based on GlobalData’s report: ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’.

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SA productivity could nosedive on Black Friday

Employee productivity on Black Friday could nose dive, says local online retailer, OneDayOnly.co.za

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni hasn’t had it easy lately. Amidst a more-than-tricky economy and having to walk the tight rope in his recent mid-term budget speech, Tito is squeezed between a rock and a very hard place that’s about to get tighter with Black Friday inspired employee procrastination.

“While the minister probably has bigger fish to fry than South Africans avoiding spreadsheets in favour of scooping a deal on Samsung’s latest flat screen – Black Friday undoubtedly affects employees’ focus at work,” says Matthew Leighton, spokesperson at leading South African e-tailer OneDayOnly.co.za .

While it started as a post-Thanksgiving blowout sale by US retailers, Black Friday has become one of the most significant calendar days for consumers and the retail industry globally. “The proof is in the OneDayOnly.co.za stats. Last year, we recorded over 150 000 website users on Black Friday alone – the average on a regular day is around 60 000 and on a high traffic day such as pay day its approximately 80 000,” says Leighton.

So the demand is clearly there but are people actually doing the bulk of their Black Friday buying while they should be working? Leighton says they are. “Although the sale starts at midnight people are online throughout the day and data from last year shows traffic on OneDayOnly.co.za spiking primarily during core working hours – 06:00, 8:00, 11:00 and 15:00.

He adds that the average user session – or time people spend on the site at any one point – is three times longer on Black Friday than any other day. “In addition to spending longer on the site on Black Friday, customers also return many times during the day so these longer sessions happen numerous times during the work day.”

To add to Tito’s woes, Leighton explains that people are also multi-screening their buying efforts by watching social platforms for tips and prompts. “Most online retailers worth their salt share prompts on social feeds to drive traffic to their websites. Last year, each time we announced via social that a 100% off deal was available shoppers flocked to OneDayOnly.co.za. Almost instantly, the web traffic would spike. The pattern shows how closely people keep an eye on the 100% off deal drops via social media, as well as how effectively the platforms cater to a very wide audience in real time.”

But while Black Friday may result in the odd deadline being missed, Leighton believes the overall impact on the economy is an extremely positive one. “Last year we saw people spending in the region of R1300 on Black Friday, compared to an average of R970 on other days. According to BankServ, South Africans’ card transactions came up to R3bn on the day last year, up 16% from 2017. That’s a nice injection into an otherwise depressed retail sector.”

Leighton says people love Black Friday because there is something in it for everyone, but there’s also nothing to lose – except for maybe a bit of work time. “With so many more products available at low prices, it makes sense to peruse. If you find nothing you like, you are no worse off. And your boss doesn’t have to be either if you’re proactive and shop before work when our doors open at midnight.”

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