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Still room for risk in data journalism era

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The Western region winner of the online category in the Vodacom Journalist of the Year showed that risky, hard-nosed reporting can still stand out in the era of data journalism.

While data journalism has been highly commended among the Western regional winners of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards, the winner of the online category exhibited traditional, hard-nosed, enterprising journalism, combining text, photos and video. The work of the online winner, Caryn Dolley of News24, was often obtained at great risk to personal safety.

The Western regional awards for the 2017 edition of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year recognised journalists in 12 categories for outstanding work. The theme for the awards this year is ‘Your Word’ and promotes the integrity of journalism across all media. This year’s competition drew over 1 000 entries from all over the country, including 205 entries from the Western region.

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher said: “The entries across the 12 categories were excellent this year. Our criteria for judging is to look for entries that could possibly make the cut for the national finals, and the overall prize of R100 000 for the journalist of the year award. We were extremely impressed with the standard of entries which we received in the Western Region, with some commendations for excellent work given over and above the regional winners.”

Winners in the Regional categories each took home R5 000, with the exception of the Young Journalist of the Year regional finalist, who received a certificate. All the regional winners go through to the national awards in Johannesburg on 16 November 2017.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, said: “We are delighted to announce the Western regional winners in Cape Town for the 2017 Awards, which honour journalists from around the country by recognising their best work from the past year. We look forward to welcoming them at the national finals.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the judges, who year after year provide their expertise and knowledge in the adjudication of these prestigious awards, thereby ensuring the integrity of the process. Thanks go to Ryland Fisher, Mary Papayya, Arthur Goldstuck, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Nikiwe Bikitsha, Megan Rusi,  Mathatha Tshedu, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa.”

The winners of the 2017 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Regional Awards in the Western region. with citations, were:

2017 Online

In the emerging age of data journalism, much of a story’s impact revolves around how it is presented online. The judges want to commend the extensive use of various digital formats by the OpenUp team to tell the human story behind the numbers in “Long commute to freedom” for Code For SA and City Press. However, the regional winner proved that there is still plenty of opportunity in the online medium for courageous reporting. Traditional, hard-nosed, enterprising journalism combined text, photos and video, often obtained at great risk to personal safety. The regional winner, who laid bare some of the inner workings of the Cape Town underworld, providing a rare insight into the characters behind the nightclub security turf wars, is: Caryn Dolley of News24 for “Underworld unmasked”.

2017 Radio News

The Western Cape had its fair share of bad news in the past year, challenging Radio News reporters to cover stories of tragedy, pain, disaster and often murder. For the high standard of reporting on the tragic death of three-year-old Courtney Pieters, the regional winner is: Kevin John Brandt of Eyewitness News.

2017 Radio Feature

 Good use of sound, great analysis, high impact and brilliant story telling on a complex and controversial subject made the regional winner in the Radio Feature category exceptional. This story was of the highest standard, taking an in-depth look at the campaign for affordable housing. The regional winner is: Rahima Essop of Cape Talk for “A place to call home”.

2017 Sport

The quality of Sports writing in South Africa is outstanding and widely varied. Very well shot and edited, the regional winners found a story from off the beaten path which highlights an important reality – that cricket in South Africa is not only a white man’s sport. For their depiction of cricket in the rural Eastern Cape, including the fervour of locals who love the sport, the regional winners: Ronald Masinda and Nceba Ntlanganiso of eNCA for “A game loved by all”.

2017 Sustainability

Entries to the CSI/Sustainability category consistently prove that the best exponents apply all the most demanding journalistic skills to this beat. The judges want to commend Jay Caboz of Forbes Africa for tenaciously following the fracking issue and raising early critiques of the viability of available shale gas in the Karoo in “The fracking future fades”. This specialist category rewards excellent in-depth reporting in any medium and the regional winner took risks to create an exciting and thought-provoking report in both a well-made video and an online feature. For outstanding portrayal of how the dilemma of shellfish poaching is a matter of survival for some, the regional winner is: Aletta Harrison, freelance for Eyewitness News, for “Turning the tide on poaching”.

2017 Print News

Talk about transformation and decolonisation of our culture, education and other spaces abounds. But black learners at Sans Souci Girls High School in Cape Town found out that sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. They were forbidden to speak their indigenous home languages and forced to tie their hair in ways that could be achieved only if that hair had been stretched. For showing why the Mother City is also part of the debate on the politics of black hair and languages and how these learners joined others around the country calling for an end to cultural imperialism, the Print News regional winner is: Lisa Isaacs of the Cape Times for “Not allowed to speak Xhosa”.

2017 Print Feature

The many good entries for the Print Feature category in the Western region included the well written, the quirky and the historical reassessment. The regional winner demonstrated how a strong feature writer can take ownership of an important news story by following it up with a series of in-depth articles. For a series on the theft of police weapons and their sale to gang members, the regional winner is: Maygene Prins of Die Burger for “Kolonel se wapens eis 1066”.

2017 Online

In the emerging age of data journalism, much of a story’s impact revolves around how it is presented online. The judges want to commend the extensive use of various digital formats by the OpenUp team to tell the human story behind the numbers in “Long commute to freedom” for Code For SA and City Press. However, the regional winner proved that there is still plenty of opportunity in the online medium for courageous reporting. Traditional, hard-nosed, enterprising journalism combined text, photos and video, often obtained at great risk to personal safety. The regional winner, who laid bare some of the inner workings of the Cape Town underworld, providing a rare insight into the characters behind the nightclub security turf wars, is: Caryn Dolley of News24 for “Underworld unmasked”.

2017 Financial/Economic

The specialist Financial and Economic category attracted a broad range of fascinating entries in this region, including 21st-century consumer advice on preventing lobola from wrecking your credit report from Kabelo Khumalo of Independent’s Personal Finance to Ann Crotty’s SASSA analysis for Financial Mail. However, the runaway winner used the online medium to expose the billions lost in tender manipulation and dodgy investment approvals, delivering a wakeup call to the economy and the nation and changing the face of South Africa’s politics. The regional winners are: for #GuptaLeaks the Daily Maverick and the AmaBhungane team of: Stefaans Brummer, Branko Brkic, Pauli van Wyk, Lester Freamon, Adriaan Basson, Richard Poplak, Adi Eyal, Micah Reddy, Susan Comrie, Angelique Serrao, Antoinette Muller, Marianne Thamm, Sam Sole, Tabelo Timse, Pieter-Louis Myburgh, Craig McKune, Lionel Faull, Rebecca Davis and Sally Evans.

Photography

Photographic journalism is clearly flourishing and relevant in this region, making for robust competition. The judges would particularly like to commend a series of strikingly creative images achieved by sharing the risks of going underground with illegal miners into reopened shafts: Cindy Waxa’s for “Survival beats safety at deadly illegal mine” for the Sunday Argus. The regional winner creatively used the subject and the light to reinforce a story depicting the harsh truth that one in five women in South Africa experience domestic violence. For a series of photographs showing the devastating consequences for a woman beaten to blindness by her partner, the winner is: Phandulwazi Jikelo of the Cape Times for “Blind and in despair amid hardship”.

2017 Television News

Some stories seem to be everlasting, interest in them ebbing and flowing. Yet they can still produce honest and often horrifying results. Stories in the crime beat often follow this pattern and also demand huge commitment from journalists to get the real inside story by spending considerable time gaining a subject’s trust. For an unflinching reflection of what is happening in one of the Cape’s oldest gangs, the TV News regional winners are: Athi Mtongana and Mario Pedro of eNCA for “Gangsterism in the Western Cape”.

2017 Television Feature

 NO WINNER.

Young Journalist Award

The winner in the region gets a certificate and goes through to the national round to compete for the overall prize. The overall award provides an opportunity to fast track a young journalist’s professional and personal development through an all-expenses paid overseas trip that includes a visit to the renowned Thomson Foundation, as well as the opportunity to work in a newsroom. To enter this category, the journalist should have worked in the media for up to, but not more than three years, and be able to demonstrate their potential through their entries. The winner is Monique Mortlock from Eyewitness News.

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Which IoT horse should you back?

The emerging IoT is evolving at a rapid pace with more companies entering the market. The development of new product and communication systems is likely to continue to grow over the next few years, after which we could begin to see a few dominant players emerge, says DARREN OXLEE, CTOf of Utility Systems.

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But in the interim, many companies face a dilemma because, in such a new industry, there are so many unknowns about its trajectory. With the variety of options available (particularly regarding the medium of communication), there’s the a question of which horse to back.

Many players also haven’t fully come to grips with the commercial models in IoT (specifically, how much it costs to run these systems).

Which communication protocol should you consider for your IoT application? Depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a summary of the main low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) communications options that are currently available, along with their applicability:

SIGFOX 

SigFox has what is arguably the most traction in the LPWAN space, thanks to its successful marketing campaigns in Europe. It also has strong support from vendors including Texas Instruments, Silicon Labs, and Axom.

It’s a relatively simple technology, ultra-narrowband (100 Hz), and sends very small data (12 bytes) very slowly (300 bps). So it’s perfect for applications where systems need to send small, infrequent bursts of data. Its lack of downlink capabilities, however, could make it unsuitable for applications that require two-way communication.

LORA 

LoRaWAN is a standard governed by the LoRa Alliance. It’s not open because the underlying chipset is only available through Semtech – though this should change in future.

Its functionality is like SigFox: it’s primarily intended for uplink-only applications with multiple nodes, although downlink messages are possible. But unlike SigFox, LoRa uses multiple frequency channels and data rates with coded messages. These are less likely to interfere with one another, increasing the concentrator capacity.

RPMA 

Ingenu Technology Solutions has developed a proprietary technology called Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) in the 2.4 GHz band. Due to its architecture, it’s said to have a superior uplink and downlink capacity compared to other models.

It also claims to have better doppler, scheduling, and interference characteristics, as well as a better link budget of 177 dB compared to LoRa’s 157 dB and SigFox’s 149 dB. Plus, it operates in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, which is globally available for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so there are no regional architecture changes needed – unlike SigFox and LoRa.

LTE-M 

LTE-M (LTE Cat-M1) is a cellular technology that has gained traction in the United States and is specifically designed for IoT or machine‑to‑machine (M2M) communications.

It’s a low‑power wide‑area (LPWA) interface that connects IoT and M2M devices with medium data rate requirements (375 kb/s upload and download speeds in half duplex mode). It also enables longer battery lifecycles and greater in‑building range compared to standard cellular technologies like 2G, 3G, or LTE Cat 1.

Key features include:

·       Voice functionality via VoLTE

·       Full mobility and in‑vehicle hand‑over

·       Low power consumption

·       Extended in‑building range

NB-IOT 

Narrowband IoT (NB‑IoT or LTE Cat NB1) is part of the same 3GPP Release 13 standard3 that defined LTE Cat M1 – both are licensed as LPWAN technologies that work virtually anywhere. NB-IoT connects devices simply and efficiently on already established mobile networks and handles small amounts of infrequent two‑way data securely and reliably.

NB‑IoT is well suited for applications like gas and water meters through regular and small data transmissions, as network coverage is a key issue in smart metering rollouts. Meters also tend to be in difficult locations like cellars, deep underground, or in remote areas. NB‑IoT has excellent coverage and penetration to address this.

MY FORECAST

The LPWAN technology stack is fluid, so I foresee it evolving more over the coming years. During this time, I suspect that we’ll see:

1.     Different markets adopting different technologies based on factors like dominant technology players and local regulations

2.     The technologies diverging for a period and then converging with a few key players, which I think will be SigFox, LoRa, and the two LTE-based technologies

3.     A significant technological shift in 3-5 years, which will disrupt this space again

So, which horse should you back?

I don’t believe it’s prudent to pick a single technology now; lock-in could cause serious restrictions in the long-term. A modular, agile approach to implementing the correct communications mechanism for your requirements carries less risk.

The commercial model is also hugely important. The cellular and telecommunications companies will understandably want to maximise their returns and you’ll want to position yourself to share an equitable part of the revenue.

So: do your homework. And good luck!

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Ms Office hack attacks up 4X

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Exploits, software that takes advantage of a bug or vulnerability, for Microsoft Office in-the-wild hit the list of cyber headaches in Q1 2018. Overall, the number of users attacked with malicious Office documents rose more than four times compared with Q1 2017. In just three months, its share of exploits used in attacks grew to almost 50% – this is double the average share of exploits for Microsoft Office across 2017. These are the main findings from Kaspersky Lab’s Q1 IT threat evolution report.

Attacks based on exploits are considered to be very powerful, as they do not require any additional interactions with the user and can deliver their dangerous code discreetly. They are therefore widely used; both by cybercriminals looking for profit and by more sophisticated nation-backed state actors for their malicious purposes.

The first quarter of 2018 experienced a massive inflow of these exploits, targeting popular Microsoft Office software. According to Kaspersky Lab experts, this is likely to be the peak of a longer trend, as at least ten in-the-wild exploits for Microsoft Office software were identified in 2017-2018 – compared to two zero-day exploits for Adobe Flash player used in-the-wild during the same time period.

The share of the latter in the distribution of exploits used in attacks is decreasing as expected (accounting for slightly less than 3% in the first quarter) – Adobe and Microsoft have put a lot of effort into making it difficult to exploit Flash Player.

After cybercriminals find out about a vulnerability, they prepare a ready-to-go exploit. They then frequently use spear-phishing as the infection vector, compromising users and companies through emails with malicious attachments. Worse still, such spear-phishing attack vectors are usually discreet and very actively used in sophisticated targeted attacks – there were many examples of this in the last six months alone.

For instance, in late 2017, Kaspersky Lab’s advanced exploit prevention systems identified a new Adobe Flash zero-day exploit used in-the-wild against our customers. The exploit was delivered through a Microsoft Office document and the final payload was the latest version of FinSpy malware. Analysis of the payload enabled researchers to confidently link this attack to a sophisticated actor known as ‘BlackOasis’. The same month, Kaspersky Lab’s experts published a detailed analysis of СVE-2017-11826, a critical zero-day vulnerability used to launch targeted attacks in all versions of Microsoft Office. The exploit for this vulnerability is an RTF document containing a DOCX document that exploits СVE-2017-11826 in the Office Open XML parser. Finally, just a couple of days ago, information on Internet Explorer zero day CVE-2018-8174 was published. This vulnerability was also used in targeted attacks.

“The threat landscape in the first quarter again shows us that a lack of attention to patch management is one of the most significant cyber-dangers. While vendors usually issue patches for the vulnerabilities, users often can’t update their products in time, which results in waves of discreet and highly effective attacks once the vulnerabilities have been exposed to the broad cybercriminal community,” notes Alexander Liskin, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Other online threat statistics from the Q1, 2018 report include:

  • Kaspersky Lab solutions detected and repelled 796,806,112 malicious attacks from online resources located in 194 countries around the world.
  • 282,807,433 unique URLs were recognised as malicious by web antivirus components.
  • Attempted infections by malware that aims to steal money via online access to bank accounts were registered on 204,448 user computers.
  • Kaspersky Lab’s file antivirus detected a total of 187,597,494 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
  • Kaspersky Lab mobile security products also detected:
    • 1,322,578 malicious installation packages.
    • 18,912 mobile banking Trojans (installation packages).

To reduce the risk of infection, users are advised to:

  • Keep the software installed on your PC up to date, and enable the auto-update feature if it is available.
  • Wherever possible, choose a software vendor that demonstrates a responsible approach to a vulnerability problem. Check if the software vendor has its own bug bounty program.

·         Use robust security solutions , which have special features to protect against exploits, such as Automatic Exploit Prevention.

·         Regularly run a system scan to check for possible infections and make sure you keep all software up to date.

  • Businesses should use a security solution that provides vulnerability, patch management and exploit prevention components, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business. The patch management feature automatically eliminates vulnerabilities and proactively patches them. The exploit prevention component monitors suspicious actions of applications and blocks malicious files executions.
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