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Secret of email scams: gullibility

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The weakest link in most security defences are the people sitting behind a computer being gullible or greedy. BRANDON BEKKER, MD of Mimecast South Africa, believes companies need to keep their security systems up to date to protect both their data and employees.

The ‘Nigerian Prince’ or ‘419’ email scams we’ve all seen take advantage of the age-old premise: people can be greedy and gullible. Or to put it more positively – people are intrinsically positive about the motives of others and are not on the lookout for scammers and criminals in every email exchange.  But the sad truth is we all need to wake up to the threat in our email. To heighten our security awareness. The world has moved on and despite significant security efforts and new technologies in recent years, there remains a prolific and lucrative cybercrime industry attacking people and organizations alike. Today the weakest link in any security defences are people so protecting data and systems also means protecting people.

The recent history of cyber security shows that all too often it is the employee that opens an organisation up to attack. In most cases (despite high profile insider attacks like Snowden in the US) employees are not willingly participating in an attack. They may not even know they are the unwelcome target of a hacker’s attention and that their online behaviour might be risky. Employees have limited knowledge of the cyber security risks they face (or create). Email scams take advantage of this lack of security knowledge. The cost to an organisation of this knowledge gap is an increased security threat.

Cyber security is a constant game of cat and mouse. As people woke up to the threat from simple email scams like the ‘Nigerian Prince’ its effectiveness declined so the attackers moved onto new techniques. Phishing in its many forms has grown in popularity. Here the attacker sends email to lots of people with a malicious web link to steal credentials for logins or a malware-laden attachment to infect a machine. They know that someone will click through and activate their attack. Then there is spear-phishing, where targets are more carefully targeted to improve effectiveness and a new, and damaging, variant of this called CEO Fraud or whaling where social engineering is used to really target a specific individual within a target organisation. Individual emails are created that look legitimate, they often even get into a conversation with the target pretending to be their boss, before hitting them up for fraudulent wire transfers of cash or confidential data.

These attacks on email are on the rise and are a significant concern. Recent research from Mimecast showed that 83% of IT security pros consider email to be the most common source of the attack and 64% believing the attacks to pose a high or extremely high threat.

These attacks also work. Sad but true.  People are being duped every day. The FBI reported recently in the U.S. that losses from whaling or CEO fraud attacks alone grew by 270 percent from January to August 2015 with reported losses of $800 million in just six months from August 2015. Our own research showed that in the first three months of 2016, 67% of organisations had seen an increase in attacks designed to extort fraudulent payments and 43% saw an increase in attacks specifically asking for confidential data like HR records or tax information.

Clearly investing in up-to-date technology to defend your organisation is critical but remember that employees are the first line of defense and educating them regularly about potential cyberattacks is vital. As is telling them what to do when they spot a problem or feel they many have been duped. A culture that encourages and supports employees in being open (and fast to act) when they have made a mistake is important.

So in the battle of organizations versus the email scammers it will be employees armed with great technology that will make the difference.

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Opera launches built-in VPN on Android browser

Opera has released a new version of its mobile browser, which features a built-in virtual private network service.

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Opera has released a new version of its mobile browser, Opera for Android 51, which features a built-in VPN (virtual private network) service.

A VPN allows users to create a secure connection to a public network, and is particularly useful if users are unsure of the security levels of the public networks that they use often.

The new VPN in Opera for Android 51 is free, unlimited and easy to use. When enabled, it gives users greater control of their online privacy and improves online security, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots such as coffee shops, airports and hotels. The VPN will encrypt Internet traffic into and out of their mobile devices, which reduces the risk of malicious third parties collecting sensitive information.

“There are already more than 650 million people using VPN services globally. With Opera, any Android user can now enjoy a free and no-log service that enhances online privacy and improves security,” said Peter Wallman, SVP Opera Browser for Android.

When users enable the VPN included in Opera for Android 51, they create a private and encrypted connection between their mobile device and a remote VPN server, using strong 256-bit encryption algorithms. When enabled, the VPN hides the user’s physical location, making it difficult to track their activities on the internet.

The browser VPN service is also a no-log service, which means that the VPN servers do not log and retain any activity data, all to protect users privacy.

“Users are exposed to so many security risks when they connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots without a VPN,” said Wallman. “Enabling Opera VPN means that users makes it difficult for third parties to steal information, and users can avoid being tracked. Users no longer need to question if or how they can protect their personal information in these situations.”

According to a report by the Global World Index in 2018, the use of VPNs on mobile devices is rising. More than 42 percent of VPN users on mobile devices use VPN on a daily basis, and 35 percent of VPN users on computers use VPN daily.

The report also shows that South African VPN users said that their main reason for using a VPN service is to remain anonymous while they are online.

“Young people in particular are concerned about their online privacy as they increasingly live their lives online,” said Wallman. “Opera for Android 51 makes it easy to benefit from the security and anonymity of VPN , especially for those may not be aware of how to set these up.”

Setting up the Opera VPN is simple. Users just tap on the browser settings, go to VPN and enable the feature according to their preference. They can also select the region of their choice.

The built-in VPN is free, which means that users don’t need to download additional apps on their smartphones or pay additional fees as they would for other private VPN services. With no sign-in process, users don’t need to log in every time they want to use it.

Opera for Android is available for download in Google Play. The rollout of the new version of Opera for Android 51 will be done gradually per region.

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Future of the car is here

Three new cars, with vastly different price-tags, reveal the arrival of the future of wheels, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Just a few months ago, it was easy to argue that the car of the future was still a long way off, at least in South Africa. But a series of recent car launches have brought the high-tech vehicle to the fore in startling ways.

The Jaguar i-Pace electric vehicle (EV), BMW 330i and the Datsun Go have little in common, aside from representing an almost complete spectrum of car prices on the local market. Their tags start, respectively, at R1.7-million, R650 000 and R150 000.

Such a widely disparate trio of vehicles do not exactly come together to point to the future. Rather, they represent different futures for different segments of the market. But they also reveal what we can expect to become standard in most vehicles produced in the 2020s.

Jaguar i-Pace

The i-Pace may be out of reach of most South Africans, but it ushers in two advances that will resonate throughout the EV market as it welcomes new and more affordable cars. It is the first electric vehicle in South Africa to beat the bugbear of range anxiety.

Unlike the pioneering “old” Nissan Leaf, which had a range of up to about 150km, and did not lend itself to long distance travel, the i-Pace has a 470km range, bringing it within shouting distance of fuel-powered vehicles. A trip from Johannesburg to Durban, for example, would need just one recharge along the way.

And that brings in the other major advance: the i-Pace is the first EV launched in South Africa together with a rapid public charging network on major routes. It also comes with a home charging kit, which means the end of filling up at petrol stations.

The Jaguar i-Pace dispels one further myth about EVs: that they don’t have much power under the hood. A test drive around Gauteng revealed not only a gutsy engine, but acceleration on a par with anything in its class, and enough horsepower to enhance the safety of almost any overtaking situation.

Specs for the Jaguar i-Pace include:

  • All-wheel drive
  • Twin motors with a combined 294kW and 696Nm
  • 0-100km/h in 4.8s
  • 90kWh Lithium-ion battery, delivering up to 470km range
  • Eight-year/160 000km battery warranty
  • Two-year/34 000km service intervals

Click here to read about BMW’s self-driving technology, and how Datsun makes smart technology affordable.

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