The consumerization of IT and business bring your own device (BYOD) programs have resulted in potential security problems for IT leaders, according to Gartner Inc.
User expectations of a clean and simple mobile user experience often outweigh security concerns, and the same valuable data guarded by complex passwords and security measures on PCs can be left vulnerable on mobile devices.
Gartner predicts that, by 2016, 30 percent of organizations will use biometric authentication on mobile devices, up from five percent today.
“Mobile users staunchly resist authentication methods that were tolerable on PCs and are still needed to bolster secure access on mobile devices. Security leaders must manage users’ expectations and take into account the user experience without comprising security,” said Ant Allan, research vice president at Gartner.
Gartner has identified some potential security impacts of the consumerization of IT, and has made some recommendations for IT security leaders.
While most organizations require robust passwords on laptops, smartphones and tablet devices often have access to the same applications and critical data but not the same levels of security.
The increased number of devices in play also exacerbates the exposure of critical information. Implementing standard power-on password policies is made much more complex by the acceptance of BYOD practices, with the inevitable clash over user rights and privacy.
While complex passwords can be especially problematic for users to type on mobile devices, if these devices hold corporate data or provide access to corporate systems such as email without further login, even a default four-digit password is inappropriate.
However, support for more robust power-on authentication is patchy, with only a few mobile operating systems and devices supporting biometric authentication. Even in cases that do offer this support, the implementation may not be good enough for business use.
“An eight-digit numeric password will require hours to recover, and that will discourage casual hackers with toolkits,” said John Girard, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
“However, even a six-character lowercase alphanumeric password can provide billions of values. For most practical purposes, hackers are not prepared to pursue this large a set of combinations due to the relatively slow speeds involved in brute force attacks against smartphones and tablets.”
Gartner recommends that a password policy requiring use of at least six alphanumeric characters, and prohibiting dictionary words, is enforced on devices with access to corporate information via mobile device management (MDM) tools.
Some organizations attempt to counter the risks from a lost or stolen device by implementing controls that wipe a device after a limited number of incorrect password entries, or by remote command. “This practice does not wholly mitigate the risk because solid-state memory is nearly impossible to overwrite,” said Mr. Girard.
“The best practice is to use encryption that is not tied to the primary power-on authentication, meaning the key cannot be recovered from the device after a soft wipe operation has been performed.”
In addition, Gartner recommends that a further authentication method — at a minimum, another password — should be used for access to sensitive corporate applications and data.
In this way, even if a hacker breaches the power-on defenses, each additional app or store of data presents an additional challenge that will, collectively, present too much of a hurdle to be worthwhile.
In some cases, higher-assurance authentication is required. In PCs (traditionally), a standalone device may be used to provide a hardware token that might be used to provide additional authentication. “Traditional authentication of this kind is often spurned in mobile use cases, because of the poor user experience with most kinds of hardware tokens,” said Mr. Allan.
“Juggling the token in one hand, the phone in another and a latte in the third is increasingly resisted by mobile device users.”
Software tokens, such as X.509 credentials on the endpoint, provide options in this case, but often need MDM tools to be implemented properly and still require additional controls to provide the higher-assurance authentication necessary in some organizations.
Post Intrusion Ransomware the Biggest Threat to Businesses in Africa – Report
Aside from an increase in malware and new malware samples, businesses must also be alert to the capability of post intrusion ransomware.
This is according to the McAfee Threats Report: November 2020 released by device-to-cloud cybersecurity company McAfee Corp.
An examination of cybercriminal activity related to malware and the evolution of cyber threats in Q2 2020, the company witnessed an average of 419 new threats per minute as overall new malware samples grew by 11.5%.
In addition attacks on cloud services users reached nearly 7.5 million; mobile malware grew 15% driven by Android Mobby Adware surge, and publicly disclosed security incidents rose 22%; with incidents targeting technology industry increase by 91%.
The company added that a significant proliferation in malicious Donoff Microsoft Office documents attacks propelled new PowerShell malware up 117%, and the global impact of COVID-19 prompted cybercriminals to adjust their cybercrime campaigns to lure victims with pandemic themes and exploit the realities of a workforce working from home.
Raj Samani, McAfee fellow and chief scientist, said: “The second quarter of 2020 saw continued developments in innovative threat categories such as PowerShell malware and the quick adaptation by cybercriminals to target organisations through employees working from remote environments.
“What began as a trickle of phishing campaigns and the occasional malicious app quickly turned into a deluge of malicious URLs, attacks on cloud users and capable threat actors leveraging the world’s thirst for more information on COVID-19 as an entry mechanism into systems across the globe.”
Samani added that broadly speaking the year has witnessed a spike in the use of COVID for fraudsters. “…take South Africa for example with malicious file detections in the hundreds of thousands and quite frankly continuing to rise. The impact of these attempts is of course a concern, since they are intended to defraud the citizens at a time when we all need as much support as we can.”
However, it is the capability of post intrusion ransomware that represents the most serious threat to businesses in Africa says Samani.
“There exists a small group of criminals so adept at extorting companies that their actions are literally causing the wheels of the economy to stop turning until millions are deposited into criminal enterprise. We have to recognise that cyber is not an IT issue but the basis of our economy, and broader society,” he adds.
Samani senses that businesses are in a continual crisis. “With major vulnerabilities, or the capability of threat groups improving it does feel we jump from one major escalation to another. Although this is the nature of the cyber professional. Since we have to get everything right all of the time, the bad guys only need to be right once!”
He advocates that businesses be absolutely clear about the systems, people and processes required to maintain the core business and ensuring that appropriate resilience is built in this organisation is crucial.
“Trying to work this out during a crisis is far, far too late,” said Samani.
CWG Bags Software as a Service Provider of the Year Award @ NiTA 2020
CWG Plc, the leading provider of Information and Communication Technology solutions and services in Africa has won the Software as a Service Provider of the Year award at the Nigeria Technology Awards (NiTA) 2020 held on Saturday in Lagos.
The organizer of the award, Beta Media affirmed that CWG Plc clinched the award over five other companies shortlisted for the category, after going through a rigorous winner selection screening exercise.
“CWG Plc came out successful after our in-house selection process. We want to congratulate CWG Plc and hope that this award will spur the company to do more, especially in its usual drive to use technology solutions to enable the growth of other businesses,” Beta Media said.
They further stated that the Software as a Service Provider of the Year award presented to CWG Plc, is a testament and public endorsement of its technology innovations, creativity, hard work and dedication.
Meanwhile, Mr. Olumuyiwa Dosunmu, Brand & Communications Executive at CWG Plc, who received the award on behalf of the Pan-African company assured that the award will serve as an encouragement for CWG Plc to work harder and further contribute to the growth of the Information and Communications Technology industry.
“The future seems exciting from our point of view and we have not even begun to scratch the surface. We hope to do a lot more in the coming year and we are working towards being a major contributor of the growth of the Nigerian technology industry,” he said, adding that the award stands as recognition of CWG Plc’s continuous efforts to enable businesses in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
The Nigeria Technology Awards (NiTA) is an award organized to celebrate and reward Technology Entrepreneurs, Innovators, Inventors, Academicians and Policymakers (Government) in Nigeria.
Two major objectives of the institution are to promote and commend the outstanding contribution of Nigeria Technology professionals and organizations towards building a sustainable economy using technology; and to encourage local practitioners to develop innovative and creative technology solutions, geared towards uplifting the image of Nigeria both locally and internationally.
Laptop, PC Scarcity May Persist Till Q3 2021
The ongoing scarcity of laptops and personal computers (PCs) may worsen as industry experts are now projecting that the prevailing paucity may persist until the third quarter of 2021.
Previous reports indicate that the situation is a result of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and increased demand for units worldwide.
Equally important, global computer Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have admitted that there are no easy fixes or a quick way out of the current scarcity, with a number of paid-up orders already being recalibrated for shipment in April/May or June next year.
The situation has seen urgent requirements of laptops for business, learning and leisure needs grossly affected the world over.
Enquiries from major distributors in Dubai and Nigeria indicate that back-log of orders are still yet to be shipped.
They insist that manufacturers, who are struggling to cope with supply chain disruptions, are finding it hard to clear their demand logs. The situation is the same with all the big players including HP, Lenovo, Dell, Asus, among others.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest market, is one of the hardest hit by the current scarcity.
Consumers, including businesses, educational institutions and individual users, are bearing the brunt of the situation, with prices flying for the few available units in the market as greedy retailers cash in on the prevailing scarcity to jack up their margins.
Bayo Oshunde, a commentator, says the situation will get even worse as university students prepare to return to school in the face of a potential compromise between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which has been on a 10-month strike and the Federal Government.
‘‘The scarcity is really biting hard here in Nigeria. Prices are at an all-time high for few systems available in the market and a number of sellers are taking a pound of flesh from consumers as a result.
‘‘But this is just the beginning for Nigeria. In my opinion, the situation is going to get even worse before it gets better.
“Right now, the Federal Government has made a few significant concessions to ASUU and the word on the street is that the strike may be called off soon.
“The resumption of university students will put even greater pressure on demand for laptops, PCs and other devices.
‘‘The downside of this is that many of our students in their final or penultimate years in school, whose parents or guardians cannot afford to compete for the heavily-priced few units on sale, will be forced to enter the already overstretched and fiercely-competitive labour market as analogue graduates,’’ he lamented.
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