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Travel tech Pt 1: The vital art of airport Wi-FI

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The single biggest challenge when travelling internationally is to remain connected. In the first of a series of articles on travel technology, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at the most vital of needs: Airport Wi-Fi.

The biggest benefit of an international flight from or to South Africa is that, for anything from 8 to 16 hours, one is out of touch with the world and forced to catch up with work – or sleep, reading, entertainment or conversation.

That, of course, it also its biggest drawback. Especially in business travel, where it is almost dangerous to be uncoupled from the office for more than half a day, the first priority on getting off the plane is to get connected. But even for leisure travellers, there is often a great psychological need to reconnect, download email and deal with anything urgent that may have cropped up during the time in communications limbo.

For South African travellers, using mobile data is out of the question – unless one is desperate or – more rarely these days – on a generous expenses account. For MTN, Vodacom and Cell C customers, roaming data in most countries outside Africa costs a near-criminal R100-plus per Megabyte.

This means that someone using 10GB – which would cost less than R1000 as a bundle in South Africa – would face a bill of more than R1-million on returning home. And it does happen, especially on arrival in another country, when mobile data has not been disabled and the user allows the phone to update apps via that mobile data. Without even knowing it, you can be ruined before you’ve left the airport.

Fortunately, most international airports now offer a quota of free Wi-Fi. A business traveller in particular should be aware of the fact that mobile data should be disabled as a first priority when switching on the phone. Some assume that Wi-Fi should be included in that disablement, when it is in fact the solution rather than the problem.

The key is to find the network offering free airport Wi-Fi. In most airports, posters advertise the presence of hotspots, but the danger exists that one may inadvertently access a fake hotspot, set up by a hacker to con people into typing passwords for online banking and the like into this “honeypot”. If it is at all unclear whether official Wi-Fi is being accessed, financially sensitive sites like online banking should be avoided.

It is fairly easy, however, to find out in advance what Wi-Fi is offered at the airports in which one is likely to need a connection. As they say in beginners’ guides, Google is your friend. Make sure the information is up to date, though.

At the time of writing, among major airports, unlimited free access is offered at Dublin, Hong Kong, Moscow Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Toronto and Vienna.

Heathrow has just upped its quota from 45 minutes to 4 hours free, going one up on Stockholm’s 3 hours. Amsterdam and Zurich both offer the first hour free. South African airports, with their 30 minutes free Wi-Fi, are matched by Frankfurt, Munich and Rome.

In the United States, LaGuardia, Newark and JF Kennedy in New York also offer 30 minutes free access throughout the airports, while JFK’s  Jet Blue Terminal (terminal 5) offers unlimited access.

Other airports are more generous, with Las Vegas, Boston, Dallas, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington among the unlimited free airports in the United States.

Airports that have yet to wake up to the public relations benefits of a good chunk of free Wi-Fi include London’s Gatwick, Spain’s Barcelona and Madrid, and France’s Charles de Gaulle, which are each open for a near-unusable 15 minutes. The technical geniuses behind these services appear not to have noticed that it can take almost that long just to get the connection working, let alone getting to use it.

If that Wi-Fi connection is truly urgent, and no free Wi-Fi is available, it is obvious one should pay the price to connect to commercial WI-FI in the airport, or even subscribe to a global Wi-Fi service like iPass or Boingo.

There was a time when such services were regarded as a luxury. For many travellers today, they are as essential as a passport. After all, connectivity has become the entry visa to the mobile office.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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Bring your network with you

At last week’s Critical Communications World, Motorola unveiled the LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. It allows rescue personal to set up dedicated LTE networks for communication in an emergency, writes SEAN BACHER.

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In the event of an emergency, communications are absolutely critical, but the availability of public phone networks are limited due to weather conditions or congestion.

Motorola realised that this caused a problem when trying to get rescue personnel to those in need and so developed its LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. The product is the smallest and lightest full powered broadband network to date and allows the first person on the scene to set up an LTE network in a matter of minutes, allowing other rescue team members to communicate with each other.

“The LXN 500 weighs six kilograms and comes in a backpack with two batteries. It offers a range of 1km and allows up to 100 connections at the same time. However, in many situations the disaster area may span more than 1km which is why they can be connected to each other in a mesh formation,” says Tunde Williams, Head of Field and Solutions Marketing EMEA, Motorola Solutions.

The LXN 500 solution offers communication through two-way radios, and includes mapping, messaging, push-to-talk, video and imaging features onboard, thus eliminating the need for any additional hardware.

Data collected on the device can then be sent through to a central control room where an operator can deploy additional rescue personnel where needed. Once video is streamed into the control room, realtime analytics and augmented reality can be applied to it to help predict where future problem points may arise. Video images and other multimedia can also be made available for rescuers on the ground.

“Although the LXN 500 was designed for the seamless communications between on ground rescue teams and their respective control rooms, it has made its way into the police force and in places where there is little or no cellular signal such as oil rigs,” says Williams.

He gave a hostage scenario: “In the event of a hostage situation, it is important for the police to relay information in realtime to ensure no one is hurt. However the perpetrators often use their mobile phones to try and foil any rescue attempts. Should the police have the correct partnerships in place they are able to disable cellular towers in the vicinity, preventing any in or outgoing calls on a public network and allowing the police get their job done quickly and more effectively.”

By disabling any public networks in the area, police are also able to eliminate any cellular detonated bombs from going off but still stay in touch with each other he says.

The LXN 500 offers a wide range of mission critical cases and is sure to transform communications and improve safety for first responders and the people they are trying to protect.

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Kaspersky moves to Switzerland

As part of its Global Transparency Initiative, Kaspersky Lab is adapting its infrastructure to move a number of core processes from Russia to Switzerland.

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This includes customer data storage and processing for most regions, as well as software assembly, including threat detection updates. To ensure full transparency and integrity, Kaspersky Lab is arranging for this activity to be supervised by an independent third party, also based in Switzerland.

Global transparency and collaboration for an ultra-connected world

The Global Transparency Initiative, announced in October 2017, reflects Kaspersky Lab’s ongoing commitment to assuring the integrity and trustworthiness of its products. The new measures are the next steps in the development of the initiative, but they also reflect the company’s commitment to working with others to address the growing challenges of industry fragmentation and a breakdown of trust. Trust is essential in cybersecurity, and Kaspersky Lab understands that trust is not a given; it must be repeatedly earned through transparency and accountability.

The new measures comprise the move of data storage and processing for a number of regions, the relocation of software assembly and the opening of the first Transparency Center.

Relocation of customer data storage and processing

By the end of 2019, Kaspersky Lab will have established a data center in Zurich and in this facility, will store and process all information for users in Europe, North America, Singapore, Australia, Japan and South Korea, with more countries to follow. This information is shared voluntarily by users with the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) an advanced, cloud-based system that automatically processes cyberthreat-related data.

Relocation of software assembly

Kaspersky Lab will relocate to Zurich its ‘software build conveyer’ — a set of programming tools used to assemble ready to use software out of source code. Before the end of 2018, Kaspersky Lab products and threat detection rule databases (AV databases) will start to be assembled and signed with a digital signature in Switzerland, before being distributed to the endpoints of customers worldwide. The relocation will ensure that all newly assembled software can be verified by an independent organisation and show that software builds and updates received by customers match the source code provided for audit.

Establishment of the first Transparency Center

The source code of Kaspersky Lab products and software updates will be available for review by responsible stakeholders in a dedicated Transparency Center that will also be hosted in Switzerland and is expected to open this year. This approach will further show that generation after generation of Kaspersky Lab products were built and used for one purpose only: protecting the company’s customers from cyberthreats.

Independent supervision and review

Kaspersky Lab is arranging for the data storage and processing, software assembly, and source code to be independently supervised by a third party qualified to conduct technical software reviews. Since transparency and trust are becoming universal requirements across the cybersecurity industry, Kaspersky Lab supports the creation of a new, non-profit organisation to take on this responsibility, not just for the company, but for other partners and members who wish to join.

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