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Ransomware: worse to come

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This year has seen ransomeware rock headline across the globe and unfortunately it is not about to go away anytime soon. In fact some believe that we haven’t seen the worst of it yet.

Many businesses – and individuals – were affected by the various cyber-attacks perpetrated in the past six months.  Ransomware seems to have taken over the headlines this year, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Ransomware is most likely be a topic that will remain highlighted in the years to come.

The business world is becoming more digitized. Data, systems, apps and networks can be crippled by a ransomware attack, which is catastrophic for any business or organization when these vital systems become interrupted. But it’s not just business that suffers: in this year’s WannaCry attack, 70 000 devices in Britain’s National Health Services were affected with knock-on effects on emergency medical services.

Ransomware has climbed meteorically since it first emerged in the mid-2000s, but the aim has mostly remained the same: to extort money from victims. Important data and files are encrypted, leaving the hacker with the only means to access those files. The victim is then asked to pay a ransom – most often in Bitcoin – in order to receive a decryption key so that they can retrieve their files safely.

“In the beginning, many of the ransomware attacks were actually very convincing hoaxes. Other cyber attackers used screen locks so all the victim could see was the notification window. These days, the ransomware that’s out there not only locks information and data, but can also potentially delete encrypted files after a specified time period,” explains Anvee Alderton, channel manager at Trend Micro Southern Africa.

According to Trend Micro, there were 29 different ransomware families in 2015. Just a year later, 247 families emerged – that’s a 752% increase. The hackers have indeed profited from their attacks, raking in millions of dollars by attacking big businesses without data back ups. In the first few months of 2017, ransomware attacks climbed a further 250%.

These attacks are on track to reach another milestone this year as seen in another  report, ransomware attacks rose 250 percent during the first few months of 2017, with many infections centered around the U.S.

“We at Trend Micro believe that the ransomware strategy used by hackers will evolve in the not too distant future. Given the amount of new ransomware we hear about regularly, there will be new ransomware samples that will emerge. The sad thing is that there are a lot more attacks focusing on the healthcare industry these days, because of the valuable patient data they have. These attacks on healthcare providers might increase, too,” Alderton predicts.

This may sound as though we are heading towards a ransomware apocalypse, however the good news is that law enforcement is making strides towards catching up with cyber criminals. Various law enforcement organisations have begun to collaborate with other groups such as Cyber Threat and No More Ransomware in order to identify the sources of powerful ransomware, and prevent attacks.

The first port of call for diffusing cyber attacks remains in the hands of an organisations’ staff. Employees should be made aware of the risks of ransomware and understand how infection is delivered and to report any suspicious activity. Access to sensitive data must be limited and patches and backups need to be done regularly and consistently.

“Security solutions also need to incorporate a cross-generational technology approach. This means reputation-based analysis with other capabilities like whitelisting and application control, behavioral analysis, network monitoring, vulnerability shielding, and high-fidelity machine learning. This is the optimal way to protect your business or organisation,” Alderton says.

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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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How Quantum computing will change … everything?

Research labs, government agencies (NASA) and tech giants like Microsoft, IBM and Google are all focused on developing quantum theories first put forward in the 1970s. What’s more, a growing start-up quantum computing ecosystem is attracting hundreds of millions of investor dollars. Given this scenario, Forrester believes it is time for IT leaders to pay attention.

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“We expect CIOs in life sciences, energy, defence, and manufacturing to see a deluge of hype from vendors and the media in the coming months,” says Forrester’s Brian Hopkins, VP, principal analyst serving CIOs and lead author of a report: A First Look at Quantum Computing. “Financial services, supply-chain, and healthcare firms will feel some of this as well. We see a market emerging, media interest on the rise, and client interest trickling in. It’s time for CIOs to take notice.”

The Forrester report gives some practical applications for quantum computing which helps contextualise its potential: 

  • Security could massively benefit from quantum computing. Factoring very large integers could break RSA-encrypted data, but could also be used to protect systems against malicious attempts. 
  • Supply chain managers could use quantum computing to gather and act on price information using minute-by-minute fluctuations in supply and demand 
  • Robotics engineers could determine the best parameters to use in deep-learning models that recognise and react to objects in computer vision
  • Quantum computing could be used to discover revolutionary new molecules making use of the petabytes of data that studies are now producing. This would significantly benefit many organisations in the material and life sciences verticals – particularly those trying to create more cost-effective electric car batteries which still depend on expensive and rare materials. 

Continue reading to find out how Quantum computing differs.

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