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How (over)sharing on social media can trip you up

Profuse recounting of details from your life via social media may come at a price. The more information you pour into the online world, the more at risk you are to spilling information that may put you in attackers’ sights, writes CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO of ESET Southern Africa.



Ours is a sharing era. Social networking sites have opened up new ways of sharing all kinds of private information, so much so that the divulgation of a variety of personal details on the internet has become second nature to many users.

To be sure, the urge to share is nothing new. This behavior reflects and harnesses a strong human desire to connect with others, which runs deep in our evolutionary past. Arguably, then, the trouble does not lie so much with digital sharing per se. Rather, it boils down to what kind of information we share and, even more strikingly, who can access it.

Many users are oblivious to the risks to which they may expose themselves by sharing personal, if seemingly innocuous, information on social platforms. The same goes for applying little to no restrictions on who can see their activities on networking sites. In addition, social media users tend to use more than one such channel. As a result, attackers can build a fairly rich profile of their target by piecing together information gleaned from the target’s profiles and activities on various networking sites.

Oversaturated with personal information, social media have become perfect hunting ground for malefactors. Having used such a site or sites as a reconnaissance tool, attackers can send you a targeted message that entices you into visiting a bogus website that looks and feels much like the legitimate one in order to steal your credentials and money. Or they can manipulate you into opening a malware-laced attachment acting as a dropper for other malware that can then go on to do all sorts of things, including exfiltrating data or recording keystrokes.

Such missives can be highly tailored and can evoke the impression of being sent from a friend or co-worker. It is little wonder, then, that they have proven to be more successful than spray-and-pray tactics.

Blurring the picture further, the concept of networking that lies at the heart of social platforms contributes to a decreased sense of caution. Many people let their guard down and are more likely, for example, to click malicious links sent via social media than those received in an email.

To be sure, social engineering techniques predate the advent of online social platforms. However, with online networking, they have taken on whole new vigor and opened up new avenues for identity theft, online fraud, and other crimes.

Human-factor precautions

What are some of the measures you can take to counter risks stemming from digital (over)sharing?

To start off, you may want to review regularly and make the best use of the privacy settings available on your social network(s) of choice. Importantly, whenever possible, you are well advised to limit the circle of people who can see what you’re up to.

Notwithstanding such restrictions, however, there is still some risk that your private information can be exposed to prying eyes. In fact, as soon as you post something, you have no control over what others do with it.

With that in mind, you may want to limit information that you post or upload, especially the kind of information that could make you vulnerable. It’s safer not to post anything that you wouldn’t want the public to see. Put yourself in attackers’ shoes: could the information you divulge help them hurt you? If so, you may not want to share it.

Beware suspicious or too-good-to-be-true messages and links. That applies even if the message appears to come from one of your friends, as that could well come from an attacker after he has broken into your friend’s account. Ne’er-do-wells know too well that the more credibility they can provide for their shenanigans, the juicier the rewards.

Also, be skeptical of strangers wanting to be your online friends. Ideally, accept only friendship or connection requests from people you know in real life. The internet is rife with fraudsters intent on bilking money out of you via all manner of ploys. Or they can simply burglarize your home in an old-fashioned style after you tell the world about your vacation, leaving your abode empty and ripe for the picking.

At heart, this all is a human vs. human problem, which highlights how this can be countered – by being more security-aware. “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”, as the adage that captures the spirit of online privacy and anonymity goes. We were made to be social, but let’s socialize responsibly.


AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.



Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.



Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.


Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.


Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.


Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.


WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.


Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit


Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.



Enter BuzzBox (, a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here:

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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