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How to deal with 70 000 new malware strains every day

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Giving users the flexibility to work effectively and at the same time keeping an IT environment secure is a major challenge for administrators. But, says SIMON CAMPBELL-YOUNG of Phoenix Software, using the right security software is the first step in minimising an organisation’s security risks.

IT security has never been simple, but the challenges companies face now are more complex than ever. More than half of employees use their own mobile devices for business, and mobile malware is surging. Social technologies are now vital business tools—and a popular vector for spam and phishing. Cloud computing offers new models for growth and innovation but complicates data protection.

The challenge is always giving users the flexibility to work effectively while mitigating the risk of exposure you have by allowing that flexibility. According to Juniper Networks, 6 million+ unique malware samples were identified in the first quarter of 2011, a 26% increase from Q1 of 2010 and far exceeding any first quarter in malware history. 70 000 new malware strains are detected every day, and 54% of employees use their own mobile devices for business purposes. In addition, 34 million information workers have installed unsupported software in the past year and 63% of businesses in one recent study said employees’ use of social media puts their organisation‚s security at risk. All of this makes it imperative that any business uses the right security software as the first level of defence.

Malware and the malicious websites that distribute it through phishing and spam are still top concerns for businesses all over the world. In many cases, malware finds its way in through the applications users rely on every day: Internet browsers, Java, Adobe Flash and Acrobat Reader are among the most popular vehicles. But he believes that the most significant change is the proliferation of malware targeting mobile devices.

Smartphones and the mobile malware threat they present are the biggest risk both businesses and consumers face today. Malware targeting the Android operating system has increased by 400%, and 85% of smartphone users are not employing an anti-virus solution to scan for malware. Protecting the data users access, store and share via mobile devices requires a combination of security solutions and user policies.

I recommend these four steps to protect data on mobile devices:

1. Tightly control what can be installed on mobile devices.

2. Install anti-virus and anti-spam on every device.

3. Detect and prevent installation of known malware.

4. Protect data on lost or stolen devices:

• Enforce use of security PINs to control access.

• Encrypt sensitive or proprietary data.

‚Ä¢ Use management capabilities to ‚remote wipe‚ data.

In addition to the threat of mobile malware, social media is an additional increasing menace. Social media has evolved to become a vital part of the business toolkit. Sure, employees are checking Facebook on their lunch break, but they’re also using social tools to answer customer support calls, collaborate with colleagues and partners, and seek user input for new product innovations. This has resulted in an increase in malware attacks. That’s why it’s important to protect your network with Web content filtering, which enables you to limit user access to certain websites, either because they violate company policies or because malware has been detected.

Whether it’s addressing mobility or social media, here is a three-pronged approach for your 2012 security strategy:

1. Technology: Intensified security around mobile devices is critical as they face increasing exposure to threats.

2. Policy: Do your employees clearly know what is allowed and not allowed? Can they recognise suspicious links and content?

3. Risk assessment:

• What is critical to your business?

• How are you going to protect it?

• How will you prevent downtime?

• How will you get back up and running quickly?

Any security strategy must address both the technical and human vulnerabilities. The people aspect is huge, because no technology alone can stop it.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @gadgetza

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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