‘Tis the season to be hacked’

As retail stores ramp up their online offerings to entice shoppers, companies need to be on guard. A common belief is that hackers target individual accounts, but this needs to be “mythbusted”. The real purpose of an increasing number of attacks on online retailers (as much as financial institutions) is in fact to hold these organisations at ransom and so squeeze currency from them.
“This is commonly known as bitcoin ransom in the industry,” explains Lukas Pelser, technical manager at South Africa’s leading value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited. “It’s a ‘pay up or we post consumer details’ scenario. The most infamous attack of this type being the recent Ashley Madison case.”
According to a New York Times article: For ransom, bitcoin replaces the big bag of bills, “Criminals like the virtual currency because it can be held in a digital wallet that does not have to be registered with any government or financial authority – and because it can be easily exchanged for real money.”
So how do these criminals do it? In simple terms, they generally launch a small attack to render a website unserviceable, thus taking it offline. During this downtime – where the retailer is losing both consumers and revenue – an e-mail is sent demanding a bitcoin ransom. “Payment in bitcoins can be high with one bitcoin going for R8,000. If the demand is ignored, the ransom could be upped or a full-on distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack launched and the threat realised,” says Pelser.
Retailers thus need to be prepared for this type of malicious attack, especially at this time of the year where they want to increase traffic to their site. They thus need to educate themselves on what a bitcoin is and how they will handle an extortion demand.
“Of course, the best method is to be adequately protected should this happen to you. Hackers are not just targeting large retailers in Europe or America, but also enterprises across Africa and smaller businesses, with the top five targets being e-commerce, government, and gaming and financial services organisations. Although many may start as opportunistic attacks, it is always better to be safe than sorry,” warns Pelser. “It has therefore become absolutely necessary to strengthen your defence so that your network is not flooded by the attack and crashes under the strain, and that your customer details remain protected. Unfortunately, many security technologies deployed as little as two years ago no longer provide adequate protection. New technology has however been engineered specifically for today’s DDoS attacks.”
He highlights Arbor Networks APS, which was named best security hardware solution at the 7th Annual Golden Bridge Awards at the start of December 2015, as a powerful solution for companies to guard themselves from DDoS attacks. “The solution is designed to stop attacks immediately while giving control back to the enterprise. It offers full protection from DDoS attacks and botnets out-of-the-box; enables an easy and fast setup for immediate protection; and its flexible deployment and control ensures inline blocking or off the tap for detection,” says Pelser.
To enjoy a festive season that is more “ho, ho, ho” than “oh, no”, enterprises need to realise that DDoS attacks are no longer just a bothersome niggle, but they impact businesses on numerous devastating levels. Whether DDoS attacks cause saturation upstream, state exhaustion or service outages, and in many times in all three; the end result remains: critical services are no longer available and your profit is on the line.

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About Us

Networks Unlimited is a Value-added Distributor, offering the best and latest solutions within the converged technology, data centre, networking, and security landscapes. The company distributes best-of-breed products that provide solutions from the edge to the data centre, and address key areas such as Cloud Networking and Integration, WAN Optimisation, Application Performance Management, Application Delivery Networking, Wi-Fi-, Mobile- and Networking Security, Load Balancing, Data Centre In-a-Box, and Storage for Virtual Machines.

Networks Unlimited boasts four branches in South Africa, but also enjoys a strong presence in 19 sub-Saharan African countries. After opening its doors in 1994, the company’s 20-year track record of sourcing and distributing best-of-breed solutions to sub-Saharan Africa has ensured that the region has received, and continues to receive, some of the most innovative solutions found in all major enterprises today.

Backed by a dedicated staff complement of 45+, Networks Unlimited differentiates itself from other market players by combining the most advanced, market-leading products and solutions with the best sales-, technical- and product teams in order to deliver IT that will revolutionise industries and the way people do business every day.

Networks Unlimited is 100% channel focused and partners with approximately 80 sub-Saharan African resellers as well as 200 resellers within South Africa.

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Email: enquiries@nu.co.za

Web: www.nu.co.za

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Johannesburg
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