According to research from Markets and Markets, Gain the artificial intelligence industry is expected to grow to $190 billion by 2025. By the year 2021, it is estimated that three-quarters of commercial enterprise apps will use AI.

Cybersecurity

 

One area where artificial intelligence is making headway is cybersecurity. As in all industries, AI can improve data processes and free up humans from time-consuming responsibilities, allowing them to focus on more important issues.

AI is becoming such an important issue in cybersecurity, let’s take a look at some of the key ways the technology can help:

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1. Updating Databases and Identifying Large Scale Movements

AI can be used to update security databases. By analyzing logs from various sources, artificial intelligence can detect when new threats are imminent. In other words, AI can collect comprehensive data from different logs and records and “connect the dots” to identify new threats that are being spread by hackers.

AI can also identify malware and spyware trends by analyzing data across multiple channels.

By using AI, new malware systems can be detected much quicker and before they can do damage on a large scale. There will be more time to come up with prevention methods to fix any bugs or security flaws that may be exploited by the malware or virus.

2. Identify Unusual Activity

Besides detecting large scale malware movements, AI can also be used on an individual level to scan a system for abnormal activity. By constantly scanning, enough data can be collected to determine when a particular activity is abnormal.

Users can be constantly monitored to detect when unauthorized access occurs. If abnormal activity is detected, AI can use certain parameters to help determine whether or not it may indicate a threat or whether it is a false alarm.

Machine learning can be used to help AI determine what “normal” activity is and what should be considered “abnormal.” As machine learning becomes more advanced, AI will become better at detecting slight abnormalities which may indicate something wrong going on.

As above, “connecting the dots” is the key here. Certain slight abnormalities may not seem significant on their own, but together they can paint a bigger picture of what may be causing them.

An example would be how attackers entered the systems of Home Depot and Target by gaining access to third-party supplier credentials. Unfortunately, this was perceived as normal traffic.

AI can constantly scan the system, analyze different activities, compare them with each other, and create warning alerts.

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3. Detection

This is slightly different from how AI detects abnormal activity. Here, the focus is AI pinpointing potential weaknesses, bugs, and security flaws. For example, machine learning can be used to detect when entrusted data has been sent from an application.

Injection SQL vulnerabilities are one of the most commonly exploited weaknesses by malware and viruses to steal data and enter systems. Another weakness AI can help detect is a buffer overflow, or when an application puts more data than usual in a buffer. Yet another area where AI can help is human error. Employee mistakes are some of the major causes of data breaches, and AI can detect them in time to prevent damage.

On a larger scale, AI can stay up-to-date on current malware threats (as mentioned) and scan the current system to see how it would be vulnerable to any potential threats.

4. Prevention

As AI gets more advanced, it cannot only detect when a certain system or update has a flaw, but automatically prevent those flaws from being exploited. Whether it’s adding additional firewalls or fixing coding errors causing vulnerabilities, this can be a great way to prevent problems from occurring.

5. Response

This is similar to prevention, but happens at a later stage – when malware has already entered the system. As mentioned, AI can be used to detect abnormal behaviors and connect the dots to create a profile of malware or viruses in the system.

The next step is an appropriate response to the malware or virus. This includes damage control, removing the virus from the system, patching any security flaws, and making sure additional protections are put in place to prevent the virus from infecting the system again.

Other Ways To Use AI for Cybersecurity

Beyond these five main benefits, there are other ways AI can be used to improve online security – such as e-commerce. This is significant considering e-tail revenues are projected to surpass $4.88 trillion by 2021. And while it shows business promise, e-tail also brings added pressure for retailers to make transaction systems more robust and secure.

AI has already simplified inventory management, customer support & other operations. Now it looks set to strengthen security processes.

These are issues that you have to deal with sooner or later and being privacy-conscious as a freelancers is essential in an online world rife with scams, hacks, and thefts. But where should you start?

freelancers

Following these 6 privacy best practices will ensure you are much safer as a freelancer.

1. Keep tabs on your name and brand online to guard against identity theft.

One of the biggest privacy threats you have to deal with as a freelancer is your identity being stolen. Research from Javelin Strategy & Research shows that in 2017 alone there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud, and these stolen identities were used to defraud people out of $16.8 billion.

Identity theft is a major issue – more so for freelancers. Thanks to how easy it can be to find information online, someone can quickly do a search on you, steal your identity, and use it to give him/herself a major advantage when dealing with other clients. What this means is that a random, unknown person can instantly claim to be you and leverage your years of experience, your credibility, your social proof, and even your location to seek jobs as a freelancer. Just ask this freelancer who had her identity stolen by a Bangladeshi native; using her identity, the Bangladeshi native was able to pose as a native-English speaking freelance writer from America and then used the opportunity to get more jobs. A real nightmare.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you try, you can’t protect yourself 100% from identity theft. However, you can make yourself much safer by doing the following:

  • Regularly monitor your name and brand online. Using services like Google Alerts and Mention, set up alerts to automatically track mentions of your name, brand, and keywords online. If you see anything come up on you that you didn’t create or authorize, quickly follow up and have it removed before it becomes a bigger threat.
  • File a DMCA notice. In the case that you find that someone is impersonating you by using your identity on their website or on a freelance job site to secure clients, you can file a DMCA takedown notice to compel them to take down your materials (which could include your pictures, sample content, or any other content you created and can claim copyright to).

With a little awareness and monitoring, you can give yourself an edge and stop the people planning to use your identity in their tracks before further damage is done.

2. Be wary about installing third-party software recommended by a potential client.

When a potential client says that you have to install third-party software before they can work with you, it is important to conduct your own independent investigations to make sure you are not installing malware or some other malicious software designed to steal your information.

There have been situations in the past when criminals claim to be a potential employer looking for a freelancer and then ask the freelancer to install a remote management app only to use the app as an avenue to take over the freelancer’s device, steal the freelancer’s details, and even defraud the freelancer.

If you really must install third-party software, investigate it independently and make sure you only install it from an official source. Many developers will protect their work with a code signing certificate. This certificate is issued by a Certificate Authority or CA like GlobalSign and acts as assurance that the software is authentic and has not been altered since being published.

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3. Think twice before sending any identification or documentation to clients.

When an independent employer hiding only behind an email address and a Skype account asks you to provide important documents or information like your driver’s license or your social security number you should proceed with extreme caution.

If you carelessly provide “potential clients” with key information and documentation that identifies you, you can easily become a victim of identity theft – or these documents and information, with adept social engineering, can be used to access your bank accounts and defraud you.

4. Don’t ignore online security basics.

Oftentimes, very little things can make a big difference. You should pay careful attention to the following online security basics:

  • Don’t ever use the Internet on a computer that does not have an antivirus, antimalware, and firewall software installed. If you do, there’s a huge possibility that a hacker can install a malware or keylogger that eavesdrop on you.
  • As a freelancer, there will be more than a few times when you have to work on a public network – in a café, during your commute, at a restaurant, hotel, or elsewhere. In cases like these, don’t ever enter sensitive information on any website without using a VPN.
  • Enable encryption on all your devices.
  • Ensure that apps and software on your devices are regularly up to date.

5. Always be prepared against phishing attempts.

You also want to pay careful attention when trying to log on to sites that require you to input sensitive information. Some tips:

  • Avoid entering sensitive information on websites accessed through links sent by an unknown third-party via email or IM. If possible, it is better to manually type the website URL in your browser instead of clicking a link.
  • With key websites that require a login, pay careful attention to make sure that there is a padlock in the browser bar or secure site seal, and that the URL is actually correct and not a modified version of the actual website.
  • Enable the anti-phishing feature of your antivirus software (if available) or install Chrome extensions like this one from Microsoft to help protect you against phishing attempts.

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6. Separate your private life from your professional life.

Even though you are a freelancer that works remotely, it is important not to forget that you’re still a professional. As a result, it is important to take certain measures to keep your private life private:

  • Don’t use the same social media profiles for your freelance business. It isn’t ideal to have clients connecting on your private Facebook account. Instead, create a Facebook page for your freelance business and have your clients connect with you over there.
  • Check your privacy settings on your social network accounts. These sites might be giving out more information about you than you intend to share.
  • Don’t use your personal email address for work-related activity. Create a separate, professional email address strictly for freelance work and ensure the password is different from that of your main email address.

The battle for privacy online is an ongoing one, but you want to take extra measures when your livelihood depends on your identity online. As a freelancer, heeding the above privacy best practices will save you from unnecessary worries.

Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a world of multiple devices connected through the medium of sensors. IoT includes objects and entities (things) having unique identifiers that enable automatic data transfer over a network. IoT  has soon emerged as the preferred mode of communication due to computing devices and inbuilt sensors present  in industrial machines, smart homes, energy grids, vehicles, and wearable devices.

connected

The connected world offers host of business opportunities in the form of better quality of products, customer service, and huge volume of invaluable business insights.

However, IoT security is emerging as a primary concern for enterprises as they need to protect the confidentiality of the data produced from these connected devices. IoT is currently presenting potential security threats to enterprises. If left unattended, these threats could undermine our efforts to build a connected world. Additionally, it could also jeopardize enterprise data thereby harming individual’s privacy and safety.

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New Possibilities for Hackers

IoT devices have given rise to threatening vulnerabilities that brings up security issues that demand quick attention. Research has concluded that critical vulnerabilities occur widely among IoT baby monitors. The data can be leveraged by hackers to conduct nefarious activities; they can monitor live feeds, change camera settings, and authorize other people to gain remote access to the monitor.

Cars connected over the Internet are not safe as well. Hackers can control your car’s entertainment system, unlock doors, and shut down a moving car. Hence, the rise of connected devices increases the intensity of security breaches and higher possibilities of hackers targeting common people.

Wearable devices also pose a huge threat to data privacy because hackers can attack the motion sensors installed in your smartwatch and gain access to the typed information; they can also know about your health-related information from your smartwatch app/ fitness tracker device.
Unfortunately, the biggest threat of IoT security is faced by the healthcare sector; medical devices can be hacked that may have fatal consequences on the patient’s recovery process.

Risks associated with IoT

App development for IoT presents unique set of challenges. Industry expert Gartner predicts that 3 out of every 4 applications will be subject to cost overruns, schedule extensions etc. which will make the ecosystem unstable.

Some of the major challenges include:

  • Failure to address security needs: Enterprises generally do not consult security experts when procuring smart devices because primary focus is addressing business needs first. These devices are implemented without a definite strategy which makes them more vulnerable. The networking of these connected devices presents potential attackers a direct access to the critical systems and valuable private data, both personal as well as business data.
  • Difficult to secure: When you purchase smart devices, you do not have sufficient access to security features of the native operating system. It also means that IT professionals are working only on a limited set of features to provide IT security. Some applications do not provide any security features.
  • Data exfiltration: It is assumed that suppliers are rushing to adopt smart systems for their business because they want complete control over customer data. However, the actual reason why suppliers support networking of smart devices is the availability of invaluable data insights along with other important customer information that can help them provide customized products/services. Customers must be aware of what information is being used by the suppliers to maintain business transparency. Seek advice on preventing usage of particular information to avoid complaints of unauthorized customer profiling.
  • Schmupdate: IT enterprise solutions attach enough importance to the criticality of security updates. It turns out to be frustrating for users sometimes however now people have realized that software applications and operating systems are vulnerable. Regular updates helps address the critical issues of data security and privacy. Smart devices are embedded with insecure operating systems devoid of patching functions. Moreover, many devices do not come with updated OS that makes them more vulnerable.
  • Remote access: by default, vendors are satisfied with remote access of smart devices but do not feel the need of security patching. Failure to include standard features like anti-malware systems and firewalls makes your application a great playground for hackers.

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Passive Security Threats

Apart from the known vulnerabilities, passive threats occur when manufacturers collect and store confidential data of customers. The interconnected sensors gather data on the manufacturing servers for data processing and analysis. Hence, without being aware, customers share every piece of personal detail right from credit information up to extremely private details. The IoT device knows more about your life than you. For instance, FitBit, an IoT device collects data for assessment of insurance claims.

Data collection is on the rise and users must be aware about the long-term threats and risks associated with it. Significantly, we must pay attention to the indefinite data which is being stored in the third-party servers.

Private and confidential data stored on network servers attracts the attention of cyber criminals. Access to a manufacturer’s device gives the hacker access to user details of millions in a single attack.

Steps to Minimize IoT Security Risks

Securing IoT devices is an advanced level of security functions implemented by enterprises over past few decades. These measures include data encryption, firewalls, internal monitoring, and authentication of user identity. Such methods have emerged as vital building blocks of an overall strategy for securing the connected world.

Good security plans for IoT devices include the following essential elements:

  • Cloud InfrastructureCloud computing supporting IoT devices require security at different levels. Hence, a three-fold security approach works well; emphasis is given on maintaining confidentiality, availability, and integrity. Data exchanged between IoT endpoints, hubs, and cloud servers should be encrypted. Similarly data fed into IoT servers must be checked thoroughly to avoid malware and application breaches.
  • Best Practices: Cloud hosting requires same level of protection like IoT deployments. Enterprises must focus on following best practices and industry standards of security management by using robust security systems in different stages. Processes of security management complying with State legislations must be incorporated by companies. These regulatory standards ensure that service providers are capable of managing complex IT security measures like threat detection, security assessment, user authorization, data protection, and continuous monitoring of traditional as well as cloud-based IT systems.
  • Security Design: Security features in IoT applications must be incorporated early during the design and development process in order to eliminate attractive opportunities for hackers. Dynamic testing must be conducted before official release of the app helps identify possible vulnerabilities. Preventive measures include SQL injection, cross-site forgery and scripting, which are difficult to identify. IoT management servers depend on open-source applications and coding enterprises must attend to security of shared code.Security features of connected devices are similar to securing rest of the elements included in the infrastructure. Secure devices to avoid authentication-based attacks such as guessing password.
  • Secure IoT Apps & Services: Cloud hosting, a base for back-end IoT deployments poses a potential threat for enterprises. Improper design and configuration of cloud computing is vulnerable to attacks from external as well as internal data sources.

Minimizing IoT security risks, initial design processes require robust procedures; subsequent maintenance helps identify threats in third-party and core software libraries. Additionally, you must ensure that APIs integrated within IoT applications do not have any unauthorized accounts to gain administrative access of these apps.

Is something more required?

Enormous efforts are being made to protect the security of IoT applications and connected devices. However, we cannot be sure that enterprises can leverage this technology fully securely.

For instance, securing the gateways connecting these smart devices to company; manufacturer networks must be protected along with the devices as well. IoT devices undergo a one-time authentication process making infiltration easy. Hence, gateways must be secured to improve the system’s overall security.

Enterprises must focus more on securing IoT related data thereby protecting privacy of customers and functionalities of businesses.

Another area of concern is security of the data repositories. The IoT data is stored at various places that can fall a prey to malicious activities; corporate hackers rely on huge volumes of data in order to generate profits. Data breaches and identity thefts have been on the rise recently. Extra efforts must be put in to secure confidential data of customers and corporations.

Public sector Private organisations are increasingly making the jump to public cloud. But while this is a positive step in their journey towards modernising services, it also brings its challenges. Migration to the public cloud is by no means a new phenomenon, but the hype cycle has reached fever pitch, and organisations should be mindful not to be swept away by the hype. What many organisations are now learning is that public cloud services are typically extremely costly and can place added pressure on already cash-strapped organisations.

Private

These high, and often, unexpected costs are borne from the inflexible solutions that public cloud providers offer. In many cases, the lack of flexibility in these public cloud models means public sector organisation are being tied into lengthy contracts that are difficult to get out of, and that simply do not meet the real needs of the business.

In reality, public sector organisation at the start of their cloud journey need three things from their cloud offering: security, reliability, and capacity. These three fundamentals should form the basis of an organisation’s cloud strategy and should see them look beyond public cloud. Indeed, for many organisations a private cloud strategy could meet their current and future cloud needs.

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What’s in a cloud?

The benefits of adopting a “cloud-first” approach are clear. Public sector organisations can prioritise real business transformation through greater access to critical business applications that can be hosted in the cloud, without the need for disruptive and costly on-premise hardware upgrades. Additionally, cloud offers scalability and increased reliability through on-demand resources, as well as the ability to dial up security as and when needed. Cloud also facilitates greater mobility, this will be essential when rolling out new applications and services, such as remote healthcare practices or e-learning services.

What is critical however is understanding which of the aforementioned benefits, and specifically how many, are included in public cloud offerings. There is a big debate around the price of public cloud. In the initial stages of onboarding customers, public cloud providers have notoriously offered attractive prices for their services, but further down the line these offers have presented hidden costs.

The challenge for most organisations is that they do not have a complete view of what they are paying for and where resources are allocated in a public cloud scenario. The lack of flexibility in these cloud models means organisations often unknowingly pay for resources they don’t need. For publicly funded organisations, this of course creates challenges whereby the very solution chosen to help drive down costs, is in fact having the opposite effect.

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A private solution for public service success

For a long time, the assumption was that public cloud is a cheaper alternative than private. Why? Because infrastructure costs are shouldered by the public cloud providers who operate mammoth data centres with vast quantities of storage and compute capabilities. However, in recent years the premise that public is cheaper than private has been found to be largely false.

Private is now widely considered to be more cost effective in the long run, as storage and compute power can be added or removed, or scaled up or down in accordance to the needs of individual organisations. But cost reduction is not the primary driving force behind private cloud adoption.

One aspect of private cloud that has perhaps deterred public sector organisations in the past is the responsibility of ongoing maintenance. This can be easily solved, however, by partnering with the right provider to manage the private cloud on behalf of an organisation. In this instance the partner provides support, maintenance and upgrades, and shifts management responsibilities away from the customer.

Security is another area where private cloud has the potential to shine in the public sector, as it is inherently more secure than public cloud. Public sector organisations hold a duty of care and are responsible for the processing and protection of large quantities of sensitive data belonging to the communities they support. In a private cloud environment, the customer controls the physical servers and access to these, and is able to mitigate risk by setting parameters on what data can be accessed, when and by whom.

Firewalls can also be set up based on specific organisational requirements. What’s more, the external risk of cyber-attacks is also diminished with private cloud, meaning organisations are less likely to suffer from data breaches or leaks. In addition, this minimised risk gives organisations more bandwidth to prepare for such cyber-attacks, and with the NCSC announcing that it wants organisations to be more proactive rather than reactive when responding to cyber threats, switching to a private cloud may go some way in helping to achieve this.

One final area where private cloud holds weight is in the agility of the providers. Public cloud solutions are run by a handful of big industry players that cannot commit the same level of customer service offered by small or medium providers. In choosing to go private, public sector organisations will have more control to adapt their cloud solution, controlling when and how systems connect to it and how teams interact with the solution. This added agility and adaptability has been a clear growing requirement of public services as they look to streamline efficiencies.

Doing business online can be risky. Online banking websites, online shopping, Online Transactions, and an endless supply of apps that want your credit card details are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to threats to the money your small business earns online. While these are all convenient ways to bank, shop, and do business, there’s a group of people out there who make a living off of this convenience—hackers.

Online

This is usually due to two issues: the weak security of these apps and websites, and your naivety in dealing with online life. This article will look at simple ways for you to protect your business, and yourself, online.

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Securing your banking details, and protecting your money online

Your security online will come down to you and the choices you make online. I’ll break those choices down into categories to better organize how you think about your online activity.

Links that you’re sent, or find online:

  • Never automatically assume that a link is safe. If it isn’t clearly displayed you can hover over it. Your browser should show you the URL (the web address) in the bottom lefthand corner. Is it a website you recognize and trust? Click it. If it isn’t, assess whether it’s worth the risk. Tools like net can also help you determine the website owner.
  • When doing online banking you should find the website’s URL and bookmark it when you’re certain you have the right website. Never go to your bank from a link in an email, a social media website, a chat room, or from banner ads. All can be faked and harm you.
  • Online shopping links are also to be treated in the same way. Trusting a link on a social media website, even to a website you know, is also risky. Manually type the URL into the address bar yourself.

On communications with your bank:

  • Beware of communications from your bank which state that they need you to email them information. There are no reputable banks that will do this. Contact them by phone directly, or visit your local branch before ever trusting these types of communications. This is a classic phishing scam tactic.
  • Do not follow the links in messages which state you need to visit them to authorize something. Type in the URL for your bank yourself and see if there’s anything within your bank account which needs to be authorized. For any concerns contact your bank directly.
  • Never enter data into pop-up windows. No trusted bank would have you do anything off of their main webpage. Pop-ups are for advertising.

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On encryption and advanced protection:

  • The most basic protection you’ll get online is from the website itself. Every time you see an ‘HTTPS’ at the beginning of a URL, rather than ‘HTTP,’ your connection is encrypted. You may also see a green lock on the far left or right of your web browser. HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension that you can use to force websites to take you to their encrypted HTTPS version.
  • Make sure that HTTPS is being used every time you enter any sort of information related to your banking. This includes your login details, password, and credit card numbers on retail websites.
  • Use a VPN for added encryption when you are doing online banking or online shopping. This adds a layer of encrypted protection protocols above the HTTPS, giving you complete peace of mind.
  • If you simply MUST do some sort of online transaction involving money using public WiFi, turning on your VPN could save you. This applies to using your own device on a network, as keyloggers still exist on public computers and they should never, ever be used.

Doing any type of online transaction:

  • It is never advisable to do any sort of online shopping, or online banking, on a public computer. Keyloggers are a major concern on these machines.
  • Be cautious using public WiFi to do any banking transactions, especially on banking apps. Public WiFi has no security guarantees, and banking apps have lower security measures than the bank’s website. Another frequent problem is network worms and man in the middle attacks.
  • Every single time you click a link to go to another page on a website you need to do a quick check of the address. Are you still on the right website, or have you been taken away from it by a malicious redirect?
  • Always read reviews from independent websites before making a purchase from any website. Look for review websites that are not affiliated with the website and do not trust the reviews left by their customers. These comments can be built in by the website and used as bait.
  • Having a separate banking card set aside exclusively for your online purchases, and separate from your main bank account, can protect you if your information is ever stolen. Pre-loaded cards, and cards with a limit, can keep hackers from stealing everything.

Vulnerabilities on your own computer:

  • Consistently updating your operating system, all software, and web browser is a free way to protect your money online. A large percentage of updates to these are specifically for security vulnerabilities.
  • Use an antivirus software package to keep malware off your computer. There are millions of computers out there which are part of botnets, being remotely controlled and monitored without the owner’s awareness. A good antivirus program is designed to stop these programs.
  • Delete old and outdated programs. If there hasn’t been an update lately, or if the software is no longer supported, you need to delete it. These older programs can be full of holes for malware that the original team never even thought of as years pass.

There are many tools out there to help, and websites are working hard to use encryption on their connections and servers, but your online security comes down to you. This is because you have to make the choice to keep your computer updated, to use a VPN, to stay off public WiFi when doing transactions, and to make sure you’re using the right website. If you are not making these choices, and helping yourself, there’s nothing that I, or anyone else, can do to protect your money or secure your banking information for you.

Cyber attacks against all businesses are continually increasing in number and frequency; small businesses would be naïve to believe they are safely tucked away from exposure in this area. In fact, data from Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report showed that 43% of all cyber attacks were on small businesses in 2015. According to IBM, both small and mid-sized businesses account for 62 percent of all cyber attacks. In the UK a similar government study found that 60 percent of small businesses had suffered a cyber breach costing between £65-115k. Only a third of the top 350 businesses were found to understand the true threat of a cyber attack and as a result, the Cyber Essentials scheme was set up.

Cyber

Unfortunately, small business owners remain under-prepared to address and respond to cyber attacks and don’t feel they have cyber risks matching those of a larger corporation. They fall into the hackers’ ideal target market as they have more digital assets than an individual consumer, but also less security than a large enterprise. Poor security, lack of awareness and training leave SMEs vulnerable to attacks which is why it is important to take steps to increase your cyber security.

The cost of hacking can range from a minor inconvenience of reputational damage, loss of customer data, and fines to ultimately company closure. The U.S’ National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of small companies are unable to sustain their business over six months after a cyber attack.

Many businesses will suffer business interruption from cyber crime. Some will need to close their doors to investigate the source and impact of the breach, as well as suffering lost sales and opportunities. Additional costs can also be incurred in order to update or implement new security systems, as well as any possible concessions that will need to be offered to customers to rebuild trust and loyalty.

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So how can your small business guard against cyber attacks?

1. Increase Staff training

Most cyber breaches are the result of an employee accidentally divulging some information or doing something they shouldn’t have done. The first step is to train all of your employees on security policies and procedures and how to protect sensitive data. Often weak or common passwords allow the easy infiltration of systems, or phishing in the form of opening infected emails as well as use of infected external devices. Maintain awareness of these risks to individuals and the business.

2. Create A Business Continuity Plan

Such a plan can be put into effect as soon as systems have been compromised. You should establish an incident response and disaster recovery procedure to limit the damage.

3. Protect All Devices That Connect To The Internet From Malware

Set up boundary firewalls and internet gateways to protect your data. Always install the latest security updates which will scan for and identify any known viruses across the organization. You can also establish data security protocols and create ‘whitelists’ to control traffic through your network and prevent access to certain IP and email addresses.

4. Scan Or Refuse Use Of External Devices And USBs

Scan all removable media for malware prior to importing on to the IT system. It is a good idea to maintain a policy which controls access and limits usage of media types to reduce risk.

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5. Encrypt Your Most Sensitive Data

Encrypting sensitive data, in particular financial data, is important and encryption can be hardware or software-based. Encryption will allow confidential data to move from one network to another without being compromised as it cannot be accessed by unauthorized users due to algorithms which render data unreadable by humans.

6. Consider Cyber Insurance

Finally, while you can put measures in place to limit risk, you can’t always stop cyber crime. By insuring your business against the cost of cyber crime, you can cover the losses relating to damage or loss of information from IT systems and networks.

Increasingly, more businesses are buying specialist cyber insurance policies to cover either first party and/or third party losses. First party covers the insurer’s assets (such as loss or damage of digital assets, reputational damage and theft of money) and third party risks cover the assets of others, in particular the customer (such as defense costs, defamation and compensation).

Unfortunately there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to cyber insurance and it is difficult to quantify an organization’s individual risk so it is recommended that you approach an experienced broker in this area.

Automation, fully automating your accounts payable process doesn’t always go as smoothly as you’d like. You’re bound to face challenges when changing the workflow and updating business processes for any department, and accounts payable is no exception.Automation

What’s your organization to do when facing problems as you begin automating the AP department? It can be difficult to find out. Most of the advice you’ll find simply tells you that automation is a good idea. It’s rarer to find people talking about what to do when automation doesn’t go as planned.

Whether you’ve run into some roadblocks while automating or want to avoid such problems when you do automate, this article is for you. We’ll walk-though some of the biggest challenges facing AP automation in 2019 and offer tips for how you can overcome them.

A Lack Of Planning

With the right software system, implementing automated accounts payable is fairly simple. But that doesn’t mean its a good idea to just jump into automation without a plan. Before you automate your AP department you’ll need to answer a few questions. These include:

  • What’s Our Goal For Automation?
  • Who’s On Board With AP Automation?
  • How Will AP Employees Use Their Time?
  • What Will Automation Cost?
  • Which AP System Will We Use?

For more information on why these questions are so important, you can read our article “5 Questions To Ask Before You Automate AP.” Setting goals, making sure everyone involved is on the same page, and making a plan for how the department will work post-automation are all tasks that will help you identify and overcome challenges facing AP automation.

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Unclear Goals and Controls

Let’s take a closer look at part of the planning that should happen before automating accounts payable. To use your AP automation system effectively, you need to know what it is you want the system to do.

Start by developing a management initiative. This should include clear goals for automating the department, allocating resources to the project, and generating enthusiasm for automation among senior management and AP employees. You’ll often find that people are hesitant about automating. Here are a few articles that can help smooth things out and clear up any misunderstandings:

Pre-automation is also a good time to take a close look at existing processes and controls. What does workflow look like now? Which types of controls are already in place? What works in the current system and what doesn’t?

The more you know about the current state of accounts payable processing the better idea you’ll have of what you want workflow to look like in the future. One of the big challenges that can trip-up AP software implementation is an unclear idea of what you need the software to do. Planning ahead helps with that.

Failed Implementations

About 1/3 of implementations fail entirely – a fact that’s pretty well known in the IT/software industry. Another 1/3 of implementations get scaled back or have their scope changed or reduced. That leaves only 1/3 (about 33%) that are fully implemented. To avoid becoming part of the 66% that fail, you need to have an implementation plan in place and choose a reliable software provider.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all explanation for why so many implementations fail. Sometimes it has to do with poor planning on the part of the company who wants to automate. Other times it happens because of poor scoping on the part of the software provider or promises that weren’t entirely accurate.

It’s worth noting here that NextProcess has an implementation rate near 100%. We’re open about what our products can and can’t do and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have. You can also schedule a demo to see how our software works before you decide whether or not to purchase. If you do choose us for your AP software provider, our customer service team will work with you throughout the entire implementation process.

Implementation typically lasts about 6 months, though you’ll be able to start using the program early on in that time frame. Our Project Managers will work closely with you to set up configuration options that enforce your policies and support your company’s goals and needs.

Misunderstanding Automated Systems

Once you have the AP system set up, the most common problems arise when they’re not being used correctly. Most often, this is due to an issue with inaccurate or contradictory data. If the data you’re putting in doesn’t match what the system expects or the system finds errors that it can’t automatically reconcile, then someone has to step in and fix things manually.

There will always be a few exception invoices that require manual processing. But when an automated system is running well, the auto-processing rate can get up to 90%. If your auto-processing rate is much lower than that it’s time to take a closer look at what’s going on.

Exceptions are not typically caused by a problem in the automated AP system. Catching exceptions actually means the system is working well because it’s only designed to auto-process invoices that fit your customized parameters. To reduce the rate of exceptions invoices, you can do one (or both) of two things.

  1. Refine your custom tolerances.
  2. Correct data errors.

We’ll cover these solutions in more depth in the next two sections of this article.

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Inefficient Settings or Software

If the system is consistently flagging invoices as exceptions which actually have no errors you may simply need to refine your business rules and adjust your settings. Your software provider can help with this. Standardizing your automation processes can also help correct this problem.

Another thing that can help is to automate other departments involved in the Procure-to-Pay process. If you also automate your purchase order system it can communicate with the AP system to match purchase orders and invoices more accurately and quickly.

NextProcess offers a suite of programs compatible with each other and with existing ERPs. This makes it easy to streamline connected processes across the company. There will be no software conflicts, implementation of multiple programs is easy, and it also simplifies customer service.

Data Errors

Data entry errors are a big problem for manual accounts payable systems. Whenever employees manually enter data from invoices into a computer there is a risk of human error. Even the simplest mistake can result in costly errors for your company. If you’re not careful, some of these problems can transfer over to an automated system.

The first thing to do is switch to receiving as many electronic invoices as possible. Digital data is easy for the system to read without generating errors. For your suppliers and vendors who still send paper invoices, you’ll need an accurate data capture system. If you’d like to learn more about how these systems work, check out these articles:

  • This Is What You Need To Know About Your Data Capture Options For Accounts Payable
  • What’s The Difference Between Image Capture and Image Indexing?
  • Top 10 Reasons Why Using Robotic Process Automation For Data Entry Is The Right Choice For Your Business

NextProcess’ proprietary data capture technology ensures over 99% accuracy on every invoice. The system can handle multiple methods of receipt (including email and EDI) to keep your process moving quickly. For paper invoices, our high volume mail center quickly gets your invoices digitized and ensures data security.

Challenges With Suppliers and Vendors

Not all data errors are the fault of your processing system. Some come from invoices that contain missing or inaccurate data that will cause problems no matter how accurately it’s transferred into your system. To correct errors coming from outside your company, you’ll need to work with your vendors and suppliers.

Most automated systems can’t check purchase orders or invoices line by line. If there’s a pricing discrepancy or a different product number shows up, the automatic system routes the invoice for manual fact-checking and approval. Reconciling this sort of exception often means contacting vendors directly to work out why prices, product numbers, or amounts don’t match.

This sort of thing is a hassle, but automation systems do make things easier. NextProcess’s AP automation software sets up a vendor’s portal so vendors get controlled access to your processing platform. They’ll be able to check the status of their invoices and submit missing information. This portal won’t eliminate the need to check in with vendors to handle discrepancies, but it will help.

The mobile phone has evolved to become one of the most frequently used technological devices in the modern era. As individuals, our use of mobile phones touches nearly every aspect of our daily lives. It’s a communication device, a media device, an internet browser, a source of entertainment, a purchaser of goods and services—the list goes on.

Mobile

The versatility of our phones is a great thing, but it has also increased our dependence on them which, in turn, exposes us to some of their vulnerabilities. Practicing strong cyber security is the best way to keep yourself protected from these risks so we thought we’d share a few tips to help you protect your mobile phone.

1. Set up your screen lock immediately

The first thing you should do whenever you get a new phone is to set up a screen lock. This seems like an obvious step but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked or how long it takes for people to do. If you happen to misplace your phone before doing so, an opportunist who happens to come across it could easily take advantage.

These days, there are a number of different methods to lock your phone including pin, pattern, fingerprint, iris scanning and facial recognition. There are even things like Intelligent Scan (used by Samsung) that chooses between facial and iris recognition depending on the conditions around you.

It’s also important to make sure your phone has its auto-lock feature enabled. Android phones typically have this setup to activate 5 seconds after sleep mode kicks in while an iPhone does this after 2 minutes (but can be changed to 30 seconds which we recommend).

2. Install antivirus software

While most people protect their desktops and laptops with antivirus software, very few do so with their mobile phones. When you consider how much web browsing is now done on our mobiles, failing to protect in the same way you would your laptop makes little sense.

This is especially important if you do a lot of travelling, connecting to public WiFi networks which are particularly susceptible to intrusion by way of malware (more on this later). If you’ve got kids using the phone it also gives them an extra layer of protection too.

There’s a wide range of mobile antivirus apps that you can download, many of which are free and will have minimal system impact on your operating system.

3. Keep your operating system (OS) updated

Hackers are constantly looking for security vulnerabilities through a phone’s operating system and the complexities of system programming mean there are always some to be found.

Android and Google commit a huge amount of resource in identifying these vulnerabilities and developing security patches and fixes to eliminate them. Making sure you find time to install these updates as and when they become available is therefore critical to keeping your system secure.

Another good reason to keep your OS updated is that these patches not only fix security vulnerabilities but also often add new features to your phone too.

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4. Back up your data

Given how much important personal data is now stored on our phones, it’s important to keep a backup of your data, should it for some reason be lost. As a matter of fact, best practice typically advises that you back up your data in multiple ways.

One of these ways is to put your data onto a physical storage device like a portable hard drive or a flash drive. This is a quick and easy solution and as you’ll more than likely place these in your cupboard once the files are transferred, they can’t themselves be attacked by hackers.

Another increasingly popular way to back up your data is to do so via the Cloud. You can set this up to do it automatically on an iPhone using iCloud and via Google on Android. The main advantage of doing this is that you can access your data no matter where you are, so long as you can connect to the internet and you can’t lose your data through destruction of property, both of which are limitations/risks of the physical storage solution.

5. Be selective with apps

There are literally millions of apps available to download on both Android and iPhone adding a whole range of new functions, services and capabilities to your phone.

While many of them are legitimate and help you get the most out of your phone, there are those that are more vulnerable to cyber security threats than others. These are predominantly apps that are downloaded outside the App Store or Google Play Store that don’t get vetted and scanned for threats by the respective tech giants.

Unfortunately, creating apps that are actually disguised vehicles for distributing malware is an all too common strategy for hackers and for the most part, the risks and repercussions are all too grave.

Even legitimate apps require a certain degree of vigilance with respect to checking the permissions required for use (some might want more than you’re willing to give) and regular updating to make sure security bugs are fixed. All things considered, you can never be too picky when it comes to which apps you choose to install.

6. Don’t trust untrusted networks

As briefly mentioned earlier, if you’re a regular traveler or someone that frequently connects to public WiFi networks, you should be extremely careful how you use your phones when connected.

The risk with public networks is that hackers can interrupt your connection and gain access to the information you are sending out. For this reason, you should be hesitant in fully trusting the integrity of your connection when on these networks and limit exactly what you are doing while connected.

Things to shy away from includes online shopping, internet banking and anything to do with activities that contain your account details. You might also be wary about logging into things like email and social media accounts and should always make sure you are logged out of personal accounts before connecting to these networks.

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7. Docking stations are now also a risk

A more recent risk that has revealed itself is through public USB docking stations/charging ports that you commonly find in cafes, hotels, airports etc. These have, in the past, been greeted with glee by mobile phone users, low on battery and desperate for a recharge.

The threat they pose has now been described as “juice jacking.” This is where hackers manipulate a docking station/charging port and upload malware which then gets passed onto an unsuspecting device that subsequently connects to it.

USB cables have become synonymous with the act of power charging and it’s easy to forget that they also have data wires that can transfer files too. You can get USB attachments that will block the data ports to protect against this threat or you can carry portable chargers or just use your AC adapter when in need.

8. Workplace responsibility essential

While cyber security for one’s personal mobile is an individual responsibility, it is an important corporate responsibility for businesses where mobile phones are used by employees as part of their work. This is not only to protect the personal information of the employee but the company’s data as well.

A good way employers can do this is by using an enterprise mobile device management (MDM) application which can be installed on a company mobile or a personal device (if the employee is using their own for work). An MDM application will add many layers of protection, like strong data encryption and remote access to the device for IT teams should this be required.

Another added benefit is that it’s also a good tool to increase cyber security awareness for employees, as they bring to the fore specific behaviors and actions that should be practiced and avoided.

While surfing the web, you can come across a debate in the business world that you can either have security or usability, but not both. Historically, usability trumped security. There was no way for the average computer user to incorporate security practices into their daily routine.

security

But with the advent of new technologies, that paradigm has changed. You can have both security and usability. And it doesn’t take much technical know-how to have them too. Here’s what you need to know to achieve this goal.

Security Must Be Your Top Priority

It’s essential to emphasize how important security is. We live in an internet-driven world. More valuable data than ever stay in the cloud. The safety of that data can make or break your business.

Cyber-attacks are on the rise, growing by 67% in the last few years. More business data and operations shift online and into cloud-connected drives. Both the number of threats and the potential damage they can do continue to rise.

In the past, usability was the main priority. But those were different times. Not only were there fewer things of value in the online world, but the average person was much less tech-literate.

Millennials and Gen-Z are driving this era. They are tech-native and much more security and privacy-cautious.

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Security is Getting Easier Too

The other issue is the perception that security must be complex and even cumbersome. It is no longer true. New technologies have made adding a layer of protection as simple as enabling an app in the background or scanning a fingerprint.

In short, it’s become easy to do things in the digital world securely. There’s no longer a learning curve or separation between IT professionals and the average user.

Here are the strategies and tools small businesses can adopt and integrate into all facets of their computer/device usage:

1. One-Click File Encryption

File encryption is the best example of security and usability coming together. It safeguards important files, turning your data into indecipherable code until you input the file password.

Through advanced coding procedures, it ensures only you or those you authorize can access your data. You can encrypt office documents, employee and customer records, and even anything you upload to the cloud.

There is encryption software for small businesses with enterprise tools, including secure sharing. All you do is select the file you want to encrypt, drag it to the app, and it’s safe from cybercriminals and any other threats.

2. New Authentication Tools

Everyone knows that passwords need to be unique, complex, and lengthy. You can no longer secure your bank account using “admin” or “password.” Here is a classic area where either usability or security could get sacrificed.

If you make a password too elaborate, it is difficult to remember it. If you make it easy to remember, it’s easier for a cybercriminal to crack.

Fortunately,  password managers solved this dilemma. They enable you to create, manage, and store unique and complex passwords all in one secure dashboard. They’re not only safer but more convenient as you can use them for one-touch login for any connected account.

Furthermore, you can enhance security with other tools. Take two-factor authentication and biometric security features, for example. 2FA is a bit less convenient as it adds another step to the login process. But fingerprint ID and facial recognition software make it possible to access accounts in seconds.

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3. Growing Awareness of Privacy

After years of privacy abuses by major platforms like Facebook and Google, privacy has finally gotten mainstream attention.

In the last few years, new laws like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and California’s Consumer Privacy Act came into effect. Companies no longer have carte blanche to do what they like with users’ data.

These regulations have brought privacy back to the forefront. And it has significant ramifications for businesses. It gives them more responsibility to better manage what they do with data. If they misuse it, they can get fined. If they lose it in a data breach, the consequences can be even more severe.

Make no mistake; data privacy is the centerpiece to security.

Security and Usability Are No Longer Trade-Offs

Twenty years ago, you had to compromise security or usability at the expense of the other. But the world is a much different place now. Advancements in technology have made it easier than ever to design software and business solutions with security and functionality incorporated from the ground up.

The average ransomware demand continues to grow (up to $41,198 in Q3 2019, compared to $5,973 in the same period last year). One particular virus is to blame. We are talking about the Ruyk ransomware. This infamous malware shows: hackers are getting more serious than they have ever been before.

Ryuk is a highly-dangerous ransomware that targets companies and governmental organizations alike. This ransomware encrypts cloud data, damaging the whole network of an organization. Ryuk virus has made a name for itself targeting businesses that supply services to other companies — particularly cloud-data firms — with the ransom demand set according to the victim’s financial capability.Ransomware

Firstly detected in 2018, Ryuk has extorted at least $3,7 million, just in the first 52 payments. Ryuk targets large organizations, using advanced encryption algorithms that are extremely hard to decrypt.  The ransom demand is insane: up to $14 million (!) in Bitcoin. To compare, the infamous WannaCry demanded nearly $300 for decryption. Due to Ryuk, average ransomware demand has grown to $41,198.

The ransom demand is set according to the approximate value of the encrypted data. This is the evidence of solid research done by hackers before the attack.  Taking into account Ryuk’s advanced technology and financial research, it’s safe to conclude: Ryuk authors are not some home-grown rookies, but serious and well-organized professionals. 

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How Ryuk Works

Similar to other ransomware, Ryuk spreads by phishing emails or malicious pop-ups. Once a user clicks the infected link, Ryuk gets into the system. After some time, Ryuk encrypts the business-critical data. The damaged files can’t be decrypted without a special digital key that hackers promise to provide once the ransom is paid. You can read more about how ransomware works in our recent article.

Contrary to the majority of ransomware families, Ryuk is targeted. It means that instead of randomly sending phishing emails to anyone, hackers carefully choose the target to infect with Ryuk.

The targets are usually enterprises that have a lot to lose and will be willing to pay to get their data back. Ryuk works like a secondary payload through botnets Emotet and TrickBot.

Hackers send emails with infected attachments> User clicks the attachment > Botnet (Emotet or TrickBot) is downloaded > Virus moves through the infected network > Ryuk is executed > Data becomes encrypted > User gets a ransom note

When infiltrating the system, Ryuk converts non-executable files in the .ryk file extension. In all infected folders, you can find a text file called RyukReadMe that notifies about the attack. Also, the note mentions a Bitcoin address for paying a ransom to get your files back.

What makes things worse is that Ryuk can stay silent for weeks or months to gather more information and maximize the impact. The virus identifies the shared folders and deletes the virtual shadow copy. This means hackers can simply ban the Windows System Restore option. Therefore, if you don’t have an external backup, you may not be able to recover your files.

Ryuk Attacks 2019

Florida ransomware attack, June 2019. Ryuk attacked two city councils in Florida: Lake City, and Riviera Beach City. The attack immobilized local networks, forcing the councils to pay. The sum paid to hackers exceeded $1 million dollars.

La Porte County, July 2019. The county in Indiana suffered an attack that affected nearly 7% of the local administration’s laptops.

Hackers collected $130,000 in Bitcoin as a ransom to restore systems after the attack. However, the network still took days to recover completely.

VCPI attack, November 2019. The attack targeted a Milwaukee-based IT company operating with cloud data. As a result, the workflow of 110 clients across 45 U.S. states was disrupted. More than 80,000 computers and servers powering care facilities were affected.

Ryuk infected Office 365 accounts of the company. Hackers demanded $14 million in Bitcoin to decrypt the damaged data.

The initial infection, presumably, occurred in September 2018. That means the virus had been moving through the system for 14 months before the encryption started.

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What Can You Do if Ryuk Infection Happens?

There is no reliable Ryuk decryptor on the market, and an available one seems to be broken. That’s why in case of infection you have just three options: say your data goodbye, pay the ransom, or restore damaged files from backup. You won’t be happy with the first two. Accepting data loss leads to huge financial and reputational damage. Paying up might be just a waste of money, as hackers may not give you the decryption key.

Restoring encrypted files from a backup is the only valid solution. If you backed up your data, you can be sure that you can recover it in case of an attack. Backup is proven to be effective against RyukLouisiana’s Office of Technology Services avoided paying the ransom due to recovering its computer systems from backups and getting rid of Ryuk.

Ryuk Ransomware Prevention

Universal ransomware protection rules can be applied to Ryuk as well. As we’ve mentioned before, having a backup is a great way to keep your data safe from ransomware.

Though being very effective, recovering files from a backup takes some time. That’s much better than paying a ransom, but while you’re waiting for your data to recover, your business is losing money. That’s why the best way to protect your data from Ryuk is by combining backup with ransomware detection tools. These tools detect a ransomware infection ASAP and stop the infection process, which results in a lesser number of files compromised and faster recovery from a backup.

In addition to backup, we offer ransomware protection software for Office 365 or G Suite. SpinOne identifies ransomware and blocks its source, keeping the number of affected data as low as possible. After the threat has been neutralized, all encrypted files are recovered from a backup automatically.