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.
AWS gives SMEs R365m to build cloud companies in SA
Amazon Web Services works with Department of Trade and Industry on Equity Equivalent Investment Program to help more South African businesses innovate in the cloud
Amazon Web Services (AWS), an Amazon.com company, has announced the launch of the AWS Equity Equivalent Investment Program (AWS EEIP). Designed by AWS South Africa and Amazon Data Services South Africa, the EEIP will see over R365-million invested in the development of black-owned South African small businesses within the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
The intention is to support them to become cloud computing experts using the AWS Partner Network (APN). EEIP is a program of the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), aimed at providing multinational companies an opportunity to take part in the development of South African black-owned small businesses and to contribute towards the broad-based black economic empowerment of South Africa.
The AWS EEIP is a seven year program that will support the growth of new black-owned small businesses, helping them to develop their skills in advanced technologies such as cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning (ML), and mobile technologies.
“The AWS EEIP will lead to the development of numerous highly skilled jobs in the local economy,” said Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel. “The intention of the program is to give the black-owned small businesses the knowledge, resources, and skills to be successful. This will enable them to provide professional services to organisations, in both the private and public sectors, supporting them with their ICT strategy and helping them to take advantage of cloud computing and other digital technologies in order to innovate and grow. We seek to develop local businesses and ensure net job creation in the South African economy.”
The AWS EEIP will support 100% black-owned small businesses through an 18-24-month enterprise development and incubation program. AWS will provide training and education and support the development of these businesses’ technical expertise in cloud computing – resulting in new AWS Certified Developers and Solutions Architects. These businesses will also receive business enablement support, such as exposure to industry leaders, coaching, mentorship, and funding, to help take their business to the next stage of growth. As these businesses complete their training, and gain AWS competencies, they will go up a tier in the APN, becoming Select or Advanced Partners. Upon completion of the program, the businesses will have access to AWS’s ecosystem of millions of active customers, of every size, across virtually every industry around the world. AWS says successful completion of the programme will also enable the businesses to have exposure to opportunities beyond that of AWS.
“We have been blown away with the high quality of technical talent we have already seen in South Africa and are excited to see the creativity and unique thinking that the AWS EEIP will now drive,” said Prabashni Naidoo, a director at AWS South Africa. “Through this new program, we are committed to producing a new generation of highly skilled and productive black-owned South African small businesses.These new APN Partners will help create limitless opportunities for our customers, helping them to innovate and further contribute to economic growth of South Africa.”
About Amazon Web Services
For 13 years, Amazon Web Services has been the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. AWS offers over 165 fully featured services for compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, security, hybrid, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), media, and application development, deployment, and management. The services are provided from 69 Availability Zones (AZs) within 22 geographic regions, with announced plans for 13 more Availability Zones and four more AWS Regions in Indonesia, Italy, South Africa, and Spain.
Girls get 50,000 toy cars to combat stereotypes
“That’s for boys, not for girls” – a social stigma Mercedes-Benz USA and Mattel are determined to change, and they are hoping that donating 50,000 toy cars can help. Kicking off today for National STEM/STEAM Day, 50,000 young girls across the nation will engage in programs to challenge gender stereotypes that research shows can impact decisions later in life. It’s all part of “No Limits,” an initiative created by Mercedes-Benz in partnership with Mattel and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP), a network of organizations that encourages girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
The first “No Limits” programs launch today with special workshops in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York City, where thousands of young children will be inspired to think outside of the box when it comes to career aspirations. Through February 2020, girls across the U.S., through more than 100 organizations, will engineer toy racetracks, design cars, engage with female role models and attend STEM workshops through programs designed to expand how they see their future.
As a tangible reminder that they can do anything they set their minds to, MBUSA and Mattel will gift 50,000 Matchbox die-cast toy replicas of a very special Mercedes-Benz 220SE to participating children. It was in this car that Ewy Rosqvist defied all odds to become the first woman to compete in and win one of the most grueling races, the Argentinian Grand Prix, shattering records and the notion that women could not compete.
“Whatever they aspire to be – an astronaut, engineer, judge, nurse, even the President, we want all children to dream big, dream bold and never give up on that dream,” said Mark Aikman, general manager of marketing services for MBUSA. “We’ve seen that stories like Ewy’s – championing women trailblazers and achievers – can have a big impact by calling into question the gender stereotypes that children may inadvertently adopt.”
In fact, according to the National Science Board, women only represent 29% of the current science and engineering workforce. When asked their reasons for not majoring in STEM, young women often cite a lack of encouragement and role models.
“The No Limits initiative is important to the future success of our young girls,” said Karen Peterson founder and CEO of the NGCP. “Demand for workers with STEM-based skills is rapidly growing, yet women are still significantly underrepresented in these fields. We know that gender associations are formed at a very young age. We applaud Mercedes-Benz and Mattel in their efforts to breakdown the gender stereotypes that keep young girls from engaging in STEM studies.”
Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz released a video capturing young girls designating an assortment of traditionally gendered toys. After being shown the short film, Ewy Rosqvist: An Unexpected Champion, each girl has a visible attitude shift towards toys they previously identified as just “for boys.”
Last month, Digital Girl, Inc., a Brooklyn-based non-profit dedicated to empowering the underserved youth of New York City, especially young girls, to pursue studies and careers in STEM fields, tested this theory with similar results. A new video documents the results as the girls realize that they can be the next generation of female trailblazers and they themselves talk about the need to inspire more girls.
“Our goal is to inspire children to imagine all that they can become and break down gender stereotypes in the toy aisle with purpose-driven programs like this,” said Amanda Moldavon, Senior Director, Vehicles Brand Creative. “Most people don’t know that the creator of Matchbox made the first vehicle for his daughter who was only allowed to bring toys to school that fit inside a matchbox. So, from its origin, it has been an inclusive way for kids to explore the world around them.”
More than 100 organizations across the country will participate in No Limits including Atlanta Public Schools, Digital Girl, Inc., Beyond the Bell, among others. A list of all participating organizations can be found here. A discussion guide is available for those who have an opportunity to encourage and mentor young children and would like to help advance this conversation.
In addition to the toy cars that will be gifted by MBUSA and Mattel (also in support of closing the Dream Gap) through the National Girls Collaborative, the Ewy Matchbox toy replica will be sold in stores nationwide beginning in December. Follow the No Limits initiative on social using #GirlsHaveNoLimits.
Both “No Limits” videos were produced by R/GA, New York.
About Ewy Rosqvist
Ewy Rosqvist is a Swedish racing champion who in 1962 made history for being the first woman to enter and win one of the toughest rallies in the world. After watching her husband race for years, she decided to take it up herself and entered the Argentinian Grand Prix – a gruelling three-day journey across rough terrain. Ewy was ridiculed for entering the race and told she wouldn’t be able to complete the course. Not only did she finish, she went on to be the first person to win every stage of the race, set a speed record and beat the previous champion by over three hours.
About Mercedes-Benz USA
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), the sales and marketing arm for Mercedes-Benz in the United States and headquartered in Atlanta, is responsible for the distribution, marketing and customer service for all Mercedes-Benz products in the United States from the sporty A-Class sedan to the flagship S-Class and the Mercedes-AMG GT R.
MBUSA’s philanthropic focus is on educating and empowering youth. On a national level, the company supports Laureus Sport for Good which uses sports to help at-risk youth and the Johnny Mac Soldier’s Fund which provides scholarships to children of the fallen military.
In Atlanta, MBUSA is involved with over 50 organizations in its effort to educate and empower the next generation to achieve success and address local needs in its community, particularly Atlanta’s Westside, the area surrounding the Mercedes-Benz Stadium that includes under-resourced neighbourhoods. MBUSA has won numerous awards for its community efforts including, A Gold Stevie® Award for its Greatness Lives Here campaign, Corporate Champion Tree recognition from Trees Atlanta and a Community Impact Award from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.