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.
Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh
In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.
When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.
This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy.
“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.
“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”
Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.
“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.
“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”
Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.
“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.
“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”
Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.
Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”
Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream
If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd
As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?
In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!
Nation-State Hacking & You
It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.
With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.
Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.
Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.
Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”
When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.”
Ignorance is not bliss
Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.
Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!