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New security rules to stay safe on Black Friday

One of the most common pieces of advice we get about avoiding phishing scams is that, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Except this doesn’t really apply on Black Friday, writes BRIAN PINNOCK, cyber security expert at Mimecast MEA.

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For one day a year (23rd November this year), retailers take advantage of consumers’ appetite to spend by offering “loss leader” deals, which they advertise broadly on email and social media. The purpose of these offers is to entice shoppers to retailers’ sites and stores and convince them to buy more than the too-good-to-be-true TV for R500. And cybercriminals know and take advantage of this.

There’s good news and bad news for Black Friday shoppers this year. The bad news is that cybercriminals are using new tactics that make it harder to spot fake deals. The good news is that with robust cybersecurity awareness training, an understanding of the new attack methods and sophisticated email security systems, consumers can protect their money and personal information, and businesses can better protect their sensitive data and systems.

Old dogs, new tricks

Black Friday is like Christmas for hackers. While you’re shopping for bargains, they’re shopping for your credentials, which they use to log into your Internet banking and other online accounts to steal your money. If cybercriminals have your login details, they can access your profile even on sites implementing good security practices. Criminals are hitting various online services with credentials in the hopes of a password and username being accepted as legitimate.

Black Friday grows every year in South Africa. Last year, sales increased by 2571% over 2016 as more retailers jumped on the bandwagon. This year will be even bigger, which means gullible and uninformed consumers – many of whom work for enterprises –  are ripe for the picking. And chances are they aren’t aware of the new tactics being used against them.

Forget everything you know about cyber security

Ok, maybe not everything. But a lot of what we know about cybersecurity, and the tips and tricks that protected us in the past, no longer apply to some phishing attacks.

As we’ve already learnt, we’re often told to be suspicious of ridiculously cheap deals, but on Black Friday, ridiculously cheap is expected, so we’re not likely to question R500 TVs.

Another thing we’re told is to look for the green or black padlock on a website, or for the all-important ‘s’ in ‘https’ of the site’s URL. But we can’t even trust this anymore. That’s because cybercriminals can create or buy a real security certificate for their fake website in minutes. One site issued over 14,000 SSL certificates to “PayPal” sites – 99% of these were used for phishing fraud. So, while a fake website looks secure, it really isn’t.

So, what security advice is still valid?

  • Look out for spelling errors in emails. While the days of phishing emails with dozens of grammatical errors are gone, many cybercriminals still deliberately include a few to filter out smart people and target those who are not paying attention
  • Don’t click on links within emails. Enter the site’s address directly into your browser. If you can’t find the deal that was advertised in the email, warning bells should be ringing.
  • Check the sender’s address. Takealot won’t send you an email from a Gmail account, they will use their domain.
  • Be password smart. Don’t re-use passwords across multiple services
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever possible: This makes it harder (but not impossible) for criminals to use your username and password against you if your credentials have previously been stolen.

New and evolving attack methods

Cybercriminals increasingly use various forms of domain similarity– when they subtly change characters and words in URLs and email addresses to match a trusted organisation. These types of attacks often bypass certain email security systems because the sites and email senders aren’t known to be malicious.

To create lookalike domains, attackers often use non-Western character sets to display letters that look identical to the naked eye. Mimecast.com, for example, looks like мімесаѕт.com in Cyrillic. You might think we’re getting fancy with our font. We’re not. Combined with a legitimate certificate, it becomes much harder to spot a fake website.

This creates prime conditions for a successful phishing attacks: nearly half of all South African firms in a recent Vanson Bourne and Mimecast research report saw an increase in targeted spear phishing attacks using malicious links over the past year.

Quick tip: Check the URL carefully. A very long URL might be a sign that the website is fake. However, these are difficult to spot when browsing on a mobile phone, unless you scroll all the way. Rather check on your computer to be sure.

Stay safe in the wild

Consumers and businesses can stay safe this Black Friday.

Here’s how:

  • Be suspicious by default. Don’t trust any email and go straight to the retailer’s website instead of clicking on links.
  • Create a separate email address when signing up for Black Friday alerts. Don’t use your work or personal email.
  • Use a separate credit card for online purchases to limit your losses if you are attacked.
  • Conduct regular security awareness training to ensure all employees have the awareness to spot potential cyber threats. Human beings are an organisation’s greatest cyber risk and its best defence against cybercrime. During high-risk periods such as Black Friday, unaware users could expose the organisation and their families to unwanted cyber risk. Focus on implementing effective, modern training techniques and create a human firewall around sensitive company data.

The threat landscape has evolved yet again. We can never let our guard down and we have to assume that we’re never completely safe – even if we have robust security systems in place. Apple CEO Tim Cook said recently that cyber resilience is like running on a treadmill. You can’t just stop. If you do, you’ll fall off and will probably get hurt.

Think of Black Friday emails as you would Black Friday crowds outside Checkers. When you’re distracted by the pushing and shoving, you’re not likely to notice the pickpocket until he’s made off with your wallet.

Stay alert. Stay safe. And happy shopping.

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Data gives coaches new eyes in sports

Collecting and analysing data is entering a new era as it transforms both coaching and strategy across sports ranging from rugby to Formula 1, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Coaches and managers have always been among the stars of any sports. They become household names as much as the sports heroes that populate their teams. Now, thanks to the power of data collection and analysis, they are about to raise their game to unprecedented levels.

The evolution of data for fine-tuning sports performance has already been experienced in Formula 1 racing, baseball and American football. All are known for the massive amount of statistic they produce. Typically, however, these were jealously guarded by coaches trying to get an edge over their rivals. Thanks to the science of “big data”, that has changed dramatically.

“American baseball has the most sophisticated data science analytics of any sports in the world because baseball has this long history of stats,” said Ariel Kelman, vice president of worldwide marketing at Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing giant that is working closely with sports teams and leagues around the world. “It’s an incredibly opaque world. I’ve tried for many years to try and get the teams to talk about it, but it’s their secret sauce and some of these teams have eight, nine or ten data scientist.”

In an interview during the AWS Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas last week, Kelman said that this statistical advantage was not lost on other sports, where forward-thinking coaches fully understood the benefits. In particular, American football, through the National Football League there, was coming on board in a big way.

“The reason they were behind is they didn’t have the player tracking data until recently in in the NFL. They only had the player tracking data three years ago. Now the teams are really investing in it. We did an announcement with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this week; they chose us as their machine learning, data science and cloud provider to do this kind of analysis to help figure out their game strategy. 

“They are building models predicting the other teams and looking at players and also evaluating all their practices. They are setting up computer vision systems so that they can track the performance of the players during their practices and have that inform some of the game strategies. The teams then even talk about using it for player evaluation, for example trying to figure out how much should we pay this player.”

Illustrating the trend, during Re:Invent, Kelman hosted a panel discussion featuring Rob Smedley, a technicalconsultant to Formula 1, Cris Collinsworth, a former professional footballer in the NFL and now a renowned broadcaster, and Jason Healy, performance analytics managerat New Zealand Rugby.

Healey in particular represents the extent to which data analysis has crosses sporting codes. He has spent four yearswith All Blacks, after 10 years with the New Zealand Olympic Committee, helping athletes prepare for the OlympicGames. 

“The game of rugby is chaos,” he told the audience. “There’s a lot of a lot of things going on. There’s a lot of trauma and violence and it can be difficult to work out the load management of each player. So data collection is a big piece of the technical understanding of the game.

“A problem for us in rugby is the ability to recall what happened. We have to identify what’s situational and what’s systemic. The situational thing that happens, which is very unlikely to be replicated, gets a lot of attention in rugby. That’s the sensational big moment in the game that gets talked about. But it’s the systemic plays and the systemic actions of players that lies underneath the performance. That’s where the big data starts to really provide some powerful answers. 

“Coaches have to move away from those sensational andsituational moments. We’re trying to get them to learn what is happening at that systemic level, what is actually happening in the game. How do we adjust? How do we make our decisions? What technical and defensive strategies need to change according to the data?”

Healey said AWS was providing platforms for tracking players and analysing patterns, but the challenge was to bring people on this technology journey.

“We’re asking our coaching staff to change the way they have traditionally worked, by realising that this data does give insights into how they make their decisions.”

Kelman agreed this was an obstacle, not just in sport, but in all sectors.

“Across all of our customers, in all industries, one of the things that’s often underestimated the most is that getting the technology working is only the first step. You have to figure out how to integrate it with the processes that us humans, who dislike change, work with. The vast majority of it is about building knowledge. There’s ways to transfer that learning to performance.”

Of course, data analytics does not assure any side of victory, as the All Blacks discovered during the recent Rugby World Cup, when they were knocked out in the semi-finals, and South Africa went on to win. We asked Healey how the data-poor South Africans succeeded where the data-rich All Blacks couldn’t.

“You have to look at how analytics and insights and all thesetechnologies are available to all the coaches these days,” he said. The piece that often gets missed is the people piece. It’s the transformation of learning that goes into the player’sactual performance on the field. We’re providing them with a platform and the information, but the players have to make the decisions.. We can’t say that this particular piece of technology played a role in winning or losing. It’s simply just a tool.”

The same challenge faces motor racing, which generates massive amounts of data through numerous sensors and cameras mounted in vehicles. Rob Smedley, who spent 25 years working in engineering roles for Formula 1 teams, quipped that his sport had a  “big data” problem before the phrase was invented. 

“We’ve always been very obsessive about data. Take car telemetry, where we’ve got something like 200 to 300 sensors on the car itself. And that goes into something like two to three thousand data channels. So we’re taking about around 600 Gigabytes of data generated every single lap, per car. 

“On top of that, where we’ve also got all the time data and GPS data. The teams are using it for performance advantage. We’re into such marginal gains now because there are no bad teams in Formula 1 anymore. Data analytics provide those marginal gains.”

• Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT faces 5-year gap

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In five years, the world will have more than 40 billion devices. Locally, IoT specialist,Eseye, says that South African CIOs are recognising IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (Machine to Machine) technologies as strategic imperatives, but the journey is still in its infancy.

“As legacy systems start to reach end of life, digital shifts will become inevitable. This, coupled with an increasing demand for improved bottom line results from existing and new markets, makes IoT a more viable option over the next five years. This is particularly prevalent in manufacturing, especially where time to market and product diversification has become necessary for business survival,” says Jeremy Potgieter, Regional Director – Africa, Eseye.

He says that within this sector one thing matters – output: “Fulfilling the product to market lifecycle is what makes a manufacturer successful. Addressing this functionality and production optimisation through technology is becoming more critical as they focus on increasing output and reducing downtime. By monitoring machinery and components in the production line, any concerns that arise, which impacts both the manufacturer and consumers alike, will be more efficiently dealt with by using an IoT approach.”

Potgieter says that there is also the growing strategic approach to increase the bottom line through new markets. As manufacturers seek new revenue streams, Eseye is encouraging the use of rapid IoT enabled device product development : “By addressing the connectivity aspects required at deployment, manufacturers are immediately diversifying their portfolios. Eseye, as an enabler, assists by providing market ready SIMs, which can be embedded into IoT connected devices at OEM level, connecting them to a plethora of services (as designed for) upon entry to market, anywhere in the world.”

In addition, Potgieter says that organisations are increasingly looking towards IoT connectivity managed services to capitalise on specialist expertise and ensure the devices are proactively monitored and managed to ensure maximum uptime, while reducing data costs.

Impacting IoT adoption though, is undoubtedly the network infrastructure required. Potgieter says that this varies significantly and will depend on criteria such as sensor types and corresponding measurements, the overall communication protocols, data volume, response time, and analytics required: “While the majority of IoT implementations can be enabled using cloud-based IoT platform solutions, the infrastructure required still remains important. A cloud platform will simplify infrastructure design and enable easy scaling capability, while also reducing security and data analytics implementation issues.”

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