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E-crime fight must go unconventional

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Both the private and public sector must engage out-of-the-box complex systems and more holistic security models to protect themselves from the increasing threat posed by online and cyber-related crimes, says MICHIEL JONKER.

“Due to the complex nature of cyberspace, whereby billions of users and infinite systems and networks are intertwined, it has now become virtually impossible to control the ecosystem,” he says.  “Security therefore could not be treated in isolation but effective security management should employ a 360-degree complex systems philosophy that engages multiple conventional and unconventional (e.g. futuristic) models of security assessment.”

While statistics are not readily available in South Africa, numerous breaches have been recorded over the past few years. In 2013 Bloomberg reported that South African banks had lost tens of millions of rands to an international organisation that hacked the bank card details of fast-food restaurant customers. Based on data from the Payments Association of SA, the report found that every South African bank had been affected.

“Recent breaches, including JP Morgan Chase, The White House, Sony and even South African government website hacking incidents, have called into question the future of cyberspace as a means of safe transaction. Cybercrime holds potentially catastrophic consequences for businesses and government – not to mention the security of nation states. 2014 was a watershed year for cyberspace security and in 2015 the issues will become even more noticeable,” Jonker said.

“The current model of applying ‘best practices’ addresses many aspects of cyber security but is not enough. A new approach designed to deal with threats requires more than standard analytical IT frameworks because we are steadily losing the war against cyber criminals, like hackers and information thieves,” said Jonker.

He said that in addition to legislation, such as the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) partly enacted last year, and best practice guides, it is now imperative that measures be scaled up. The POPI Act, which was gazetted in November 2013, and which is currently awaiting an effective enactment date, provides strict guidelines, among other things, on what data can be obtained, how that data can be used, and the requirement that it should be kept up-to-date.

In a recent Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) survey, for the first quarter of 2015, SA businesses were asked if their current business strategy plans included breaches to IT security as a potential threat to the future of the business.

“It is encouraging to note that 72% of the 150 SA business executives who were asked this question responded that their strategies DO include plans to prevent IT security breaches,” says Jonker. “One very important measure needed and which is often overlooked, is the thorough testing of systems by skilled individuals whose sole purpose would be to find compromising points of entry into the system. Ironically, the majority of cyber criminals do not have formal IT qualifications.”

Jonker suggested a holistic approach incorporating the futuristic concept of “exploration-discovery.”

“The IT security industry has to change its recruitment policies. There is a need for certain IT security personnel to come from non-formal education, those who employ outside-of-the-box thinking. These persons tend to think more in systemic ways – while formally educated IT professionals traditionally think analytically. We need to have conventional and unconventional IT skills in place that will test for infiltration by those whose sole purpose is to exploit the weaknesses of IT and online systems.”

He said the concept of “exploration-discovery” in systems development practice is not new. For example, when testing new systems, software companies will often monitor how children interact with the system – with the aim of detecting any unforeseen failures not picked up by standard testing procedures.

“A similar methodology in devising security for cyberspace would allow private and public sector organisations to view their systems as an outsider, or specifically as a criminal (i.e. to ‘think or explore/discover like a criminal’). This creates a vastly improved context for security as it not only allows mitigating the rational threats but the anticipation of those systemic threats for intentional nefarious purposes,” Jonker concluded.

* Michiel Jonker, Director: IT Advisory at Grant Thornton Johannesburg. 

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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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