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Three Best Practices to Neutralize Ransomware Attacks

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Click to learn more about author Ken Steinhardt.

The question about whether your organization will be hit with a ransomware attack is not “if” but “when.” As the world has seen recently, ransomware attacks are on the rise, and they can hit anything ranging from critical infrastructure to smaller enterprises that try to stay under the radar of cybercriminals. What is important to keep in mind is that it’s not just a technology issue; it’s a matter of preparedness, including expanding internal awareness and improving communication to prevent unnecessary steps. 

Ransomware attacks in North America have soared by 158% and globally by 62% since 2019, according to the 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, which also stated that cybercriminals are using more sophisticated tactics to try to shut down companies in exchange for a data “ransom.” Virtually all companies rely on data to run their businesses, so this is a pervasive issue. 

Embracing best practices in preparedness for this kind of cyberattack, which basically takes a company’s data hostage, can help to minimize and even neutralize the impact of ransomware attacks. The following are three best practices to implement, ideally, before a ransomware attack happens.

1. Know your company’s capabilities to combat ransomware.

Know what you can and cannot do in the midst of a ransomware attack. This is critically important because if your company does not have a clear picture of it, business executives could make the decision to pay the “ransom” for the data when they don’t have to pay it to get all of their data back safely.

Cyber attackers can come in and demand a ransom for a company’s data. The company pays it, but then it turns out that the process to restore the data from the cyber attackers is slower than just doing the company’s own recovery process from snapshots or from the backup systems. Speed of recovery should be assessed in a ransomware attack. Paying the ransom does not typically result in instant recovery anyway.

Contingency plans are part of sound preparedness. One of them should be that, in the case of a ransomware attack: How can the company ensure near-instantaneous recovery if the ransomware attack is ignored? Secondly, how can the company ensure that the data is not corrupted? Knowing and strategizing to have contingency plans in place to address these challenges will give a company’s leadership greater confidence to move forward.

2. Establish clear, concise communications with trustworthy information.

In the midst of a cyber attack, communication within a company can too easily become disrupted, fragmented, and isolated. Weaknesses in internal communication, such as a disconnect between business executives and IT executives, can be exposed. If business executives have limited information and do not have a full, clear picture of what the company can and can’t do, knee-jerk decisions might be made, leading to financial loss, reputation damage, and business disruption, when it can be avoided. 

IT executives need to have a seat at the crisis management table and be empowered to speak the truth, even if the other executives are reluctant to hear it. A cyber attack usually increases the intensity in the C-suite, stirring executives to want to react and be done with it, such as nervously spouting, “Just pay the ransom.” 

However, effective internal communication can ensure that all the decision-makers are aware that the company has the cyber recovery capability to restore the data – without needing to acknowledge or negotiate with the purveyors of the ransomware attack. At a surface level, this may sound counter-intuitive, but with next-generation cyber recovery technology from a data storage perspective, you can just ignore them. It’s the equivalent to you telling the bad actors to “get lost” because you have essentially neutralized the impact of the attack.

3. Keep your “checklist” updated in standardized preparation for future ransomware attacks.

Not only do you want to check the boxes, but it is also essential that you have the right boxes on your checklist. Simulation completed. Check. Backup systems secured. Check. Cyber recovery at high speed (preferably near-instantaneous restoring). Check. Immutable snapshots. Check.

But your checklist cannot stay static. It can serve as a barometer of the level of your company’s preparedness at any given time. It puts your company into a constant mode of preparedness, which should be stress-tested through controlled simulations. The point of an adequate checklist is to prevent compromise of your company’s data.

Implementing immutable snapshots, for example, is a perfect example of a strategy whereby the data cannot be corrupted or encrypted. They are snapshots of all your company’s data that cannot be overwritten, altered, or deleted. They let you go back to the time of your choosing and rapidly restore any data from a snapshot, making a ransomware attack seem more like a speed bump in the road, figuratively speaking.

When you use immutable snapshots, you can be confident that your data can most likely be recovered without the need to pay the ransom of cybercriminals. This is why immutable snapshots are on an increasing number of checklists within enterprise companies.

And be sure to test everything on your checklist and your procedures. All too often disaster recovery tests are viewed as a nuisance to be satisfactorily completed with as little effort as possible. Instead, instill an attitude of searching for any possible weak links and challenge IT to try and find ways to break things! This can expose previously unseen issues before they become real problems. Don’t wait for the attack to occur; simulate your own attacks, and practice recoveries.

Key Takeaway

You can expect the best outcome in a crisis situation, but you are smart to prepare for the worst-case scenarios caused by ransomware attacks. In doing so, you put your organization in the best position to neutralize the effects of a ransomware attack when one happens. Awareness, communication, and standardization are three key components of effective preparedness.

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://www.dataversity.net/three-best-practices-to-neutralize-ransomware-attacks/

Big Data

Text detection from images using EasyOCR: Hands-on guide

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EasyOCR | Text detection from images using EasyOCR: Hands-on guide





















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Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://www.analyticsvidhya.com/blog/2021/06/text-detection-from-images-using-easyocr-hands-on-guide/

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Why and how to use BERT for NLP Text Classification?

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Why and how to use BERT for NLP Text Classification? – Analytics Vidhya





















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Source: https://www.analyticsvidhya.com/blog/2021/06/why-and-how-to-use-bert-for-nlp-text-classification/

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As Venezuela’s economy regresses, crypto fills the gaps

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By Brian Ellsworth

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan food delivery driver Pablo Toro has no stake in cryptocurrency or blockchain, but indirectly uses digital tokens every time he sends money to his family.

Toro, who emigrated to Colombia in 2019, uses an app called Valiu to receive Colombian pesos from working on Bogota’s streets and deposit the corresponding bolivars into a Venezuelan bank account.

In Venezuela’s economy, mired by hyperinflation and hemmed in by sanctions, the operation is not so straightforward.

Valiu uses pesos to buy cryptocurrency that it then sells on LocalBitcoins, a global peer-to-peer site for trading tokens in local currencies.

For Toro, the platform is more reliable than informal money changers, the main channel for Venezuelan migrants to send money home. And he need not buy traditional money orders in person.

“When the power is out in Venezuela, when internet service is down, it has a huge impact on how long it takes to send a remittance to one’s family,” said Toro, who quit working as a university security guard because his monthly salary could not even pay for a day’s groceries.

“(Now) I don’t have to worry about whether the cell signal dropped in Venezuela, or if cell service drops here.”

As hyperinflation and U.S. sanctions disrupt Venezuela’s economy, cryptocurrency is emerging as a way to provide services handled elsewhere by the traditional banking system.

It has become a tool to send remittances, protect wages from inflation and help businesses manage cash flow in a quickly depreciating currency, according to interviews with crypto users and experts.

Cryptocurrency in Latin America got renewed attention in June after El Salvador adopted bitcoin as legal tender. It has grown in popularity in Argentina as inflation resurged.

Chainalysis, a startup that researches blockchain transactions, in a 2020 report ranked Venezuela third on its Global Crypto Adoption Index, largely due to the high volume of bolivar transactions.

Mining cryptocurrency – using high-powered computers to solve complex math problems – is an attractive way to make extra income thanks to Venezuela’s ultra-low power prices, but the average citizen cannot afford the equipment.

In Venezuela, crypto is mainly used to hedge against inflation that causes bank deposits to sharply depreciate in weeks or even days.

“Valiu buys and sells bitcoin instead of directly exchanging pesos to bolivars because of the lack of availability of that currency in regulated marketplaces,” said Alejandro Machado, Valiu’s head of pilot programs.

Bolivar transactions on LocalBitcoins are the largest by value among Latin American currencies, according to LocalBitcoins data analyzed by blockchain advisor UsefulTulips.

LocalBitcoins did not respond to a request for comment.

Cryptocurrency traders and experts say volumes on the site have slipped amid the rising popularity of Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, which offers trading of a variety of tokens.

These include so-called “stablecoins” whose values remain steady against specific assets such as the U.S. dollar, avoiding the volatility of many cryptocurrencies.

Bolivar operations on Binance’s peer-to-peer platform have risen by 75% since May, making Venezuela the only Latin American country whose trading volumes have risen since bitcoin prices tumbled at the start of May, a Binance spokesperson said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in 2017 announced the creation of the state-backed petro cryptocurrency, but it has little practical application. The government used it in 2019 to make small payments to retirees, and often uses it as a unit of value to price services or fines that are ultimately paid in bolivars.

The United States in 2019 imposed broad Venezuela sanctions that block U.S. citizens from dealing with Maduro’s government. While banks can still deal with private businesses or individuals, many avoid doing so due to perceived regulatory risk.

The country’s information ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Fast food chains Pizza Hut and Church’s Chicken as well as some supermarkets are accepting tokens such as bitcoin and dash as payment, fueling excitement and filling malls and businesses with logos for well-known cryptocurrencies.

But a major part of Venezuela’s crypto operations involves businesses swapping out of bolivars to beat inflation, said economist and finance expert Aaron Olmos.

“Crypto is being used as a palliative for the economic situation, but you see it mostly among businesses,” said Olmos.

“Nobody is going to tell you ‘every night when we do the books, we convert bolivars into bitcoin,’ but yes, this is happening.”

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Richard Chang)

Image Credit: Reuters

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://datafloq.com/read/as-venezuelas-economy-regresses-crypto-fills-gaps/15682

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Messaging app helps take off blinders at top-down South Korean chaebol culture

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By Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) – An anonymous messaging app called Blind used by South Korean employees to air their grievances is helping change management attitudes towards workers in some of the nation’s biggest companies.

The bosses have take note as the app’s popularity among employees surges.

In several instances in recent weeks, companies have changed course on salary decisions and other issues after criticism by employees expressed on the app. It was a marked departure from the previously unassailable top-down management culture that symbolised the country’s “chaebol” conglomerates and its rapid industrial development.

Blind is based in the United States, and also has a following there mainly among employees of U.S. tech companies. It was founded by four South Koreans and has captured a sweet spot at home, with about 70% of users coming from Korean firms, the company said.

Kyum Kim, co-founder of Blind, told Reuters the decision to be based outside Korea was deliberate.

“When starting our service, we thought our service would have more value when our HQ is in the United States – where the concept of freedom of speech is well established and valued,” Kim said.

Blind requires users to sign up using company email as proof of employment at large firms, but the connection between the company email and Blind account is then permanently destroyed to ensure secrecy.

The app, launched in 2013, reached a new level of influence after the coronavirus pandemic prompted employees to seek online routes to remain in the loop and corporate executives began paying closer attention.

Monthly active users on the app grew to 3.7 million this month from 1.3 million in June 2019, and the number of daily posts has more than doubled, according to the company.

Now, in between office gossip, the app is also serving as an outlet in the wider societal backlash of rank-and-file workers against perceived injustice in Korea Inc.

“Blind has played a part in the trend in South Korean society toward greater demand for ‘fairness’ in corporate-employee dynamics, especially among the tech-savvy younger generations,” said Yu Gyu-chang, Dean of the Graduate School of Business at Hanyang University.

Global No. 2 memory chip maker SK Hynix gave its staff the highest salary increase since 2012 this month, after the app helped stoke a backlash by employees against a pay increase decision by the management earlier this year.

At the time, in an unprecedented conciliatory gesture, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won had offered to return his entire 2020 salary from the company – about 3 billion won ($2.64 million).

Although employees had openly challenged the pay decision within SK Hynix, the move was buoyed by the anonymous outpouring of employee disgruntlement in Blind. Yu said younger employees were accustomed to the anonymity of the Web and joining forces with others for immediate results.

SK Hynix declined comment on the pay increase, but said the chip industry’s overall wage competitiveness is rising.

“When it comes to office workers, we don’t have a union and I feel that office workers get together on Blind and ‘unite’ to raise our voices together,” said an employee at one of South Korea’s four biggest conglomerates, declining to be identified.

“Monitoring Blind has become a bigger part of our job than we thought,” a PR executive at a different conglomerate said, declining to be identified as the matter was confidential.

“Grievances and rumours posted there can get a lot of eyeballs, often get leaked to the press, can end up setting agendas. Criticisms can snowball a lot quicker unless steps are taken.”

Workers at U.S. companies such as Google and Amazon also use Blind, and many others in the United States such as job review site Glassdoor also provide platforms for anonymous company criticism. And speaking out, even without anonymity, is tolerated at many companies.

In South Korea, by contrast, anonymous posts on Blind have shaken companies beyond just salary negotiations. Labour ministry supervision has begun this month at Naver, the dominant web portal, after chatter on Blind claimed an employee who committed suicide had been bullied.

Naver declined comment as an investigation is ongoing.

($1 = 1,134.9400 won)

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; Additional reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Image Credit: Reuters

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://datafloq.com/read/messaging-app-helps-take-blinders-top-down-south-korean-chaebol-culture/15681

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