Teddy Njoroge on building the brand and revenues for ESET in East Africa 0 509


For long, since the time I bought a laptop in late 2000’s that is, I used to think – and believe – that ESET was just the free anti-virus software for PCs, nothing else. At this time, I didn’t bother much about where the anti-virus came from or whether there exists a non-free (or premium) version of the same. But this notion soon changed, more so when I began to learn more about the ESET as a company from Teddy Njoroge who has been in charge of establishing and building the ESET brand in Kenya and wider East African region for the past year. Read on as Teddy shares more about his career journey as well as more about his challenges and successes in building the ESET brand in the region…

Who is Teddy Njoroge?

TEDDY NJOROGE: I’m generally a warm and reserved individual who has a zeal for success in whatever it is I do. I have a great passion in management and building companies from Startups to big enterprises. This I believe is always the best path to understanding every element of running any organization in any vertical.

Q: You’ve transitioned from working at a call centre to managing the regional operation of a multinational IT security firm in less than 10 years. Did you see this happening in say 2010?

TN: I must say this was a vision I had. Managing an enterprise has been by dream. I literally positioned everything I did to align with what I wanted to achieve. I was very interested in running a multinational company. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science which gave me an understanding of the existing technologies and the path technology is advancing to. I felt I needed business management skills so as to enhance the capabilities I had in the ICT Field. I then tackled a Masters in Business Administration. This took me to the next level of integrating ICT into business. I also felt I needed to have the skill of understanding my customers. I did a course in BPO which led me to working in a call center. With this combination, I was ready to embark on hunting for the specific opportunity to put my knowledge into practice and here I am. So yes, this is something I was looking forward to and knew would come through.

Q: You’ve been the regional ESET boss for almost a year now. During this time, what can you highlight as your greatest challenges and achievements?

TN: It’s been a steep hill for me but a lot has been learnt. I plunged into Security and did not have much expertise in the Infosec sector. I had to get back to the books and understand what this was all about. Once the good understanding of the field was done, it was time for me to come up with a good team to build this brand with. Establishing the best out of the best was one huge challenge but eventually everything fell into place.

My main challenge has been to build the brand and also bring in consistent revenue to the business. We are in a market where other brands have presence and have a chunk of the market share. I had to balance between building awareness and also bringing in revenue.

We have various achievements whereby we have managed to create good brand awareness. We have a solid solution that has prevented various ransomware attacks globally and this has given us great mileage. We have seen a shift of clients from other vendors to our product line within a short while of existence in this market.  We have always been good in support and that has cut across all continents and this has also given our clients great confidence in East Africa. Our client portfolio has tremendously grown and we look to tripling this in the next few months as the uptake is overwhelming good for our business.

Q: Related to the above question, how did you address the challenges you encountered along the way and what did you learn in the process? 

TN: We have ensured that we are often releasing information to the public in regard to securing devices used by the common wananchi as they have proved to be the main gateway for 90% of cyber-attacks in the country and the region at large. We are in the media talking on Cyber Security and what organizations should look out for to ensure their environments are secure. We have also come up with great promotions for the public and good pricing/ discounts for organizations.  This market is price sensitive and we have cut our prices to ensure we offer exactly what the clients in this region want which is simply a superior product at an affordable price and this has worked perfectly.

Q: ESET as an IT security brand is relatively new in this market. How are you working to ensure that you get a sizeable chunk of the market – what strategies, initiatives and partnerships have you put in place to attract clients?

TN: First and foremost, we had to get our pricing right. We have very affordable prices and great discounts for the various verticals that we have. We ensure we participate/sponsor in the various ICT events to create awareness and also bring out the technology we have to ensure businesses are safe. In addition, we are reaching out to the various ICT companies that are established for partnerships. We ensure that we support our partners through our various certification levels to ensure they provide the required client support. Support is key for us and we have to always ensure the client is happy at all times.

Q: Being in charge of the East Africa region gives you an opportunity to have first-hand information about IT security challenges in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. From your assessment, are the challenges the same throughout the region or are specific countries grappling with their own unique IT security issues?

TN: Cyber Security challenges cut across the region. What differentiates the severity is how technology-advanced the countries are. Currently, Kenya leads in Technology and the rest of the countries follow. Kenya has been highly hit by cyber attacks thus the big numbers in monies lost compared to the other countries. We are in the global map due to our great innovations in mobile money platforms thus the great interest of hackers to attack our systems.

Q: In mid May this year, you supported calls for a shared reporting system for cyber-security related incidents in the country. Does it mean IT security solutions vendors don’t work in collaboration with the government’s National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Centre (KE-CIRT/CC)? How is the current structure of engagement between the industry – solutions providers and their client organizations – and KE-CIRT/CC?

TN: I must admit that there is no reporting framework in place to report breaches. Vendors are not working closely with KE-CIRT/CC. This is where things need to change as KE-CIRT/CC has the platform to notify the public and the vendors have the actual data translating to crucial information that would help achieve this. We are at a time vendors are busy competing with each other on who has the solution that has done this or that and we miss the main point which is to protect our organizations. We are at a time that we should not drop boxes in the market but walk the journey with our clients. Remember most organizations don’t possess the necessary skills set to manage the IT Security divisions. Vendors should come together and provide info to the KE-CIRT/CC that will assist them in disseminating helpful information.

Q: With all the technology and knowledge possessed by the IT security industry, how is it that very few cybercrime incidents get nipped in the bud before they happen, how come the bad guys seem to be always ahead of the good guys?

TN: It’s simply because we lack Cyber Security experts in this region. We also have poor budgets for cyber security solutions. When these things are put together, then a major loop hole is created thus we are forced to be re-active than pro-active.

Q: In your view, apart from malware and ransomware, where should the IT security industry now keenly look at to avert any major breaches of a global magnitude in future? Where is cybercrime moving to next?

TN: Ransomware will be the main thing. What will change is the ways and mechanisms used to orchestrate this. Mobile ransomware is on the rise and this will be the root cause of many of our problems. Another avenue coming in is the attack on industry systems. Manufacturing plants and enterprises that utilize technology to produce their products will be highly hit.

Q: Having been in the IT industry for quite a while, who do you look up to for inspiration and motivation? Professionally, who’s your mentor?

TN: My mentor would Larry Ellison – Oracle Founder. He simply came up with a solution that is a crucial part of most financial institutions globally among other industries. He basically saw a need and tapped into it and his solution has been revolutionizing the IT world. His Consistency has made him who he is today.

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Beware: ad slingers thinly disguised as security apps 0 463

Fake Security App

According to AV-Comparatives, an independent testing organization, there are significant differences in the level of protection provided by mobile security solutions. However, even the least secure of them are still far better than questionable apps that impersonate security applications in order to display ads to users. Thirty-five such applications have recently been discovered in the Google Play official Android app store.

These apps have Google Play statistics showing a minimum of over six million installs, cumulatively. However, not all those were necessarily real installations, it is possilbe that many were bot downloads posting fake reviews to improve the ratings for the app.

All 35 apps have been flagged by ESET and eventually removed from the store.

In addition to annoying their victims with ads, disguising these apps as security software has some serious negative side effects, too. In mimicking basic security functions – in fact, they all act as very primitive security checkers relying on a few trivial hardcoded rules – they often detect legitimate apps as malicious. And last but not least, they create a false sense of security in the victims, which might expose them to real risks from malicious apps that are not detected as such.

ESET’s analysis has shown that among these 35 apps, only a handful stand out for their specific features: one app is not completely free as it offers a paid upgrade; one app has implemented a primitive, easily bypassed, app-locker manager; another app flags other apps from this group as dangerous by default; and finally, one misuses ESET’s branding.


Security-mimicking functionality
In order to stay under the radar, all the shady ad-displaying apps mimic actual mobile security solutions. However, their ‘detection mechanisms’ are incomplete and very primitive, which makes them easy to bypass and prone to false positives.

Our research into these questionable apps has shown that their ‘detection mechanisms’ can be divided into four categories. These mechanisms are identical or almost identical across the whole set of apps.

1) Package name whitelist & blacklist
These whitelists features popular apps such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Skype and others. The ‘blacklists’ contains far too few items to be considered security functionality at all.

2) Permissions blacklist
All apps (including legitimate ones) are flagged if they require some of the listed permissions that are considered dangerous, such as send and receive SMS, access location data, access the camera, etc.

3) Source whitelist
All apps but those from the official Android store, Google Play, are flagged – even if they are completely benign.

4) Activities blacklist
All apps that contain any of the blacklisted activities: that is, parts of applications. This mainly concerns some ad-displaying activities.

Flagged are all apps that contain any of the blacklisted activities, i.e., packages of application that are used in an application. These packages can handle additional functionalities (mainly some ad-displaying activities).

While there is nothing wrong with the idea of activity blacklisting, the implementation in these questionable apps is rather sloppy. For example, Google Ads is included in the blacklist despite the fact that it is a legitimate service. On top of being legitimate, this service is implemented in all of the shady apps we analyzed.

Additional security “functionality”
Some of the questionable security apps are capable of protecting a user’s apps with a password or a pattern locker. The idea behind this seemingly useful feature is to provide the user with another layer of security in selected apps.

However, due to insecure implementation, this feature also fails to provide true security to the user.

The problem is that relevant information is not stored safely on the device – instead of using encryption, which is common baseline practice in cybersecurity, these apps store the names of locked apps and the passwords to unlock them as plaintext.

This means that the data can be accessed after the device is rooted.

Besides compromising the unencrypted data by rooting the phone, there is another way to bypass the app lock. An attacker with physical access to the device can change the app-locking password without knowing the old one!

Having a security solution installed in an Android phone is definitely a good thing. However, not all apps featuring “security” or “antivirus” in their name do what the name promises. Before installing a security solution, think twice: is it really a tool you can safely rely on?

The 35 pseudo-security apps described in this article are not, say, ransomware or other hardcore malware. The only harm they do is displaying annoying ads, making false-positive detections and giving the victim a false sense of security. However, those millions of unwary users who downloaded them could easily have ended up downloading true malware in some similar disguise.

Instead of shady apps with flashy names and icons and outlandish, unsubstantiated promises, seek a reputable security solution. And which one to choose? An independent test by a well-respected testing organization might help.

Mobile World Congress: Introducing 5G 0 610

Year after year Mobile World Congress (MWC) takes place in Barcelona, Spain. It is an event that brings together almost every vendor related to the mobile industry to show off their shiny new gadgets, apps and services in our ever-increasingly-connected world.

One of the hot topics surrounding this world at MWC 2018 was 5G — the next generation of mobile connectivity.

What is 5G and how will it affect us?

If we look back at previous incarnations of mobile networks, 1G, 2G and so on, there have been major changes to the technology. The next generation, 5G, delivers greater speed and lower latency, but also has the advantage of being able to connect many more devices concurrently. This is one of the reasons why MWC has gone from being just a show promoting smartphone manufacturers and operators to a gathering of companies showing off connected world devices that could benefit from being connected to a 5G network.

The reality is that none of the existing technologies will disappear anytime soon, in fact the speed that can be achieved on the existing network are up to 1.2Gbps. So, asking the sales representatives in a phone shop about a new 5G handset will probably have them wondering what you’re talking about.

The existing infrastructure for 4G relies on cell towers/masts, typically with reasonable distances between them, whereas 5G is based on smaller, more frequent cells. The smaller cells help deliver the additional bandwidth and lower latency as the network becomes more distributed. The speeds are reportedly able to deliver 20Gbps with just 1ms latency.

Any new networks require licenses, funding and significant effort to introduce them. In the US, AT&T claims it will be the first company with a 5G network, that will cover 12 cities by the end of 2018 and aimed at the mobile phone market. Verizon is taking a different approach and intends on implementing 5G to compete with existing home internet service providers, and with the speed and capacity available on a 5G network this could be a very competitive offering.

Many exhibition halls at MWC had devices designed for the smart city, driverless cars, smart bandages that track your healing, through to virtual reality gaming.

While faster speed is a result of the improved technologies, it is the low latency and capacity that will enable these technologies to deliver a world where just about everything could be connected. The need for capacity is compounded once the connected devices start talking to each other. For example, the future driverless car may be able to communicate with other cars, traffic monitoring, or sensors on the roads and take actions based on the environment around it.

While some 5G smartphone handsets may start to appear on shelves in 2018, we should expect the main vendors to start offering them in 2019.

The rollout of 5G is moving quicker in some regions than others, as already discussed, carriers in the US see competitive advantage and have already announced their plans. Other countries that have openly stated their commitment to early adoption of 5G are China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Norway, and I am sure this list will grow. In Europe, commitment from both regulators and financiers for the new networks is slower. This could be seen as a competitive disadvantage, or you could view this as sensibly waiting to allow others to experience the difficulties of early adopter first.

As with any new technology there are security considerations. Providers of services will need to combat the expected evolution of advanced malware that will accompany the new 5G infrastructure and implement threat prevention services and solutions that deliver security through layers, including machine learning, to deal with the increased network performance and capacity. Threat intelligence and pro-active security measures are essential components for any device or service being developed to utilize 5G, secure by design.

It is important to remember that understanding the psychology and mindset of the cybercriminal is also important, and for this, deep research by experts in the security field will help the industry predict where the attackers may see the next opportunity. So, while 5G will move us quicker, the benefit of added speed will have a cost and means that for the time being the human component in maintaining safer technology remains crucial.