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Prepare for ransomware

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Ransomware is on the increase and it is costing companies billions in fines due to loss of data and cleanup costs. How can you safeguard your corporation?

Ransomware attacks are on the rise, costing organizations billions of dollars in paid ransoms and cleanup costs, while crippling employee productivity and customer service during the down times. The FBI reports that ransomware attacks cost victims $209 million in the first three months of the year, which is about $330 000 an incident. And, almost 40% of enterprises have been hit by ransomware in the last year.

So, what is ransomware? It’s a strain of malware (malicious software) that cybercriminals upload onto organizations’ computers, servers or user devices and lock them down, before demanding payment of a ransom – usually in the form of Bitcoin or some other non-traceable currency – in exchange for decrypting and releasing their data. In a ransomware attack, the hacker is literally holding your users’ workday hostage, cutting off access to vital productivity tools like email, calendars and contact lists or back-end systems such as databases, file servers, email servers and other systems. What’s worse, 99% of ransomware attacks start with an email message, often enabled via phishing.

Unfortunately there isn’t much information about the threat landscape in South Africa but according to the U.S. government, ransomware attacks in America have increased in frequency by 300% year-on-year in 2016, with 4 000 incidents a day now being reported – AND that is just the U.S.

Ransomware is also not exclusive to big businesses, in fact many smaller organizations are being targeted because they are ‘easy targets’ who may not have deployed the latest security technology or have a dedicated person managing their malicious inbound emails.

The reality

  • Ransomware cybercrime kits are readily accessible (for as little as $39) on the black market, and thus non-technical cybercriminals can easily license them and deploy them. All you need is an email address and an attack is born.
  • There is no single “ransomware security product.” Since no single product can provide adequate protection because of the multifaceted nature of ransomware and the creativity of the attackers who wield it, protection from ransomware must also be multi-faceted.
  • Once a ransomware attack happens:
    • Organizations suffer from crippled productivity.
      • Employees are locked out of vital productivity tools like email, calendars and contact lists as well as other applications and files on affected systems.
      • Customers are often impacted because customer-facing operations that are highly dependent on IT are not functional.
    • Organizations often succumb to the pressure to pay the ransom to regain access to their applications and data, motivating and financing attackers to expand their ransomware campaigns.
    • Recovery can be difficult and time consuming.
    • Data can be lost, damaged or corrupted after an attack, as not all ransomware is bug- free. And, in some cases, the attackers, if not paid in a timely manner, will destroy the decryption keys in retribution.


A service like Mimecast can tackle ransomware with a layered solution. By bringing together security, continuity and data replication capabilities in a single cloud solution, customers can:

  • Prevent an email-borne ransomware attack.
  • Ensure that employees can continue to work with email during an attack.
  • Store your data in a third-party archive so it’s not lost forever after an attack.

“Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and insidious. They are constantly revising, updating and re-inventing their tactics and technologies to launch attacks”, says Brandon Bekker, MD of Mimecast Middle East and Africa. As a result, preventive systems, such as antivirus and intrusion prevention systems, are no longer sufficient.

“It’s time for organizations to implement a total cyber resilience strategy that includes security, continuity and data replication,” Bekker continues.

The ideal approach is to layer state-of-the-art preventive systems, point-in-time recovery measures, and a means to maintain business continuity during a ransomware attack.  “And don’t forget about the human defense: Employees need to be educated and aware of the different (and evolving) strains of cyberattacks so they can be an effective line of defense.”

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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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