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SA businesses watching their backs for cyberattack in days

More than a third of South Africa IT decision-makers (35%) are on high alert for a cyber-attack on their businesses within days.

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More than a third of South Africa IT decision-makers (35%) are on high alert for a cyber-attack on their businesses within days.

This is a core finding of a new research study entitled The State of Enterprise Security in South Africa 2019, conducted by World Wide Worx in partnership with Trend Micro and VMware. It surveyed IT decision-makers at 220 enterprises across all industries in South Africa on the centrality of cybersecurity in business strategy, the vulnerability of businesses, and security compliance.

It found that while 35% believe an attack will happen within a few days, a further 31% of businesses expected an attack with the year. Fewer than one in five IT decision-makers in SA enterprises think they are safe from attack in the next two years.

Just over half, 57%, of businesses say they will detect evidence of a malicious breach within a few minutes. However, almost half of businesses (43%) won’t know they’ve been compromised until a few hours or longer after a security breach. Such businesses may be in for a big shock. Ransomware and other file destroying malware may corrupt almost every file on a user’s computer within a few hours, which means any response would be too late.

Surprisingly, IT decision-makers are willing to accept responsibility. Half of the respondents (51%) says they would blame their own departments in the event of a breach.

“This finding shows IT decision-makers are cognisant of how important security is to their role, as half of IT decision-makers would accept accountability for a data or security breach in their organisations,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President Sub-Saharan Africa at Trend Micro.

The survey shows a disconnect between who would be aware of data breaches and who should be aware of data breaches. Over a third of IT decision-makers (36%) reported that the IT department would be the most aware of the actions to take after a data breach, while over half of IT decision-makers (54%) reported that their Chief Information Officers should be the most aware of how to navigate the organisation after a data breach.

“We were astonished when we found that CIOs don’t lead the organisation’s response to a data breach,” says Lorna Hardie, Regional Director Sub-Saharan Africa at VMware. “This finding shows that organisations still have a long way to go in terms of connecting a CIO’s strategy to that of the IT department.”

The biggest shortcoming in cybersecurity preparedness was outdated software, with an enormous 77% of IT decision-makers reporting that it makes their organisations highly vulnerable. In terms of additional vulnerability factors, senior management not understanding the risk slots in close behind, indicating a massive need for education and a need for a new approach to security, where it is an intrinsic part of the systems deployed by business.

“All of this then leads us to imagine that the IT departments must feel under siege, yet they are supremely confident in their ability to protect companies,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx. “Any question relating to their capacity and capability is met with resounding confidence, suggesting that they are either over-confident, or supremely arrogant. At best, we would say that they don’t want to be perceived as falling down on the job and can cope regardless of the obstacles in their way and the threat out there.

“Although 99% says they are confident about protecting the company, the picture disintegrates when asked if they have the skills to do so. Almost half – 45% – agree that they don’t have the skills to protect the company, this disconnect suggests overconfidence in their ability to protect the business,” adds Goldstuck.

Says Hardie: “There is a huge need for senior financial decision-makers to learn that an ounce of data breach prevention is worth a pound of lost data and productivity. Interestingly the research highlights that there will be breaches, that is a fact, but it is how business mitigates these risks going forward with a modern approach to security where we aren’t chasing each breach, but instead shift to a model where we build intrinsic security into everything – the application, the network, essentially everything that connects and carries data.”

Siriniwasa concurs: “The report reveals a stark trend in how South African IT decision-makers protect their corporate networks to gives a clear sense where South African companies need to remain strong and areas of IT security where they need to work on. At this stage, strong information and data security are non-negotiable, but ensuring this requires a cultural shift towards security awareness and collaboration across all parts of the business. Not only does business need to invest in security solutions that are pervasive and intrinsic, but they also have to invest in the right skills and people to drive best practice forward.”

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Samsung enters 2020 with six new smartphones

With six new devices, Samsung has started 2020 on the right foot and in the right direction with strong devices at attractive price points, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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In Johannesburg this week, Samsung unveiled six new devices, five of which aim to simplify the various Samsung Galaxy lineups.

The most notable new handset, the Galaxy Note10 Lite, has arrived in South Africa – and in record time. The device was unveiled at CES 2020 in Las Vegas only two weeks ago, and is expected to launch in South Africa in the next two weeks.

The Note10 Lite shaves off a few arguably non-essential features from the Note10 to make Note features accessible to more South Africans. These features include wireless charging, waterproofing and a curved screen. Other than that, the Note10 Lite still features the iconic S-Pen, including all the cool features of the new S-Pen. Of course, the Lite comes in at around R7000 less than its more feature-rich sibling, which is a huge price drop considering the three non-vital features it sacrificed.

For a full specs list of the features of the Note10 Lite, please read our launch coverage from CES 2020.

“We have to be able to support the customers with better memory and better battery,” says Justin Hume, director of integrated mobility at Samsung South Africa. “128GB storage becomes fairly standardised across the range. From a battery perspective, we now see 5000 milliamp batteries making an appearance on A21 and A31 product. So you can see the customer is truly getting great value for their money there. But as we focus on those products, we are also introducing a brand new product into the range, which is the Note 10 Lite and we are making the S-Pen more accessible to everyday South Africans.”

Samsung’s extensive lineups, the Galaxy S, A, J, and Z lines, were understandable because they were all set at their own price points. For a while, it made sense that the Galaxy S range were the flagships, the Galaxy A range was the high-mid range devices, the Galaxy J devices were mid-range, and the Galaxy Z devices were entry-level.

Until they weren’t. When Galaxy Z devices from 2017 started being better than Galaxy A devices from 2018, it became apparent that technology was moving forward way too quickly to have so many lines. Consumers also became confused because the Galaxy A devices were supposed to hold a level of status that was shared with the Galaxy Z range just a year later.

Last year, Samsung reduced its device line to Galaxy S for its flagships and Galaxy A for everything else. It now launches devices under the A prefix with a numbered suffix indicating the level of its specifications. The new lineup started taking shape with the Galaxy devices last year with the Galaxy A50 and Galaxy A70, and consolidated the Z and J devices to the Galaxy A10, A20, and A30.

This year, Samsung has announced the Galaxy A11, A21, A31, A51 and A71, which provide a clear indication of which devices they will be succeeding. The devices will be released throughout 2020, staggered over the next few months until July.

The Galaxy A11 will feature a large 6.4-inch screen with an Infinity-O display, which is a punch hole for the front camera. On this device, the punch hole will be on the corner of the screen, instead of in the middle as with the Note10 handsets.

For an entry-level device, it’s surprising to see a triple camera array with a 13MP main sensor, an 8MP ultrawide lens, and a 2MP depth-sensing camera for portrait mode pictures. It will also support 15W fast-charging and features a 4000mAh battery. It will start at R2999 for the 32GB version and will be available in July 2020.

The Galaxy A21 shows off a slightly larger 6.5-inch screen and a triple rear camera system as well, but ups the ante with a 48MP main rear sensor. The battery will also be a whopping 5000mAh, with 15W fast charging as well. It will start at R3499 for the 32GB version and will be available in June 2020.

The Galaxy A31 will go back to 2019 roots with its display featuring an Infinity-U display, which is a tear-drop notch in the middle for the front camera. What users will get from the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which can unlock the phone by reading one’s fingerprint through the display.

It will pack another camera in the array. It will feature the familiar 48MP and 8MP ultrawide lenses, with an upgraded 5MP depth sensor and a 5MP macro lens for taking sharper close-up shots. It will also feature the massive 5000mAh battery as in the A21, with 15W fast charging support. It will start at R5499 for the 128GB version and will be available in May 2020.

The Galaxy A51, which we will be providing a review of soon, gets closer to the flagships with some impressive features, like the quad-camera array in the A31, as well as a wide-angle 32MP selfie camera. It features an Infinity-O display, with a punch hole in the centre like the Note10. It also houses Samsung’s Exynos 9611 CPU, which is suitable for playing graphically intensive games. It starts at R6999 for the 128GB version and is available now.

The Galaxy A71, which is right below the Galaxy S10 in the line of devices, features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730, which also translates to having a better graphics processor and a better gaming experience. It will feature a similar quad-camera array with a 64MP main sensor. It starts at R8999 for the 128GB version and will be available from February.

Samsung has shown off its strong competitive by revealing so many products at the beginning of the year. This will be an interesting year in the mid-range handset space, now that Samsung is pulling out the stops to put so much value into its mid-range devices.

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Security issues grow with transition to smart TVs

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You can’t picture a modern home without smart equipment. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, robot vacuums, and smart TVs won’t surprise anyone these days. For example, around 70% of the TVs being sold worldwide are smart TVs. Although they bring more entertainment, these devices also carry new digital threats. 

Sometimes people forget that smart TVs are as vulnerable to cybercrime as their smartphones and computers. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says that “although smart TVs are connected to the internet and have similar functions to computers, they aren’t equipped with the same security tools, which makes them easy prey for hackers.” 

What’s so scary about your TV getting hacked? As smart TVs gain more features, the amount of your private information they handle increases too. TVs aren’t just for watching movies and shows anymore. Now you can use them for web browsing, streaming video content, gaming, and even shopping online. 

To enjoy your smart TV to the fullest, you need to download various apps and games. These cost money, so you need your credit card details filled in. Putting your financial information, logins, and passwords on your TV makes it an appealing target for hacking. 

According to Daniel Markuson, a smart TV can be used to spy on its users. Hackers can access its camera and microphone through malware, which they can slip into your TV when it is connected to Wi-Fi. They can use footage from your bedroom or living room to blackmail you and your family. By watching your home and listening to your conversations, hackers know what goods you have, where you keep them when you’re away, and what your plans are. 

If you use your smart TV for web browsing, you can infect it with various viruses too, says the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Like computers, smart TVs run on software, but they don’t have the same strong antivirus and firewall systems installed. Once your TV gets infected, your browsing history, passwords, and other private data become accessible to hackers. And they won’t miss the opportunity to use this information in ransomware attacks. 

Even though smart TVs are vulnerable to cyber threats, Daniel Markuson says there is no need to panic yet. The expert names a few simple principles every smart TV owner should follow to protect their device.

Always update your TV’s software whenever a new version becomes available. The expert says that software updates are crucial for cybersecurity as manufacturers do their best to patch vulnerabilities. Updates often repair security flaws, fix or remove various bugs, add new features, and improve the existing ones. Some TVs install updates automatically by default. With others, you may need to check for updates periodically to make sure your device runs on the latest version. 

Use available security measures such as a VPN. The best practice for any internet-connected device is to install a firewall and use a VPN such as NordVPN. It secures your device and lets you enjoy fast internet access with encryption-powered privacy.

Connect your smart TV to the internet only when needed. It isn’t necessary to have your TV connected to Wi-Fi all the time. To make it less vulnerable to hacker attacks, turn on the Wi-Fi connection only when you are using it.

Download apps from official stores only. Do not install any programs and games from unofficial sources on your smart TV. Make sure that both the app and its provider are reliable. Moreover, if an application asks for access to your data, camera, or microphone that isn’t necessary for its operation, never accept it.

Be careful with personal files and financial data. Shopping online on a big smart TV screen might be fun, but be careful providing your credit card details and other sensitive information this way. Although some manufacturers equip their TV sets with security features, they cannot guarantee safety online. “People who synchronize their smart TVs with their computers to access compatible media content should be especially cautious,” warns Daniel Markuson. The connection between your smart TV and your computer can be a weak link and lead to a data breach.

Use strong Wi-Fi passwords. This practice is the most obvious and the easiest to follow. Create a strong password to protect your Wi-Fi connection at home and don’t share it with any outsiders.

Turn off your TV camera when not in use. Whether it’s a built-in camera or the one connected to a TV via Wi-Fi, turn it off when not using it. If you can’t turn off your camera, use a piece of tape or a sticker over the camera lens to cover it. 

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