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5 ways to winning at online safety

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Hackers are getting more resourceful at getting online users’ details. This means that one needs to become more savvy when browsing the Internet. GERHARD OOSTHUIZEN, CIO of Entersekt, shares his tips on how to be more cyber savvy and secure online.

For the everyday internet user, becoming more cyber savvy is vital. Just as we invest in personal security and keep our wits about us as we move around, so too must we be alert to threats online. Fortunately, becoming more better informed and protecting our online assets doesn’t require huge investments of either time or money. By simply keeping a few golden rules in mind, we can go about our daily internet activities with greater peace of mind, says Gerhard Oosthuizen, CIO at Entersekt.

1. Be smart about your passwords

The most commonly employed line of attack is email phishing. By persuading you to enter your username and password into a fake site or app through a cleverly crafted email, hackers can use these details to access legitimate sites or applications you use. If they have your name, hackers can simply go onto your social sites – such as Facebook and Instagram – and use clues there to guess your passwords.

For example, they might use your dog’s name or mother’s maiden name, your birthday or hometown, to answer security verification questions. The key here is to never repeat a theme, pattern or “recipe” in any of your passwords. It is advisable to use lowercase phrases as passwords (theappletree or ienjoysunsets), instead of merely using different versions of the same password. Work from the assumption that at least one site you have been on – LinkedIn, for example, or a service you may no longer even use – has been breached and your password there is being sold by hackers with tens of thousands of others.

2. Always use two-factor authentication

If an online service gives you the option, implement two-factor authentication, where you confirm your identity or specific intentions through a combination of two different touchpoints. Instead of relying solely on email to reset your password for a certain website or mobile app, two-step verification requires you (or a potential hacker) to provide more information – such as a one-time password (OTP) or an answer to a security question over a separate communication channel. This option is always available for any online platform where a transaction is taking place, although it is very rarely the default security setting. It is, therefore, up to you to ensure that two-factor authentication has been activated for the websites and mobile apps that you regularly access and on which you share personal information. This reduces the risk associated with weak, predictable or stolen passwords.

3. Use your discretion with password managers

Password managers are undoubtedly a very helpful and important tool in an age where we maintain scores of online accounts and depend on several mobile apps daily. They are generally very secure and dependable, but it is worth putting up another line of defence on certain websites that can leave you vulnerable. Use password managers for the bulk of your frequently visited sites or apps (and thus use random/complex passwords that are difficult to remember each time) but also create entirely new and unique passwords for two or three important financial/banking sites. Keep these independent of your password manager.

4. Always be a sceptic

Whenever you are working or transacting online, employ a healthy dose of scepticism and good common sense. Hackers tend to use personalised emails, for example, to lure you into clicking on an unsecure link. So if you haven’t heard from an ex-boss for five years and you receive an unexpected (but friendly) email from him or her, don’t open it. In cases like this, it is best to call the supposed sender or organisation attached to the email directly – don’t simply assume that a familiar tone means it is safe. The same applies to emails about winning or retrieving money – these should immediately trigger alarm bells. It’s always best to delete those “too good to be true” emails.

5. Employ the many tools at your disposal

There are countless tools and apps available to help you become more secure and cyber savvy. For example, websites such as have i been pwned allow you to check if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach. You can also use VirusTotal, a free service that analyses suspicious files and URLs and “facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and all kinds of malware.” It is also very important to check the validity of the security certificate on any site through which you will be transacting (if the URL starts with “http” instead of “https”, beware). Finally, always keep your devices updated with the latest software – there is a good reason why the big tech companies work so hard to continually find patches and improve their software: your safety.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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