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Hybrid cyberattacks – A new era of threat

Inside Telecom Staff

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Hybrid cyber attacks

In the ultimate dystopian novel, George Orwell’s “1984”, there is a chilling sentence towards the end of the book which reads, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” 

The same can now be said for your common cyber-criminal and groups of state hackers. The ability to differentiate between the two is becoming more and more difficult as the two are increasingly impersonating one another in an attempt to cover their tracks and escape detection.

The most recent edition of the “Cyber Threat Intelligence Estimate”, from security solutions integrator Optiv Security of Denver, Colorado, states that cyber-criminals and nation-state owned or sponsored hackers are now learning from each other and improving at what they do, as they implement similar practices, spoof each other’s hacking plans and lay fake tracks to confuse investigators. 

The Optiv report states:

Sometimes threat actors may masquerade as a certain type in order to hide their true agenda. Or, threat actors may belong to two or more classes, switching between them as their priorities change”.

The report finds that many vertical industries are still susceptible to constantly evolving cyber threats.

While businesses and organisations increasingly understand that cyber-security is an imperative asset to their success, this issue is rarely at the top of the corporate agenda despite the fact that just one, brief, effective cyber-incursion could bring an entire business down.  Anthony Diaz, VP and general manager of cyber operations at Optiv says, “Cyber security can be an existential threat for organisations.”

The report discovers that retail, healthcare, government, and financial institutions are among the industries most vulnerable to verticals of cyber security attacks. The attackers also are developing in terms of sophistication as “hybrid threat actors” (those that pretend to be of a different threat classification to conceal their real identities) begin to thrive. 

Old conventional attack methods (botnets, DDoS attacks, malware and phishing remain persistent threats but ransomware and “cryptojacking” are amid the new array of weapons in the hacker’s armories.

The painful fact is that cyberspace is increasing in terms of its hostility, hackers are now more refined than ever and hybrid threat actors are improving at defying detection methods and systems. Consequently, no vertical business is exempt from attack.

The new report recommends several instances of best practice including the employment of multi-factor authentication when possible, and conducting of frequent audits of all vendors and third-party assets, disposing of the ones that aren’t used any more.

The report also recommends that organisations take a proactive stance, rather than a reactive one in their approach to cyber security. When it comes to Cyberspace, shutting the stable door once the horse has bolted is pointless. The deed is done and the money (or the IP) has long gone. It is better and more cost effective to put the defenses up before an attack takes place rather than to try to recover when the assailants have come and gone. In today’s world, it is sadly a case of when, rather than if.

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

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Feature Articles

Operator network sharing in emerging markets

Karim Hussami

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network sharing

The telecom industry is always looking for ways to improve the quality of services offered to customers and support present and future connectivity needs by expanding network broadband, adopting new technologies and exploring new telco partnerships.

As such, network sharing is also gaining popularity in emerging markets as part of a sustainable strategy to boost overall connectivity services.

Latest trial with MTN Nigeria and 9Mobile

More specifically, this concept has been implemented in Nigeria where local operators have been encouraged, by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to conduct network sharing. The NCC granted MTN Nigeria and 9Mobile the approval for the trial of a national roaming service.

What are the benefits?

Services such as calls, text and data or access of other services will be made possible when traveling outside a particular coverage area by making use of the network of another operator.

“The successful implementation of the trial will enable EMTS subscribers to access MTN network service within the National Roaming trial geographical area without the need for an MTN Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card,” said NCC Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Umar Garba Danbatta.

Moreover, the benefits of increased operator network sharing in Nigeria, will lead to operational expenditure optimization and capital expenditure efficiencies. It will also aim at freeing up resources to expand mobile network coverage to unserved and underserved communities and improved quality of service delivery to subscribers, as well as connecting remote parts of Nigeria.

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Feature Articles

SK Telecom to rollout blockchain-powered wallet with ministry approval

Yehia El Amine

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Blockchain

South Korean telecom giant, SK Telecom, has announced the rollout of its first e-wallet aimed at digitally storing and managing government-issued documents, gaining approval from the country’s Ministry of Public Administration.

According to SKT, the wallet will be powered by blockchain technology, and will be compatible with Government24’s digital initiative program, which promotes and encourages certificate issuance and distributions electronically as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic hits worldwide.

“Blockchain is a vital technology in today’s rapidly changing environment. There is a dire need for virtual interactions and innovative processes for streamlining certificates and other government-issued documents,” SK Telecom’s head of Blockchain & Certification Division, Oh Se-Hyun, was quoted as saying.

Citizens will be able to receive and send documents such as immigration certificates, resident registration card copies, health insurance qualifications, among others through a blockchain-powered mobile app.

The SK e-wallet will work cohesively with Government24 app seamlessly sharing documents from one to another, while also allowing documents to be shared with financial institutions, public entities, and private organizations in electronic form.

According to SKT, the wallet will support 13 different types of documents and certifications but will later increase to 100 types as the year ends.

According to numbers from Statista, almost one million South Koreans have discarded of their physical drivers’ licenses in favor of blockchain-powered digital alternatives used in conjunction with the PASS smartphone app.

“One million represents more than 3 percent of the entire driving population in South Korea, which sat at 32.6 million licensed drivers in 2019 alone,” the report from Statista highlighted.

In the past few years, South Korea has been spearheading countrywide digitization efforts especially with blockchain technology. Seongnam, the country’s second largest city, has already rolled out several digital payment programs, with plans to adopt more.

In parallel, beachgoers in Busan will be able to pay for services with Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH); while one of South Korea’s biggest banks KEB Hana Bank has partnered with the Korea Expressway Corporation to implement a blockchain-based toll system for the country’s highways.

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5G

Can 5G improve remote learning for all?

Karim Hussami

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remote learning

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of life including education; from the subsequent closure of educational institutions around the world to the rapid adoption of online learning.

However, the concept of students studying and learning online started before the spread of the virus with an annual study from the Learning House, a U.S.-based Edtech company, noting that, “the proportion of students studying and learning fully online has risen from under half to fully two-thirds.”

A fast internet connection is one of the main criteria for a successful remote learning experience, therefore, 5G will likely facilitate a more seamless learning experience for students across the world.

Benefits of 5G

Remote learning based on new technologies has convinced 80 percent of teachers that this new way empowers their teaching process, according to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s fourth annual Educator Confidence Report.

So how can 5G rollout help Edtech?

Facilitating learning through new techniques

Allowing students to tap into their imaginative and explorative qualities is an essential step for better learning experiences.

Thus, 5G will broaden the scope of technologies used while teaching students new curricula and learning material; for example, it will allow institutions to open availability for virtual and augmented reality with its low latency and peak download speeds, estimated to be as high as 20 gigabits-per-second.

“Virtual and augmented reality headsets will allow students to place themselves anywhere in the world and even within a story. These digital experiences will enliven current curricula and allow students to energize their imaginative and explorative qualities, which should be central to educational experiences,” Nicol Turner-Lee, Ph.D. and a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation said.

Closing distances with easy accessibility

While 5G offers faster data speeds and enhanced connectivity for many, it may not be accessible to students living in remote or secluded areas. Such a limitation may deepen the digital divide.

However, wireless devices are easier to put in place than traditional wired or fiber-based internet, making it a more practical solution.

Remote learning with 5G is an opportunity to help schools close the homework gap by boosting mobile learning.

“The advent of 5G on mobile devices can help close that gap as students can begin to use faster, more reliable mobile-based connections to complete an assignment, rather than a terrestrial connection,” says Erin Mote, Co-Founder of the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools and Education Technology expert.

Tech will help special needs students:

Our new educational normal will help students and children with special needs. 5G can help by enabling robots to be responsive with students, offering them good learning experiences, as well as being full-time assistants and supporting teachers by responding instantly to the needs of the student with learning exercises.

However, a big dilemma is presented here: children from high-income families are spending 30 percent more time on distance learning platforms than those from low-income families.

In parallel, 64 percent of secondary pupils in state schools from the wealthiest households are being offered online teaching from schools, compared with 47 percent from poorer families, according to a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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