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How to secure your cloud

Cloud adoption in key African markets has grown phenomenally over the past five years. According to a recent study by World Wide Worx, it is pervasive in the key African markets of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, with between 95 and 100 percent of medium and large companies using the cloud. Eighty percent or more of companies in these countries will increase their spend on cloud computing into 2019.

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As a result, growing amounts of sensitive customer (and company) data is stored on the cloud, and there is evidence to suggest that many organisations are still struggling to secure their clouds. Six months into 2018, some spectacular breaches had occurred, with the most significant being the personal information of all 1.1 billion citizens registered in India. Locally, the most significant case has probably been the breach at Liberty Holdings in January. Such breaches are increasingly common.

A complicating factor is that businesses often operate across more than one cloud, such as AWS and Azure, each having differing security protocols to grapple with.

Worse, many appear to be reluctant to even address the issue at hand. The 2018 Global Cloud Data Security Study, conducted by the Ponemon Institute on behalf of Gemalto, shows that a third of respondents (34 percent) believe that it’s the customer’s responsibility to secure their data in the cloud, whereas two thirds (62 percent) of customers actually hold businesses responsible. With less than half (46 percent) of businesses clearly defining roles and accountability for securing confidential or sensitive information in the cloud, it’s clear many are struggling to get their houses in order.

Taking responsibility for cloud security

In a growing number of countries, the legal responsibility for safeguarding customer data, no matter where it is housed, is unambiguously allocated to the company or organisation. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act in South Africa are just two examples of this growing international trend. Organisations, and ultimately their boards, found to be taking insufficient steps to secure the data will be subject to fines and legal repercussions.

So, what can organisations do to avoid falling foul of both regulators and customers?

The key ingredient is leadership. While cloud services themselves are generally secure, the task of configuring and using them securely is often left to organisation’s IT leaders, development teams, or even business line managers. However, confusion surrounding who should implement cloud security has created challenges. Organisations must now take full ownership of the security within their clouds. A figure, such as a CISO, must be appointed to the board of a business to educate other C-level executives on the importance of data security and take responsibility for the data in the event of a breach. This ensures the business has buy-in from the board, can communicate a cloud security strategy widely, and educate staff about good cyber hygiene, thus minimising internal risks.

Once a central figure has been appointed to the board, he or she must set about ensuring that the cloud is protected. Below are five steps to help with this.

Five steps to cloud security

  1. Understand where the data is

Before implementing any cybersecurity strategy, businesses must first conduct a data audit. This helps them understand what data they have collected or produced and where the most sensitive and valuable parts sit. If businesses don’t know what data they possess and produce, they can’t even begin to start protecting it.

2.    All sensitive data must be encrypted

While it’s crucial that businesses restrict who can access sensitive data, it’s encryption that protects data in the event of a breach. Regardless of where data is – on their own servers, in a public cloud, or a hybrid environment – encryption must always be used to protect it.

3.    Securely store keys

When data is encrypted, an encryption key is created to unlock and access encrypted data. Consequently, businesses must ensure that these keys are securely stored away from the cloud. Storing a physical key offsite helps ensure it can’t be linked to any encrypted data in the cloud.

4.    Introduce two-factor authentication 

Next, businesses should adopt strong two-factor authentication, to ensure only authorised employees have access to the data they need to use. Two-factor authentication involves using something authorised individuals possesses, such as a smartphone that can receive a message, and something they know, like a password. This is more secure than relying on passwords alone, which can be easily hacked.

  1. Always install latest patches

As bugs and vulnerabilities emerge, hardware and software vendors constantly issue patches. However, many businesses don’t install patches quickly enough or use software which no longer receives regular patches. Figures from Net Applications show that one in 10 organisations still use Windows XP, despite patches being discontinued. It is imperative that businesses install patches as they become available, to avoid becoming easy targets for hackers.

  1. Evaluate and repeat

Once a business has implemented the above steps, it’s crucial that each step is repeated for all new data that enters its system. Cybersecurity and legal compliance are a continuing process, not an event. These steps will ultimately help make businesses unattractive or unviable targets for attackers as even in the event of a breach they won’t be able to use, steal or hold their data for ransom.

With businesses now footing the bill, reputationally and financially, for any data breach, it’s never been more important for them to take full ownership of the data they hold.

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Samsung clears the table with new monitor

For those who like minimalism and tidy desks, Samsung’s new Space Monitor may just do the trick, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The latest trends of narrow-bezels and minimalist designs have transcended smartphones, spilling into other designs, like laptops and monitors. 

The new Space Monitor line by Samsung follows in this new design “tradition”. The company has moved the monitor off the desk – by clipping it onto the edge of the desk.

It can be put into three configurations: completely upright, where it sits a bit high but completely off the desk; half-way to the desk, where it is a bit lower to put some papers or files underneath the display; and flat on the desk, where it is at its lowest.

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The monitor sits on a weighted hinge at the edge of the desk, providing sturdy adjustment to its various height configurations. It also swivels on a hinge at the point where the arm connects to the display. This provides precise viewing angle adjustment, which is great for showing something on screen to someone who is standing.

Apart from form factor, there are some neat goodies packed into the box. It comes with a two-pin power adapter, with no adapter box on the midpoint between the plug and the monitor, and a single cable that carries HDMI-Y and power to prevent tangling. 

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However, it’s slightly disappointing that there isn’t a Mini Display Port and power cable “in one cable” option for Mac and newer graphics card users, who will have to run two cables down the back of the screen. Even worse, the display doesn’t have a USB Type-C display input; a missed opportunity to connect a Samsung device to the panel.

A redeeming point is the stunning, Samsung-quality panel, which features a 4K UHD resolution. The colours are sharp and the viewing angles are good. However, this display is missing something: Pantone or Adobe RGB colour certification, as well as IPS technology. 

The display’s response rate comes in at 4ms, slightly below average for displays in this price range. 

These negatives aside, this display has a very specific purpose. It’s for those who want to create desk space in a few seconds, while not having to rearrange the room. 

Final verdict: This display is not for gamers nor for graphic designers. It is for those who need big displays but frequently need to clear their desks.

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Can mobile fix education?

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By Ernst Wittmann, global account director for MEA and country manager for Southern Africa, at TCL Communications

Mobile technology has transformed the way we live and work, and it can be expected to rapidly change the ways in which children learn as smartphones and tablets become more widely accepted at primary and high schools. By putting a powerful computer in every learner’s schoolbag or pocket, smartphones could play an important role in improving educational outcomes in a country where so many schools are under-resourced.

Here are some ways that mobile technology will reshape education in the years to come:

Organisation and productivity

For many adults, the real benefit of a smartphone comes from simple applications like messaging, calendaring and email. The same goes for schoolchildren, many of whom will get the most value from basic apps like sending a WhatApp message to friends to check on the homework for the day, keeping track of their extramural calendar, or photographing the teacher’s notes from the blackboard or whiteboard. One study of young people’s mobile phone use in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa confirmed that many of them got the most value from using their phones to complete mundane tasks.

Interactivity

One of the major benefits smartphones can bring to the classroom is boosting learners’ engagement with educational materials through rich media and interactivity. For example, apps like Mathletics use gamification to get children excited about doing mathematics—they turn learning into a game, with rewards for practicing and hitting milestones. Or teachers can set up a simple poll using an app like Poll Everywhere to ask the children in a class what they think about a character’s motivation in their English set-work book.

Personalisation

Mobile technology opens the doors to more personalised and flexible ways to teach and learn, making more space for children to work in their own style and at their own pace. Not very child learns in the same way or excels at the same tasks and subjects – the benefit of mobile phones is that they can plug the gaps for children seeking extra enrichment or those that need some additional help with classroom work.

For example, teachers can provide recommended educational materials for children who are racing in ahead of their peers in some of their subjects. Or they can suggest relevant games for children who learn better through practical application of ideas than by listening to a teacher and taking notes. 

In future, we can expect to see teachers, perhaps aided by algorithms and artificial intelligence, make use of analytics to track how students engage with educational content on their mobile devices and use these insights to create more powerful learning experiences. 

Access

South Africa has a shortage of teachers in key subjects such as mathematics and science, which disproportionately affects learners in poor and rural areas. According to a statement in 2017 from the Department of Basic Education, it has more than 5,000 underqualified or unqualified teachers working around the country. Though technology cannot substitute for a qualified teacher, it can supplement human teaching in remote or poor areas where teachers are not available or not qualified to teach certain subjects. Video learning and videoconferencing sessions offer the next best thing where a math or physical science teacher is not physically present in the classroom.

Information

Knowledge is power and the Internet is the world’s biggest repository of knowledge. Schoolchildren can access information and expertise about every subject under the sun from their smartphones – whether they are reading the news on a portal, watching documentaries on YouTube, downloading electronic books, using apps to improve their language skills, or simply Googling facts and figures for a school project.

Take a mobile-first approach

Technology has a powerful role to play in the South African school of the future, but there are some key success factors schools must bear in mind as they bring mobile devices into the classroom:

  • Use appropriate technology—in South Africa, that means taking a mobile-first approach and using the smartphones many children already know and use.
  • Thinking about challenges such as security – put in place the cyber and physical security needed to keep phones and data safe and secure.
  • Ensuring teachers and children alike are trained to make the most of the tech – teachers need to take an active role in curating content and guiding schoolchildren’s use of their devices. To get that right, they will need training and access to reliable tech support.

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