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South Africa’s giant data breach: how to stay safe

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NordVPN offers some online safety tips after South Africa was hit by the biggest data breach in its history.

South Africa was recently hit by the worst data breach in its history. The personal information of more than 30 million South Africans – more than half of the total population – has leaked online, potentially causing identity theft for each one of the affected individuals. The leaked data includes names, ID numbers, income information, employment history, phone numbers and home addresses of everyone on the list.

The leaked information, contained in a 27GB file dating to 2015, was discovered by an Australian Internet security provider, Troy Hunt.

“When a huge amount of personal information is stolen, it can be used to steal bank account information or open bank accounts in that person’s name, “ said Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN (Virtual Private Network). “Cyber criminals are not different from thieves who break into someone’s house – they just operate on a much larger scale, and are therefore even more dangerous. Governments still struggle with solutions for such massive-scale hacks, so our advice is for people to take their privacy into their own hands.”

NordVPN recommends these steps post-data breach (these are general safety tips that should be followed by every Internet user regardless if their privacy has been breached or not):

1. Use only https URL. Make sure all websites that you give your data to have the secure https URL. The ‘s’ in the URL means that it is a secure protocol and your data is encrypted properly.

2. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPNs connect you to the Internet through an encrypted tunnel. VPN server acts as a relay between the Internet and a company’s device, so nobody can see what data is being shared over the Internet. All that can be seen is that you are connected to a VPN server. A VPN service provider, such as NordVPN, can offer multiple benefits to small businesses and individuals, including secure data connections for remote workers and increased safety for business owners to share sensitive company data via an encrypted connection, so it’s not seen by any third parties.

3. Avoid downloading files from unknown senders. The rule is simple: if you are not familiar with the sender, better don’t click to download any attachments or any links they might be sending.

4. Update your firewall. Most systems have an automatically installed firewall–just make sure you follow up with its regular updates.

5. Use antivirus. Use an updated virus protection to make sure your system is protected from malware such as malvertising (advertisement online with malicious codes).

6. Strong passwords. Perhaps the most basic requirement for any online account setup is using strong passwords. Weak passwords make it simple for hackers to break into your system and cause severe damage.

7. Update your operating system. It sounds simple and easy to do, but sometimes we ignore the pop-up reminders for software updates. However, it’s one of the most important things to do with a computer, as the updates fix security vulnerabilities and system bugs.

8. Secure your mobile. If you are happy that your system is now secure, you might be forgetting one important part – your mobile devices. You probably store important passwords on your smartphone and other sensitive information, therefore, remember to encrypt your phone either.

9. Do not provide your private information to any third party. When you need to enter your personal data anywhere online, provide it only if it’s absolutely necessary. You never know where it will end up.

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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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