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5 ways to keep IoT safe

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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.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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