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Why cybersecurity must be baked into every business decision

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Vodafone Ireland’s Edel Briody talks about the importance of cyber-resilience and the importance of a strong security strategy.

Working to ensure business resilience has never been more important. In the wake of the HSE cyberattack, which has shown us just how much devastation cybercriminals can cause, it’s vital for every organisation to take cybersecurity seriously and to protect themselves against external threats and internal complacence.

Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused an accelerated move to online and digital services in work, education, health, retail and more. The more we do online, the more we must prioritise cybersecurity. In fact, PwC’s Global Digital Trust Insights Survey 2021, which surveyed more than 3,000 global executives, found 96pc of their organisations had evolved their cybersecurity strategy due to the pandemic.

Companies of all sizes need to ensure that they not only have the appropriate and up-to-date cybersecurity technology in place, but also that cybersecure thinking and behaviour is part of the DNA of their organisations.

This is no longer an optional add-on or a siloed activity. Half of the executives surveyed by PwC for that recent report said cybersecurity and privacy will be baked into every single business decision or plan in their company.

While most larger organisations have extensive security controls and infrastructure in place, some smaller firms do not and they are leaving themselves open and vulnerable to attack. Regardless of the size of the organisation, however, it’s crucial to remember that strong cybersecurity has two critical components.

The first of those is security technology, infrastructure and controls, and those should be strong and up to date no matter what. More and more organisations are ensuring this is the case. Accenture’s State of Cybersecurity Report 2020 found that 82pc of leaders were spending more than a fifth of their IT budgets on advanced security, up from 41pc three years earlier.

The power of education

Companies can fixate on technological fixes without focusing on the most significant line of defence. However, the second and arguably most important element of any cybersecurity strategy is instilling a security culture throughout every aspect of the organisation and influencing and supporting the appropriate human behaviour needed to combat threats.

Organisations need to move away from having security training as a box-ticking exercise or doing training because they know they should be. A high security culture must underpin the company culture.

This is not a once-off activity, a strong security culture will change employee attitudes. This means moving beyond tactical and recognising that effective security requires a long-term approach, focusing more on the awareness and communications, bringing the policies to life so to speak. It means understanding the best communication channels to promote a sense of belonging and offer support to employees to raise security incidents or issues is really important.

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It’s vital, for example, to emphasise and re-emphasise the importance of even the simplest, most basic behaviours, such as never sharing your password or being careful not to discuss confidential information on calls in open-plan offices. It’s also worthwhile to underline that the information people share on social media is absolute gold for cybercriminals. They can obtain extremely valuable information there.

Early detection of significant new threats often arises because someone says, “This isn’t right, this doesn’t feel right, maybe we should get this checked out before we click on it”. Encourage everyone in your organisation to report anything remotely suspicious to the IT department and ensure you run simulated attacks to understand and analyse the response within the organisation. Likewise, limit admin rights so employees can only download approved apps and software.

Our analysis, particularly of the FluBot malware scam that has been circulating to Android phones across Europe, shows that hackers have changed tack in recent times. As much as organisations and companies try to bolster their defences, the hackers are trying to exploit any potential loopholes arising from human behaviour.

They study the human perspective, because they are trying to make sure their messaging is as impactful as possible, so they use masking and spoofing behaviours to make their messages seem as though they are coming from the Gardaí or the Department of Social Protection.

The most insidious phishing threat is often not one involving a huge volume of phishing emails. It’s where the hackers turn down the dial and try more low-key approaches that could easily catch people out.

One threat to warn staff about, for example, is spear phishing. This might occur when a third party’s technology has been compromised. When an employee receives an email from the third party, it seems legitimate and trustworthy, but it is what is being asked of the employee that should raise the alarm. For example, they might be asked to change the bank account to which a payment is being made. Everyone in an organisation should be aware of these red flags.

To fight cybercrime, we need a holistic approach, spanning industry, individuals and government. Ireland is already at the vanguard of this and works with industry to understand threats and where security improvements can be made, but it’s vital that national and European policy and regulations are clear to everyone in every business so that we can have strong and effective digital workplace policies.

By Edel Briody

Edel Briody is the head of corporate security, risk and compliance at Vodafone Ireland.

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South Korea sets reliability standards for Big Tech • The Register

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South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has offered Big Tech some advice on how to make their services suitably resilient, and added an obligation to notify users – in Korean – when they fail.

The guidelines apply to Google, Meta (parent company of Facebook), Netflix, Naver, Kakao and Wavve. All have been told to improve their response to faults by beefing up preemptive error detection and verification systems, and create back up storage systems that enable quick content recovery.

The guidelines offer methods Big Tech can use to measure user loads, then plan accordingly to ensure their services remain available. Uptime requirements are not spelled out.

Big techs is already rather good at resilience. Google literally wrote the book on site reliability engineering.

The guidelines refer to legislation colloquially known as the “Netflix law” which requires major service outages be reported to the Ministry.

That law builds on another enacted in 2020 that made online content service providers responsible for the quality of their streaming services. It was put in place after a number of outages, including one where notifications of the problem were made on the offending company’s social media site – but only in English.

The new regulations follow South Korean telcos’ recent attempts to have platforms that guzzle their bandwidth pay for the privilege. Mobile carrier SK Broadband took legal action in October of this year, demanding Netflix pitch in some cash for the amount of bandwidth that streaming shows – such as Squid Game – consume.

In response, Netflix pointed at its own free content delivery network, Open Connect, which helps carriers to reduce traffic. Netflix then accused SK Broadband of trying to double up on profits by collecting fees from consumers and content providers at the same time.

For the record, Naver and Kakao pay carriers, while Apple TV+ and Disney+ have at the very least given lip service to the idea.

Korea isn’t the only place where telcos have noticed Big Tech taking up more than its fair share of bandwidth. The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) published a letter from ten telco CEOs asking that larger platforms “contribute fairly to network costs”. ®

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Twitter acquires Slack competitor Quill to improve its messaging services

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As part of the acquisition, Quill will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company.

Twitter has acquired the messaging platform Quill, seen as a potential competitor to Slack, in order to improve its messaging tools and services.

Quill announced that it will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company to continue its original goal “to make online communication more thoughtful, and more effective, for everyone”.

The purchase of Quill could be linked to Twitter’s new strategy to reduce its reliance on ad revenue and attract paying subscribers.

Twitter’s general manager for core tech, Nick Caldwell, described Quill as a “fresher, more deliberate way to communicate. We’re bringing their experience and creativity to Twitter as we work to make messaging tools like DMs a more useful and expressive way people can have conversations on the service”.

Users of Quill have until 11 December to export their team message history before the servers are fully shut down at 1pm PST (9pm Irish time). The announcement has instructions for users who wish to import their chat history into Slack and states that all active teams will be issued full refunds.

The team thanked its users and said: “We can’t wait to show you what we’ll be working on next.”

Quill was launched in February with the goal to remove the overwhelming aspects of other messaging services and give users a more deliberate and focused form of online chat.

In an online post, Quill creator Ludwig Pettersson said: “We started Quill to increase the quality of human communication. Excited to keep doing just that, at Twitter.”

The company became a potential competitor for Slack, which was bought by Salesforce at the end of 2020 for $27.7bn. The goal of that acquisition was to combine Salesforce’s CRM platform with Slack’s communications tools to create a unified service tailored to digital-led teams around the world.

Last week, Salesforce announced the promotion of Bret Taylor to vice-chair and co-CEO, just days after he was appointed independent chair of Twitter after CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down.

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Australians’ 2021 Google searches: Covid comes out on top with sport our favoured non-pandemic distraction | Google

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The Covid-19 pandemic once again dominated internet searches in Australia this year, as lockdowns gripped the two largest states, and people sought vaccines.

Google has compiled data on the most popular search terms from the previous 12 months, which showed Covid’s dominance in Australia was challenged by people looking for an escape in sports. The NBA, AFL, cricket, NRL, football, Wimbledon and the Olympics took out the top spots for most searched sport in Australia in 2021.

The Covid situation in New South Wales dominated news-related searches, with the Delta outbreak forcing the state into the longest continuous lockdown in 2021. Victorians, having endured the most number of days in lockdown since the pandemic started, did not appear to seek out information about the Covid situation in their own state nearly as much, with “coronavirus Victoria” coming in fifth in news-related searches, even behind Queensland at number three.

For the second year in a row, people Googled “how to make face masks” more than any other DIY-related search. As residents in NSW, Victoria and the ACT endured extended lockdowns, at-home activities like making your own candles, playdough, paper planes, and chatterboxes soared.

As Australia’s vaccination “strollout” gathered pace in the second half of 2021, people searched how to get their vaccination certificates, how to book their Covid vaccination, how to link their Medicare to myGov, and how to enter the Million Dollar Vax campaign.

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The shocking disappearance of West Australian four-year-old Cleo Smith and the dramatic rescue over two weeks later was the second biggest news event searched on Google by Australians. The ongoing search for missing toddler William Tyrrell came in sixth.

The former federal attorney general Christian Porter’s name dominated Google search trends in the days leading up to a press conference where he outed himself as the unnamed minister in an ABC report about an alleged historical rape. He vehemently denies the allegations. In his now-settled defamation suit against the ABC, lawyers for Porter raised that after the report searches of his name “increased significantly and much more so than any other senior male cabinet members”.

The former minister, who announced last week he would not recontest his WA seat of Pearce at the 2022 federal election, appears eighth in the 2021 list of news-related searches.

Porter was the fourth most-searched person overall in Australia, behind Cleo Smith, Ash Barty, and William Tyrell. The new NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, came in sixth.

Bringing up the rear of news searches was the moment that shook Melbourne – literally – the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Victoria in September.

Interest in all things cryptocurrency was also reflected in Australian searches with cryptocurrency exchange Coinspot the ninth most searched term, and people searched how to buy Dogecoin.

Prince Philip was the most searched among those who died in 2021, followed by US woman Gabby Petito, and Australian entertainment giant Bert Newton.

Thanks to Jaden Smith and Britney Spears, people were searching for the meaning of the word “emancipated” more than any other word in 2021, followed by “insurrection” after the events at the US Capitol on 6 January, then it was “gaslighting”, Naidoc and NFT.

Despite emerging late in the year, Omicron came in sixth as people looked up the meaning of the latest Covid-19 variant of concern.

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