Ransomeware is quite possibly the most damaging online threat. Although there are numerous defences against it, DREW VAN VUUREN, data protection officer at ESET South Africa, believes the best is user education.
Ransomware is a very real threat to businesses and individuals alike, and when it comes to online security, it is arguably the most damaging threat. Yet, many people still don’t know what ransomware is, even though this type of cyber threat has been aggressively spreading over the internet, with results that can impact both a company’s finance and reputation.
And the threat is only going to get more hostile.
The simple fact is that there is limited protection against ransomware, with no antivirus or end-point security solution technology able to protect you. Protection comes down to user-education and good business practice, and for any business, it is a must have that disaster recovery is in place if they hope to come out of a ransomware breach relatively unscathed.
Ransomware is a malware that infects a computer and encrypts all its files. Cybercriminals then offer an ultimatum to their victim: pay the demanded ransom or lose your data forever. If you are susceptible and become a target you have no choice, either you pay or rebuild your system – there is no third option. However, if you take option number one and you pay the ransom, the chances are you will again be targeted and you end up perpetuating the cycle of infection and victimization.
There are two different types of ransomware – opportunistic and targeted. The principle is that targeted ransomware will look for individuals who have access to critical and valuable information, for example, a CEO or CFO of an organization.
If you are a business that has mitigating controls in place, and you are targeted by a successful attack, then it will be a matter of invoking the disaster recovery process. This will be based on the the businesses information classification criteria and management principles.
Every organisation will have information that is deemed to be valuable – and without access to this information, a business could suffer inadvertent loss and eventually begin losing money. Therefore, the disaster recovery controls around the businesses critical information will need to allow for that data to be readily available within a certain timeframe, for business to continue.
So, what is best practice for Ransomware attacks?
- Back Up is key
The best defense against ransomware is to reduce your vulnerability in the first place. This means backing up the company’s critical and valuable information on a regular basis. Hence, if your businesses become a target of a ransomware attack, having to pay the ransom may not bear consideration as the business will have access to its valuable information that has been backed up. It is important that the companies maintain offline back-ups so that the back-ups are not readily accessible to an attacker.
- Trusted sources
Businesses should exercise good email and website safety practices – ensuring that individuals download attachments, click URLs or execute programs only from trusted sources.
- Trust warnings
When you get a security message from a web browser, take heed of it.
- Administrator Rights
Manage administrator rights accordingly. Many businesses still use the default administrator account on their network. Instead you should delete or rename the administrator account or create an account with administrator privileges.
- Educate! Educate! Educate
It should be an executive management imperative for businesses to educate their employees about the challenges around ransomware making staff aware of any security issue that arises, or is currently topical – this could be ransomware, PoPI, encryption – your people need to be aware of it.
In summary, organisations should prepare themselves for the likelihood that they may be targeted by a ransomware attacker by implementing the mitigating controls of back-up and more especially user awareness. If they maintain the vigilance outlined above they will be able to reduce the impact of the ransomware as recently evidenced by the WannaCry attack that was so effective.
Small SA town goes smartphone-only
Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones
All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.
The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.
Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.
“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.
“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”
Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.
For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.
Facebook fact-checking goes to 10 more African countries
Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,
In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.
Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.
Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.
Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”
When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.
Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”
Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”
Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”
Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”