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Simple security, complex passwords

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Digital technology solutions provider Ansys has launched an all-in-one online password vault and security authentication product, the SOLID webKey, designed to generate and store long, unique passwords for every site visited.

Thanks to its patented password protection technology, SOLID webKey can generate and store long, unique passwords for every site visited, giving owners the best security while only having to remember one master password themselves.

Developed and designed in South Africa by Ansys at its design and manufacturing facility, SOLID webKey helps internet users follow global best practices for protecting online accounts, in a simple-to-use but highly secure manner.

Ansys says the SOLID webKey represents years of experience, encapsulated in a straightforward device suitable for consumers, small businesses and enterprise use alike. It’s ease-of-use and flexibility for all purposes is underpinned by Ansys’ track record in cybersecurity design has been proven by serving demanding clients in the defence, aerospace, industrial and telecommunications sectors.

“Research performed on data that has been leaked onto the internet by criminal hackers continually shows that the general public struggles with basic account security,” explains Teddy Daka, CEO of Ansys. “Year after year, we see that easy to crack passwords such as ‘123456’ or ‘password’ are still in common use, and individuals rely on just one or two memorable passwords or passphrases to protect all their online accounts.”

The challenge is clear, says Daka. Security experts recommend the use of long passwords made up of uncommon phrases, and that every account is protected with a unique password. Yet, when millions of passwords lost in data leaks are analysed – including some of the three billion stolen from Yahoo! In 2013 – the same simple credentials are used over and over again. And if account name and password combinations details stolen from one service can be used to access another, the user is in trouble.

One significant challenge is that the best advice isn’t getting through to end-users. Many sites maintain outdated password policies which still require a mix of upper and lowercase, symbols and numbers. But even strong passphrases are impossible to remember without help, if a new one is created for every account. With SOLID webKey, users can generate passwords that comply with any policy,  using the maximum length accepted by the application, without having to remember it.

“People use easy to remember passwords because they choose convenience over security,” says Daka. “This shouldn’t come as a surprise. We shouldn’t expect people to remember passwords that are made up of 25 random characters for an account they need to access every day.

How does it work? Ansys provied the following information:

SOLID webKey helps to protect online accounts in two critical ways. As a portable password vault, it enables web users to create long, unique passwords for every service that they regularly sign into, which are stored in an encrypted database which in turn can only be accessed with a single master password.

SOLID webKey remembers difficult to crack passwords, so you don’t have to.

Passwords are stored on flash memory on-board the physical SOLID webKey device, which can be plugged into a USB port on any PC. Once plugged in, the SOLID webKey synchronises with the SOLID KeyPass software, which is derived from the industry-standard open source KeePass Password Safe, for access.

The product also has a unique and patented “liveliness” test as a second line of defence against loss of data, which requires a physical tap of the device before passwords can be accessed. This guards against the threat of malware which could steal passwords from the database after they have been decrypted.

Even strong passwords aren’t enough to defend against committed attackers, however, who may gain access to log-in credentials via phishing or other attacks.

To protect against this kind of threat, SOLID webKey’s second core feature is that it can also act as a hardware token for two-factor authentication (2FA), and is compatible with the Universal Two-Factor (U2F) standard promoted by the FIDO Alliance.

U2F is supported by popular service providers such as Google, Facebook and Dropbox. When enabled as an account setting, users will only be able to log in to these services when the SOLID webKey is physically present and the device is tapped by the user.

“Two-factor authentication is rapidly becoming the norm, and is a proven way to secure accounts,” says Daka. “Through SOLID webKey we hope to make it easier to use and therefore more popular with South Africans who want the best in online security.”

By making both strong passwords and 2FA easy to use, SOLID webKey is a major step forward for South African consumers and businesses.

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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