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Beware The Enemy Within

Below, I look at the nine most common threats that can compromise the internal security of your organisation.

Colin Thornton

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IT-server-room

While few can argue against the dangers of malicious email attachments, security attacks inside the organisation have become significantly more sophisticated. Whether it is an employee who does not understand good  or tools that prey on people’s gullibility, protection is vital in this digital age.

1. USB devices

The humble flash drive poses a significant risk to the business. Infecting your network can be as easy as a visitor giving a service pitch on the boardroom PC using a presentation from a USB stick.

Another example is how a security firm loaded 20 USB drives with password-stealing malware and scattered them in the parking lot and other likely locations outside a target company. Fifteen of the drives were found by employees, who plugged them in to see what was on them.

It only took a few hours for the security firm to get a steady stream of passwords and other critical data.

Unfortunately, USB device protection under Windows is pretty limited. Basically, you can only enable or disable a USB on a system. But since this is the default peripheral connection for Windows, it does not make practical sense. Fortunately, third-party software such as Sophos, Devicelock, and Promisec remove this restriction and offer policy-based management for USB devices.

Related: How Dial A Nerd Managed To Dial Up Profits

2. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing

Although unauthorised file-sharing programmes are often forbidden by company policy, many businesses are not even aware that staff have these applications installed on their computers.

An example of such an application is BitTorrent (or any other torrent software for that matter). Cyber-criminals have started using these P2P programmes to compromise and take over networked computers. And then there is the small matter of P2P being one of the primary methods of illegally distributing copyrighted material. Imagine the cost (and embarrassment) of the authorities knocking on your door after John in accounting downloaded the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

3. Anti-virus problems

The major anti-virus vendors release anything from 1,200 to 2,400 updates per week. Let that number sink in for a bit. Scarily, this does not necessarily match the number of new viruses hitting the internet.

Clearly, it is vital to keep your anti-virus current with the latest patches. This is particularly true because one infection strategy used by malicious users is to infect as many computers as possible in the shortest amount of time before a patch can be made available. For example, on 19 July, 2001, the Code Red worm infected 359 000 computers in 14 hours.

4. Outdated Microsoft Service Packs

Similar to the importance of installing the latest anti-virus updates, businesses that run on Windows need to ensure that the latest patches are downloaded and installed on all network machines.

The larger the organisation, the more challenging it becomes to guarantee that this is done. And that is not even examining the myriad of smartphones and tablets connecting to the corporate network. It seems a case of when rather than if a breach will occur.

5. Missing security agents

agent-smith-computer-agent

No, these are not the bloody agents you are thinking of. Many companies require agents to be installed on all their endpoints (essentially any networked device).

These agents may monitor network traffic, make sure patches are up to date, or track and report on stolen computers. However, requiring such agents and actually having them installed are two different things.

Related: Dial-a-Nerd: Staying on Top While the Market Changed

6. Unauthorised remote control software

Remote control software is invaluable for troubleshooting hardware and software. But then so unauthorised remote control becomes a great tool for malicious users who see it as the perfect way into a corporate computer.

7. Media files

Anybody remember all those Anna Kournikova emails doing the rounds many years ago promising all sorts of photo and video content of the tennis star? The names of the celebrities might have changed but unauthorised media files still remain dangerous both because of their content and what can be hidden in them.

Video and music files are an increasingly popular method of sneaking malware into an organisation – spyware, Trojans, viruses and just about any other kind of bad thing you can think of.

As with file-sharing, even if the files do not contain any embedded malicious code, you still have the small matter of copyright violations and distribution of pornography to think of.

8. Unsecured synchronisation software

Laptops, tablets, and smartphones use synchronisation software to keep information such as calendars and contact lists updated. While convenient, especially when combined with technologies like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, simply allowing any device to synchronise over the network can open a serious security hole.

This is more so the case given how many of these programmes work in the background with the user not even aware of what is being uploaded or downloaded.

9. Wireless connectivity

Recent research shows that almost 95 percent of all laptops ship with built-in wireless access. Again, while it might be convenient to have a wireless network in your office, the more secure route is to limit connectivity to physically having to plug devices into network points.

Generally, the recommended strategy is to control the threats rather than trying to totally eliminate them (because realistically you will never be able to do that). While some of the threats to endpoint security can be eliminated from corporate networks, others (think wireless and USB devices) are important for the modern business. Mitigating risks to the practicality of security should provide a good starting point to protect your organisation.

Colin Thornton founded Dial a Nerd in 1998 at the age of 19. His first clients were friends and family and his first computer repair room the garage of his parent’s home. By focusing on home users and offering a very high level of service, he occupied a niche at the time which helped Dial a Nerd grow into the business it now is. The business has a presence in most of the major South African cities, with five branches and over 70 staff members countrywide. It has over 40 000 customers consisting of home-based computer users and small to medium-sized businesses. Over the years Colin recognised that there were a few staff members that were essential to his business and to retain them he offered them shares as a way of ensuring Dial a Nerd’s longevity. There are now six shareholders who own the business, most of whom are still active in its management.

Entrepreneur Today

5 Ways SMMEs Can Best Use An Incubation Centre

Here are some tips on how entrepreneurs can make the most of these incubation centres.

Entrepreneur

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Incubation centres play a meaningful role – not only in South Africa but around the world – as they groom SMMEs and give them access to opportunities that will help them survive in a competitive marketplace. These centres help entrepreneurs modernise their businesses with world-class technology, while providing insights that can help turn ideas into products. Incubation centres offer infrastructure and support, knowledge-sharing and a unique environment that helps strengthen their businesses.

Earlier this month, Cisco South Africa launched its R10 million Edge Incubation Centre in Pretoria where 30 SMMEs per year will have the opportunity to make use of the platform and speed up their entry to market. The centre gives SMMEs access to complete business facilities including workspaces, video conferencing and collaboration platforms, boardroom and training facilities, and access to global Cisco experts who can help them develop business ideas in a digital world.

Here are some tips on how entrepreneurs can make the most of these incubation centres:

1. Collaboration

Gain insights from global experts using the latest Webex technology and collaborate with other SMMEs. Utilise the meeting spaces to drive commercial sales initiatives with the help of business support facilities.

2. Resources & Equipment

Make use of laboratories and tools like cloud-based facilities, smart interactive whiteboards for content sharing, video conferencing, and meeting rooms. Utilise the high-tech customer demo centre as a practice platform.

Related: The Definitive List Of South African Business Incubators For Start-Ups

3. Support

Take advantage of the enablement programmes as well as the ongoing training and development. Knowledge transfer will always help your business. Utilise the technical support and business insights to grow your business and make it competitive in the digital economy.

4. Connectivity

This is your main tool in a digital marketplace. Make use of the high-speed broadband facilities and develop your digital skills because you will need it.

5. Sales

Don’t forget to utilise the pre-sales support as this may give you the edge in the marketplace. Gain insights and experience and use it to your advantage.

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Entrepreneur Today

9 In 10 Workers Want A Festive Gift From Their Employer To Make Them Feel Valued

29% Would like to receive vouchers from their company.

Entrepreneur

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As the festive season approaches, digital print company instantprint have revealed what managers can be doing to show staff they are appreciated.

Over 9 in 10 workers (94%) want a gift from their employers to make them feel valued, appreciated and happy this Christmas.

The research, which surveyed 1,500 UK office workers, also revealed the most in demand gifts that employees would like to receive from their employers:

  • 29% would like a gift voucher
  • 8% would like an early finish
  • One in five (20%) would like a free bar at the company Christmas party
  • One in ten (10.3%) would like a physical gift
  • 7% would like a charitable donation to be made in their name.

Related: Why Innovative Employee Benefits Are Your Competitive Advantage

Different sections of the workforce had varying demands. IT professionals would prefer an early finish this festive period, with 35% in the IT department choosing this as their ideal Christmas gift.

Senior management seem to have a more selfless approach to the gifts they would like to receive. One in ten (11%) said they would like a charitable donation to be made in their name, compared to the average demand for this present of just 7%.

There was some difference between men and women too. Women are the ones really pressing for gift vouchers, with 33% saying they are the ideal present, compared to just 23% of men. Male employees seem to prefer a free bar, with 22% choosing this, compared to just 18% of women.

James Kinsella, CEO and Co-founder of instantprint, said about the research:

“Most organisation take part in the festive period, with decorations, Christmas parties and office Secret Santas.

“But this research highlights how important a small show of gratitude can be for your workforce. Something as simple as an early finish, free bar at a party or a Christmas gift voucher can make employees feel valued and appreciated. This in turn can help boost employee morale, loyalty and productivity in the workplace.”

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Entrepreneur Today

South African Students To Battle In Universities Business Challenge To Win Up To R50 000

Students will compete in a simulation that encourages business skills.

Entrepreneur

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Cognity Advisory’s Universities Business Challenge (UBC), sponsored by General Electric (GE), launched in July this year, has seen 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa participate in a business simulation competition, that’s designed to develop their entrepreneurship skills. The challenge is now down to just 10 teams from five different universities (approximately 50 students), who will travel to Johannesburg to compete in the two-day final event on the 5 and 6th December 2018.

The ten teams competing in the final includes three teams from the North West University, two from Mangosuthu University of Technology, two from the Vaal University of Technology, two from the University of Limpopo and one from The University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN). These teams will be competing for the chance to win up to R50,000.

Related: Call For Applications: Young Entrepreneurs Global Exposure Trips

The aim of the UBC, now in its second year in South Africa and 20th year globally, is to tackle South Africa’s high level of youth unemployment. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced that South Africa’s official unemployment rate increased by 0.3 of a percentage point to 27.5% in the third quarter of 2018.

The competition simulates a business environment, with students given a problem to solve. The simulation is designed to foster skills such as analytical thinking, problem solving, commercial awareness and team-working. The challenge is designed to empower young people and equip them with the necessary skills to succeed in business.

Tope Toogun, development advisor and CEO of Cognity Advisory says, “Students are very prepared in terms of theory when they leave university, but not the practical skills they need to start and run a business. Seeing as SMEs make up 90 percent of formal businesses it’s really important that these students know how to build a business on their own or at the very least, in small teams.”

Toogun explains how the simulation encourages business skills, “The students competing in the challenge learn all about managing people, customer service, working in teams and how to create a start up without even realising they are being exposed to all these skills. These are the skills that will separate the members in the final. Students must work as a team and make instinctive decisions.”

Cognity Advisory is engaging students through social media competitions and newsletter updates. These competitions include spot prizes for students who post an image or video and receive the highest engagement on it.

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