The Sunday Mail
Coronavirus has forced staff in most companies to shift from brick-and-mortar workplaces to working from home, and resources are increasingly being deployed for them to seamlessly adjust to the new normal.
Such adjustments include remotely accessing the company’s network resources such as the internet, e-mails and confidential files through virtual private networks (VPNs) and private WiFi services.
Where workers are accessing files and applications through cloud services, which enable remote access through almost any device, this has come with new threats.
A survey conducted in August this year by Liquid Telecommunications Holdings — a pan-African telecommunications company with a footprint in over 13 countries across the continent including Zimbabwe — flagged increased cyber threats to companies since the outbreak of Covid-19.
In fact, of the businesses that were interviewed, 57 percent registered an increase in cyber security threats over the period.
“Cyber security is a real and imminent threat to businesses and their end-users, as highlighted by the survey commissioned in August 2020 by Liquid Telecom.
“IT decision-makers across Africa were asked for their insights on cyber security trends, with 57 percent of those surveyed stating that they have seen an increase in threats over the pandemic period. While many employees across the continent are returning to work, organisations are embracing a hybrid model of digital and onsite working,” the company said in a statement last week.
The biggest cybersecurity concerns that most businesses are facing include password compromise (72 percent), phishing or social engineering attacks involving fraudulent e-mails to steal personal information (67 percent), insider threats resulting of lack of awareness by the user (56 percent), and information stored in the cloud (53 percent).
These threats were much more apparent in countries such as South Africa and Kenya.
According to Liquid Telecom’s chief executive officer Mr Nic Rudnick, what is even more worrying is that research has shown that it takes an average 228 days to identify a breach in the system, and by that time the liability to the company might be “unlimited”.
For some companies, the total cost of a breach is estimated at US$2,14 million.
He said research has shown that 50 percent of corporate data is now in the cloud.
Guaranteeing security in the cloud for most companies has become increasingly difficult as only 10 percent of applications might actually be sanctioned by the IT department, while 20 percent are user-led.
Liquid Telecoms, however, opines that separating a company’s network, cloud and cyber security naturally creates vulnerabilities that can easily open the door to cyber attacks.
While the company, which has more than 70 000 kilometres of fibre across the continent, has been offering network and cloud services, last week it decided to launch its cyber security unit — Liquid Telecom Cyber Security Services — that is meant to offer a “wholesome” and “secure” package.
The company’s group chief digital officer, Mr David Behr, said it was leveraging on the expertise from some of the industry’s biggest cyber security solution providers, which are its strategic partners, to create a secure network that is likely to be breach-proof.
“Although we are unveiling the cyber security unit today (Wednesday), Liquid Telecom is not new to this space. We have successfully secured our own network for the past 15 years, and now through our strategic partnerships with Netskope, Logicalis, Microsoft and Cyber Risk Aware we have curated the best solutions in the industry to address the changing demands of a digitally transformed business world,” he said.
Overall, through the new cyber security unit, Liquid intends to capitalise on its network, which already provides data, voice and IP services, and its cloud services — allowing for remote access of data in a company’s system — to create a seamless system that can provide a secure network.
Through tie-ups with partners such as Netscope, the cyber security unit intends to provide capabilities through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to guarantee secure access and systems, including the security of users (the workers accessing the system).
It gives IT the ability to monitor what would be happening in the cloud and hence work to address the threats timeously.
Due to the sheer volume of data that is processed through the system, it is believed that AI and machine learning can provide the capability to monitor while also ensuring low latency (minimal delays).
It is believed that 90 percent of security incidents are caused by lack of awareness.
But as working from home becomes the new normal that might even outlive the coronavirus, a new “threat vector” is now on the horizon.
“As social distancing became increasingly a mandate worldwide, so came a seemingly new threat vector — remote working,” said Mr Sizwe Zikhali, a senior solution architect at Microsoft, at a Webinar to mark the launch of Liquid Telecom Cyber Security Services last week.
Companies are now focusing on keeping the new threats in check.