Work-from-home and load shedding are putting businesses at huge risk in South Africa

 ·22 Apr 2023

Load shedding has put employers in a tricky spot, with businesses taking little action to fight data blackouts when the power trips.

Gerhard Swart, the chief technology officer at cyber security firm Performanta said that many companies are cutting corners regarding their online security when load shedding hits to keep productivity high – taking significant risks.

“Today’s digital businesses must balance access to their systems with hybrid workers, 24/7 availability and ongoing security. Throw in frequent power failures, and they need to start making tough choices.”

“It becomes tempting to make choices that focus on availability and sacrifice security features which is understandable, but they should be careful because cybercriminals can exploit those shortcuts,” said Swart.

Load shedding puts every organisation’s security under pressure, he said.

Swart said hybrid work and work-from-home setups have encouraged bad security habits, including weak passwords, reusing passwords and sharing passwords among colleagues.

While passwords may not be the strongest defence against security breaches, they still play a crucial role in maintaining good security practices, said Swart. The CTO added that load shedding can exacerbate bad habits and weaken security measures.

Businesses are therefore encouraged to establish a clear password policy, check for duplicate passwords and consider using a company-supported password manager, said Swart.

Load shedding also causes vast swings in where people decide to access systems based on timing and locations, opening them up to criminals. Swart said that companies should implement multi-factor authentication to reduce problems with hacked accounts and enlist threat-detection services to catch unusual behaviour.

With a lot of companies relying on third-party datacentres, if the power was to trip at the centre – business could come to a standstill.

Swart said that businesses must as a result, have data loss protection plans – including backup services and failover contingencies.

According to Swart, one of the most significant risks from load shedding is the panic it can cause – opening up employees to criminals who use phishing schemes to lure victims onto a fake site to steal information while the victim thinks they are purchasing a power supply on discount.

Read: Push for tech jobs and in-demand skills in South Africa

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