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Tips to stay cyber-safe

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As technology progresses so too do the security risks some of it brings with – making it difficult to keep yourself safe. JACKY FICK, head of Cell C’s Forensic Services, offers some tips to keep smartphone data safe.

Every few months, concerns around online scams and theft are raised as a new wave of victims come forward. It seems almost seasonal. But the truth is that cybercrime never goes away. Every day, new victims fall for schemes. There are stories of people losing large amounts of money – even their life’s savings.

It can leave one feeling very vulnerable and uncertain. But a little knowledge goes a long way in this fight.

Secure your phone

It is vital to make your smartphone secure and, in case of theft, useless. The most obvious precaution is to lock the device with a password, swipe gesture or fingerprint reader, says Jacky Fick, head of Cell C’s Forensic Services and an expert in cybercrime.

“We often think our phones can’t contain too much interesting information. But it’s like losing your house keys. Your phone can open a lot of doors for cyber criminals. Once they have their hands on things like phone numbers and home addresses, they can find ways to hijack your financial accounts.”

If the phone is stolen, it can be remotely wiped and even disabled. This depends on the type of phone, but can also be done with third-party apps if they are installed.

Beware of Phishing

When fishing, as in angling, a lure is dangled in the water, made to look like a delicious piece of food and not plastic with a sharp hook. In on-line phishing, a piece of correspondence is made to look like news warranting attention, but can hide a host of dangerous electronic traps.

Such provocative messages contain an opportunity or impending disaster. An email could offer supposed LOTTO winnings, unclaimed tax refunds or a surprise inheritance. Phishing often mimics banks: an SMS offering a raise in a credit card limit or a formal email requesting an update of your details. Whatever the message, the goal is to steal information by posing as something else. Fick has three rules to help avoid such an attack:

“The first rule is that if you get an offer that seems too good, then it is. Always be suspicious. The second is to check the source. If the message looks like it came from a bank, call the bank. Third, never share personal information with someone who contacted you. If they called you, call back using the official company hotline number, not one they provide. Don’t click on links in emails or instant messages that look suspicious. Delete them immediately. Institutions such as banks will not request personal information in that way. They will request you visit a branch.”

Avoiding Sim Swaps

We have become very reliant on our phones as gatekeepers of our financial mobility. You cannot add beneficiaries or do certain transfers without a phone to supply one-time pins or approval. This is why sim card swaps are so attractive to criminals: they represent the keys to the city.

The number on a phone is based on the sim card inside. But that number can be electronically transferred to another sim. Anyone who has held onto their number for several years will have used a sim swap service. It’s a legitimate service, but can be manipulated to make an unauthorised swap. This is often done over the phone, with a criminal posing as the sim card’s owner.

“It’s important to know sim swaps happen at an advanced stage of the crime,” says Fick. “If they are attempting a sim swap, it means they already have things like banking details. They may also have enough personal information to try and get through the security questions. This is why phishing is so dangerous, because it can open the door to this kind of thing.”

Common Sense Still Applies

Keeping safe with technology is not impossible, but it requires device owners to be proactive. Other than the advice above, Fick offered the following:

●        Avoid installing unofficial apps: these can be used to sneak bad software onto your device. Use the official app stores, where apps are checked and secure.

●        Apply patches to software, particularly updates to your phone’s system. These often contain fixes for problems that criminals could use to access your information.

●        Email is not the only danger. Any type of link or file attachment can be dangerous. If you receive offers or request for information over SMS, WhatsApp, MMS or other means, don’t click on any link it contains. Delete the message instead.

●        Take care with public WI-FI and unsecured internet connections. Information sent over such networks can be intercepted.

●        A handbag or wallet contains a lot of useful information for identify theft and other cybercrime. Keep your personal possessions safe and in sight.

●        Phones attract more cybercrime, but computers remain a target. Always run antivirus software that is up to date and be sure to apply system updates regularly.

●        If you think something is wrong, do not hesitate. Contact your mobile service provider or bank’s hotline immediately if you notice odd behaviour.

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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