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ABC’s of protecting SMBs in SEA against malicious mining

As the symptoms and consequences of malicious mining are less obvious and less immediate than ransomware and phishing attacks, it’s easy for SMBs to disregard it as a mere technical issue. However, its aftermath is costly in the long run.

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Across Southeast Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen businesses and governments attempt to mitigate the financial impact of this unprecedented public health crisis. Southeast Asian economies are taking a huge hit in the global economic crisis, with 64% of respondents from a recent regional survey conducted by Ernest & Young expecting a slower recovery extending into 2021. 

While countries continue to experience different levels of success with containing the spread of the coronavirus, they have adopted different approaches when it comes to reopening their economies. For example, Singapore is currently in Phase 2 of its exit strategy from the circuit breaker measures, with most businesses and social activities allowed to resume from June 19. In Malaysia, most economic activity has been resumed with interstate travel permitted from June 10. These are clear indicators that Southeast Asian countries are making a concerted effort to enable their businesses to recover more quickly from the pandemic. 

However, challenges such as cash flow problems persist. Almost 5,000 firms have borrowed S$4.5 billion from government assisted schemes in recent weeks in Singapore, while the Bank of Thailand has provided 500 million baht of soft loans to financial institutions so that they can offer loans to certain small medium businesses (SMBs). If SMBs are to ensure that their path to economic recovery remains smooth, they would need to address all aspects of their business operations and strategy – and that includes shoring up their cybersecurity defenses to reduce the financial impact of data breaches and hacks. 

Number of malicious mining attempts against SMBs blocked by Kaspersky solutions and the country’s ranking based on the share of users almost infected with this malware

“Malicious mining attacks continue to remain as a widely underreported area of cyberthreats to SMBs. In this age where we are well acquainted with the infamous examples of data breaches, it is natural for us to pool our resources together and deal with ransomware and large-scale phishing attacks. However, this is not the case when it comes to cryptomining,” comments Yeo Siang Tiong, general manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky. 

“As the symptoms and consequences of malicious mining are less obvious and less immediate than ransomware and phishing attacks, it’s easy for SMBs to disregard it as a mere technical issue. However, its aftermath is costly in the long run. The rapid increase of cryptojacking incidents in the region should be a wakeup call for enterprises in all shapes and forms. Cybercriminals are doing this attack because it is profitable, it is high time that we acknowledge this and improve our defenses against it,” he adds.

SIGNS THAT YOU MAY HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED BY CRYPTO-MINING

In essence, some signs that may point towards devices being used for crypto-mining:

  • Substantial increase in electrical consumption and usage of CPU
  • System response will slow; the device’s memory, processor, and graphics adapter are bogged down completing cryptomining tasks.
  • Wasted bandwidth will decrease the speed and efficiency of legitimate computing workloads
  • Batteries will run down much faster than before, and devices may run quite hot.
  • If the device uses a data plan, users will see data usage skyrocket.

TIPS TO SAFEGUARD YOURSELF AGAINST CRYPTO-MINING

To proactively safeguard your business against SMBs, here’s what you should focus on:

  • Enhancing the cybersecurity awareness of your employees is the first step, but a highly critical one for any business that takes cybersecurity seriously. Having them understand basic things like what file/link to open will go a long way in preventing crypto-miners from planting malware on electronic devices. Also, it is worth creating employee and operational control policies that cover aspects of network management and facilities, including password renewal regulations, incident handling, access control rules, protecting sensitive data and more. 
  • Monitor web traffic – frequent queries to domains of popular cryptomining pools are a clear sign that someone is mining at your expense. Ideally, add these domains to your domain block lists for all computers in your network — lists of such domains can be found online. New domains are constantly appearing, so be sure to update the list systematically.
  • Keep track of your server load. If the daily load changes suddenly, that may be a symptom of a malicious miner. Carrying out regular security audits of your corporate network may also be helpful.
  • Ensure that all your software are up to date as soon as they are available so that you are well prepared for the latest cyberthreats. 
  • Implement the right cybersecurity solution for every aspect of your business operations, both hardware and software related. Use a dedicated endpoint security solution equipped with web and application control, anomaly control and exploit prevention components that monitor and block suspicious activity on the corporate network.

If you are already the victim of a crypto mining attack, or are looking to recover, here’s what you can do:

  • Use a strong security solution on all computers and mobile devices, such as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android or Kaspersky Total Security to identify the threat, and enable Default Deny mode where possible.
  • Kill and block website-delivered scripts. Your IT team should note the URL that is the source of the script and update the organization’s web filters to block it immediately. 
  • If a website extension is responsible for infecting the browser, update all the extensions and remove those that are not needed or are infected. 

Tech & Innovation

5 Tech trends that will shape businesses in 2022

Here are the tech trends that businesses need to look out for this 2022 as listed by SAP SE. 

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Over the last two years, organizations of different sizes and industries have realized, even more, the critical role technology and innovation play in business and society. The latest developments in technology provided more ways to ensure more connected enterprises, enabling them to survive and thrive amid the ‘never normal.’

However, these advancements in technology have just begun. As organizations prepare for the post-pandemic world, technologies that have been introduced in recent years are expected to continue evolving. The latest advances will also further transform how people interact and work. 

Here are the tech trends that businesses need to look out for this 2022 as listed by SAP SE

Embracing Digital Transformation

Since the pandemic started, the speed at which digital transformation is fundamentally changing the business landscape has dramatically increased. The developments that could have happened in a decade or so were made possible overnight in many industries.

In the Philippines, the digital sector contributes significantly to its economy. This reality indicates that organizations in the private and public sectors will continue strengthening their digital transformation initiatives. Backed by strong government support, these transformations can unlock PhP5 trillion worth of economic value by 2030, according to a recent AlphaBeta and Google report.

Nurturing Sustainability

Nowadays, embracing sustainability has become an integral part of organizations, with business leaders considering it a strategic priority. Aside from top and bottom-line, forward-looking organizations add sustainability and even purpose as dimensions to driving business success. 

Among these organizations is Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC). As a leading infrastructure investment company, MPIC commits to contribute to the achievement of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 9, which seeks to ‘build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.’

Recently, MPIC strengthened its digital core as it embraced cloud solutions that can help consolidate, modernize, and standardize its enterprise resource (ERP) systems on a single platform. The integration into the cloud is part of the group’s sustainability philosophy of integrating business and environmental stewardship into their investment strategies. It helps improve its operations and augment sustainability initiatives, especially since SAP, MPIC’s technology partner, embeds sustainability into its core business processes.

Meanwhile, consumers are making apparent shifts to more sustainable products and services. According to a Kantar report, 75 percent of Filipino consumers seek out brands that offer ways to alleviate impacts to the environment. Even employees now make career choices based on their employer’s responsibility towards the planet. Thus, it is now even more integral to invest in innovation that considers environmental welfare while fostering economic and social development.

Integrating Decision Intelligence, Hyper-automation

In the Philippines, the Department of Trade and Industry noted that Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption can increase the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 12 percent or equivalent to $92 billion by 2030.

Digital tools like AI, including augmented analytics and simulations, make “Decision Intelligence” a realistic approach to improve organizational decision-making. Each choice or decision in such a system result from multiple process iterations, refined with the help of analytics and data intelligence. With these digital tools, decision intelligence may support and enhance human decision-making and potentially automate it, hence augmenting organizational processes to be more efficient.

Meanwhile, scalability, remote operation, and business model disruption are also becoming possible with the use of Hyper-automation. Before the pandemic, businesses have been automating many processes through technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This trend will continue to grow for automating business and IT activities using a disciplined, business-driven approach. 

Rising Low-Code, No-Code Tech 

As content creation becomes even more relevant, graphic and website designs have been streamlined so users can simply “drag” and “drop” elements to create engaging content. This trend will extend to no-code AI, where users can create systems by simply “dragging” and “dropping” ready-made modules, removing the “programming language” barrier through simple interfaces. Consequently, it will allow users to create complex and robust AI systems.

Ensuring Total Experience (TX) 

Due to the pandemic, organizations needed to have an excellent Total Experience (TX) strategy or a holistic program that combines customer, user, and employee experiences. With this strategy in place, organizations can help enhance customer satisfaction and employee productivity. 

Organizations need to focus on weaving in these experiences instead of working on them individually to help ensure that they will be more satisfied as teams that work as an integrated unit. This trend is expected to continue as businesses eliminate communication and process silos and emphasize providing unified experiences to their employees remotely working while interacting with customers.

Collaborating with a Technology Partner

As these trends arise, organizations need a technology partner to help them achieve their business goals this year and beyond. For SAP, embracing technology means ensuring that the organization becomes an intelligent enterprise. 

As a technology partner for businesses in the country, SAP helps make it easier by offering solutions like Rise with SAP, an intelligent enterprise framework to help kickstart businesses’ digital transformation journey. In the Philippines, MPIC is the first organization to adopt this cloud technology through this Business Transformation as a Service (BTaaS), offering consolidated solutions and services needed for business transformation in one package.

Rise with SAP also includes SAP and its whole ecosystem of partners assisting organizations in changing at their own terms and pace to be an intelligent and sustainable enterprise by simplifying engagement and providing a guided journey.

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Strategies

Bad news? Send an AI. Good news? Send a human

For a marketer who is about to deliver bad news to a customer, an AI representative will improve that customer’s response. This would be the best approach for negative situations such as unexpectedly high price offers, cancellations, delays, negative evaluations, status changes, product defects, rejections, service failures, and stockouts. However, good news is best delivered by a human.

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Photo by Alex Knight from Unsplash.com

Researchers from University of Kentucky, University of Technology Sydney, and University of Illinois-Chicago published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that examines the customer response and satisfaction implications of using AI agents versus human agents.

The study, appearing in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Bad News? Send an AI. Good News? Send a Human” and is authored by Aaron Garvey, TaeWoo Kim, Adam Duhachek.

Are we more forgiving of an artificial intelligence (AI) agent than a human when we are let down? Less appreciative of an AI bot than a human when we are helped? New research examines these questions and discovers that consumers respond differently to favorable and unfavorable treatment at the hands of an AI agent versus another human.

Consumers and marketing managers currently are in a period of technological transition where AI agents are increasingly replacing human representatives. AI agents have been adopted across a broad range of consumer domains to handle customer transactions, including traditional retail, travel, ride and residence sharing, and even legal and medical services. Given AI agents’ advanced information processing capabilities and labor cost advantages, the transition away from human representatives for administering product and services is expected to continue. However, what are the implications for customer response and satisfaction? 

The researchers find that when a product or service offer is worse than expected, consumers respond better when dealing with an AI agent. In contrast, for an offer that is better than expected, consumers respond more favorably to a human agent. Garvey explains that “This happens because AI agents, compared to human agents, are perceived to have weaker personal intentions when making decisions. That is, since an AI agent is a non-human machine, consumers typically do not believe that an AI agent’s behavior is driven by underlying selfishness or kindness.” As a result, consumers believe that AI agents lack selfish intentions (which would typically be punished) in the case of an unfavorable offer and lack benevolent intentions (which would typically be rewarded) in the case of a favorable offer. 

Designing an AI agent to appear more humanlike can change consumer response. For example, a service robot that appears more humanlike (e.g., with human body structure and facial features) elicits more favorable responses to a better-than-expected offer than a more machinelike AI agent without human features. This occurs because AI agents that are more humanlike are perceived to have stronger intentions when making the offer. 

What does this mean for marketing managers? Kim says, “For a marketer who is about to deliver bad news to a customer, an AI representative will improve that customer’s response. This would be the best approach for negative situations such as unexpectedly high price offers, cancellations, delays, negative evaluations, status changes, product defects, rejections, service failures, and stockouts. However, good news is best delivered by a human. Unexpectedly positive outcomes could include expedited deliveries, rebates, upgrades, service bundles, exclusive offers, loyalty rewards and customer promotions.”

Managers can apply our findings to prioritize (vs. postpone) human to AI role transitions in situations where negative (vs. positive) interactions are more frequent. Moreover, even when a role transition is not entirely passed to an AI agent, the selective recruitment of an AI agent to disclose certain negative information could still be advantageous. Firms that have already transitioned to consumer-facing AI agents, including the multitude of online and mobile applications that use AI-based algorithms to create and administer offers, also stand to benefit from our findings. Our research reveals that AI agents should be selectively made to appear more or less humanlike depending upon the situation. 

For consumers, these findings reveal a “blind spot” when dealing with AI agents, particularly when considering offers that fall short of expectations. Indeed, the research reveals an ethical dilemma around the use of AI agents – is it appropriate to use AI to bypass consumer resistance to poor offers?

“We hope that making consumers aware of this phenomenon will improve their decision quality when dealing with AI agents, while also providing marketing managers techniques, such as making AI more humanlike in certain contexts, for managing this dilemma,” says Duhachek.

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Strategies

GoDaddy shares web design trends and tools for your business in 2022

With this new year, GoDaddy, the company empowering entrepreneurs worldwide, shares some website trends and tools for 2022, to help entrepreneurs and small businesses stand out online. 

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With more digital space being taken up by entrepreneurs and creatives, it has also become increasingly challenging to cut through the online noise. Having a business website, once just enough to help a business stand out from the competition, needs to now become a business home on the internet with engaging and impactful web design features designed to capture and sustain the attention of a more active and discerning online audience. This moves engaging and impactful web design from a nice-to-have to a must-to-have for online businesses. 

With this new year, GoDaddy, the company empowering entrepreneurs worldwide, shares some website trends and tools for 2022, to help entrepreneurs and small businesses stand out online. 

Trend 1: Mini-Max Principle

While minimalism could be summarized as “less is more,” sticking exclusively to its core elements, such as clean lines and muted colors, could seem repetitive or even boring. 

However, using this principle, along with pops of color to help stand up and bring attention to areas of your website,  can be a welcome addition on a website. Experimenting with text, image and content sizes could also prove beneficial.  For example, attention to mall details such as bigger buttons, could go a long way in terms of user experience and making your business website more navigable and easier to use. Another detail that sometimes gets taken for granted is typography. Larger text in some sections for emphasis or for visual-break purposes, can help in making your website more unique and for some, easier to read. 

Trend 2: Have a Hero Visual 

Selecting a singular, strong image for your hero section, or the first page of your website that website users will see, can help you more quickly stand out. A key visual that evokes focus, as well as displaying your brand’s values and offerings, versus a clutter of images to fill up a web page, often will resonate better with your viewing audience. 

Image selection is crucial with using those images that feature and support your brand.  Integrating an appreciation for nature and the outdoors are also emerging as a top trend option for images. Influenced by a yearning for travel, or for being outdoors in general, lifestyle shots showing people engaged in activities or those evoking a sense of place, are becoming more popular and appreciated by audiences.  

Trend 3: Leverage a Little Throwback 

Trends come and never really go. Case in point: the staying power of the ‘90s in fashion. The same is true for web design, where we’ll see references that are retro in nature, with websites having helpful information and showcasing a business’ products and services in easy to find spots on a website, never really goes out of style. Be creative and on the lookout for elements that can harken back to times when the Internet as we know it was only beginning to take shape, when people were trying a variety of ideas and innovation in terms of web design, content, and web layout. Try a few web design ideas to see what works best for your business and your brand and engages with your customers.

Consider mixing in modern aspects with retro features, such as serif fonts and smoother textures for your website, along with white spaces, so as to mix modern and retro aspects to further engage with your audiences and tell the story of your business and your brand. 

Choose the Right Website Creator Tool

Using a robust website creator tool can help a business reflect current design trends into their design templates. GoDaddy for example, offers its GoDaddy Website Builder, an easy-to-use web-based tool that gets entrepreneurs and creatives started with a template they could choose from thousands of free options, along with high-quality images available. This tool also comes with a dashboard to manage everything website-related from one place, on a variety of devices, to keep your business running. 

“At GoDaddy, we offer an integrated suite of online tools to help empower entrepreneurs at every stage of their entrepreneurship journey online, helping turn their website into prime digital real estate. When it comes to staying current with trends, our tools are both easy to use, and have options to allow your business website to have a seamless user experience, whether you’re going for a contemporary, retro,  trendy, or some other look and feel that best matches your business and your audience’s preferences,” said Tina Shieh, Marketing Director for Southeast Asia, GoDaddy. 

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