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VPNs vs Torrents: how enterprise can take on challenge

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The Internet is one of the most significant inventions of our time. But, at the same time, this unlimited access to information has also made us very vulnerable to the snares and tricks of cyber criminology, writes GRAHAM CROOCK, Director, IT Audit, Risk and BDO Cyber Lab.

The dangers of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and BitTorrent have been the impetus behind cyber-attacks perpetuated by cyber criminals on many unsuspecting users.

VPNs, which are virtual in nature, are networks created within other networks. These enable users to exchange data across shared or public networks, primarily owing to the fact that they run on the internet.

It is for this reason that the internet is the communications structure for VPNs — they can never be completely private as they abide in the context of the Internet, which makes them susceptible to cyber-attacks through hackers being able to identify the IP addresses of the equipment connected to the specific network targeted for an attack.

It is important to remember that any device which is capable of accessing the internet and connected to a network has an IP address.

Firewalls are among the initial forms of protecting and securing private networks. This comprises having the best possible firewall technology on either end of the network. However, what remains a constant predicament for a number of users is the cost implications associated with efficiently protecting private networks.  Often, users are faced with a trade-off between cost and security.

The dynamics of fighting against cybercrime positions defenders — those defending themselves from the scourge of cybercriminal activity — at a disadvantage from a cost perspective.

Cybercriminals execute their attacks at almost zero cost. Tthese criminals share vast pieces of code by stringing them together to formulate their attack methodologies. The culminating effect is that it becomes very economical for hackers to launch their attacks, a stimulus in the rise of cybercriminal activity.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, defenders are required to invest extensive time and resources as well as equipment in protecting themselves from cyber-attacks.

In light of this, our research continues to delve even deeper into the complexities of cyber-attack practices and methodologies.

The information age has also been a vibrant force in the promotion of the immediate consumption of information. With the infinite supply of information and content at our fingertips, the internet has become an online supply of data through file sharing and downloading.

BitTorrent has emerged as the fast and economical way of downloading files from the internet. BitTorrent sites are maintained by other torrent users who download, upload and share files with other users to access these files, such as music and movies.

VPN servers are often used to download torrents as they anonymise the torrenting activity. This culminates in the internet service providers being unable to determine what users are downloading, even though they can conclude that there is downloading activity taking place.

The main misfortunes that emanate from torrenting is the introduction of malware, a prevalent tool used by cybercriminals to propagate cyber-attacks on unsuspecting users. This originates from the fact that the data files that exist on these site are untrusted, and therefore, hackers use this notion to embed viruses and Trojans.

Another significantly overlooked facet is that of copywriting and legal consequences stemming from downloading content which could be subject to copywriting laws.

Education and training must remain at the forefront of preparedness against cybercrime. This approach is the impulse which will spur the surge in awareness among users to employ the necessary precautions required to combat the scourge of cyber criminology. Education and training is the podium that will emphasise users to take full ownership of their engagement with the internet.

Information technology continues to surge, and thus our awareness and alertness to these changes and developments must stay abreast. Hackers have the capabilities to access information about individuals through VPNs which should instead be a solution for users in relation to anonymous torrenting.

Through education and training, the Internet can be safely navigated by taking the necessary precautions which will stifle the progress of hackers.

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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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