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10 tips for cloud safety

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Just because a company has chosen a reputable cloud software provider for storing data and applications doesn’t mean it can neglect information security. STEVEN COHEN, MD for Sage One Accounting AAMEA provides ten tips for keeping cloud data secure.

If you choose a credible cloud software provider, it will host your accounting or payroll applications and data in a secure data centre underpinned by world-class technology. This will free you from doing backups, buying and installing new versions of the software, and fencing your data behind high security software.

Yet that doesn’t mean you can neglect information security in your business. You’ll still be using your own devices to access the cloud, so there are some security vulnerabilities you need to take care of on your side. Here are a few ways to protect your business from data security threats.

1.         Choose the right provider

Buy cloud services only from reputable software vendors and Internet service providers. These companies will have put a range of processes and policies in place to secure their infrastructure and your data from information security risks. For example, our online solution, Sage One Accounting and Sage One Payroll, is hosted with Internet Solutions, who run one of the country’s most secure data centres.

That means our clients can rest assured that their data will be secure, backed-up, and accessible – safe from hackers, weather disasters, theft, Eskom and all the other challenges you need to manage if you run the software on your own computers.

2.         Educate your end-users

Educate your end-users about the basics of information security – for example, make sure they know why they need to choose strong passwords and that they’re alert to the dangers of phishing emails designed to persuade them to give their log-in details to people with criminal intentions.

3.         Install antimalware software

You should install antivirus and antimalware software on your laptops and desktop computers, and then keep it up to date with the latest definitions. This will help to protect you from malicious software programs such as Trojans and keyloggers. Such software can be used to steal information such as your log-ins for online banking or cloud applications.

4.         Enforce strong passwords

Cloud services can usually be accessed through any device connected to the public network. You will authenticate yourself to the service with a username and password. Protect yourself by choosing a strong password that is difficult to guess, but easy for you to remember. It is just as important to change your password periodically. You must also take care not to let your password fall into the wrong hands.

5.         Get serious about mobile security

It’s great that you can access your accounting software or payroll through your smartphone or tablet, but there’s also a risk attached to this. If you save your passwords on the device, anyone who steals your device or finds it if you lose it will be able to access your information.

Thus, be sure to lock your device behind a PIN code or password when not in use. Also, most mobile devices today allow you to track their location or remotely wipe data. It’s a good idea to enable this functionality just in case the device goes missing.

6.         Keep software up to date with security patches

When it comes to desktops and notebooks, be sure to keep your operating systems and browsers up to date with the latest security patches. These close off known vulnerabilities in the software, making your computer more secure.

7.         Apply two-step verification

Where your cloud provider allows it, enable two-factor authentication. For example, you could set your account up to ask for a code sent to you by SMS when you log in or use a fingerprint in addition to a password. Thus, even if someone steals or guesses your password, they won’t be able to access your sensitive data.

8.         Be careful about where you log into cloud services

If you sometimes log into your cloud applications using public, borrowed or shared computers, make sure that you opt to not save your password and ensure you log out of your account after you are done. Also, if you’re working with particularly sensitive data, be aware that public wireless networks are usually not secure.

9.         Keep your passwords secret

Look after your passwords. Don’t keep them in an easily accessible file on your computer or scribble them on sticky notes that you paste on your screen where everyone can see them.

10.     Check the security certificate

Get in the habit of checking that any cloud sites you use have a security certificate in place. The certificate should be valid for the vendor providing the cloud service, should not be expired, and must be issued by a reputable certificate company.

On Sage One Accounting or Sage One Payroll, data is encrypted and utilises a Verisign security certificate. This certificate is fully authenticated and verified, encrypting your data with up to 256-bit encryption (browser dependent).

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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