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Cybersecurity The New Normal

A total of $706,452 has been paid in ransom to cybercriminals by Nigerian businesses

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A total of $706,452 has been paid in ransom to cybercriminals by Nigerian businesses, according to Sophos, in “The State of Ransomware 2022 report”. Industrial Control Safety Systems (ICSS) in Critical infrastructure are increasingly exposed to cyber-attacks because of the digitization drive of the industry. As supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, distributed control systems (DCS), and other control systems become connected to the Internet to allow greater business efficiency (remote process monitoring, system maintenance, process control, and production data analysis)-Industry 4.0, they also make the business more vulnerable to threats with the potential to seriously affect critical Industrial Control and Safety Systems.

This article will discuss the cyber security challenges facing these industries and the steps that can be taken to mitigate these risks. Critical infrastructure is classified as the physical and IT/OT assets, networks, and services that if disrupted or destroyed would have a seriousimpact on the health/ security/economic well-being of citizens and the efficient functioning of a country’s government. The energy sector and manufacturing industries are critical to the global economy, and their security is of the utmost importance. The integration of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) -industry 4.0 – in these industries has also increased efficiency and productivity, but, it has also increased the risk of cyber-attacks.

One of the main challenges facing these industries is the integration of OT and IT systems. OT systems, such as control systems, are used to control and monitor physical processes, while IT environments, i.e., the internet and cloud, are used to process and store data. The integration of these environments means that cyber-attacks on the Information Technology environment can now directly impact the physical processes controlled by Operational Technology systems.

The use of legacy (ICSS) in these industries is prevalent. Many Control & Safety Systems, were developed before cyber security was a global concern and may not have the necessary security measures in place to prevent such attacks when the ICSS is compromised. In addition, the hardware and software in these legacy ICSS could have reached their End of Life (EOL), which makes them more vulnerable to cyber attackers.

Some other factors have contributed to the growing vulnerability of industrial control systems, which include:

  • Insecure remote connections; Access links such as dial-up modems and wireless communications are used for remote diagnostics, maintenance, and examination of system status. If encryption or authentication mechanisms are not utilized, the integrity of the transmitted information is vulnerable.
  • Standardized technologies; Organizations are transitioning to standardized technologies, such as Microsoft’s Windows, to reduce costs and improve system scalability and Internal performance. The result is unrestricted access to knowledge and tools to jeopardize the system and an increase in the number of systems vulnerable to attack.
  • Availability of technical information—Public information about infrastructures and control systems is readily available to potential hackers and intruders. Design and maintenance documents and technical standards for a critical system can all be found on the internet, greatly jeopardizing overall security.

In addition to the challenges and vulnerabilities facing the industrial control system, Cyber threats and incidents are now a major operating and business risk for every digital enterprise. In the age of digitization, it is imperative to create and execute strategies that allow the business to monitor and mitigate cyber threats and risks supporting its financial objectives.

Traditional industry best practice recommends that the ICSS and operational business networks be physically segregated and employ dedicated networks which enhance security and prevent these attacks. But to truly mitigate these risks, and be IIOT-ready, organizations need to have a comprehensive cyber security program with the partnership of industry experts, which incorporates intrusion detection and prevention systems, firewalls and secure remote access solutions in place, such as those offered by Schneider Electric; with a team of certified experts, delivering holistic cybersecurity programs to help maintain the system’s defenses, with cybersecurity services such as vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and incident response planning from an operations perspective, while integrating appropriate IT policies and requirements.

In conclusion, the integration of OT and IT systems in the energy sector, and manufacturing industries has increased efficiency and productivity, but it has also increased the risk of cyberattacks. Organizations in these industries need to adopt a cyber security program and posture to maintain profitability to protect against cyber-attacks.

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Nigeria’s Broadband Penetration Stalls at 42.53% Amid Connectivity Challenges

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Nigeria’s broadband penetration has stalled at 42.53% as of January, according to the latest report.

Subscriptions currently stand at 92.19 million, indicating a significant gap in connectivity, particularly in rural areas.

The Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 aims to increase broadband penetration to 70% by 2025, with the ultimate goal of achieving 96% mobile broadband coverage by 2030.

However, this ambitious target requires substantial investment—approximately $461 million, according to a recent report by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA).

While the country’s major telecommunications companies, such as MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa, have invested heavily in expanding their network infrastructure, much of this development has been concentrated in urban areas. Rural and underserved regions face a significant coverage gap, exacerbating the digital divide.

Despite these challenges, Nigeria has made progress in improving its broadband infrastructure. Since 2012, the mobile broadband coverage gap across Africa has decreased from 56% to 13% in 2022, due to significant investments in network capacity and new technologies.

Nonetheless, millions of Nigerians, particularly those in rural regions, remain without access to essential telecom services.

To address this issue, Nigeria’s government established the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) in 2006, aimed at bridging the connectivity gap and expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved areas.

The fund provides resources for deploying telecommunications infrastructure in economically unviable regions.

The success of these initiatives, along with increased investments in broadband infrastructure and policies to incentivize internet expansion in remote areas, will be crucial in closing the connectivity gap and improving digital access for all Nigerians.

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iPhone Shipments Drop Amid Resurgence of Android Rivals

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Apple Inc. reported a significant drop in iPhone shipments during the March quarter, reflecting a downturn in sales across China amid the resurgence of competition from Android-powered rivals.

According to market tracker IDC, the tech giant shipped 50.1 million iPhones in the first three months of the year, a 9.6% year-on-year decline that fell short of the average analyst estimate of 51.7 million.

The steep decrease in iPhone sales marks Apple’s most significant quarterly dip since 2022, when Covid-19 lockdowns disrupted supply chains.

This time, the Cupertino-based company faces challenges from resurgent competitors such as Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp.

These firms have rebounded strongly in recent quarters, and their innovative product lines have begun to reclaim market share from Apple in China.

Samsung Electronics Co. regained its position as the top smartphone supplier globally, while Apple ranked second. Xiaomi closed the gap on Apple, shipping 40.8 million units, an impressive 33.8% increase year-on-year.

Transsion Holdings, another key player in the budget smartphone segment, nearly doubled its shipments, showcasing the competitive environment Apple faces.

Nabila Popal, research director at IDC, highlighted the broader shift in the smartphone market, which has recovered from the supply chain disruptions and challenges of recent years.

“While Apple has demonstrated resilience and growth in recent years, maintaining its pace and share in the market may prove challenging as Android manufacturers make strides,” Popal commented.

Apple has a strong brand and loyal customer base, yet its market position may be tested further by the aggressive pricing and innovative products offered by Chinese rivals.

The company’s efforts to sustain its premium pricing strategy may also be challenged as more customers consider switching to Android alternatives.

As the tech industry looks ahead to the rest of the year, Apple’s upcoming earnings report and strategic moves to address this competitive pressure will be closely watched by investors and industry observers alike.

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Meta Platforms Inc.’s Astonishing Rally Adds $1 Trillion in Value

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Meta Platforms Inc., formerly known as Facebook, has witnessed an extraordinary rally that has propelled its market value by $1 trillion.

The tech giant’s record-breaking surge, fueled by strategic investments in artificial intelligence (AI), underscores its resilience and adaptability in navigating the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Since its darkest days in 2022, Meta’s shares have undergone a remarkable transformation, soaring to new heights and shattering records along the way.

Despite its monumental growth, some perspectives suggest that Meta is still trading at a discount with its shares valued at 24 times estimated earnings early Wednesday, closely aligned with its 10-year average and just below the Nasdaq 100’s multiple of 25 times.

Among its peers in the Magnificent Seven group of big tech companies, only Alphabet Inc. boasts a lower multiple, standing at approximately 21 times.

AI emerges as the primary catalyst behind Meta’s astonishing rally, driving gains and serving as a harbinger of future growth prospects.

Meta’s substantial investments in AI have revolutionized ad targeting and content recommendation algorithms, enhancing user engagement and advertiser relevance.

The strategic bet on AI has paid off handsomely, with profits tripling in Meta’s most recent quarterly report, accompanied by a surge in revenue growth. Such robust earnings prompted Meta to announce a $50 billion buyback program and implement a dividend, further solidifying investor confidence in the company’s trajectory.

Conrad van Tienhoven, a portfolio manager at Riverpark Capital, lauds Meta’s strategic focus on AI, stating, “Outside of chip or hardware companies like Nvidia or Dell, no company has benefited more from AI than Meta, just in terms of the impact on growth.”

Meta’s unparalleled surge, exceeding 450% from its nadir almost 18 months ago, positions it as a standout performer among its peers. This year alone, Meta’s shares have surged by approximately 46%, trailing only chipmaker Nvidia Corp. within the Magnificent Seven cohort.

The recent selloff that preceded Meta’s current rebound underscored investor concerns over its spending on the metaverse initiative. However, Meta’s proactive measures, including a concerted focus on cost efficiency and innovation, have restored market confidence.

Rick Bensignor, chief executive officer of Bensignor Investment Strategies, affirms Meta’s trajectory, stating, “Meta has figured out how to get rid of unnecessary spending, which has been a real balance sheet plus, and it continues to innovate.”

As Meta prepares to unveil its first-quarter earnings results on April 24, investors eagerly anticipate updates on key metrics such as ad revenue growth and the efficacy of AI solutions.

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