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Why SMEs and ransomware go together

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SMEs believe they are not vulnerable to ransomware attacks mainly due to the fact that they think they are unlikely targets. This is however a dangerous misconception, writes BRIAN TIMPERELY Managing Director and co founder of Turrito Networks.

Over the past year, cyber security experts and analysts have been warning businesses and individuals about the growing threat of ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system and data until a sum of money is paid (usually in bitcoin). On Friday May 12, all the doomsday predictions of crippling global cyber fraud became a rather frightening reality, as ransomware dubbed ‘WannaCry’ infected 114 000 Windows machines in just 24 hours. The attack quickly spread to over 150 countries, affecting hospitals, interior ministries and major corporations – with hackers demanding US$300 in bitcoin per machine, to unlock encrypted data.

As the global fallout from what has been called the worst ransomware attack in history continues, it provides a stark wake up call for businesses of all sizes to begin to take this threat very seriously….

1. Acknowledge that you are a target

Arguably, SMEs are currently the most vulnerable to ransomware attacks. This is simply because many businesses believe that they are unlikely targets. Indeed, there is a mistaken belief that banks and major multinationals are primarily the ones who have to worry about vicious cyber fraud. This is a dangerous outlook! Cyber criminality, and ransomware in particular, is about volume – it’s a numbers game. Attacks are conducted at random, on mass, and these criminals do not discriminate between size, sector, individuals, business, etc.

Worryingly, most local SMEs are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to ransomware – and are consequently placing themselves at massive risk. They are just as vulnerable, if not more so, than the bigger corporations and organisations that have very publicly come under attack.

2. Partner with a business Internet provider

On a very practical level, one of the factors currently leaving many SMEs at risk is their choice of Internet providers. All too often, small businesses look to keep costs down by choosing a provider that specialises in consumer solutions – instead of choosing a provider that specialises in business solutions. By opting for cheaper consumer solutions, SMEs do not get the built in security features and support – such as automatic data backup, firewalls, cloud-based systems, etc – that business providers offer. The consequences of this decision can be disastrous. If an SME falls victim to ransomware (or other types of cyber attacks), the costs extend far beyond the initial ransom that has to be paid for the data to be released. The business will experience extended downtime, damaged brand equity and a considerable loss of trust in the marketplace. Added to this, a compromised business tends to overreact to the attack and then overspend on security solutions thereafter.

In reality, guarding against ransomware is both straightforward and relatively inexpensive. It does require, however, partnering with an Internet provider who will take a consultative (as opposed to purely transactional) approach to your business. The right partner will understand both your needs and risks as a business, and then provide solutions that protect your data from day one.

3. Call your provider (today)

Finally, understand that there are no symptoms or warnings that come attached to ransomware. If you are attacked, your data will be held ransom until the fee is paid. No one can unlock the data once it has been encrypted. This means that preventative action is everything. Either take the threat seriously, today, or run the risk of finding a ransomware note splashed across your desktop.

On the other hand, if preventative measures are in place, and your data has been properly backed up by a trustworthy provider, then a ransomware attack need not bother your business at all. You can simply refuse to pay the ransom, and call your provider for support. Your data will be safe, and immediately accessible.

The more businesses and individuals that take this approach, the less powerful and common ransomware attacks will be. Cyber criminals are getting their way because people and businesses have yet to attach real value to their data. But once this connection between money and data has been made, and preventative measures are put in place, ransomware will lose its power.

So call your Internet provider today. There is only one question to ask: Can you assure me my data is safe? If they are not able to help you here, immediately find another provider who can.

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Notre Dame, Scoop Makhathini, GoT, top week in search

From fire disaster to social media disaster, the top Google searches this week covered a wide gamut of themes.

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Paris and the whole world looked on in shock as the 856-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral crumbled into ash. The tragic infernal destruction of this tourist attraction of historical and religious significance led South Africans to generate more than 200 000 search queries for “Notre Dame Cathedral” on Monday. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that razed the architectural icon.

In other top trending searches on Google this week, radio presenter Siyabonga Ngwekazi, AKA Scoop Makhathini, went viral when it appeared he had taken to Twitter to expose his girlfriend, Akhona Carpede, for cheating on him. Scoop has since come out to say that he was not responsible for the bitter rant and that his account was hacked. “Scoop Makhathini” generated more than 20 000 search queries on Wednesday.

Fans generated more than 20 000 search queries for “Sam Smith” on Tuesday ahead of the the British superstar’s Cape Town performance at the Grand West Casino. Smith ended up cutting his performance short that night due to vocal strain.

Local Game of Thrones superfans were beside themselves on Sunday, searching the internet high and low for the first episode of the American fantasy drama’s eighth season. “Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 1” generated more than 100 000 queries on Google Search on the weekend.

As the festivities kicked off in California with headliners such as Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande, South Africans generated more than 2 000 search queries for “Coachella” on Saturday.

South Africans generated more than 5 000 search queries for “Wendy Williams” on Friday  as it emerged that the American talk show host had filed for divorce from her husband Kevin Hunter after 21 years of marriage. Hunter has long been rumored to have been cheating on Williams, which reportedly finally led to the divorce.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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5G smartphones to hit 5M sales in 2019

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According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Early 5G smartphone models will be expensive and available in limited volumes. Samsung, LG and Huawei will be the early 5G smartphone leaders this year, followed by Apple next year.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We forecast global 5G smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Less than 1 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide will be 5G-enabled this year. Global 5G smartphone shipments are tiny for now, due to expensive device pricing, component bottlenecks, and restricted availability of active 5G networks.”

Ville Petteri-Ukonaho, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung will be the early 5G smartphone leader in the first half of 2019, due to initial launches across South Korea and the United States. We predict LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola and others will follow later in the year, followed by Apple iPhone with its first 5G model during the second half of 2020. The iPhone looks set to be at least a year behind Samsung in the 5G smartphone race and Apple must be careful not to fall too far behind.”

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The short-term outlook for 5G smartphones is weak, but the long-term opportunity remains huge. We forecast 1 billion 5G smartphones to ship worldwide per year by 2025. The introduction of 5G networks, by carriers like Verizon or China Mobile, opens up high-speed, ultra-low-latency services such as 8K video, streaming games, and augmented reality for business. The next big question for the mobile industry is how much extra consumers are really willing to pay, if anything, for those emerging 5G smartphones and services.”

Strategy Analytics provides a snapshot analyses for the outlook for 5G smartphone market in this Insight report: 5G Smartphones : From Zero to a Billion

Strategy Analytics provides a deep-dive into the air-interface technologies that will power phones through 2024 across 88 countries here: Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies : 2003 to 2024

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