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Keep those SIMs safe

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Many companies use SIMs for machine-to-machine communication, but these cards are often stolen, leaving the business with huge bills at the end of the month. HEIN KOEN provides some tips on how to keep them safe.

For companies who have come to rely on SIM cards for machine-to-machine communication and other enterprise-level solutions, fraud can be crippling. Fortunately, there are several preventative measures decision-makers can take to minimise the risk.

Any company with a sizeable SIM base has experienced fraud in some way – it is one of those things that often gets hidden in the plethora of bills a company receives. We have seen a few cases each totalling well over a R1-million. To say that SIM fraud can put a small company out of business is not an exaggeration.

Abuse categories

There are mainly two types of SIM abuse.

The first is spend abuse. As the name suggests, this is when too much money is spent on a SIM card. This can either happen as a result of a device becoming faulty or a person using too much data. Often, this is written off as legitimate spend incurred during the course of business.

The second, and more concerning one, is when SIMs are stolen or compromised. These SIMs, typically found in terminals or point-of-sale devices, are then used for WASP-type services like buying airtime and data using the corporate account. And with syndicates using sophisticated methods to do this, the financial implications on a business can quickly become serious.

So what are some of the steps one can take to help combat SIM card fraud in the organisation?

Check your SIM

As a first step, the business needs to ensure that the correct SIM is in a device.

In other words, the SIM has to be risk managed. Ideally, companies should not use open-ended post-paid SIMs but opt to go the prepaid route. This massively reduces the potential for bill shock.

With prepaid SIMs, companies can manage their costs in real-time. After all, a prepaid SIM can only use the amount of airtime or data loaded on to it. This provides decision-makers with a much more efficient way of managing the associated costs. There is also no way that out of bundle rates, especially when it comes to mobile data, escalate out of control.

Use management tools

Companies should also evaluate whether they have the tools in place to manage their SIM cards effectively. There are online tools available to take the hassle out of managing prepaid SIMs and devices in real time.

However, working with a trusted service provider who has the expertise and know-how to do it means an organisation can focus on meeting its core business deliverables.

Keep devices locked

Another very useful measure to take is for decision-makers to lock down their devices in the field. There is software that can do this, either on a firmware or device level.

With a mobile workforce using tablets and smartphones, such software can be used to minimise risk even further.

One of the best things about going the prepaid route is that businesses need not worry about performing SIM swaps when devices are lost. It is just a case of inserting a new prepaid SIM into the device as the SIM is not linked to a specific account.

At the end of the day, it can cost a lot of money when falling prey to SIM fraud and abuse. By implementing some of these proactive measures, companies can mitigate some risks and monthly bill shocks.

* Hein Koen, co-founder of Flickswitch

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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