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Your money or your data! How to be safe from ransom

By IVAN WEINCIER – IT Project Manager at Kyocera Document Solutions South Africa

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The typical ransom scenario has been played out in many movie blockbusters. The bad guys follow the rich children home from school and despite the bodyguards and the security, the kids get kidnapped and held for ransom. A thrilling and heady journey ensues, and after million-dollar stunts, the kids are returned unharmed. While kidnappings for ransom continue to occur in Russia and some South American countries, a different and equally malicious ransom phenomenon is happening, and more often than we think.

Ransomware is a form of malware or a virus that prevents users from accessing their systems or data until the money is paid. According to global IT organisation, Phoenix Nap, clicking on infected links is the primary attack method.

Phoenix Nap revealed that:

  • A new organisation will fall victim to ransomware every 14 seconds in 2019, and every 11 seconds by 2021.
  • 1.5 million new phishing sites are created every month. (Source: webroot.com)
  • Ransomware attacks have increased by over 97% in the past two years. (Source: Phishme)
  • A total of 850.97 million ransomware infections were detected by the institute in 2018.
  • 34% of businesses hit with malware took a week or more to regain access to their data. (Source: Kaspersky)
  • 81% of cybersecurity experts believe there will be a record number of ransomware attacks in 2019. (Source: CIO Dive)
  • McAfee analysts suggest that individuals with a large number of connected devices and a high net worth are some of the most attractive targets.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre has warned companies – big and small – that the threat of a cyberattack has never been this severe. South Africa has the third-highest number of cybercrime victims in the world and loses about R2.2 billion to this phenomenon. In addition, this may be a conservative estimate as many cyber attacks go unreported.

Once-upon-a-time, when a company’s backups were on tape, hacking was almost unheard of. But now, data is stored on disk or in the cloud and is at a significantly high ransomware risk. Kyocera Document Solutions South Africa (KDZA) is behind equipping its clients and community with the tools necessary to combat the threat of a massive data breach, and in particular, ransomware.

Minimising your risk means minimising the loss of access to sensitive data; operational downtime; compliance and legal issues; brand damage and the loss of customers and; financial losses due to the replacement and repair of compromised machines and devices.

Ways to protect your business from ransomware

Ransomware is designed to restrict your access to valuable business information. The US Department of Homeland has put together a comprehensive guide on protecting your business and keeping your data safe. Here are some highlights:

Be clever with your passwords

Two-factor authentication, in particular, is a more secure method of authorising access. It requires two out of the following three types of credentials: something you know (e.g., a password or PIN), something you have (e.g., a token or ID card), and something you are (e.g., a biometric fingerprint). Because one of the two required credentials requires physical presence, this step makes it more difficult for a threat actor to compromise your device.

Ensure you choose secure networks

Use internet connections you trust, such as your home service. Public networks are not very secure, which makes it easy for others to intercept your data. If you choose to connect to open networks, consider using antivirus and firewall software on your device. Another way you can help secure your mobile data is by using a Virtual Private Network service, which allows you to connect to the internet securely by keeping your exchanges private while you use Wi-Fi.

Upgrade that software

Manufacturers issue updates as they discover vulnerabilities in their products. Automatic updates make this easier for many devices—including computers, phones, tablets, and other smart devices—but you may need to manually update other devices.

Kyocera Document Solutions South Africa believes that when it comes to cybersecurity defence, it’s important to have a holistic approach, using technology, education and preparation to ensure your data remains protected, no matter what attacks are levelled at you.

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Did an earthquake take out SA Internet?

Seabed avalanches caused by an earthquake could have cut several undersea cables, leading to one of South Africa’s biggest Internet outages yet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Picture by TooMuchCoffeeMan from pixabay.com

There is still no official explanation for freak breaks 11 days ago in two separate undersea cables that provide international access to South Africa’s Internet users. However, as reported in the Sunday Times yesterday, the most common causes of such breaks are damage by ship anchors and earthquakes at sea.

However, the freak occurrence of two separate cables being cut simultaneously far out at sea, as happened on the morning of 16 January, can only be explained by sea-bed activity.  One of the cables was cut in two places, and it is widely believed that a third major cable was also cut.

The cable damage mostly occurred in or near an area called the Congo Canyon, which starts inland and extends 220km into the sea. It is known for having the world’s strongest “turbidity currents”, underwater sediment avalanches over hundreds of kilometers, which are known to destroy undersea cables.

The most likely culprit is a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that struck the Atlantic Ocean near Ascension Island shortly before the cables were cut on the morning of 16 January. The earthquake occurred just before 8am South African time, and local ISPs reported losing international access from just before 10am. The epicentre of the earthquake was more than a thousand kilometres off the coast of Africa, but disturbances caused by seismic activity at sea become more powerful as they approach the coast. Combined with turbidity currents, this could well have taken out all cables in the area.

The West Africa Cable System (WACS) was cut in two places, and the South Atlantic 3 (SAT3) cable in one location. Industry insiders believe that the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable was also cut, but it has not been publicly confirmed.

South Africa is connected to the global Internet via seven such cables, with a total capacity of 42.3 terabits per second (tbps).  These cables, in turn, connect to additional cables connecting the West and East coasts of Africa, with a single cable running from Angola to Brazil providing another 40 tbps.

However, it emerged in the past week that smaller ISPs in South Africa had bought capacity on only one or two cables. In a freak occurrence, two of the most commonly used cables, the WACS and SAT 3 cables, were cut simultaneously, plunging millions of Internet users into data darkness.

Customers of the major mobile network operators – Vodacom and MTN – were largely unaffected, as these tend to have both part-ownership and access to most of the cables running up both the East and West coasts of Africa.

Visit the next page to read about how ISPs have battled to reroute access, how massive resources are needed to deal with these kinds of outages, and when the ship will reach the breakage points.

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Lenovo express-delivers new range from CES to SA

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Lenovo has unveiled its new range of ThinkBook laptops, barely two weeks after they were showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

The company’s newest sub-brand, ThinkBook, is intended to meet the demand for more aesthetically pleasing, yet agile and powerful devices.

The new range is aimed at small and medium enterprises. According to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), there are more than 2-million SMEs in South Africa – although there are only 667,433 in the formal sector. This tallies with estimates in recent editions of SME Survey, produced by World Wide Worx, which suggest 650,000 active, formal businesses in South Africa. These SMEs employ about 14% of the South African workforce. 

Lenovo argues that access to affordable, yet efficient, technology is a crucial factor in aiding business success and contributing towards the success of the nation. The company has found, in its own research, that younger people prefer working, creating and communicating online “with stylish devices that make a statement”. This means they require streamlined laptops which can be used to collaborate from any remote location, to enhance productivity.

Lenovo said in a statement on Thursday night: “Backed by customer research, ThinkBook is specially designed for SMEs, who typically purchase consumer laptops for perceived design and price advantages but can no longer rationalise their lack of extended services and warranties – core needs of any business. ThinkBook allows growing firms to keep a competitive edge in attracting today’s young tech-savvy execs with trendy yet cost-effective devices. 

Thibault Dousson, general manager of  Lenovo for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said at the launch event: “With the capacity, SMEs have to grow and upskill the country’s workforce, they are perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between the public sector and large enterprise. Bearing in mind the demands of the digital economy, this sector needs skills and resources in order to compete, and that is where devices such as the ThinkBook come in.”

In South Africa, ThinkBook laptops are now available in 13-, 14- and 15-inch variants. The flagship ThinkBook 14 and ThinkBook 15 devices are powered by Windows 10 Pro and up to 10th Gen Intel Core processing, which Lenovo says combines high performance with intuitive, time-saving features. Options include Intel Optane memory, WiFi 6, and discrete graphics.

The ThinkBook 15 comes at just 18.9mm thin, while the ThinkBook 14 is a mere 17.9mm, both with FHD displays and two Dolby Audio speakers, dual-array, Skype certified microphones and a USB 3.1 (Gen2, Type-C) port.

Lenovo has also introduced the ThinkBook S series, including an elegant 13.3-inch ThinkBook 13s. The sleek and light device is constructed of a metallic finish on an all-aluminium chassis, alongside a narrow bezel display. As with the ThinkBook 14 and 15, the ThinkBook 13s also features advanced Intel processing and an FHD display, Dolby Vision and Harman speakers with Dolby Audio.

Visit the next page to read about the design and features of the new ThinkBook range.

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