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Dramatic Rise of Cybersecurity Risks from COVID-19 Prompts Action Plan

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In a matter of weeks, the pandemic forced the global economy and society, organizations and individuals to become more reliant than ever on the internet and the digital economy. According to the Forum’s COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications, cyberattacks and data fraud are considered the most likely technological risks of COVID-19 for the world, and the third of greatest concern overall owing to abrupt adoption of new working patterns.

To support business leaders responsible for reinforcing the cyber resilience of their organizations in an unforeseen, instantaneous new reality, the World Economic Forum today launched The Cybersecurity Leadership Principles: Lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for the new normal.

All leaders and organizations are pressured to adapt business models faster than anyone was prepared for, to ensure existential survival. The principles provide a framework for responsible decision-making and action in this crucial period to help organizations balance short-term goals with medium- to longer-term imperatives. To bolster cyber resilience and secure operations, they urge leaders to:

Foster a culture of cyber resilience Focus on protecting the organization’s critical assets and services Balance risk-informed decisions during the crisis and beyondUpdate and practice response and business continuity plans as the business transitions to the “new normal”Strengthen ecosystem-wide collaboration

“Due to COVID-19, businesses must accelerate their digital transformation to harness the benefits while striking a balance between agility, scalability, efficiency, profitability and cybersecurity,” said Georges De Moura, Head of Industry Solutions, Centre for Cybersecurity, World Economic Forum. “The confluence of these disruptive forces is impacting critical functions and industry ecosystems globally.”

“This crisis has prompted a step-change in our reliance on digital channels. We are managing the associated risk by following appropriate principles, including fostering a greater culture of cyber resilience and strengthening collaboration with external stakeholders”, said Sandro Bucchianeri, Group Chief Security Officer, Absa Group.

“The principles highlighted in this report will help businesses take an overall approach that combines cybersecurity with system engineering and operations to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions, and to withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions caused by cyberattacks and crisis scenarios,” said Mark Hugues, Senior Vice President Security, DXC Technology.

Known before the pandemic, the relevance and benefit of the principles and imperatives are underscored by the new reality, its pace and scale. COVID-19 is confronting every organization with the limits of its ability to learn and change in an environment where speed is everything and where delaying key decisions can have a dramatic impact on business operations.

With the instantaneous shift to the digital realm, cyber resilience and cybersecurity are no longer theoretical nice-to-haves: companies – and countries – have become painfully conscious of the fragility of the critical systems upon which they vitally depend and that must be secure and resilient.

“In the urgent management of near-term challenges, responsible business leaders must incorporate cyber resilience in the business operating model and invest in capabilities to anticipate, withstand, recover from and adapt to adverse conditions and cyberattacks, to position the business for its success beyond the pandemic conditions,” De Moura said.

According to the report, this approach and the rigorous application of the principles will help organizations earn the trust of employees, customers and business partners, and help to successfully adapt in an increasingly ambiguous and fast-moving world.

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Safeguarding Your Mailbox from Spam, Hack & Phishing

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An email goes a long way before getting to the addressee. After all, malicious software may be introduced in this chain or the server owner intentionally takes certain actions to obtain confidential information and damage the mail server by sending spam. In addition, the recipient may be an attacker and use the information received for a personal gain.

However, that’s not all. An additional problem is associated with the massive use of personal mobile devices to access corporate mail services. In the case of a device hack, the company’s reputation is damaged and important information is lost or stolen. Luckily, all problems can be solved comprehensively. There are email protection systems and the spam email checker Cleantalk email checker that can help you do that.

 Email Security Methods

Comprehensive protection of information is aimed at the following tasks:

  • Ensuring the unhindered receipt of letters by the addressee, without the possibility of their interception, opening, reading, as well as the prevention of possible forgery;
  • Protection of information sent via e-mail from its distribution by an attacker without the knowledge of the sender;
  • Blocking and the automatic deletion of spam email entries and attempts to hack a mail server.

To achieve all the above goals, traditional cryptography methods are used, while protection against possible forgery involves the use of the electronic digital signature. The technical side of the security issue most often involves the installation of a special, independently compiled software module (plug-in) for the mail client. This is usually enough because this small-sized additional software automatically encrypts letters and signs them. Possible vulnerabilities in such a set of security measures appear only in the following cases:

  • The installation of clearly weak cryptographic algorithms;
  • Malfunctioning cryptographic algorithms or protocols involved;
  • Bookmarks originally made by the attacker into cryptographic algorithms that make it possible to crack email;
  • Actions of a virus capable of intercepting an already decrypted message on the device of the addressee or gaining access to the keys of the sender’s machine.

With an integrated approach to protecting mail or when using professional solutions, these vulnerabilities are identified and eliminated.

Antispam Action Algorithm

After checking the received message, the solution determines its status: spam, possible spam, or not spam. When analyzing email contents, the following assessment criteria are applied:

  • The blacklist of senders, as well as the list of spam phrases – If the sender is not present in the blacklist and contains no content considered as spam, the email is marked as not spam. If a sender is listed in the blacklist or there are “no-go” phrases in the email, the letter is blocked and doesn’t land in your mailbox.
  • Headers – The header text is analyzed using the special algorithm, embedded images and links are checked as well.
  • Email structure – By analyzing the email structure, its status can be determined as well.

Some services also check the IP address of a sender. In case the same IP is involved in many “email-sending” operations within a short period of time, it is considered a spam bot and all its activities are blocked on your end.

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UN and Sony PlayStation team up with new virtual experience to raise gamers’ awareness of climate change

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The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Sony PlayStation have teamed up to create an immersive virtual reality experience designed to increase global awareness about what a climate change-friendly lifestyle looks like.

For the first time, UNEP and Sony have collaborated using the DreamsTM platform to create an immersive video that seeks to bring viewers face to face with their individual carbon footprints. It takes the audience on a 5 minute journey through an average day, observing what they eat, how they travel and the homes they live in. The video ends with viewers witnessing a giant 34 meter high heaving ball illustrating the carbon footprint of an average person in a developed country.  

“COVID has brought unprecedented disruption to how we live our lives, but now as we move out of lock-downs, we have an opportunity to develop new habits that can keep us within the safe limits of a 1.5 degree world. We hope that this ‘virtual reality check’ will show people how beautiful and possible these new lifestyle choices are” said Ligia Noronha, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division

As a member of the Playing for the Planet Alliance, launched in 2019 with the support of UNEP, Sony hopes to see more game designers becoming more deliberate about tackling climate change.  The Alliance hosted a Green Mobile Green Jam with 11 companies in April that will see more companies integrate green activations into their games.

Explaining this project’s approach, lead illustrator Martin Nebelong said, “Virtual reality is an extraordinary storytelling medium for climate change – as an artist, I wanted to design a beautiful and sometimes frightening experience that shows the true scale of our emissions and the impacts we should expect to see.  This is not possible in two dimensions.”  

Speaking in support of the initiative, Kieren Mayers, Director of Environment and Technical Compliance at Sony PlayStation said, “Gaming reaches a huge audience worldwide, and has the power to inspire social change. Sony Group has a global environmental plan “Road to Zero”, and following, and following our commitment at the September 2019 UN Climate Summit in New York, we have partnered with UNEP to explore various ways to use gaming and virtual reality to educate and bring messages of hope – and are excited to see this video using DreamsTM as one of the first initiatives from this.”

Viewers will not need virtual reality devices to experience it – the video will also be streamed through Youtube in a 360 degree format so that viewers can interact with the experience on desktops or mobile devices.  The video will also be shared via Earth School which has been visited by some 700,000 young people as a result of UNEP’s collaboration with TED-Ed for students and educators around the world.

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COVID-19 Hastens Automation, New APEC Report Finds

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image: APEC

The COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the adoption of automation by firms and organizations across the region, according to a new policy brief by the APEC Policy Support Unit and The Asia Foundation, titled COVID-19, 4IR and the Future of Work.

Constraints to labor supply caused by movement restrictions, both domestically and globally, as well as the withdrawal of workers who are elderly or have pre-existing conditions are some of the push factors for firms to explore or even deploy automation in their operations.

A variety of stimulus and relief measures launched by governments to cushion the COVID-19 pandemic, such as lower interest rates and subsidies for going digital, may also provide incentives for more firms to automate business processes. The unintended impact of this scenario would be the risk of certain jobs being eliminated, which would contribute to creating further spikes in unemployment rates around the region.

The report calls on APEC policymakers to conduct a thorough risk assessment of jobs that may be impacted or eliminated by automation to understand the challenges faced by workers and the unforeseen impacts of crisis-response policies.

“It is impossible for us to talk about growth when people are struggling to secure their livelihoods,” Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat commented. “We have been mandated by ministers to prioritize the return of workers to employment. Our responsibility is to ensure that we support people at risk with greater inclusive policy instruments.”

Policymakers are advised to strengthen and expand social protection policies to protect workers and provide income security. APEC will also need to collaborate closely with the private sector to monitor automation trends and support the need for workforce upskilling and retraining.

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