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Big hole in Android phones

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Check Point’s mobile security research team has discovered Certifi-gate, a vulnerability that allows applications to gain illegitimate privileged access rights and attackers can exploit Certifi-gate to gain unrestricted device access.

Pure-play security vendor Check Point Software Technologies has announced that its mobile security research team discovered a vulnerability in Android that affects devices made by major manufacturers, including LG, Samsung, HTC and ZTE. The team disclosed its findings during a briefing session at Black Hat USA 2015 in Las Vegas, NV yesterday.

Certifi-gate” is a vulnerability that allows applications to gain illegitimate privileged access rights which are typically used by remote support applications that are either pre-installed or personally installed on the device.  Attackers can exploit Certifi-gate to gain unrestricted device access, allowing them to steal personal data, track device locations, turn on microphones to record conversations, and more.

Android offers no way to revoke the certificates that are providing privileged permissions.  Left unpatched, and with no reasonable workaround, devices are exposed right out of the box. All affected vendors were notified by Check Point about Certifi-gate and have begun releasing updates. The vulnerability cannot be fixed, and can only be updated when a new software build is pushed to the device – a notoriously slow process. Android also offers no way to revoke certificates used to sign vulnerable plugins.

In July, Vodacom, South Africa largest telecoms service provider, reported that it had 6.1 million Android users on its network, far more than the second-placed BlackBerry, with 2.2 million users, and reflecting a massive increase from the 1.4 million Android users it reported in 2013. This represents more than 60% of its subscriber base and places Android in the top position among service providers in South Africa.

“Every day, people around the globe use mobile devices to manage important aspects of their lives: they access work email, manage bank accounts, and track health information,” said Doros Hadjizenonos, Country Manager of Check Point South Africa. “The problem is, they rarely stop to think about whether their data is secure. This vulnerability is very easily exploited, and can lead to the loss and dissemination of a user’s personal data. It’s time to take mobile security seriously.”

Android users can check to see if their device is vulnerable to Certifi-gate by downloading this free Check Point Certfi-gate scanner app in Google Play.

The Company launched Check Point Mobile Threat Prevention, a new mobile security solution enterprises can use to battle the evolving mobile threat environment and to detect threats such as Certifi-gate, malicious apps, Man-in-the-Middle attacks and more. With the highest level of security for stopping threats on iOS and Android, the solution delivers real-time visibility and threat intelligence into an organisation’s existing security and mobility infrastructures. Deployment is easy and not only has integration into an organisations mobility and security infrastructure but it also provides a transparent user experience that maintains privacy and performance.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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