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Travellers beware: cyber criminals are following

By DOROS HADJIZENONOS, regional sales director at Fortinet



The world has become a global village and travel across the continent and around the world is easier than ever before. But whether people are travelling for business or leisure, many are not fully prepared to deal with all of the risks that can come with being on the road and navigating new destinations. While theft of physical possessions, such as passports, bags and wallets may be our biggest concerns, the threat of cyber theft is quickly becoming more likely – and with potentially bigger losses than just a missing suitcase.   

En route can be riskier than at home

For most people in today’s technology-reliant world, the thought of being offline for extended periods of time is almost impossible to imagine. Which is why it is critical that those traveling with multiple digital devices not only prepare against the potential theft of the devices themselves, but also guard against cybersecurity and data theft.

The incidence of data theft and malware rises daily, and individuals face a growing risk of having their identity stolen to allow criminals to access their accounts. Last year, the South African Fraud Prevention Service said some types of identity fraud had risen by as much as 99% over the year before.  This risk is heightened when people are travelling, as they are often navigating unfamiliar territory while distracted, leaving their devices in the open and connected to the internet and Wi-Fi.

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to reduce your vulnerability and exposure to potential cyber threats.

Travel light: Try to limit the number of connected devices you will be carrying and take only what’s absolutely necessary. Be sure to remove as much personal data from those devices as possible, and take the time to back up data and devices to a secure cloud. In this way, you’ll reduce your risk of identity theft and have access to all important documents even if your cellphone, tablet or laptop is stolen or lost.

Encrypt data stored on your device: When possible, use encryption software to keep sensitive data private, even if devices have to be surrendered for inspection at a border. You should also install a VPN application and know how to use it for those times when business or transactions need to be handled in a public setting.

Ensure the physical security of your devices: When your devices are not in use, be sure to keep your devices turned off and locked with a password to prevent them from being accessible to those who could use them for profitable gain alongside cyber criminals.  

Don’t reuse passwords: While many choose to save time and energy by using the same password across multiple accounts, this can enhance the damage that is done by a single password theft event. In order to reduce the risk of password-based cyber risk, individuals need to get creative. This includes swapping letters for numbers or using the first letter of each word in a favourite catchphrase. For an extra layer of security, two-factor authentication is another viable option for protecting sensitive information.

Be aware of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth risks: Cyber criminals looking to steal data often spoof public Wi-Fi networks in various settings, including airports, coffee shops, and hotels. While these networks appear to be safe, and still connect you to the Internet, they are also stealing your data and user credentials. Turn off automatic connections for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your phone, confirm that a business’ Wi-Fi SSID matches what you are seeing on your phone, and set up your phone as a hotspot as opposed to using public Wi-Fi networks.

Avoid USB charger ports: While USB charging stands in public settings can be tempting, plugging a USB cable into these charging ports can enable cyber criminals to download your personal data while your device is charging. This threat, also known as “juice jacking”, can be avoided by simply plugging in your own adapter to a normal electrical outlet or a portable charger. For those times when the charging stand is the only option, make sure your devices are turned off before they get plugged in.

Recognise phishing attempts: Phishing attacks are a common threat that many fall victim to on a regular basis. If you are sent a suspicious link from somebody you know and trust, confirm it was in fact them who sent it – if not, their email could be compromised. Look out for key signs of a phishing scam, including bad grammar, misspellings, or uncharacteristic language. Finally, hover over URLs before clicking on links to determine whether or not they are genuine.

Avoid sharing information: When you’re travelling, there is no need to let the criminals back home know you are away from home.

While cybersecurity may not be top of mind for most people as they prepare to travel, it can mean the difference between having a successful trip and having your personal information stolen. By understanding the cyber risks associated with travelling, you can effectively prepare and make the most of your time away, no matter where you are in the world.


How social distance has transformed health services

The COVID-19 crisis has quickly transformed healthcare, ranging from hospital protocols to how doctors see patients, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



A doctor friend recently came into contact with a patient who had been exposed to a family member who had contracted coronavirus. In line with protocols his clinic had adopted in addressing the COVID-19 crisis, he had to be tested himself and then self-isolate for 14 days.

While he waited for the test results, he set up his practice at home, and moved all appointments from physical to telephonic and video-conferenced consultations. And a remarkable thing happened: he was able to see far more patients in far less time. No less than 50 consultations were completed in the first few days.

This is a scenario that is playing itself out across the world.

A week before the lockdown began in South Africa, Discovery Health announced that it was expanding access to its online doctor consultation platform, DrConnect. It invited members who thought they were ill or thought they may have symptoms to do virtual consultations with their doctors.

The benefit was obvious, said the medical insurance provider: “This will prevent medical facilities from becoming overcrowded with people, possibly spreading infection to others.”

To avoid members rushing to use the facility, it required them to visit a COVID-19 hub and answer a series of “risk assessment questions” to determine if they needed to have a virtual consultation. If your own doctor is not available, a dedicated COVID-19 Care Team of doctors is on standby, and the patients are guided through a few steps to book the virtual consultation.

Last week, the service went a step further: Vodacom partnered with Discovery to offer the benefit to all South Africans during the pandemic.

“Globally, telemedicine has proved invaluable in the management of this disease, with many governments and healthcare systems advocating for digital healthcare tools and virtual consults to be the first step and primary means of healthcare support during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Vodacom in a statement. “The COVID-19 risk assessment and virtual healthcare tools can help to identify people who need health professional engagement and a potential referral for testing or to a hospital.”

The service also helps to bridge the digital divide between the privileged who have the tools and data for videoconferencing and the less privileged who can barely afford data on their smartphones. The online healthcare platform is available on any web or mobile phone, and allows for a full consultation with a doctor through video or audio calls, or by text.

Vodacom and Discovery have also jointly created a fund to pay doctors for approximately 100 000 consultations, making them free to any South African.

“Our partnership with Discovery can go a long way in alleviating any increased pressure on healthcare practitioners while at the same time empowering citizens by connecting them to doctors,” says Vodacom group CEO Shameel Joosub. “As a leading technology company, we are optimistic about the capabilities of digital connectivity to transform the lives of our communities. Through the online doctor consultation platform, anyone looking for COVID-19 related information will be connected to a network of doctors who will be readily available to answer their questions.”

Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery Group, says the initiative is in line with the company’s core purpose: making people healthier.

“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that purpose is very simple – we need to keep South Africans out of harm’s way,” he says. “We are very hopeful that this initiative will make a huge impact on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa – for the good of all our citizens.”

It is no only ordinary individuals but doctors, too, who have to climb the steep learning curve towards the new world and ways of healthcare.

My own general practitioner has resisted new technology for years. Now, his smartphone has become a lifeline for his patients, and a tool to protect himself as far as it is practical.

Doctors have also been invited to download the Discovery HealthID and DrConnect apps to join the virtual healthcare platform. Those who are behind the technology curve receive guidance on how to consult, as well as how to receive payment from a dedicated fund that Discovery and Vodacom have set up for these specific consultations. A total of 10,000 free consultations are initially being provided as part of the service.

This service, and similar ones globally, will mark a watershed in the history of telemedicine, defined by the US Health Resources and Services Administration as “distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies”.

It is not a new concept in South Africa. As far back as 2008, Cape Town social entrepreneur Marlon Parker founded an organisation called RLabs – for Reconstructed Living Labs – in a marginalised community known as Bridgetown. The initial purpose was to counsel drug addicts, and its primary tool was the now-defunct instant messaging tool Mxit.

The service expanded into Mxit Reach, which create free mobile educational, health care, agricultural and community resources. While Mxit is gone, RLabs still focuses on skills training and economic empowerment opportunities.

It showed how even the most basis cellphone could be roped in to change people’s lives, at a distance. More than a decade later, the entire health industry is waking up to the need and the benefit of such approaches.

Visit the next page to read about how to get an online doctor’s appointment.

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Dell offers deferment of payment for financed IT

Dell Technologies South Africa announces payment deferment options for new and existing customers



To help organisations limit the unprecedented pressure put on their cash flow and financing by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dell Technologies South Africa is announcing payment deferment options for current and new customers financed through Dell Financial Services (DFS).

DFS offers 3- and 6-month payment deferment on end-user devices and enterprise systems bought by South African companies, covering financing arrangements from R250,000 to R15 million. Once the deferment has been applied for and processed, subject to credit approval, buyers of end-user devices can enjoy a delay of up to 3 months, while enterprise systems buyers can do so for up to 6 months.

The deadline for deferment approvals closes on 31 July – it requires 10-14 days to process applications, so do not hesitate. By successfully applying for the deferment, a company can delay payments for its financing contract with DFS as well as gain protection against the volatile Rand/Dollar exchange rate.

DFS customers also have the benefit of locking in a rate today. Interest will be compounded at the lowest rate, decided on a case-by-case. In addition, Dell will support extended warranties to include the added deferment period.

New customers can take advantage of the offer to begin their technology modernisation and refreshment projects. This deferment is an opportunity to secure their organisations’ futures further, pending on credit approval. Talk to a Dell consultant today on the best technology options, and delay payments while enjoying the advantages from the start. The deferred payment offer is only applicable to financed transactions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unexpected and unusual financial pressures for South African companies,” said Monique Watson at Dell Financial Services. “We want to support local companies and the economy during this difficult period, enabling them to continue their growth and output without worrying that their modernisation investments will be undone. If we all stand together, we can overcome the damage of this pandemic.”

Organisations can start applying today and reap the benefits within 14 days. Don’t delay – the deadline for approvals is 31 July 2020. Deploy now, pay later, and enjoy some cash flow relief with Dell Financial Services’ payment deferment offer.

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