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Covid-19 pandemic makes UK SMEs vulnerable to cyberattacks

Ranine Awwad

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Covid19 pandemic makes UK SMEs vulnerable to cyberattacks1

The United Kingdom is already vulnerable to cyberattacks. A study conducted by Specops on cybercrimes between 2006 and 2020 shows that the country is the second most targeted by significant cyberattacks. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies have shifted their businesses online in response to the lockdown measures. A significant number of UK companies were not ready for cybersecurity challenges as only 48% of them do have adequate cybersecurity to support remote working.

Recently, the general public including European citizens became completely aware of their personal data and privacy rights. The adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is considered a game-changer for the e-commerce market. Half of the consumers avowed that they would stop using an online company if they would be vulnerable to cyberattacks. “Cybersecurity increasingly became a ‘differentiator’ for brands in a market where customers demand more transparency,” said Darius Goodarzi, Principal-Information Security and IT Risk at Robert Walters, according to Irish Tech News.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, around 53% of UK businesses were able to transition their staff to remote working in less than 48 hours. With around half of the businesses functioning online, cybersecurity threats became an important factor to worry about. A new report called “Entitled Cybersecurity: Building Business Resilience”, claims that the cost of data breaches to the United Kingdom companies is around £2.48 million per instance. The report states that UK SME’s are at risk of 65000 cybersecurity attacks daily. Around 4500 out of these attacks are successful.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Research, cyberattacks to the small business community is estimated to cost £4.5 billion per year. According to a press release published by FSB, small firms suffer close to 10000 cyber-attacks daily. In the past two years, 530000 small firms suffered from phishing attempts. Martin McTague, FSB Policy & Advocacy Chairman said, “These findings demonstrate the sheer scale of the dangers faced by small firms every day in the digital arena”. Moreover, he added, “Too many small businesses still lack access to the resources and budgets needed to contain it”.

Cybersecurity attacks to UK SME’s cause a real threat to the country. SMEs account for 99.2 % of all businesses in the United Kingdom, according to the Entrepreneur Handbook. It seems that e-commerce is the most important sector when looking for cybersecurity. However, other sectors are taken into consideration such as banking. “After e-commerce, the next industry which we suspect will be looking at their security posture is the legal sector, in particular law firms. Whilst the legal sector deals with high volumes of confidential information, they have never been mandated to have certifications around security”, said Nathan Tittensor, Director at i3Secure, a UK-based Cybersecurity and Data Protection Consultancy, according to TechRound.

Ranine joined Inside Telecom as an Investigative Journalist. Her extensive fieldwork and investigations shed light on many socio-economic issues. Over the past few years, she has transformed her key findings into in-depth analytical reports. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication.

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NSCS Issues an Alert for UK Academic Institutions Amid an Increase in Cyberattacks

Ranine Awwad

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NSCS issues an alert for UK academic institutions amid an increase in cyberattacks

On September 17, 2020, the UK’s National Cyber Security Center NCSC has issued an alert to the academic sector following an increased number of cyberattacks on schools, colleges, and universities. In fact, UK universities have been suffering from cyberattacks following the rise of online schooling amid the Covid-19 pandemic. A new report by Kaspersky published on September 4, 2020, states that phishing, DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, Adware and Malware are among cyberattacks threats associated with online learning.

NCSC provided UK institutions with a set of alerts to keep criminals out of their network following the detection of 17 ransomware attacks in August 2020. These attacks usually target the encryption of an organization’s data by criminals, who demand an exchange of money for its recovery.

The National Cyber Security Center has encouraged UK institutions to ensure that all their data are backed up and copies are stocked offline to prevent data loss in case of any cyberattack. The authority said that it is ready to support institutions as well as offering guidance for them to better understand the cybersecurity sector. “The NCSC recommends that organizations implement a ‘defense in depth’ strategy to defend against malware and ransomware attacks”. Moreover, they added, “Your organization should also have an incident response plan, which includes a scenario for a ransomware attack”.

Paul Chichester, Director of Operations at the NCSC, said, “While these have been isolated incidents, I would strongly urge all academic institutions to take heed of our alert and put in place the steps we suggest, to help ensure young people are able to return to education undisrupted”. Moreover, he added, “We are absolutely committed to ensuring UK academia is as safe as possible from cyber threats, and will not hesitate to act when that threat evolves.”

On September 4, 2020, The DoppelPaymer ransomware gang breached Newcastle University systems and stole backup files, states IT Governance. The BBC also reported that Northumbria University suffered from “operational disruptions across networks and IT system on September 1, 2020.

David Corke, Director of Education and skills policy at the Association of Colleges, said “As the last six months have shown us, it has never been more important for colleges to have the right digital infrastructure in order to be able to protect their systems and keep learning happening, whatever the circumstance”, according to The York Press.

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Korea’s KT will build 5G testing to support SMEs

Ranine Awwad

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Korea’s KT will build 5G testing to support SMEs

On September 16, 2020, Korean Carrier KT announced plans to build 5G test facilities nationwide. This move comes as part of the Korean government plan to support companies developing new services using 5G technology.

The KRW 28.5 billion (US$24.2 million) project aims to provide small and medium-sized firms access to research versions of the 5G network to test new services and is expected to be completed by 2023, according to RCR Wireless. The testing will be running in 4 different locations including Pangyo, south of Seoul, and the central city of Daejeon.

Korean Carrier KT plans to install 5G at the facilities on the 3.5 GHz and the 28 GHz bands by the end of 2020. Moreover, the carrier has announced that 200 employees will work on developing plans on how Artificial Intelligence, 5G, the cloud and the Research & Development will support the new deal scheme which is expected to create 550,000 jobs this year. 

According to Mobile World Live, Yoon-Young Park, head of the taskforce, said, “KT will create a commercial standards-based 5G network environment in which companies can research and contribute to the industry, with a focus on services including connected cars, drones, smart factories, and media streaming”.

Korean telecom operators have introduced 5G technology since April 2019. In July, they agreed to invest a total of KRW 25.7 trillion by 2022 aiming to boost 5G infrastructures across Korea, according to RCR Wireless. Despite the impacts of Covid-19 on the rollout of 5G network infrastructure, the operator expressed confidence in closing 2020 with 3.5 million 5G subscribers. 

Back in June 2019, Huawei opened its first 5G OpenLab in Seoul which was set to provide 5G network testing and verification environments for partners and help Korean enterprises use 5G networks to incubate new services, according to GlobeNewswire. 

Recently, the government of South Korea has announced its aims to proceed with a pilot project for non-standalone 6G services by 2026.

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FinTech: giving global merchants greater access to emerging markets

Karim Hussami

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FinTech giving global merchants greater access to emerging markets

Unsurprisingly, for a country with a market size of 3.5 million people, Uruguay has a small number of fintechs with only 13 – one less than at the beginning of 2020. 

The major subdivision of the countries’ fintech industry comprises five parts: fintech enterprise services (FES), payments, exchange, open banking, and investments.

Digital payment services provider dLocal has become the first Uruguayan fintech to gain unicorn status after raising US$200 million in a new fundraising round led by US venture capital firm General Atlantic.

Founded in 2016, dLocal also secured investment from Addition, a newly launched investment firm that focuses on early and growth-stage companies.

dLocal focuses on cross-border payment solutions in Latin America, Asia and Africa markets. Since its inception, the company maintained consistent profitability and growth and serves 450 merchants across 20 countries.

“I am extremely proud of what the team at dLocal has achieved since we started serving global e-commerce players four years ago,” said Sebastián Kanovich, CEO of dLocal. “Beyond securing unicorn status and becoming one of the highest-valued Latin American financial technology companies supporting global merchants, we are expanding access and helping those in emerging markets connect to e-commerce, building reliable payment technology tailored to specific local needs, constantly improving our products and growing our global footprint.”

Fintech continues to facilitate easier payment processes, helping industry players diversify services to meet the changing needs of customers. 

“Beyond becoming one of the highest-valued Latin American financial technology companies supporting global merchants. We are expanding access and helping those in emerging markets connect to e-commerce”, Kanovich said.

While the digital payment services provider counts Amazon, Nike, Uber and Spotify among its high-profile customers, the latter company announced at the beginning of September, that “It would be using dLocal’s 360 payment platform to make its music streaming service available to customers in Argentina, Mexico, Chile and other locations in Latin America.”

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