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Clean out your old accounts – or face this peril

According to a digital privacy expert, forgotten accounts can be even less secure than the active ones – but still contain sensitive data

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If you’ve been using the Internet for many years now, you’ve probably forgotten how many different accounts you’ve created. However, old accounts pose a real threat, as there’s a big chance they store a lot of sensitive data. If one of your old accounts is leaked, it can become an open door for cybercriminals to hack into your email, Facebook, and even computer or smartphone.

“News about data breaches and leaks are starting to feel like a common thing. And even though we tend to care about our most important accounts, we usually forget that those we barely use also contain sensitive information,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “An important thing to remember is that consequences that follow a breach usually are not immediate. It can take months or even years until cybercriminals start using this data to access other websites where the same login details have been used.”

Markuson points to the website haveibeenpwned.com, run by cybersecurity expert Troy Hunt, which allows users to discover where they have accounts that have been hacked. It now lists 8,506,873,299 accounts and 555,278,657 passwords that have been compromised in a data breach. 

“Those huge numbers mean that if you’ve ever had an account online, at some point, your data was probably exposed in a breach,” he says.

Markuson suggests these tips on how to clean up your digital history and stay safe online.

Make a list of all your old online accounts and start deleting them. Google your name, surname, and nickname you usually use online. There’s a high chance you’ll be surprised to see on how many different social media pages and forums your name appears. Go one-by-one and try deleting the ones you are not using anymore. It might be more difficult than it seems, and this process will require patience.

Another way to find your old accounts is checking your email and password manager. Try typing in the keyword “account” in your email-search. Most probably, it will show old emails containing registration confirmations.

Find all accounts linked to your social media or email. Connecting various social media accounts, services, websites, and apps seems convenient. However, quite often, we do not realize how many permissions we grant to third parties. We freely give out our sensitive information to these apps and websites, and it stays there, even if we no longer use the service.

It is recommended to review which of your accounts are linked, what permissions you’ve given out, and rethink whether you are happy about that or not. Most importantly, revoke access to websites and apps that you no longer use.

Revise privacy settings and check accounts for sensitive data. Most social media platforms and forums have adjustable privacy settings. However, they are usually set to default, so you have to enable the ones you want. Be strict about what information you share. Remove all personal details from your profile, such as email, phone number, home address, or vacation plans shared on blogs, forums, and social networks.

While online, it is advised to remain vigilant. Don’t become too emotional in forums and refrain from participating in heated discussions. This often brings more harm than good, as cyberbullying is becoming prevalent in social media.

If you decide to keep your accounts, make sure to change passwords. Don’t forget to change all of your passwords, even your Wi-Fi password at home. Most importantly, never reuse the same password for several accounts and make sure all of your passwords are very strong. A reliable password usually includes letters, symbols, and numbers.

Finally, check haveibeenpwned.com to see if your email and password have been compromised in a data breach before.

Use online security tools, especially if you don’t want to think about digital security. Many of us would better spend our days thinking about plenty of other much more interesting  things than cybersecurity. If you don’t want to think about that, you need to use digital security tools.

A few of the most important ones are a password manager, which helps you to have the safest passwords; an antivirus and firewall, which help you to avoid malware and a VPN, which secures your browsing.

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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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