Mitigating Cloud-Based Attacks

Sandton, October, 28, 2021 – Microsoft recently issued a warning to some of its Azure Cloud customers that a security research team had discovered a flaw that could have allowed unauthorised access to their data. Fortunately for all involved, it seems that this flaw had gone unnoticed by cybercriminals and was quickly fixed by Microsoft. This could have led to a catastrophic data breach as many large corporations such as Boeing, Samsung, and eBay use Microsoft Azure. Customers were notified to change their login credentials as a precaution.

Cloud customers who were using specific security software may have been able to detect a malicious attack, and these events would have shown up in their logs. This incident highlights the shared responsibility that both Cloud providers and customers should have to manage IT security risks. Although Cloud architecture is generally regarded as safe, there is an increasing incidence of Cloud-based attacks by well-funded organisations, including governments, to steal sensitive Cloud data.

Cloud technology allows for sharing resources over the internet and has dramatically improved operational efficiencies, especially during lockdown when many people were forced to work remotely. However, it remains susceptible to cyber-attacks, which Cloud developers and users need to be aware of and take precautions against.

It should go without saying that Cloud data must be protected outright – from the initial source, during transit, and through to its final storage stage on the database. Besides Cloud service providers implementing and adhering to industry best practices, users and IT departments must take a layered security approach to protect their sensitive data.

Other considerations should include;

Improved IT Security Policies

IT software vendors and clients should be fully aware of each other’s scope of responsibility and take the appropriate security measures from their respective sides.

Strengthened Authentication and Access Management
Multi-factor authentication should be implemented by developers and IT Managers alike, as stealing passwords is one of the most common ways to access and steal data. Cloud developers should also enable Cloud users to assign roles to different administrators – limiting capabilities according to job roles and responsibilities.

Fully-Managed Cloud Intrusion Detection
All Cloud solutions must have a reliable intrusion detection system to monitor the network and forewarn service providers and users alike about any potential intrusions.

Although Cloud computing has many advantages it also comes with its own set of vulnerabilities. An awareness of how cyber-attacks are carried out and a preparedness to counter this will allow users to protect their data assets better while continuing to enjoy the benefits that Cloud computing brings to their daily business operations.

Westech, a leading professional IT company in South Africa, has the expertise to assist companies in conducting a complete IT Security Audit to understand their vulnerabilities better and implement the correct security solution.

Being a ‘senior’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still plan and save for a great future

For most individuals, finding themselves in the ‘senior’ age category comes as something of a surprise. For one, many are still leading vibrant and full lives in their late 50s and 60s, so the ‘senior’ label hardly feels appropriate. Some also feel like the senior part of their life snuck up on them far too quickly.

The good news is that approaching, or reaching, retirement age is by no means the end of your life as you may have lived it; it’s merely the start of a new chapter. That’s according to Sisandile Cikido, Head of Retail Investments at Nedbank, who points out that, while many people have financial concerns as they get older, with a little planning and some good money management, this stage of your life can be just as fun, exciting, and rewarding as those that went before.

‘Financial uncertainty is the most common fear we see among the majority of our clients aged 55 plus and individuals approaching their retirement years are worried about whether they have saved enough to ensure that they won’t run out of money,’ says Cikido.

She says that the fear is understandable, given the sudden transition that retirement represents from having financial control over your finances while you’re working and earning a steady income, to suddenly having to rely on the resources you’ve put in place to provide you with the income you need. ‘Many people experience fear as they enter retirement because they feel like they have lost control of their money, and when you add rising costs of living, increasing healthcare expenses, and the reminder that Covid-19 provided of how vulnerable our money and investments can be, the financial stress that many people associate with getting older is understandable.’

But Cikido urges older South Africans to transform the fear and uncertainty about their financial futures into proactive plans for their future, emphasising that being in your 50s or 60s doesn’t mean that it’s too late to see your money differently, and take decisive action to secure a better financial future. That’s especially true when you have a proven financial partner to guide you, an array of top-class savings and investment solutions at your disposal, and many options available to you to continue earning, or supplementing, an income in retirement.

‘The way we think about retirement today is very different from the understanding that previous generations had of it, which means that our plans for our senior years also need to evolve and transform.’

She says that while the foundation of any retirement plan still obviously needs to be a sound investment strategy, the idea of hanging up your work clothes on retirement day and then spending the rest of your days sitting on the couch are long gone.

‘Today’s seniors are healthy and dynamic, with so much experience, insight and value still to offer, which means that most of them have no desire for a traditional retirement, preferring instead to find ways of staying active and continuing to earn an income.’

Cikido adds that acting on this ability to supplement your retirement income is an excellent way of addressing any fears you may have about outliving your money, because it means that you can leave your retirement savings invested and growing for a number of years longer, before you have to begin dipping into them. She explains that having such a financial buffer in place is also a good way of ensuring that you are not forced to access your retirement savings when markets are performing poorly, which could result in a loss of value, as many people discovered when the markets declined suddenly due to Covid-19 early in 2020

‘Of course, a side hustle is not the only way of generating additional income in retirement. An even better option is to have a long-term retirement savings plan in place, that includes a diverse range of savings and investment accounts. These could include fixed-term savings with capital protection, like the Nedbank Optimum Plus fixed deposit, to more liquid day-to-day savings accounts and, of course, a tax-free savings vehicle for efficient long-term growth with quick and easy access to your money after you retire.’

She also points to the importance of sound advice from a trusted financial partner as being one of the cornerstones of a successful plan for secure senior years. ‘Nedbank is much more than a product provider; we’re a trusted partner to all our clients, and we especially recognise the value and importance of walking with our senior clients on their pre- and post-retirement journeys.’

Agriculture & Energy Carriers: Smooth sailing

If it needs to be carried across water, Agriculture & Energy Carriers (AEC) can probably offer a suitable transportation solution and without having to compromise on quality of logistical support. Having remained focussed on the drybulk sector, AEC has sought to use invaluable investor cash injections to expand and specialise, resulting in the procurement of an incredible fleet of carriers, 


“All types of commodities and products are carried in our modern bulk carriers, mainly in Handysizes, Handymaxes and Supramaxes. The AEC fleet consist of modern Eco Bulk Carriers, mainly Japanese built. The standard is always kept high with a constant focus on reliable, first class, efficient, modern shipping services. Integrity is the keyword in AEC’s vision.” 


Backed by the best 


AEC’s success is not reliant on the significant financial backing that it has been fortunate enough to secure, but it would be churlish to suggest that it hasn’t allowed the company to operate on a higher level than some competitors. Without cash flow concerns, expansion has been a fluid endeavour, with new fleet vessels being purchased as and when necessary, as apposed to only when the coffers would allow and this has lead to excellent profitability and returns on investments. It has also allowed for client relations to take a turn on the spotlight, 


“Backed by prominent financial and industry investors, AEC provides advanced shipping solutions with special focus on reliable and efficient customer service, quality performance, professional voyage execution and competitive cost optimisation – all closely linked to our strong close commercial and operational relationships.” 


NPG Energy Capital Management is the investment franchise responsible for the fiscal support that AEC has enjoyed and it actually owns the entire AEC group, meaning that it is deeply connected to the results and successes being achieved. Far from simply chasing a profitable bottom line, there is a sense of NPG encouraging increasingly more personal client relationships and, above all else, consistency. Having managed in the region of $13billion of capital since its inception in 1988, NPG was no stranger to commercial success and understanding exactly how it could and should be attained. 


An enviable fleet 


Naturally, to be able to offer a range of different clients access to the very best drybulk transportation services, a suitably diverse and sizeable fleet is a must. AEC has in no way skimped on this element of operations, having purchased around 25 separate vessels, all built in Japan to exacting global standards, 


“AEC owned vessels are all double-hull vessels and are what is called ‘open hatch’ types with box-shaped holds. The double-hull does not only provide increased safety but the designs also allow the interior of the holds to be box-shaped. Box-shaped holds are considerably better for cargoes like steel products, unitised and general cargo. Some cargoes, like wood pulp, paper in reels and aluminium ingots are normally only loaded in box-shaped vessels. Having box-holds and open hatches greatly facilitates the loading and the stowage of such cargoes.” 


This assessment of vessel capabilities is key to understanding just how AEC has risen to the top of its industry, as lesser operations may have simply sought to invest in the largest boats available, with little or no consideration of exactly what they would be able to carry. AEC has effectively sidestepped the potential landmine of ignorance and instead, invested in those vessels that would allow for optimum cargo variance and, more importantly, safety. When you understand just how unpredictable the loads being carried are, this becomes entirely business-critical. 


From buses to Olivine sand and vital energy products, no two loads, or days, are the same for AEC and in a bid to prove that competencies are being maintained, external assessments are welcome. Just last year, AEC allowed itself to be audited in terms of its capability to transport coal and petroleum coke, with a positive appraisal being the inevitable outcome. This shouldn’t come as a shock, given that AEC was named, in part, because of its special interest in supporting the energy sector, but to be willing to prove continued compliance and commitment is a little unusual. 


The world is not enough 


Headquartered in the Bahamas, with a secondary trading arm in Uruguay, AEC is able to operate across the globe, with professional relationships contributing to the ease with which they can do so, 


“AEC is a first class performer and has close relationships with a wide range of ship owners worldwide. AEC charters vessels on a repeat basis from well-respected companies such as Pacific Basin, K-line, NYK, NS United, Polsteam Shipping, Precious Shipping, Bunge, Bohandymar (Bocimar), CTM and ADM.” 


By seeking to expand its fleet through careful chartering, AEC is able to significantly increase its operational footprint, without racking up excessive operational costs. This savvy approach to fleet management, in turn, contributes to the company’s ability to to pass the savings on to bottom line-conscious clients, helping to maintain a certain level of price competitiveness within an often crowded and highly ambitious industry. Every cargo transportation operation has to seek out niche elements and constructive relationships that will offer an edge and as it moves into the future, AEC has turned to cutting edge technology to make its mark. 


The future of the industry, now 


“On the 1st of August 2011 AEC partnered with Dataloy Systems for shipping software and hardware services. AEC will have access to Dataloy’s shipping systems through a fully online service with an innovative physical hardware setup which meets all of AEC’s needs. In turn, Dataloy will be utilising AEC’s extensive industry knowledge to further develop and improve their systems.” 


A mutually beneficial relationship of this nature could be what makes AEC really pull away from the competition and by sharing information with Dataloy, to improve the software of the future, AEC is magnanimously guaranteeing everybody the opportunity to embrace operational smooth sailing. 

Kuwait Oil Company: Resilient and robust

Founded back in 1934, it’s fair to say that the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) is an operation with some serious heritage, as well as empirical experience of how the industry as a whole has evolved and changed over time. This in itself could be enough to set KOC apart from its nearest competitors, yet there is much more to that story, as you’ll see.


An impressive rise to fame


Having discovered commercial quantities of oil in 1938, KOC went on to become a particularly viable entity, with the Kuwait Government taking 100% control in 1975 and finally, bringing all state-owned similar operations under one KOC umbrella, but there was a huge problem on the horizon.


1990 saw the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that left many operations totally devastated, with LOC being one of them. All production and storage facilities were obliterated and while this might have been the time for lesser companies to call it a day, KOC simply saw it as the next challenge. Just months after the liberation of Kuwait in February 1991, full capacity production had resumed and organic growth was even being witnessed as well. With this in mind, it’s little wonder that the company has continued to go from strength to strength, becoming something of an industry giant.


The makings of a master


To understand exactly what KOC is so special, an overview of the everyday activities is essential. In its own words,


“Kuwait Oil Company’s Responsibilities under the KPC’s umbrella involve the exploration, drilling and production of oil and gas within the State of Kuwait. The Company is also involved in the storage of crude oil and delivery to tankers for export.”


This might sound like a relatively simple roster of operations, but the oil and gas sector has always been anything but straightforward. It takes courage, resilience and expertise to carve a niche in such a hyper-competitive market and these are qualities that every member of the KOC team has in spades. For this reason, a number of significant discoveries have been made in the history of the company, leading to the enviable market leading position that it currently enjoys, but nothing has come at the detriment of the region.


Staying true to stewardship


There’s a lot of pressure on the oil and gas industry to look into greener technologies and more sustainable operating methodologies, but KOW doesn’t align with social responsibility out of necessity. Rather, the team is active in looking for better, more progressive and inspirational ways to carry out its business. In order to focus on these endeavours effectively, concern areas have been split into four separate divisions of HSSE (Health, Safety, Security and Environment), social responsibility, oil lakes and soil remediation,


“KOC places much emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility as it constantly seeks to ensure sustainable and balanced development. This is evident in a series of activities that the Company embarks upon to instil the CSR concept as enshrined in the KOC Strategy.”


It would be easy to wax lyrical about everything KOC has already done, but shining a light on a select few really highlights the positive impact that is being had. KOC is the first oil company in the world to create a marine colony and has also created nature reserves and oasis’, which takes care of the HSSE element, while countless community programmes, including sports and medical facilities, more than account for social responsibility. The oil lakes issue and soil remediation efforts are intrinsically linked, as both are the result of the 1990 violence, which left oil wells spilling dangerous amounts of liquid all over the landscape. Understanding that the environmental disasters needed to be deal with, KOC took full responsibility and clean up efforts are still on-going.


Tomorrow’s fuel, planned today


With a spectacular reputation already in place and some of the world’s leading experts making up the professional team, KOC is more than ready for whatever the future brings, but by embracing the fact that higher volumes of product will be at the top of the priority list, it is one step ahead of everyone else,


“Our main role is to explore, develop and produce hydrocarbons within the State of Kuwait, promote the care and development of our people and deliver on our commitments to our stakeholders in a compliant, profitable, safe and environmentally responsible manner.”


The need for evermore exploration sites will never cease, but by making safety a key priority, alongside successful drillings, KOC is ensuring not only the security of its future profits, but more importantly, its staff, who are considered to be exceptionally valuable, especially with the 2030 strategy in place,


“KOC has set very challenging and ambitious objectives for its Exploration Group as part of the 2030 strategy. The search for gas and light oil in the Jurassic and Permian plays is taking us into unconventional reservoirs with increased drilling risk through higher temperatures and pressures and the complexities of fractured carbonates. All of these projects will present us with new and complex technical, logistical and management challenges. We believe KOC can achieve extraordinary efficiencies when all disciplines are fully involved and informed throughout the exploration cycle.”


Reading between the lines, this means that exploration processes are becoming more intricate, necessitating everyone to pool their skills and expertise together to get the job done in a timely, sustainable and safe fashion,


“Various strategies with the objective of causing no harm to employees, contractors, customers, the general public or to the environment are in place. Those strategies are in line with various national and KOC Health, Safety and Environmental standards and include training of the staff, safety audits and rig site visits and emergency exercises with full commitment and awareness of every employee.”


KOC is destined to not only reach but also design new heights and standards within the oil and gas industry. Working towards the 2030 strategy will certainly maintain a steely focus and with an exceptional body of staff on-board, there is no doubt that when it comes to industry evolutions, KOC is going to remain both resilient and robust.

Serco Group PLC: The Masters of Maritime

Serco is on a mission, to improve public services and shapes the markets it is involved in, for the better. Operating alongside four core values of trust, care, innovation and pride, it has created a culture in which individual behaviours need to be motivated by honesty and a desire to do more and better,


“Our values need to be lived every day, used to help us work through any challenges we may face and help us recognise and celebrate our achievements. They guide us in our dealings with colleagues, customers, suppliers, partners, shareholders and the communities we serve. It is important that we hold ourselves and others accountable for our values every day and have defined a set of behaviours that are expected from all of us. They describe how our behaviours bring Serco’s values to life.”


Having been invested and involved in the delivery of critical support services since 1929, Serco, it was in the 1970s and 1980s when serious diversification began, leading to key maintenance contracts, being listed on the London Stock Exchange. In the 1990s, international growth came naturally, as various governments were became to improve their public service offerings. Prison management, public transportation support and increased defence contracts all followed, but it’s the work Serco does for the Royal Navy that really stands out, because of its inherent importance and significance.


As a team of more than 50,000 professionals, managing more than 500 contracts of staggering sizes and levels of importance, throughout the world, Serco is no small fish and it aims to bring big energy to every undertaking.


Keeping the seas safe


It would be reasonable to wonder how much support the royal Navy actually needs. An institution still respected around the world, it has carved itself a reputation for operational excellence, but even the best organisations need support behind the scenes,


“Serco are proud to have been supporting the Royal Navy since 1996. We take great pride in our track record of exceptional service, combining innovation from industry with a real understanding of our customers’ requirements. Our customers trust us to support strategic national assets, knowing that we are committed to public services and the UK’s safety, security and prosperity. Our team combines decades of experience with highly specialised skills, to provide services ranging from towing submarines to trialling cutting edge maritime technology, from ferrying passengers to transporting irradiated nuclear fuel.”


The Maritime industry is vast and covers such a wide spectrum of activities that mastering them all would be a near-impossible task, or would it? As part of its work within the defence sector, Serco has gained a wealth of operational knowledge before specialising in the following:


Vessel provision – Far from just acquiring vessels for customers, Serco offers an end-to-end service, with designing, acquiring, management and operation all included. What’s more, this covers a vast array of vessel types, from fleets of new builds through to legacy, conversion and even chartered options. With more than two decades of experience within this arena, customers can rest easy knowing that Serco has a full understanding of all requirements, including regulatory.


A few key examples of projects undertaken within this vessel provision framework include search and rescue helicopter training, towage, pilot transfers, management of specialist nuclear fuel carrying vessels and the commissioning of new fleets.


Specialist mariners – “We manage over 800 UK national, security-cleared mariners specialising in the Defence and Nuclear sectors. This includes management of directly employed Serco seafarers and crew management for Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited seafarers. Our personnel and leadership understand the bespoke requirements of our public sector customers and take pride in supporting the safety, security and prosperity of the UK.”


Able to supply full crews, contingents of technical support and even apprentices, few companies have such a comprehensive grasp on appropriate personnel provision as Serco.


Vessel support – As well as being heavily involved in the provision of vessels and fleets, Serco offers technical management and support services that cover the full lifespan of any asset. What’s more, it is appropriately staffed and equipped to handle a diverse fleet, regardless of global location. Numerous customers who are beholden to certain budgetary expectations have already taken advantage of Serco’s expertise in regard to fleet modernisation and replacement.


Taking on a number of mechanical and electrical engineering projects, as well as providing maintenance workshops and docking services, vessels are well cared for, with waterfront duties also adding to a full complement of essential tasks.



The right people for important jobs


Given how critical maritime support is and the high profile of the clients involved, it makes sense that Serco is elective when it comes to its people. Not everybody has the right temperament, level of dedication or expertise to be a vital part in the large machine at play, but those that do make the cut are rewarded well,


“At Serco, not only is the nature of the work we do important, everyone has an important role to play, from caring for vulnerable people to managing complex public services. The nature of our business means you will do interesting work that matters, our diverse and global operations offer unrivalled opportunities to learn and develop and we are a motivated team who will encourage you and help you to succeed.”


Always undertaking valuable work that matters, Serco has recently renewed its partnership with Briggs Marine, in order to bid for the Royal Navy’s marine services contract again. Having worked together since 2007, supporting the Royal Navy and exceeding expectations, it is a tried and tested partnership that yields exacting results both at home and overseas. Few other operations can claim the same levels of dedication, knowledge and innovation, so it seems all but certain that the contract will be won, with Serco being rightfully proclaimed as masters of maritime.