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Why companies must rethink security

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By DOROS HADJIZENONOS, regional director for SADC at Fortinet

Possibly the most important attribute of the cloud is that critical business applications, can be deployed, managed, and distributed faster and easier than by any other method, giving employees and customers real-time access to critical information—wherever they are located and on whatever device they are using. That requires nimble resources that can scale and move, and applications that are simple and intuitive to use, have access to real-time data, and can be quickly updated to meet constantly evolving trends.

Security is just as critical a component of any cloud environment—especially as cybercriminals look to exploit the rapidly expanding attack surface. But to be effective, it needs to be as agile and dynamic as the cloud infrastructure being protected.

Effective security not only needs to protect connections between data and users, but also secure literally every connection to every physical or virtual device across the distributed infrastructure.

In such an environment, complexities arise from the use of different security solutions, as deploying security solutions that are only available on a single cloud platform may not be available on others, and may have functional limitations. Such deployments have actually imposed limits on the true potential of the cloud.

To address these challenges, organisations need to incorporate the following four security concepts into their cloud development strategies:

1. Security-led cloud development: Security breaches tend to be the result of a determined cybercriminal exploiting the weakest link in an organisation’s attack surface. And for many organisations, the adoption of the cloud has expanded their attack surface exponentially. Eliminating those weak links requiressecurity to be enforced consistently everywhere, even when the infrastructure is in a state of constant flux. 

Because infrastructures are expanding and changing so rapidly, it is essential that an overall security plan become the foundational requirement for any network changes. Mandating that proper security tools, policies, and procedures are in place before any new resources are spun up allows security to adapt in sync with infrastructure and application changes. This requires selecting security tools that understand the infrastructure in which they have been placed, and that can also operate consistently across all environments—including multi-cloud—to enforce policies and ensure visibility that enables secure applications and connectivity from data centre to cloud.

2. Cloud-native security: Since data and workflows will need to move throughout the infrastructure and to the cloud, security needs to function consistently. Selecting a cloud firewall from the same vendor that is protecting the organisations physical assets will not necessarily solve that problem. There is a need for these solutions to interact seamlessly with cloud services and subscribe themselves to these services as well as identify cloud-based resources in the same logical way that they identify other resources. That said, the underlying technology used for protecting networks is very different from the tech used for protecting cloud-based resources, but the practice of managing security needs to remain similar. That is why native integration into the cloud infrastructure is critical.

3. Multiple form factors: Consistent security enforcement depends on the same security solutions being deployed across as many platforms and in as many different form factors as possible. Applications, for example, should be able to make calls to a cloud-based security solution to identify and protect specific data and transactions. Container-based applications should have access to containerised security tools in order to easily integrate security functionality into the application chain. And ideally, these tools should be operated in the exact same way as solutions deployed everywhere across your distributed infrastructure, including at branch offices and edge devices.

However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a virtual version of your network firewall will be adequate for your cloud or container deployment.

4. Central management: One of the biggest complaints from network administrators is that they cannot see and manage their entire network through a single console that extends visibility across physical and virtual networks. A management solution that can see and close the gates against an attack in one area of the network but not in another is likely lead to a compromised infrastructure. To eliminate gaps in security enforcement, organisations need a single pane of glass to gain visibility and define consistent security policies throughout the entire infrastructure to effectively manage risk. Security solutions need to share and correlate threat intelligence, receive and implement centrally orchestrated policy and configuration changes, and coordinate all resources to respond to detected threats.

Rethink Your Security

Traditional security models where devices are placed at a network gateway to monitor predictable traffic and devices are obsolete. Today, security needs to span your distributed infrastructure, dynamically scale when application resources grow, and automatically adapt as the infrastructure continuously adjusts to changing demands. And just as important, it also needs to ensure consistent functionality and policy enforcement regardless of its form factor or where it is deployed. Achieving that may require you to rethink your current security infrastructure.

If the cloud is going to play a significant role in the future of your organisation, you may be better off finding a single vendor that supports your overall application lifecycle and infrastructure roadmaps and expansion plans—especially a solution that provides consistent protection and functionality across multiple public and private cloud domains, even if that means replacing the traditional security hardware you have deployed on-premise.

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Lenovo unveils world’s smallest desktop PC

ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is powered by 8th generation Intel processors and SSD storage, catering to flexible working

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Lenovo has introduced the world’s smallest desktop PC, the ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano, to the South African Market. It says it is designed to support diverse workplaces with the power of a full-size desktop and the space-saving convenience of a laptop.

“The ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is further proof of Lenovo’s commitment to helping small businesses drive efficiency in their operations,” says Thibault Dousson, General Manager at Lenovo South Africa. “In South Africa, SMEs make up a third of the country’s GDP and play an integral part in boosting the economy and creating jobs. Lack of capital, investment, resources or support are among the major challenges faced by our country’s entrepreneurs. 

“Lenovo wants to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses through giving them better access to critical tools and services, such as our financial services offering and leasing option. The ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is ideal for small business owners as it is reliable and powerful yet compact and easily transportable.”

Delivering powerful performance in an ultra-portable size, the ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is the most compact commercial desktop series in the world. Compact models are one-third the size of the ground-breaking ThinkCentre Tiny, at just 0.35L in volume.

With fully functional USB Type-C Gen2 and USB 3.1 Gen2 ports located on the front and back of the device, multiple displays, docks and other hardware options can further boost productivity. The ability to be powered using just one cable to a USB Type-C monitor makes the M90n-1 Nano ideal for a clutter-free workspace, whether it be placed behind a screen or under a desk.

The ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano is MIL-810G SPEC tested – built to withstand extreme conditions including shocks, drops, dust and humidity. The desktop’s HW TPM 2.0 chip encrypts data to keep sensitive data secure, while its Kensington lock slot enables users to physically secure the device to an immovable object, protecting it from theft.

With its Modern Standby feature, users can receive emails, VoIP calls and instant messages while remaining in standby mode. When ready to commence work, the M90n-1 Nano resumes full functionality in under one second.

These features make the ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano an easy fit across all office environments, or wherever space is limited, and staff are mobile. The ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano also reduces energy consumption by as much as 30 percent annually over the ThinkCentre Tiny. 

Powered by the 8th generation Intel processors and backed by SSD (solid state drive) storage, the ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano offers diverse connectivity and multi-user options to keep users connected.

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Hackers target hotels

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Kaspersky’s research of the RevengeHotels campaign aimed at the hospitality sector, has confirmed over 20 hotels in Latin America, Europe and Asia have fallen victim to targeted malware attacks. Even more hotels are potentially affected across the globe. Travelers’ credit card data, which is stored in a hotel administration system, including those received from online travel agencies (OTAs), is at risk of being stolen and sold to criminals worldwide.

RevengeHotels is a campaign that includes different groups using traditional Remote Access Trojans (RATs) to infect businesses in the hospitality sector. The campaign has been active since 2015 but has gone on to increase its presence in 2019. At least two groups, RevengeHotels and ProCC, were identified to be part of the campaign, however more cybercriminal groups are potentially involved.

The main attack vector in this campaign is emails with crafted malicious Word, Excel or PDF documents attached. Some of them exploit CVE-2017-0199, loading it using VBS and PowerShell scripts and then installing customised versions of various RATs and other custom malware, such as ProCC, on the victim’s machine that could later execute commands and set up remote access to the infected systems.

Each spear-phishing email was crafted with special attention to detail and usually impersonating real people from legitimate organisations making a fake booking request for a large group of people. It is worth noting that even careful users could be tricked to open and download attachments from such emails as they include an abundance of details (for instance, copies of legal documents and reasons for booking at the hotel) and looked convincing. The only detail that would reveal the attacker would be a typosquatting domain of the organisation.

phishing email sent to a hotel impersonating a booking request from an attorney’s office

Once infected, the computer could be accessed remotely not just by the cybercriminal group itself — evidence collected by Kaspersky researchers shows that remote access to hospitality desks and the data they contain is sold on criminal forums on a subscription basis. Malware collected data from hospitality desk clipboards, printer spoolers and captured screenshots (this function was triggered using specific words in English or Portuguese). Because hotel personnel often copied clients’ credit card data from OTA’s in order to charge them, that data could also be compromised.

Kaspersky telemetry confirmed targets in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Thailand and Turkey. However, based on data extracted from Bit.ly, a popular link shortening service used by the attackers to spread malicious links, Kaspersky researchers assume that users from many other countries have at least accessed the malicious link – suggesting that the number of countries with potential victims could be higher.

“As users grow wary of how protected their data truly is, cybercriminals turn to small businesses, which are often not very well protected from cyberattacks and possess a concentration of personal data. Hoteliers and other small businesses dealing with customer data need to be more cautious and apply professional security solutions to avoid data leaks that could potentially not only affect customers, but also damage hotel reputations as well,” comments Dmitry Bestuzhev, Head of Global Research and Analysis Team, LatAm.

To stay safe, travelers are recommended to:

  • Use a virtual payment card for reservations made via OTAs, as these cards normally expire after a single charge
  • When paying for a reservation or checking out at hotel desks, use a virtual wallet, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, or a secondary credit card with a limited amount of debit available

Hotel owners and management are also advised to follow these steps to secure customer data:

  • Conduct risk assessments of the existing network and implement regulations regarding how customers data is handled
  • Use a reliable security solution with web protection and application control functionality, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business. Web protection helps to block access to phishing and malicious websites while application control (in white list mode) allows to make sure that no application except the white listed ones can run on hospitality desk computers.
  • Introduce staff security awareness training to teach employees how to spot spear-phishing attempts and show the importance of remaining vigilant when working with incoming emails.

Read the full report, RevengeHotels: cybercrime targeting hotel desks worldwide, on Securelist.

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