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Cyber security: Is there a low-cost alternative for SMEs?

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According to a leading research company, nearly 80% of all major global organisations experienced at least one cyber security breach in 2019 that was so severe it required board-level attention. Around 20% reported six or more significant breaches during this period.

The threat landscape – or attack surface as it’s sometimes called – has been significantly broadened by the adoption of the latest mobile technologies, cloud-based solutions and deployment practices that deliver unprecedented levels of IT connectivity to corporates and end-users.

Today, organisations are under ever-increasing pressure to embrace connectivity, but at the same time they are expected to meet evolving cyber security challenges while securing valuable, sensitive corporate and client data.

Naturally, cyber criminals have also embraced IT connectivity and employ any number of connected techniques in malware and their criminal attacks.

The market for solutions and systems that challenge these criminals is growing exponentially. It has been defined by Gartner, the research and advisory company, as the SIEM or security information and event management market.

Gartner characterises the SIEM market as one delivering solutions capable of providing real-time analysis of security alerts for early detection of targeted attacks and data breaches. The SIEM market also provides solutions designed to collect, store, investigate and report on log data for incident response, forensics and regulatory compliance.

Over the last decade, the SIEM market has advanced to the point where acknowledged SIEM technologies have evolved and a range of SIEM solutions have been bred, now sold by vendors as software, or appliances, or as managed services.

In South Africa, where many individuals with appropriate, high-level skills and expertise are being targeted by overseas companies, a SIEM crisis seems to be on the cards.

By their nature, SIEM platforms comprise powerful defensive tools, but their power is tempered by a range of issues which, in the modern era where complexity is denounced, tend to make them “as much of a hindrance as a benefit”, according to one industry analyst.

With its primary information source being log data, the SIEM platform is often lacking in context and actionable intelligence and is not the easiest with which to work, say its critics who maintain that “getting meaningful information out is the most difficult parts of SIEM technology”.

Importantly, to realise the best results, SIEM solutions need to be capably and correctly deployed and configured, and then routinely managed and maintained. Consequently, organisations opting for SIEM technologies will need to have a team of cyber security experts either on hand (on the payroll) or on call from a third-party specialist.

This positions SIEM solutions among the costliest and most likely to be beyond the budgets of many smaller and even medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

According to the research firm 451 Research, 44% of global organisations “lack the requisite staff expertise necessary to properly run a SIEM”.

In South Africa, where many individuals with appropriate, high-level skills and expertise are being targeted by overseas companies, a SIEM crisis seems to be on the cards.

In an environment in which the importance of data accuracy, consistency and privacy has never before been more critical, is there a less-costly and perhaps more feasible alternative to accepted SIEM technology?

New developments in the security space point to other options. For example, there is an increase in awareness for a new breed of security systems based on the concept of collaboration or, more accurately, synchronicity.

For too long IT security specialists have treated network security, endpoint security and data security as separate entities. In the ever-developing world of digital technology these – and other – entities need to be coordinated (synchronised) in order for businesses to remain secure.

And unlike standalone cyber security solutions that address specific vectors of attack, the synchronised methodology presents a layered approach to security.

While SIEM technology combines the logs and alerts from a variety of point solutions into a single user interface for managing all threats and security incidents, the synchronised solution’s philosophy is different.

It centres on the coordination of all elements responsible for network security, endpoint security and data security, while providing system-level intelligence, automated correlation, accelerated threat discovery, automated incident response, simple unified management and faster decision-making.

Practically, the goal of the modern synchronised system is to provide orchestrated event management in areas such as anti-virus and malware protection, e-mail security, server monitoring, data encryption, firewall protection, mobile device scanning and more.

This approach overcomes one of the key shortcomings in traditional cyber security environments – the lack of visibility of the “big picture” of holistic network security which must encompass physical, virtual and cloud deployments.

By “connecting the cyber security dots”, architects can now create synchronised security systems that surpass point challenges and facilitate the creation of SIEM-mimicking long-term security strategies.

Significantly, the deployment of a modern synchronised system is often far simpler than a full-blooded SIEM option, as everything is cloud-based and can be outsourced at low cost direct from the provider or vendor.

While synchronised systems do have certain limitations when compared to SIEM systems when it comes to applications for large corporates and multinationals, for SMEs they offer a viable, cost-effective solution, particularly on a managed service provider basis.

In this case, the vendor’s high-level cyber security experts will play key roles in the management of the SME’s solution which will be, by comparison, cheaper to procure, faster to deploy, with an exceptionally low total cost of ownership.

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LIVE | Juggling game likely for Mboweni in his Budget 2020

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Carin Smith

2020-02-26 13:02

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is set to deliver his Budget 2020 address today as SA battles unemployment, low economic growth, the likelihood of tax revenue shortfalls and warnings of a possible downgrade by Moody’s.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni

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10 things to look out for in the Budget 2020 address:

– Details on the creation of a new state bank;

– Details on the sovereign wealth fund proposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address;

– What will be done about the public sector wage bill, which is at 35% of public spending;

– How much has the tax revenue gap has widened?

– Any update on state funding for National Health Insurance (NHI)?

– Any (extra) funding for embattled South African Airways?

– Mboweni may provide an update on the steps the state will take to ease Eskom’s debt burden;

– Mboweni will likely provide an update on the SA’s debt position as debt servicing costs are the fastest-growing part of the budget;

– Mboweni may give a rather gloomy summation of the health of SA’s economy;

– Will Mboweni caution about a possible downgrade by ratings agency Moody’s? 





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SA SME Fund gets R150m tech commercialisation boost

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Corporate South Africa, through its investment in the SA SME Fund, is enabling the commercialisation of technology innovations developed by South African universities through its R150 million investment into the University Technology Fund (UTF).

This is the first university technology fund in Africa, says the SA SME Fund.

It notes that R25 million will be allocated to pre-commercialisation funding, which includes proof of concept and technology development support and R125 million for commercialisation.

Ketso Gordhan, CEO of the SA SME Fund, says:“This investment is intended to unlock the vast potential located inside our world-class universities by commercialising South African technology.

“This will not only create viable businesses and jobs, but will also encourage a culture of innovation throughout universities in South Africa. We are exceptionally excited about the potential that this creates.”

According to the Fund, SA punches above its weight in research capability, having doubled its output since 2000.

However, it notes that where the country lags is in the commercialisation of the research and patents, which is the gap that the SA SME Fund’s investment is aiming to address.

While the UTF’s initial university partners are University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, who provide pipeline for the Fund and each contributed R20 million to co-invest with the UTF, the SA SME Fund’s next step is to expand the programme to universities across South Africa.

The Fund says the UTF will be managed by Stocks and Strauss, an independent third-party fund manager.

It adds that the founders and directors of Stocks and Strauss, Wayne Stocks and Daniel Strauss have a deep understanding of technology and the early stage investment space, having been investors, founders and operationally involved in early stage technology businesses.

Wayne Stocks, partner at Stocks and Strauss, says:”We are excited to work with Universities to commercialise the world-class intellectual property that has, and is being developed. We will work with them to leverage their research to drive sustainable growth, profit and transformation within the University ecosystem and the broader economy.”

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Gauteng edges closer to creating hi-tech economic zone

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Gauteng premier David Makhura.

Gauteng premier David Makhura.

The Gauteng government is pressing ahead with plans to create a hi-tech special economic zone in the province, which it hopes will spur the province into the digital economy.

This is according to premier David Makhura, who gave his State of the Province Address yesterday outside Pretoria.

Makhura said the broader plan of making the province the Silicon Valley of Africa remains on track.

“This includes the integration of The Innovation Hub, our network of Ekasi labs, Tshimologong Precinct, universities and research institutes.”

According to Makhura, his government has also been engaging the private sector, especially ICT companies, on how to collaborate and share resources in the rollout of affordable broadband connectivity and free WiFi to poor households in Gauteng.

The Gauteng government believes investing in Internet connectivity will increase the province’s GDP by 1.5%, improve service delivery to citizens, create new industries, as well as provide new platforms for small businesses to integrate with the mainstream economy.

The province has since 2018 been developing a business case, feasibility study and business plan for the proposed Gauteng science and hi-tech special economic zone.

In his speech, Makhura said: “The work of creating the Gauteng innovation ecosystem in order to build a smart, innovation-driven and knowledge-based economy will be driven by the Premier’s Digital Transformation Advisory Panel, which will be unveiled in March this year.”

In addition, the premier said this will enable Gauteng to take full advantage of the opportunities “in the digital economy and prepare society for the future – schools and universities, the healthcare system, policing and crime prevention, governance, business and civil society operations”.

Moreover, Makhura said: “The ground-breaking work we are already doing with ICT companies to expand digital economy skills and link private sector innovation and skills academies with our public education system will build a solid base for a more innovation-driven and knowledge-based economy of the future.”

The premier explained that attracting investment into the Gauteng economy is a key priority of his ANC-led administration.

“This is one of the main focal areas of my job as the premier of Gauteng, the economic hub of our country.”

According to Makhura, rapid technological change and digital transformation is reshaping the way human beings live and work, “with major opportunities that must be enjoyed by all, instead of being the preserve of elites”.

Turning to the new smart city in Lanseria, Makhura thanked president Cyril Ramaphosa for his full endorsement of its development.

During his State of the Nation Address, Ramaphosa said this city, which he referred to as a truly post-Apartheid city, will have 350 000 to half-a-million people who will call it home in the next decade.

“This process is being led by the investment and infrastructure office in the Presidency, alongside the provincial governments of Gauteng and North-West, working together with the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Madibeng.”

Makhura commented: “This generated unparalleled private sector support. We will build a new city stretching from Lanseria (Gauteng) to Haartebeespoort Dam (Madibeng, North-West), and this will take shape during this decade.”

Furthermore, the premier said the province’s new smart cities will not only be designed to be 5G-ready but will also set new standards in green infrastructure – converting waste to energy and setting up electricity micro-grids that “we expect to draw at least half its power from renewable sources”.

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Zimbabwe pursuing billions of dollars stashed in foreign countries

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PRETORIA – The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has identified over US$7 billion in cash and properties stashed outside the economically-struggling country by former and current senior government officials and captains of industry, the state-owned Herald newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The revelation comes as the ZACC intensifies efforts to recover ill-gotten wealth hidden outside Zimbabwe’s borders.

Some of the properties and cash were reportedly identified in Switzerland, London, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mauritius and Spain.

ZACC chairwoman and former high court judge Loice Matanda-Moyo told state media on the sidelines of a three-day workshop on asset recovery in Harare that more accurate investigations were underway.

“Informally, we have now identified over US$7 billion worth of property and cash all over the world which were siphoned by our former leaders, current leaders, private sector and individuals. So this information we only got informally, so now we have to formalise the process so that we start the processes of repatriating the monies back home,” the Herald quoted her as saying.

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Kenya: Magoha and Mutyambai No-Show at MPs Committee on Education

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Nairobi — Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai failed to appear before a parliamentary committee over the transfer of the non-local teachers in the northern part of Kenya on Tuesday, forcing legislators to abort the session.

The two instead sent in their representatives despite summons which indicated that they were required individually.

Teachers Service Commission Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nancy Macharia was the only one who appeared in person before the Education Committee as had been directed by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi who ordered that the trio should provide a ministerial explanation on why teachers were withdrawn from Wajir, Mandera and Garissa.

The three officials had been summoned last week by the committee through Speaker Muturi to answer to questions from MPs on the parameters used to effect the massive transfers of the teachers in the volatile northern part of Kenya that is often the target of Al Shabaab.

Magoha had dispatched his Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang with Mutyambai sending in his deputy Njoroge Mbugua, a move that irked the MPs who accused them of violating Speaker Muturi’s orders.

In an apology letter read out to the MPs, the committee Chairman Julius Melly (Tinderet) notified the members that CS Magoha had pleaded to be away citing other engagements.

Bomachoge Borabu MP Abel Ogutu raised the objection on the constitutionality of the session noting that it would be unwise to proceed without the presence of the two interested persons, CS Magoha and IG Mutyambai who were required to be part of the session in person.

“The Speaker was very clear on the matter that the interested people should appear in person. It would therefore be wrong to proceed with this meeting,” he protested.

Samburu East MP Jackson Lentoi backed the sentiments and argued that giving a green light on the meeting would risk having a half-baked session where the officials present would give unsatisfactory answers.

“With Magoha and Mutyambai absent and judging by previous sessions, it is evident that the officials present will tell us that they first have to consult with their supervisors prior to giving their responses. This would be just a waste of time,” he said.

Wajir East MP Ahmed Kolosh who had petitioned the House to have the matter deliberated noted that the matter required a multi-sectoral approach and proceeding with the meeting without the required people would be inflicting a great injustice to the teachers and students in the north.