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Simple security, complex passwords

Digital technology solutions provider Ansys has launched an all-in-one online password vault and security authentication product, the SOLID webKey, designed to generate and store long, unique passwords for every site visited.

Thanks to its patented password protection technology, SOLID webKey can generate and store long, unique passwords for every site visited, giving owners the best security while only having to remember one master password themselves.

Developed and designed in South Africa by Ansys at its design and manufacturing facility, SOLID webKey helps internet users follow global best practices for protecting online accounts, in a simple-to-use but highly secure manner.

Ansys says the SOLID webKey represents years of experience, encapsulated in a straightforward device suitable for consumers, small businesses and enterprise use alike. It’s ease-of-use and flexibility for all purposes is underpinned by Ansys’ track record in cybersecurity design has been proven by serving demanding clients in the defence, aerospace, industrial and telecommunications sectors.

“Research performed on data that has been leaked onto the internet by criminal hackers continually shows that the general public struggles with basic account security,” explains Teddy Daka, CEO of Ansys. “Year after year, we see that easy to crack passwords such as ‘123456’ or ‘password’ are still in common use, and individuals rely on just one or two memorable passwords or passphrases to protect all their online accounts.”

The challenge is clear, says Daka. Security experts recommend the use of long passwords made up of uncommon phrases, and that every account is protected with a unique password. Yet, when millions of passwords lost in data leaks are analysed – including some of the three billion stolen from Yahoo! In 2013 – the same simple credentials are used over and over again. And if account name and password combinations details stolen from one service can be used to access another, the user is in trouble.

One significant challenge is that the best advice isn’t getting through to end-users. Many sites maintain outdated password policies which still require a mix of upper and lowercase, symbols and numbers. But even strong passphrases are impossible to remember without help, if a new one is created for every account. With SOLID webKey, users can generate passwords that comply with any policy,  using the maximum length accepted by the application, without having to remember it.

“People use easy to remember passwords because they choose convenience over security,” says Daka. “This shouldn’t come as a surprise. We shouldn’t expect people to remember passwords that are made up of 25 random characters for an account they need to access every day.

How does it work? Ansys provied the following information:

SOLID webKey helps to protect online accounts in two critical ways. As a portable password vault, it enables web users to create long, unique passwords for every service that they regularly sign into, which are stored in an encrypted database which in turn can only be accessed with a single master password.

SOLID webKey remembers difficult to crack passwords, so you don’t have to.

Passwords are stored on flash memory on-board the physical SOLID webKey device, which can be plugged into a USB port on any PC. Once plugged in, the SOLID webKey synchronises with the SOLID KeyPass software, which is derived from the industry-standard open source KeePass Password Safe, for access.

The product also has a unique and patented “liveliness” test as a second line of defence against loss of data, which requires a physical tap of the device before passwords can be accessed. This guards against the threat of malware which could steal passwords from the database after they have been decrypted.

Even strong passwords aren’t enough to defend against committed attackers, however, who may gain access to log-in credentials via phishing or other attacks.

To protect against this kind of threat, SOLID webKey’s second core feature is that it can also act as a hardware token for two-factor authentication (2FA), and is compatible with the Universal Two-Factor (U2F) standard promoted by the FIDO Alliance.

U2F is supported by popular service providers such as Google, Facebook and Dropbox. When enabled as an account setting, users will only be able to log in to these services when the SOLID webKey is physically present and the device is tapped by the user.

“Two-factor authentication is rapidly becoming the norm, and is a proven way to secure accounts,” says Daka. “Through SOLID webKey we hope to make it easier to use and therefore more popular with South Africans who want the best in online security.”

By making both strong passwords and 2FA easy to use, SOLID webKey is a major step forward for South African consumers and businesses.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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