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Joint advisory warns of global increase in sophisticated ransomware

Recent reports have noticed an increase in sophisticated ransomware attacks targeting Linux-based systems and critical infrastructure sectors.

Cybersecurity authorities in the US, UK and Australia have issued a joint advisory warning on the increase in sophisticated, high-impact ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure.

In the US, the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the NSA observed ransomware attacks against 14 of the 16 US critical infrastructure sectors in 2021. These include the defence industrial base, emergency services, agriculture, government facilities and IT.

“Ransomware tactics and techniques continued to evolve in 2021, which demonstrates ransomware threat actors’ growing technological sophistication and an increased ransomware threat to organisations globally,” the agencies said in a joint statement this week.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre recognises ransomware as “the biggest cyber threat facing the United Kingdom”. The cybersecurity authority said education is one of the top UK sectors targeted by ransomware, but it also noted attacks targeting businesses, charities, the legal profession and public services.

Meanwhile, the Australian Cyber Security Centre noticed a similar trend of cyberattacks aimed at the country’s critical infrastructure sectors, such as medical, financial services, energy and the higher education sector.

“If the ransomware criminal business model continues to yield financial returns for ransomware actors, ransomware incidents will become more frequent,” the agencies said. “Every time a ransom is paid, it confirms the viability and financial attractiveness of the ransomware criminal business model.”

A shift towards mid-sized victims

A report by these security agencies said the first half of 2021 saw a rise in ransomware attacks towards “big game” or high-value organisations that provide critical services, including the Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods. However, ransomware groups suffered disruptions by US authorities by the middle of 2021.

“Subsequently, the FBI observed some ransomware threat actors redirecting ransomware efforts away from ‘big game’ and toward mid-sized victims to reduce scrutiny,” the agencies said.

They provided a list of ways organisations can try to mitigate the risk of being affected by a ransomware attack. These include keeping all operating systems and software up to date, closely monitoring riskier services such as remote desktop protocol, and implementing a user training programme to raise awareness among employees.

Alon Arvatz, senior director of product management at cyber intelligence company IntSights, which is owned by Rapid7, said the joint advisory is an “important step” in ensuring organisations bolster their security against ransomware attacks. He said understanding the threats organisations are exposed to can be the difference between quickly dealing with malicious code or malware causing “significant damage” to a network.

“Whilst this is a step in the right direction, organisations must work to fully understand the ‘context’ behind cyberattacks,” Arvatz added. “Security teams have to be aware of the cybercriminals which are likely to target them, the techniques they use, and which systems they are most likely to target.

“With this knowledge, organisations can then increase their security in areas of the network most vulnerable and know how to defend against cyberattacks which do breach their network.”

Linux attacks

A recent report released by cloud computing company VMware said there has been a rise in cybercrime aimed at Linux-based systems in order to infiltrate corporate and government networks.

The report noted that Linux is a common operating system for multi-cloud environments such as data centres and powers many of the world’s most popular websites. However, most current malware countermeasures are focused on addressing Windows-based threats, which cybercriminals have taken notice of.

“Cloud infrastructures and data centres host key components, such as email servers and customer databases, that have been the target of high-profile intelligence-gathering breaches,” the report said.

VMware also said that ransomware attacks on Linux systems are using more sophisticated techniques, and many of the attacks it noticed against cloud deployments were targeted rather than opportunistic.

“Ransomware attacks against cloud environments are often combined with data exfiltration, implementing a double-extortion scheme that improves their odds of success,” it added.

The report said one of the most common tools used by attackers is Cobalt Strike and its recent variant of Linux-based Vermilion Strike, which helps give remote access to hackers. A version of Cobalt Strike was used last year in the HSE cyberattack.

VMware said said organisations need to “bolster their ability to identify and defend against these types of attacks”.

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Healthcare And Digital Upskilling

HeathTech & MedTech

According to EIT Health’s Elaine Murray and Sneha Saloni, it’s time to embrace digital upskilling within the healthcare industry

European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced last year that 2023 would be the ‘European Year of Skills’ with the objective of “a Europe fit for the digital age”. It will promote a mindset of reskilling and upskilling, helping people develop the right skills for the most in-demand jobs.

So, what does this mean for the healthcare sector? The European Health Parliament previously stated that, “digital technology is an inevitable part of the future of European healthcare” and called for upskilling healthcare workers.

Digital technologies such as AI, telemedicine and robotics, present huge potential for the way healthcare can be delivered, by maximising the reach and impact of various health services.

Preference is slowly shifting from brick and mortar to virtual healthcare and hence, many in the health sector are starting to reimagine and embrace digital to maximise efficiency and efficacy.

The digital skills gap

Healthcare professions make up approximately 10pc of the workforce in Europe, however estimates forecast that there is a shortage of approximately 1m health workers (600,000 in nursing, 230,000 physicians). Data demonstrates that healthcare companies are not visible among the most attractive employers in the eyes of talent.

Couple that with a 2020 report by the European Commission which stated that “shortages of software skills are now omnipresent” across Europe. The pandemic has not only boosted demand for tech-enabled healthcare services, with 90pc of all jobs in health soon to require an element of digital skills, but it has also widened the skill gap, placing stress on existing healthcare systems.

That means the industry is facing challenges in both recruiting into the sector and equipping the staff it does have with the digital skills they need. Many are either resistant or not well informed about new digital tools and systems. Lack of information and training among clinical and support staff acts as a deterrent to improving efficacy in patient care outcomes.

We therefore find ourselves at a critical juncture. Digital transformation in healthcare means increasing pressure on the existing system to perform, while sustaining and acknowledging the widening skills gap. Adequate investment in the workforce’s digital skills and digital literacy is now crucial.

Empowering healthcare professionals through digital upskilling

EIT Health, Europe’s largest health innovation network, is working to combat the talent shortage in the healthcare industry through its WorkInHealth Foundation. This aims to promote healthcare as a sector in which talent can thrive in Europe, particularly in the areas of digital, commercial, and innovation. EIT Health’s pan-European network links industry and academia which means it can tap into both recruiters and candidates, matching talent across the sector.

For those on the frontline, it can be difficult to stay abreast of so many fast-changing technologies entering the market. Whether it is a hospital administrator seeking to become proficient at using chatbots, cleaning staff adopting autonomous disinfection software, or a physician showing a patient how to use a medical device remotely, technology is integrated at every level of health service delivery.

A holistic approach needs to be adopted for upskilling by creating regular training opportunities for healthcare workers, senior executives and support staff so they can develop the digital expertise they need to carry out their roles efficiently and effectively.

There is also opportunity for institutions to shift from traditional training frameworks to digital alternatives. For example, training programmes to understand the integration of AI, data management, analytics and machine learning into existing infrastructure.

Initiatives such as the HSE’s Spark Innovation Programme create regular knowledge-building opportunities for healthcare staff in areas such as AI, design thinking, and innovation.

The Healthcare Transformation Academy, coordinated by EIT Health and organisations from the European University Hospital Alliance, offers high-quality and affordable on-demand courses in digital transformation, innovation management, high-value care and leadership for healthcare professionals to upskill.

The WorkInHealth Foundation also aims to support in upskilling and reskilling, increasing the volume of talent in the areas with greatest demand and boosting competitiveness of the European health industry. The initiative is in full alignment with the ambitions of the European Innovation Agenda as well as the EU Pact for Skills.

The European Year of Skills 2023 will help the healthcare sector navigate its digital transformation journey by address skills shortages in the EU, promoting a mindset of upskilling, which can ultimately improve patient care and increase reach in healthcare accessibility.


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How Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Necessary For Startup Triumph

Entrepreneurial Mindset & Startup Triumph

The Voice Of EU | In today’s dynamic world of startups, achieving exceptional growth isn’t a one-shot endeavor. It demands more than a stroke of luck or a hidden formula; it requires an unwavering entrepreneurial mindset, a steadfast commitment, and consistent, sustained effort.

How Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Necessary For Startup Triumph

Picture Credits: PS Vault

In the subsequent sections, I’ll dissect five crucial factors to high-performance growth psychology that can steer your startup towards unprecedented success.

1. The Primacy of Communication

In the quest for growth, it’s commonplace for companies to prioritize feature development over precise language. Yet, this approach is fundamentally misguided. Language should precede all else.

The words you choose to articulate your product and company not only define your identity but also establish user expectations. Your choice of language wields significant influence, shaping how users perceive and engage with your offering. For example, a ridesharing service becomes exponentially more appealing when it promises a ride in four minutes or less.

User-Centric Empathy

Successful Founders distinguish themselves by their ability to think beyond their product and focus on the users. It’s imperative to understand how users think and feel, considering the intricate web of their lives.

To truly stand out, you must ask, “What does my product mean to them, and how does it fit into their world?” Behind every thriving tech company lies a profound insight into human psychology, a key that resonates with users’ needs and desires.

Perpetual Motion

In a landscape dominated by industry giants, speed emerges as your greatest ally. Much like the ancient shrew that thrived through ceaseless motion, startups must embrace a similar philosophy, “be creative, be dynamic.”.

To navigate the whirlwind of rapid changes and outmaneuver larger competitors, you must be in perpetual motion. Swift experimentation, rapid iteration, and an unwavering forward momentum are the cornerstones of sustained growth.

The Embrace of Data

Commitment to measurement is the engine driving growth. Being truly data-driven is not merely a buzzword, but a fundamental philosophy. Devoting substantial engineering resources to measurement, up to half of your total, demonstrates a genuine love for data. It should be an integral part of your company culture, displayed prominently for all to see. Your daily stats should be a source of pride and a testament to your dedication to growth.

Resilience in the Face of Setbacks

Failure is a constant companion on the path to growth. Embracing a mindset that can endure these setbacks is crucial. Most initiatives will yield negative outcomes, and being able to move forward despite this is paramount.

It’s a psychology of resilience, encapsulated in the saying, ‘Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm‘. This grit and determination are the keys to achieving substantial growth.

Implementing Growth Psychology

To instill these growth-oriented mindsets in your team, consider the following steps:

1. Teach the mentality, particularly the willingness to endure repeated small failures.

2. Clarify that every member is directly responsible for growth, regardless of their official role.

3. Provide your team with the authority to drive product changes and allocate resources for growth.

4. Encourage your team to be more aggressive in pushing growth boundaries.

5. Keep taking big swings and be open to creative, high-risk strategies.

Ultimately, growth is a collective effort, but it hinges on the psychology of the CEO. Founders shape their startups through consistent actions and decisions.

Cultivating the right growth psychology can be the difference between sluggish progress and exponential success. It empowers your company with data-driven visibility, constant momentum, and the audacity to aim for 1000% growth.

If you’re in the latter camp, reach out to us to explore further opportunities for growth.


We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Raza Qadri | Business, Science & Technology Contributor “The Voice Of EU

— For more information: Info@VoiceOfEU.com

— Anonymous news submissions: Press@VoiceOfEU.com


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4 Ways AI Is Transforming Social Media Marketing

Rebecca Barnatt-Smith explains how marketers and content creators can use AI-powered predicative analytics, content personalisation and scheduling tools to create successful social media campaigns.

Is artificial intelligence (AI) the next big thing for social media marketers?

With over 4.26bn social media users to serve, AI is set to transform targeting and improve content personalisation for a more focused marketing future.

AI is not a new phenomenon in the marketing world. When surveyed, over 56pc of chief marketing officers (CMOs) said they use automated assistants for content personalisation and tracking consumer insights. AI-driven social strategies are just the next step in a fast-approaching digital future of campaigning.

However, could a push for AI-infused social campaigns pose ethical concerns for future marketers? From breaching consumer privacy to decision system bias, with great technology comes great responsibility.

Here we look at AI’s impact on social media marketing and discuss some of the best AI-infused platforms that are tipped to lead social strategies in 2023.

How can AI improve your social media?

Using AI, you can quickly segment large demographics into targeted groups, track viral trends and schedule personalised content responses in seconds.

If you want to compete against commerce giants and industry leaders, your social content should be consistent, compelling and customised to each and every consumer. Here are some insights into how AI can help.

Content personalisation

In 2023, 73pc of shoppers expect brands to offer them a personalised experience and content that speaks directly to their values. AI can enhance a brand’s personalisation potential in a number of ways.

Automatically harvesting behavioural and historical consumer data, AI-generated platforms can quickly learn about a user’s interests and predict what products or services they’d be most likely to interact with, resulting in a hyper-individualised experience that can boost engagement and increase the chances of conversion.

However, with 69pc of consumers now concerned about how their data is collected and used on mobile apps, it’s important to use content personalisation tools with caution.

“As consumers continue to learn and become more informed about their data rights and how their data is currently used, I expect we’ll see more and more calls from consumers to have their data protected,” claims Swish Goswami, CEO of browser extension platform Surf.

The key here is to keep your consumers in the loop. Give your followers a chance to choose what they share, and make sure the data you collect is transparent. Personalised ads, posts and targeting is a business game changer, as long as you have consent.

Automated content posting

Creating content for your brand is the driving force behind audience engagement.

While experts recommend that brands upload social media content daily, this process can be time-consuming. Using AI-driven social media tools, marketers can feel the pressure drain away, as automated assistants not only create original content formats but automatically schedule them too.

For example, AI-infused content planner Sprout Social can generate personalised tweets that reply to fans and followers in seconds. Instead of physically manning social channels and checking for replies, Sprout Social monitors a brand’s comment section before analysing the tone and sentiment of a reply. Sprout can then suggest an auto-response that aims to carry on the conversation between the brand and the consumer.

While automatic replies can pose ethical questions about a brand’s true identity, Sprout Social ensures that before an automatic reply is posted, the social media manager is able to review and edit the content. This guarantees that the brand’s voice still has a human tone when connecting with its audience.

Hubspot is also a nifty tool to have under your belt, especially if you’re struggling to develop new content ideas. By simply pasting a content link into Hubspot’s content generation feature, it uses AI to quickly analyse the metadata and create an original social post.

Social media advertising

Social platforms are the perfect vessels for advertising success. Whether you choose TikTok or Instagram, with the ability to post a pop-up on a user’s scroll-down feed, or a sponsored TikTok that blends seamlessly into a For You Page, social channels allow for a more organic future of ad placement.

However, with so many brands utilising social media, it can be hard to make your ad stand out from the crowd. Your ads must be full of compelling captions, quick links to your online store and contain a personalised hook for your target consumer.

Using AI, brands can optimise their ad performance on social channels. With the ability to analyse historic campaigns and current trends among industry leaders, AI-driven ad tools such as Sprinklr can make recommendations for smarter campaigns that drive better results.

Also, AI-infused ad strategies are more likely to be personalised to each user’s feed. AI tools like Phrase can generate customisable ad phrasing that adapts to target individual customers. This is a great way to ensure your ad captions remain fluid and speak directly to a diverse set of leads.

Predictive analytics

While it’s easier than ever to track social media performance, acting on your results can be tricky. AI-generated monitoring tools utilise the data harvested on content engagement, clicks and consumers, and turn these insights into predictions for new campaigns, content formats and new target groups to work on.

The key here is to take these predictions and turn them into content campaigns that frame the values of your brand. It’s also important to do your own research before jumping into an AI-generated content campaign, as just like humans, AI can have a decision system bias.

“AI is fallible and in a perfect world should be used critically, responsibly and democratically,” says Annie Brown, founder of the creative sharing platform Lips. “AI is only as fair and accurate as the algorithm, and the algorithm is only as fair or accurate as the human-generated information it gathers.”

For example, if the only data your AI tool collects is from a specific consumer group, it’s likely to inherit the same biases. Therefore, it’s important to perform your own content research if you want your brand voice to remain objective on social media.

However, with more data to inform their strategy, brands that use AI to influence their social campaigns are more likely to see higher conversion payoffs.

As social platforms continue to become more visual, AI can also enhance video and image analysis. For example, AI algorithms can now identify certain aspects of Instagram images and TikTok videos, making it easier to gather more data on a user’s interests and behaviours.

Visual analytics could help a brand improve its content styles as AI tools learn more about audience preferences and the formats going viral.

Could AI take social media marketing to the next level?

AI can enhance the experience a consumer has with a brand on social media. With predictive analytics at play, the content targeted users receive is more likely to speak directly to their values.

While there are still ethical concerns surrounding an AI-infused future of campaigning, there’s hope on the horizon for data-sharing transparency and the impact of algorithmic biases as both consumers and marketers take control of how data is gathered and shared.

As machine learning gets even smarter, the possibilities are endless for brands that want to get close to their leads. From automated responses to automatic content creation, the future of social media marketing is AI-driven.

By Rebecca Barnatt-Smith

Rebecca Barnatt-Smith is a freelance content writer and multi-media marketing executive at Solvid Digital, specialising in social media trends and widespread digitalisation in the marketing sector.


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