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Hidden risks in public Wi-Fi

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Spending time online using a Wi-Fi hot spot is almost second nature now, but according to a recent Kaspersky Survey, more than a third of users take no additional security precautions when doing so.

Nowadays it’s easy to get online in addition to cellular networks and broadband cable communication networks, there is often at least one hotspot which can connect computers and mobile devices to the Internet.

However, many of these hotspots skimp on protection for users and many users are unaware or unconcerned about the potential problems this can cause. In our survey, 34% of users said they took no special measures to protect online activity using a hotspot, while 14% were happy to bank or shop online using any network that came to hand. Just 13% take the time to check the encryption standard of any given access point. Does extra caution make sense when using public Wi-Fi, or is it all a worry too far?

It’s You, a Website and a Man in the Middle: The answer is YES. You never know what ‚”that guy with the laptop at the next table‚” might be doing. Maybe, like you, he’s checking his email or chatting with friends. But maybe he’s monitoring the Internet traffic of everyone around him including yours. A Man-in-the-Middle attack makes this possible. Any Wi-Fi access point is a window to the Internet for all the devices attached to it. Every request from a device goes via an access point, and only then reaches the sites that users want to visit. Without any encryption of communications between users and the access point it’s a simple task for a cybercriminal to intercept all the data a user enters. That might include data sent to a bank, or an online store. Moreover, attacks like this are possible even if the hotspot is password protected and a secure https-connection between the required site and the user’s browser is established.

What data are cybercriminals interested in? Anything they can use to make a profit especially account logins and passwords for e-mail, e-banking, e-payment and social networks. It’s obvious that we need to secure Wi-Fi connections – but how?

Security in the Middle: First of all, Kaspersky Lab recommends only using secure connections to access points. This alone will greatly reduce the risk of the traffic being intercepted by cybercriminals. However, when users are planning to use sites which demand personal information such as usernames and passwords, this basic precaution must be joined with additional protective tools.

Kaspersky Lab’s specially developed Safe Money technology ensures the best possible protection for online banking and payment transactions. This is a set of protection mechanisms activated automatically as soon as the users enter the address of an online store or e-banking or e-payment service in the browser address bar. Safe money protects users from attacks via software vulnerabilities, phishing pages, malware and Man-in-the-Middle attacks. Once a secure connection between the browser and the banking site is established, Safe Money checks the verification certificate of the site against a constantly updated database of trusted sites to ensure that the page is authentic. If a match is found, the connection is recognised and trusted. If the certificate is not found in the database, it may be a fake site created by a ‚”man-in-the-middle‚” in order to deceive users and steal personal data. Safe Money won’t allow this to happen.

Safe Money is available in Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky PURE 3.0 for home users. Kaspersky Internet Security is also available as part of Kaspersky Internet Security multi-device, the solution developed to protect several devices working on different OS.

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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