How to beat the cyber criminals
By Fred Mitchell, Symantec Division Manager of Drive Control Corporation, the Johannesburg-based leading broad-based Communication Technology distribution company
The need to protect valuable business and personal data from hackers, viruses and theft is something that all users are aware of, as cybercrime has become a multi-million dollar industry.
However, there are many other ways to lose your data, which people often do not even think about.
These simple, everyday mistakes could end up compromising machines, exposing users to identity theft, and allowing sensitive information to fall into the wrong hands.
To protect yourself, your business and your information, avoid doing these 10 things that will practically guarantee that you lose your data in 2013.
Claim your winnings or log onto Internet banking via email
Cybercriminals and attackers often hide malware in links in either emails or text messages. Clicking on these links can install malicious software which compromises your computer and gives hackers access to all of your data. These emails are often very convincing, so it pays to be aware.
Don’t click on links in emails from people you don’t know or trust, if it seems suspicious. This may seem obvious, yet cybercriminals continue to use this method because of its high success rate. Remember, your bank will never email you and ask you to click on a link to log into online banking via email.
Advertise your absence
Standard business practice dictates that when you are away from your desk for any length of time, you should put up an auto responder. However, we often provide far too much information in these emails, such as where we are, how long we will be gone for, who to contact and so on.
This gives cybercriminals enough information to launch attacks that can seem very convincing and genuine. The best way to avoid this is to limit the information contained in auto-responders.
Procrastinate your backup
Backups are time consuming, but putting off your backup until tomorrow or the next day could have devastating consequences, especially for small to medium businesses (SMBs). Symantec estimates that during a typical data outage, SMBs can lose 52 percent productivity and 29 percent revenue.
This can cripple a business, particularly if this data cannot be timeously recovered. Ensure that backup is completed at least once a day, if not more, using an automated backup solution.
Accept friend requests from people you don’t know
Social media has changed the way we interact with each other, and many people feel that there’s no such thing as too many friends on Facebook. However, making friends with people you don’t know can be a dangerous practice. Cybercriminals use social media to spread viruses, perpetrate fraud, distribute spam and phishing messages, and even gather information that can be used for identity theft.As a rule of thumb, do not make friends or ‘connect’ with people you don’t know.
Plug in the memory stick you just found lying around
Memory sticks and flash drives are a convenient way of carrying data around, and are highly portable, so are often left lying around. But picking up that USB storage device and plugging it into your computer could be the worst decision you ever made.
The drives are convenient for data, so they are also highly convenient for spreading viruses and other malware, and they are often used for just this purpose.
Take confidential data home with you
In this age of the mobile workforce, many employees copy confidential data onto unencrypted USB drives, send this information to their personal email addresses or upload them to file sharing sites, in order to allow them to work from home. Many people also remove information without permission, which leaves the organisation open to vulnerabilities.
If confidential data is needed for mobile working, make sure it is encrypted before it leaves the office, to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
Send confidential data over free Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi hotspots are a free, convenient and ever more accessible way of accessing the Internet in public places. However, it needs to be remembered that these hotspots are free to access, which means that they are not encrypted and are typically not secured. If you are going to use an unknown network, it is advisable to use a secured https connection or a Wi-Fi privacy application, which will ensure that your connection over public Wi-Fi is secured, helping to protect data.
Don’t use the screen lock on your tablet, it’s inconvenient
Mobile devices enable productivity anywhere, and tablet PCs and smartphones have revolutionised the concept of always-on, always connected and always productive. However, the very portable nature of these devices means that they are easy to lose and are often stolen or misplaced. If a device is lost or stolen, it is highly likely that an attempt will be made to breach corporate networks or data.
The easiest way to stop casual, opportunistic attacks is to use a simple, built-in feature that is included on every single smartphone and tablet – the screen lock function. Make sure you use this with a strong password or a ‘draw to unlock’ pattern.
Download mobile apps indiscriminately
Mobile apps can help to increase productivity, and can be used for simple entertainment too. However the simple fact is that cybercriminals follow their audience, and mobile malware has increased dramatically in recent years. The easiest way for attackers to spread this malware is to embed it in an innocent-seeming mobile app, which you as the user then download and install. The solution is to only download apps from legitimate vendors on authorised app marketplaces
Using weak passwords and the same password for multiple sites
Passwords are surprisingly easy to crack, as most users will choose an easy to remember password about something that is close to them, like a pet’s name. Many people also re-use the same password on multiple sites and write their passwords down.
Make sure your password is strong by using at least eight characters and a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Most importantly, don’t leave your passwords on a sticky note next to your desk.
Avoiding these ten simple mistakes can go a long way towards protecting data. However, it is also important to incorporate security best practices into SMB organisations to protect business information.
A written security policy is always an advisable first step, and should include aspects such as identification of critical data, strong password policies and a disaster recovery plan. Other areas to look at include encryption of confidential information, development and enforcement of Internet security guidelines, training on security threats, and using a reliable security solution that is kept up to date.
Cybercrime continues to thrive, but SMBs are not helpless to protect themselves from harm. Following best practice guidelines and enforcing simple policies to avoid the most common pitfalls will protect you from all but the most persistent attacks, and can help to save your business from security threats and their resultant consequences.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”