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How visibility fights hackers

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Despite the increase of high-profile security attacks, many local companies are not doing enough to secure themselves. SAURABH KUMAR, MD at In2IT, says that companies need to take note of these attacks and make sure they have adequate security measures in place.

The news lately has been full of reports of high-profile attacks on large organisations aimed at compromising or stealing sensitive customer information. Despite the increase in prevalence of data breaches, the majority of enterprises in South Africa are simply not doing enough to prevent these attacks. A prevailing attitude of “it won’t happen to us” typically results in less than adequate protection. The reality is however that with increased connectivity, anyone can access data over the Internet if it is not protected adequately. In order to protect themselves from the often-significant consequences of data breaches and data loss, organisations need to heed warnings and take data security far more earnestly. It is essential to ensure that identity and access management are in place. In addition, creating visibility is essential not only in preventing intrusions but also in detecting them as early as possible and mitigating negative effects.

Within any large enterprise, there are numerous ways that a security intrusion might take place, from a highly sophisticated attack right down to something as simple as human error. Visibility is therefore key to successful security, not only for preventing intrusion, but also to alleviate its negative effects. Without visibility, organisations will have no way of knowing that a breach or other security event has occurred. As a result, lack of visibility results in breaches that go unnoticed for months, giving cyber criminals plenty of time to steal valuable and sensitive information. Intrusion detection is a critical element of any organisation’s security protocol.

The flip side of the coin is intrusion prevention, which is a more proactive approach whereby various software solutions are implemented to detect breaches as they occur and effectively prevent them from infiltrating into an organisation. Identity and access management is a critical component of intrusion prevention, as with any large enterprise the majority of security threats originate from within. Organisations need to have clear roles defined with regards to governing access to data as well as to track and audit any changes to data. This ensures that all access to all data is thoroughly documented, and it is possible to pinpoint where security threats originate in an organisation. This in turn also assists with improving visibility, which is the starting point for all other security initiatives such as the ability to disable infected devices and remove access permissions from compromised accounts.

While the majority of prominent cyber attacks have occurred within global organisations, this does not mean local companies are safe from the threat. The Internet has resulted in the world as a whole becoming more connected and intertwined than ever before, and South African organisations are therefore at just as much risk as their international counterparts. Furthering this challenge, trends such as the cloud, mobility and social media, which have all become integrated with internal IT, have complicated matters and made it more important than ever to monitor access, secure devices and ensure permissions are up to date and are removed when no longer required. These are all aspects of identity and access management, a vital tool in the cyber and data security landscape.

One sector in South Africa that is ahead of the curve when it comes to adoption of these solutions is financial services. The major banks utilise identity and access management solutions to develop role-based access to relevant applications. These solutions not only prevent unauthorised access but also create a complete audit trail of any access attempts, instantly alerting relevant parties if a breach is attempted or occurs. Other organisations need to take the example set by financial services and apply the correct solutions for their industry and requirements.

When it comes to security solutions including identity and access management, there are packaged software systems that can be implemented so that enterprises do not have to develop solutions from the ground up. It is also possible to access managed services that can help to ensure a smooth roll out and that organisations configure their security effectively. In order to ensure the solution meets the organisations expectations it is essential to firstly understand existing security policies and processes, and then map them to the solutions that are available. The chosen solution must align with security and access policies which organisation have already put into place.

Choosing between insourcing and outsourcing these services is a decision that depends entirely on the organisation’s needs, requirements and infrastructure. A dynamic and experienced service provider can assist here to ensure the right balance is obtained for optimal protection given these criteria.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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