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Beware of WhatsApp flaw

WhatsApp has recently partnered with Google Drive, to release a new back up facility whereby WhatsApp users will get unlimited storage to back up chats, photos, and other media. While the new feature is great for space-saving, there is concern that it could leave WhatsApp chats and the data contained within them vulnerable to hackers.

With the creation of business-related WhatsApp groups becoming something of a norm in today’s digitally-connected society, Simone Dickson, Director within the Technology and Sourcing practice at commercial law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, says that businesses need to be especially aware of the inherent data security risks associated with using these social platforms.

“As is the case with any social media platform today, businesses and their employees need to exercise discretion in what information is shared and made available, also ensuring that the host or provider of the social media platform has taken security measures acceptable to the business and appropriate to the risk. Awareness of who the business is actually engaging with is critical.”

Cyber breaches are a real risk, she explains, referring to the World Economic Forum 2018 Global Risks Report, which ranks large scale cyberattacks and major data breaches or fraud among top five most likely risks in next 10 years. “On an international level, UK market research company, Ipsos MORI undertook a cyber-security breaches survey in 2017 and identified that 46% of UK business experienced cybersecurity breaches in the last 12 months.

“There have also been a number of data breaches either in South Africa or affecting South African users which have hit the headlines as of late,” she adds. “The potential risks to businesses affected include damage to reputation, loss of shareholder and customer confidence, business interruption, loss of competitive edge, loss or damage to technology and infrastructure, possible regulatory scrutiny, fines and penalties and costs to remedy the breach.”

When asked what legal recourse is currently available locally, Dickson says that businesses would generally need to rely on common law remedies in the event of a breach, although this would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. “Whilst the Protection of Personal Information Act, No. 4 of 2013 (POPI) and Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill (Bill) do introduce statutory measures which will assist businesses in legal recourse in the event of cyber breaches, neither of these are fully in effect as yet.”

As such, she urges business owners to undertake effective due diligence on service providers providing them with social media platforms and online services. “This includes assessing levels of data security and deciding whether the platform is appropriate in the context for which it is going to be used.

“In the context of WhatsApp in particular, whilst this may be used effectively as a business tool, it is still ultimately user-based and not centrally controlled by the business itself. Accordingly, the rules of engagement and employee policies must be clearly established upfront. It is also essential to determine where data is to be hosted to consider which data protection laws are in place in the relevant jurisdiction.

“Where sensitive business data is shared via a social media platform (including any backups of such data), this should be subject to stringent security measures. Due to the prevalence of cybersecurity risk, this should be a board level agenda item with a dedicated focus. Businesses should also formulate a breach response plan in order to be fully prepared in the event of a data breach so as to allow for pro-active management rather than crisis driven responses,” Dickson explains.

She adds that data breaches are unfortunately inevitable and it is up to business to be aware of inherent risks and take pro-active steps to mitigate these risks. “Awareness and education is critical,” she says.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as end-of-support looms, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2008.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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