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A memorable weekend Yasmin Cader

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My first thought when I chose Haritha Villas and Spa to spend a weekend at was to experience sun, sea, sand and calm. However, while I was driven through paddy fields of Sri Lanka’s untouched natural landscapes, I was amazed at what I saw and was wondering where my final destination would be. Till suddenly, we approached these majestic gates which swung open spinning a breathtaking welcome as we drove in. There was the GM – Maxime Rachel, flanked by the Sales Director Fazal Zawahir and my Villa Master – Wasantha all of whom were hidden behind masks, but I could still feel their welcoming smiles and warmth! I knew then, I was in for a memorable experience!

Haritha Villas and Spa is a privately owned boutique hotel set in lush surroundings. For those who love the sea, the management has made arrangements with their compliments to take their guests to the Riff hotel – just three minutes away to the stunning beach of Narigama.

I was guided to my villa which boasted a stunning view of tall trees, paddy fields and many varieties of lush foliage springing up wherever I looked. We sat on the sofas, chatting over a cup of freshly brewed Sri Lankan tea, after which, the Villa Master or personal butler Wasantha assigned to me walked me through the amenities provided. Each villa features an in-room check-in and SPA services, a personal butler, a private garden and dining area, a plunge pool and your own terrace with sofas. Room amenities include a minibar with a wine fridge, Illy espresso machine and tea-making facilities, a Bose Bluetooth sound speaker, IPad and Ophir toiletries. All the villas offer stunning views of the surrounding jungles and paddy fields.

I was told the owner of this luxury resort is Mr. Kostadin Tolev from Bulgaria who spent almost four years creating the beautiful spaces the resort boasts. While, the father of this truly unique and extraordinary architecture is Gary Fell- a world famous and multi-award winning architect from Bali (http://gfabarchitects.com/)

It was evident that luxury and privacy are at the heart of the hotel’s design. Seven intimate one-bedroom contemporary villas, with rooftops covered in greenery, each with its own plunge pool are beautifully combined with two colonial mansions comprising two en-suite bedrooms and a common large swimming pool.

I opted to laze around under thick sun shades watching the sun go down instead of taking a dip in my own plunge pool. Listening to the sounds of the birds, I was quick to recognize many and happier still to see wild peacocks loitering along pathways like it was their own!

The six acre property has individual villas dotted around the terrain with two mansions where a large family could stay. Though every Villa has its own plunge pool, the mansions have their private lap pool, large dining spaces and more. Luxury beamed from all corners of each en-suite room, furnished with tailor-made high quality curtains, comfortable bed linen with herbal and organic toiletries placed in the bathrooms.

Executive Chef Gunasiri fondly known as Guna treated me to a world class dining experience despite me being vegetarian! He offered unique unscripted menus at the restaurant called The View interconnected to a lounge which could be converted to a meeting space as well. Adjacent to it, is a 20-meter long infinity swimming pool and a Pavilion named Sal-Sala. Chatting to him while he dished out an interesting rice and curry meal for lunch, and later during dinner which was a four course meal, he proudly told me about their “Farm to Table” philosophy – an ethos close to their heart.

As I walked around the property I noticed that in the rooftop of each villa, doing well were rich crops of lemongrass and leafy vegetables.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed Villa Master Wasantha’s assistance throughout my stay. He was a star! His simplicity and humbleness made him an outstanding team player and an absolute asset to the hotel. By dusk, having discreetly done a turndown service in the room, he multi-tasks taking on added responsibilities. He curates all the mocktails and cocktails for the guests at the bar with ingredients freshly picked from the herb garden, as he also is a qualified molecular mixologist which he mastered when he worked overseas!

After a simple but hearty late breakfast, and another stroll around the property, I headed home bidding farewell to the team who by then seemed like family to me!

In my opinion, Haritha Villas and Spa is the absolute and ultimate haven for a writer, or for someone like me to totally unwind and rejuvenate. All I can wish for them is for more guests to arrive in the near future to enjoy what they have on offer!

Haritha Villas and Spa is a fairly new and well-established property on the market in the area and considered as one of the most luxurious properties in the region. The endorsements and excellent reviews on Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Expedia says it all.



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Ransomware menace plagues Sri Lankan businesses: Kaspersky

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A total of 2,650 ransomware incidents were detected and blocked by Kaspersky cybersecurity solutions for businesses in Sri Lanka from January to December 2023.

Experts from the global cybersecurity company insist on organisations, regardless of shape and size, to beef up their IT security posture as ransomware, especially the targeted type, continues to be a damaging menace for organisations in the region.

“The era of widespread mass attacks by encryptors on both individuals and businesses is gradually fading away. Instead, we are witnessing a shift towards organised groups that execute hacks involving data theft and encryption, commonly referred to as double extortion. The rationale behind this evolution lies in the perpetrators’ ability to operate with greater efficiency, thereby enabling them to demand significantly higher ransom sums,” says Fedor Sinitsyn, Lead Malware Analyst at Kaspersky.

Last year, ransomware incidents in Sri Lanka include the compromise of 5,000 government-related emails as well as attacks on telecom servers.

“It’s evident that the threat actors behind ransomware attacks target all sectors in Sri Lanka. The total number of attempts may be low, but organisations need to realise the real impact of each successful ransomware infection, both on the financial and reputation fronts. It’s imperative for businesses here to look into cybersecurity technologies that provide absolute anti-ransomware effectiveness in third-party exams. Because not all cybersecurity solutions are created equal,” Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.

Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business, Kaspersky Small Office Security and Kaspersky Standard demonstrated complete protection against ransomware in 10 different real-life attack scenarios during regular Advanced Threat Protection assessments held by AV-TEST.

To combat ransomware and assist those affected, Kaspersky, alongside Europol, the Dutch National Police, and others has the No More Ransom initiative, launched in 2016. On the official website, participants provide decryption tools, guidelines, and instructions to report cybercrimes, irrespective of the location of the incident.

By the end of 2023, Kaspersky marked the seventh anniversary as a key contributor to the No More Ransom initiative. This period witnessed expanded access to Kaspersky’s free decryption tools, in line with its commitment to combating ransomware. These tools, targeting 39 ransomware families, have been integral in assisting nearly 2 million victims globally, as reported by Europol, underscoring the profound impact of the No More Ransom initiative supported by Kaspersky.

To protect yourself and your business from ransomware attacks, consider following the rules proposed by Kaspersky experts:

Do not expose remote desktop/management services (such as RDP, MSSQL, etc.) to public networks unless absolutely necessary and always use strong passwords, two-factor authentication and firewall rules for them.

Promptly install available patches for commercial VPN solutions providing access for remote employees and acting as gateways in your network.

Always keep software updated on all the devices you use to prevent ransomware from exploiting vulnerabilities.

Focus your defense strategy on detecting lateral movements and data exfiltration to the Internet. Pay special attention to the outgoing traffic to detect cybercriminals’ connections.

Back up data regularly with special attention to offline backup strategies. Make sure you can quickly access it in an emergency when needed.

Avoid downloading and installing pirated software or software from unknown sources.

Assess and audit your supply chain and managed services’ access to your environment.

Prepare an action plan for reputational risk of your data exposure in the unfortunate event of data theft.

Use solutions like Kaspersky Endpoint Detection and Response Expert and Kaspersky Managed Detection and Response service which help to identify and stop the attack on early stages, before attackers reach their final goals.

To protect the corporate environment, educate your employees. Dedicated training courses can help, such as the ones provided in the Kaspersky Automated Security Awareness Platform.

Use the latest Threat Intelligence information to stay aware of actual TTPs used by threat actors. The Kaspersky Threat Intelligence Portal is a single point of access for Kaspersky’s TI, providing cyberattack data and insights gathered by our team for over 26 years.

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IDB and MOI organize National Vehicle Parade with all domestically value-added vehicles

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A vehicle parade of locally manufactured and assembled vehicles organized by the Industrial Development Board (IDB) along with the Ministry of Industries (MOI), Sri Lanka Automobile Component Manufacturers Association (SLACMA) and Automobile Assemblers Association will be held for the third time, through Galle Face, Lotus Roundabout , Fort, Technical Junction, Punchikawatta, Maradana, Borella, Borella cemetery junction and to BMICH on June 18, 2024 from 4pm onwards. The IDB under the Ministry of Industries is a key stakeholder in the Standard Operating Procedure which facilitates automobile assembly and component manufacturing in the country. The roadshow will see a fleet of over 200 locally assembled vehicles parade the streets.

Chairman of Industrial Development Board Dr. Saranga Alahapperuma stated, “The IDB which is the statutory body responsible for the development of all industries in Sri Lanka, has a mission to provide the strategic, technological and commercial foundation needed to encourage, promote and develop all industries in the country. Hyundai, Proton, Chery, BAIC, DFSK, Wuling, Mahindra, TATA, JMC, Lanka Ashok Leyland, TVS and Bajaj are few of the brands that are assembled in Sri Lanka with the approval and certification of the Industrial Development Board.”

The services of the IDB are of great benefit to the automobile and auto component manufacturing and automobile assembly industry in the country.

It is the authority responsible for overseeing the auto component development, design, testing and certification for industries, automotive component costing and process/product optimization services, raw material testing and selection for automotive components, plant, machinery, equipment, tool appraisal and valuation and incubator facilities for automotive component developers. It is also the national tooling center for automotive component development and provides services such as foundry and metallurgy services for automotive component developers, technical inspection services, rubber compound development for automotive components and electro-plating services for automotive components through a network of district offices covering the entire island.

The IDB also provides industrialists with industry information services, incubator facilities, and even an electricity subsidy.

“The facilities provided by the IDB will help create a very favorable environment for the automobile manufacturing and assembly industry and the automotive component manufacturing industry to match world standards. The Sri Lanka Automobile Component Manufacturers Association (SLACMA) and Automobile Assemblers Association both are committed to help organize the Vehicle Parade annually, to whom which I thank for their efforts.” Alahapperuma said.

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Q+ Payment App goes trilingual to further facilitate payments for the masses

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Highlights of the launch events in Nittambuwa and Jaffna,

‘Q+ Payment App’ – the first LankaQR certified mobile payment app in Sri Lanka – has gone trilingual with the launch of its groundbreaking Sinhala and Tamil versions at twin events held in Nittambuwa and Jaffna respectively.

Powered by the Commercial Bank of Ceylon, the Q+ Payment App is now available in the preferred language of the user, making the App and its payment options available to a much wider customer base covering the entire island.

The launch of the Sinhala version of Q+ Payment App took place at the Nihal Fashions complex in Nittambuwa, and was supported with a Cashback offer for QR payments for purchases from the merchant, the Bank said. The event was attended by the Head of the ComBank Card Centre Mr Nishantha De Silva, the Bank’s Regional Manager – Colombo Metro Mr Hemantha Sooriyabandara, branch managers from the area, and the management and staff of Nihal’s Group.

The Tamil version of Q+ Payment App was launched at TCT Multi Trade Centre in Jaffna, also with the participation of the Bank’s Head of Card Centre Mr Nishantha De Silva, Regional Manager – Northern Mr A. Jeyabalan, several branch managers and senior Bank staff from the region and the management and staff of TCT Multi Trade Centre.

Positioned as the next dimension of payment options, the Q+ Payment App enables cardholders to pay through multiple payment options via their mobile phones including ‘Scan & Pay’ by scanning the merchant’s QR code. Since the launch, the app has undergone numerous functionality-enhancing upgrades. Besides all the multiple payment options it offers, Q+ Payment App has also been enabled for different methods of fund transfers and scheduled payment options supported by year-round attractive Cashback offers, promotions and lifestyle events.

Q+ Payment App is the only QR payment app in Sri Lanka that supports six types of QR codes – LankaQR, VisaQR, MastercardQR, UnionPayQR, Indian UPIQR & Alipay QR. It was adjudged the Best Mobile App for Retail Payments in Sri Lanka for the last two years by LankaPay.

Sri Lanka’s first 100% carbon neutral bank, Commercial Bank is the largest private sector bank in Sri Lanka and the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World.

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