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AppDate: Kaspersky clamps down home networks

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In this edition of AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights the Kaspersky Lab IoT device scanner, Knysna’s Municipality Citizen Engagement Application, Lego Mindstorms, the Exclusive Books app, HeyLets and Showmax for Xbox One.

Kaspersky Lab IoT device scanner

The Kaspersky Lab IoT device scanner allows home users to monitor their networks and see which devices are connected. The app does an overall scan once installed and notifies the user of any security flaws that may be present. For instance, when installed on my network, it alerted me that a port was open on my router that could allow hackers to gain access and steal sensitive data.

The app continually monitors the network and offers alerts should new devices try to connect with incorrect credentials.

Platform: Android

Expect to pay: The app is still in a beta and has not yet been officially released.

Stockists: Visit www.kaspersky.co.za for more information.

 

Knysna Municipality Citizen Engagement Application

The Knysna Municipality and ComUnity have collaborated to create the Knysna Municipality Citizen Engagement Application (Knysna app) in order to drive a more direct, interactive and open relationship between the municipality and its communities.

The app was designed to make it easier for emergency services to respond to needs faster, as app users receive the most relevant and up-to-date information directly on their mobile devices. Community members can log and track service issues or phone any municipal division from the app, allowing them to report or inform other community members of incidents.

The municipality can also keep communities informed of upcoming events and festivals, and can post public service delivery notices, such as electricity or water interruptions and weather forecasts.

But the app also proved to serve a much deeper purpose when devastating fires swept the region in June – the Knysna Joint Operations Centre (JOC) that coordinated the crisis response was able to use it to keep in close and constant touch with communities, which assisted in prioritising their safety and that of their families, pets and belongings.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Lego Mindstorms

Lego Mindstorms is designed to give children a head start in their programming careers. The app works in conjunction with the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robotics construction set and allows kids to use basic programming code to make their robots move, shoot and act in a particular way.

This app also lets kids create their own robot programs from scratch by dragging and dropping blocks of code into sequence and then playing that code out to see what each block does.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download, but the construction set will need to be bought first.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Exclusive Books app

The Exclusive Books app sends users special offers, alerts them to in-store promotions and activities, and allows Exclusive Books’ Fanatics members to link their membership and carry around a virtual Fanatics card in their mobile devices.

In addition, the app stores a ‘Favourites’ list to receive notifications of special offers at the stores and gives directions to Exclusive Books Cafes and Social Kitchen & Bar outlets.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

HeyLets

HeyLets is a personalised feed of fun experiences and cool places recommended by people that enjoy doing the same things you do. Discover new food, nightlife, shows and outdoor adventures in your hometown, and get travel tips from around the world.

Select Your Interests –- Easily and quickly choose from 45 interest categories. This will help us deliver the best experiences possible to you and locate other community members who share the same interests.

Explore What Locals Recommend –- Scroll through a beautiful feed of hidden gems, fantastic new places and amazing new experiences you never knew existed.

Once installed, filter experiences by categories, from nightclubs and extreme sports to scenic hikes and farmers markets. Or search by keyword to find the ultimate truffle fries. User can filter by location to find things to do on upcoming trips and Wishlist option saves experiences you want to try.

In addition, if you have had a good meal or just enjoyed a good concert, you can share what you love by posting a video or photo along with a short description about what made it great.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Showmax for Xbox One

In addition to streaming Showmax content though a DStv Explora, Android and iOS devices, viewers can now use their Xbox One consoles.

To get the app, they need will need their Showmax username and password and go to the Store tab on their Xbox One. Once signed in, the app will download to the Xbox, where it can be pinned to a user’s home screen.

The app looks and functions very similarly to the other Showmax apps, so users should have no problem using it once signed in.

Platform: Xbox One

Expect to pay: A free download, but users need to be signed up for Showmax.

Platform: Any Xbox One console.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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