As more devices connect to the Internet, so too does the chance of each of them being compromised. ERNST WITTMANN, Regional Manager for Southern Africa at Alcatel, gives some tips on how to protect these devices and ultimately yourselves.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly taking off as people and businesses connect everything from their cars, to their home automation systems, and to the Internet. These devices are starting to change how we live and work – allowing us to track our heart rates and calories with a fitness tracker, monitor and improve our driving habits via a vehicle telematics device, and so much more.
Yet connecting a device to the Internet exposes it to a range of information security threats. We have already seen hackers create botnets using connected fridges, webcams, smart DVRs and other IoT devices and launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. And as we store more personal data – for example, health or payment information – on IoT devices, the risks of data theft and loss will multiply.
As we use the IoT for convenience, we must not treat privacy and security as an afterthought. The IoT devices could be the most vulnerable point in your home or office network. Here are five simple ways recommended by Alcatel, to improve the security of your information as you start to introduce more and more connected devices into your home or small business.
Don’t connect a device to the Internet unless there is a clear benefit for doing so
The most secure device is one that isn’t connected to the Internet in the first place. Ask yourself whether there’s really any benefit to connecting your fridge or your baby monitor to the Internet before you do it. And when you’re not using a device, consider disconnecting it from your network.
Create a separate guest network for IoT devices
Many Wi-Fi routers will allow you to set up multiple networks so that you can, for example, allow guests in your home or customers at your office to browse the Internet. Consider connecting your IoT devices to a separate Wi-Fi network to the one you use for your personal PC and mobile devices. This means that if someone gains access to the IoT device they won’t be able to use it to get to your other devices and information.
Use strong passwords for each device
You do use strong passwords to secure your PC and the many online services and applications you use, don’t you? Apply the same principle to any IoT devices you connect to the Internet. In addition to picking a strong password, it’s wise to pick different passwords for each device and different ones to the ones you use for email, online banking, social media and so on.
A hacker who gets a password and login name for one of your IoT devices will probably try it on other online services and devices. Using different details for each service and device means a hacker won’t have a skeleton key for all of your accounts and devices if he or she manages to break into your smoke detector or your media streaming device.
Bonus tip: Remember to change the password and login name for your router and all other devices when you first connect it to the Internet. Many people leave the default password and login in place – something like ‘admin’ – and make life easy for the criminals.
Stay updated with the latest firmware
When makers of IoT devices identify security vulnerabilities in their devices, they will usually release software updates to fix them. Installing the latest security patches for your devices’ firmware will help you reduce the chances of a successful attack. Check for updates every three months or so, or configure your devices to automatically download the latest patches.
Protect your smartphone, tablet and PC
It goes without saying that you should take all sensible steps to secure your PCs, tablets and smartphones since these are the devices you’ll usually use to log in to your router and your IoT gadgets. This includes ensuring you have up-to-date antimalware software, using strong passwords and so on.
You’ll often access your IoT devices, mobile banking, and many other services from a mobile app, so take good care of your smartphone. Secure access to the device behind a PIN or password when the screen is locked and set your phone up so you can remotely track its location and wipe your data if it gets lost or stolen.
When will we stop calling them phones?
If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.
Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?
It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.
Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.
It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.
That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.
Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti, Admyt and Kaching.
Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.
Who has time for phone calls?
The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.
The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,
This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.
That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.
Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.
Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.
Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.
More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time.
I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.
There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.
MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps
MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.
The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.
“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.
Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”
“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”
“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.