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IT security must become service

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Combating cybercrime cannot be done with technology alone, but requires a service model that prioritises intelligence, sharing and using technology to support this, says VENIAMIN LEVTSOV, Vice President, Enterprise Business, Kaspersky Lab.

There is a change in the corporate IT Security industry. Many believe it is driven by the ever-changing threat landscape and the urgency a business experiences during a targeted attack.

However, many companies become a victim of a successful cyberattack these days – and not because of some major breakthrough on the cybercriminal front. In fact, it’s the quantity, not quality of threats that is growing; and this, together with the complexity of corporate infrastructure as well as the lack of security intelligence, which makes businesses vulnerable. As a result, addressing these challenges requires a major perception change by both businesses and security vendors. We believe that technology alone is not able to solve all corporate IT security troubles. What is required is a service model that prioritises intelligence sharing, and uses technology to support this.

The challenge

Kaspersky Lab rolled out its first security products for businesses more than 15 years ago. That era was the golden age of traditional threat prevention products. Highly sophisticated campaigns like Stuxnet or The Equation did exist back then, but they remained invisible at the time, and it was possible to detect and block the majority of old-school malicious programmes. Despite all of this, a one-size-fits-all solution never existed in our industry. Every now and then we had to deal with a new attack, we had to adjust the various peculiarities of how our products interacted with corporate infrastructure, and we had to change our protection accordingly.

Eventually, the customisation of technology for businesses evolved into consulting on security strategy. Companies were happy if they were able to purchase a security solution to solve all their troubles, but that was no longer enough. Every day businesses face new challenges: mobility, cloud services and infrastructure, and social engineering, to name a few. New technologies like legal apps, for example, can now become part of complex multicomponent attack – and the traditional endpoint security approach does not work for this at all.

Our customers came to us and asked for a solution. But is it even possible to solve every corporate security challenge with new technology? Is there a definitive solution to prevent an employer from opening a suspicious e-mail attachment? Could we address, even with the most sophisticated know-how, all vulnerabilities in hardware and software, taking into account the numerous possible combinations? Two years ago we understood the need to find a way to deliver this intelligence to our clients in an actionable form.

The solution

Security is best understood as a process, and every company out there deals with four distinct, universal phases of it. Threat prevention is the better understood phase, and is mostly covered by technology: you have to block each and every one of the generic threats that are emerging at a rate of 310,000 a day.

Detection of sophisticated and targeted attacks is more complex: it requires advanced tools and expertise, but more importantly, this requires time to identify the indicators of attack, spot an incident, investigate it and mitigate the threat. The latter is covered by threat response, where the unique skills of forensic experts are needed the most.

Finally, the prediction of future attacks, and understanding the attack surface, defines the long-term strategic defense capabilities of a company. This is done through running penetration testing and other kinds of security assessment. We have found that non-IT tools – like security awareness campaigns delivered in a game format – can be more influential on employees than security policies or annoying wall posters.

Today a security officer and his team has to pursue all four phases simultaneously and each requires a unique set of skills. Mitigating the future threats means regular security assessment, training employees on general security hygiene, and the analysis of current and future attack methods. Detection is all about identifying anomalies in a regular corporate workflow, covering web, e-mail, network traffic and observing corporate user behaviour. Response is all about localising the incident and closing the initial attack vector.

It’s painstakingly hard to develop this kind of expertise in-house. It’s expensive too, and most times only larger enterprises can afford it. Another serious issue faces businesses that invest in an advanced training programme for their internal security experts. Experts are just people, and it’s natural for them to start looking around for a better job offer if training has increased their market value. There is no universal tactic to keep experts inside a company, other than to continuously raise their salaries. In these circumstances it seems much more reasonable to use an external service from a professional IT security consultant or global player. As a security vendor, we have grown a network of experts around the world with all the necessary skills. The question is how we share this expertise with our clients.

The service model is the only viable solution here. The service model prioritises the real problems of a company and applies the most appropriate measures to solve it. Our services start with online and on premise training programmes for employees and IT specialists, mostly based on the knowledge gathered in our virus lab and emergency response teams in digital forensic and malware analysis. In fact, we let some external frameworks to leave the lab room and start serving our customers. Predicting future attacks means knowing how other companies were hacked, and this is covered by extensive and actionable threat reports. The detection of targeted assaults, and the prevention of dangerous widespread attacks requires a technology and expertise-as-a-service, often a combination of both.

The service model is always focused on solving one security challenge at a time, in a form that is understandable for businesses. On the high level it’s just someone taking responsibility for solving a problem and assuming all corresponding risks. This is a complex model, but we believe it’s the only solution that actually works. The good old approach – when a security vendor could just ship a product license key though the channel and return in a year for renewal – is disappearing very fast.

Empowering a partner network

The model raises questions about how you can share your vast, but not infinite, expert resources with all of your customers around the world, whilst keeping up with response time commitments. Our business has always relied on our partner network and that’s not going to change. It’s not possible to save the world by yourself. We share our expertise with our partners, who in turn gain more capabilities to help their clients. This is especially important for incident response: often this service requires a specialist to start collecting crucial data on premise as fast as possible. Without partners operating locally in every country this would be impossible. The role of a service vendor here is to provide a general investigation framework and tool set.

Although we are taking a step towards the security services area, we are staying in the vendor camp. We still perceive our main role as the producer of effective software solutions, which become the tools for our partners to provide their own services across the globe.

We also see huge potential in delivering the Threat Intelligence to Managed Security Service Providers. This could be useful in different forms including threat data feeds, customer specific reports or notifications about suspicious criminal activity targeting a customer’s IT assets. This model is capable of protecting smaller businesses, who also frequently become victims of targeted attacks, during attempts to infiltrate larger companies.

Thanks to efforts from the industry and our customer demands, in the future we will find ourselves in a much more protected environment, where all flavours of security intelligence are easily accessible. After all, cybersecurity is not about computer algorithms fighting each other. On the other side there are people with malicious intent, tools and knowledge. To protect businesses from them, it is essential to have the right combination of experienced external and internal people, together with a high level of trust, shared intelligence and reliable technology.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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