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VPNs vs Torrents: how enterprise can take on challenge

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The Internet is one of the most significant inventions of our time. But, at the same time, this unlimited access to information has also made us very vulnerable to the snares and tricks of cyber criminology, writes GRAHAM CROOCK, Director, IT Audit, Risk and BDO Cyber Lab.

The dangers of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and BitTorrent have been the impetus behind cyber-attacks perpetuated by cyber criminals on many unsuspecting users.

VPNs, which are virtual in nature, are networks created within other networks. These enable users to exchange data across shared or public networks, primarily owing to the fact that they run on the internet.

It is for this reason that the internet is the communications structure for VPNs — they can never be completely private as they abide in the context of the Internet, which makes them susceptible to cyber-attacks through hackers being able to identify the IP addresses of the equipment connected to the specific network targeted for an attack.

It is important to remember that any device which is capable of accessing the internet and connected to a network has an IP address.

Firewalls are among the initial forms of protecting and securing private networks. This comprises having the best possible firewall technology on either end of the network. However, what remains a constant predicament for a number of users is the cost implications associated with efficiently protecting private networks.  Often, users are faced with a trade-off between cost and security.

The dynamics of fighting against cybercrime positions defenders — those defending themselves from the scourge of cybercriminal activity — at a disadvantage from a cost perspective.

Cybercriminals execute their attacks at almost zero cost. Tthese criminals share vast pieces of code by stringing them together to formulate their attack methodologies. The culminating effect is that it becomes very economical for hackers to launch their attacks, a stimulus in the rise of cybercriminal activity.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, defenders are required to invest extensive time and resources as well as equipment in protecting themselves from cyber-attacks.

In light of this, our research continues to delve even deeper into the complexities of cyber-attack practices and methodologies.

The information age has also been a vibrant force in the promotion of the immediate consumption of information. With the infinite supply of information and content at our fingertips, the internet has become an online supply of data through file sharing and downloading.

BitTorrent has emerged as the fast and economical way of downloading files from the internet. BitTorrent sites are maintained by other torrent users who download, upload and share files with other users to access these files, such as music and movies.

VPN servers are often used to download torrents as they anonymise the torrenting activity. This culminates in the internet service providers being unable to determine what users are downloading, even though they can conclude that there is downloading activity taking place.

The main misfortunes that emanate from torrenting is the introduction of malware, a prevalent tool used by cybercriminals to propagate cyber-attacks on unsuspecting users. This originates from the fact that the data files that exist on these site are untrusted, and therefore, hackers use this notion to embed viruses and Trojans.

Another significantly overlooked facet is that of copywriting and legal consequences stemming from downloading content which could be subject to copywriting laws.

Education and training must remain at the forefront of preparedness against cybercrime. This approach is the impulse which will spur the surge in awareness among users to employ the necessary precautions required to combat the scourge of cyber criminology. Education and training is the podium that will emphasise users to take full ownership of their engagement with the internet.

Information technology continues to surge, and thus our awareness and alertness to these changes and developments must stay abreast. Hackers have the capabilities to access information about individuals through VPNs which should instead be a solution for users in relation to anonymous torrenting.

Through education and training, the Internet can be safely navigated by taking the necessary precautions which will stifle the progress of hackers.

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Notre Dame, Scoop Makhathini, GoT, top week in search

From fire disaster to social media disaster, the top Google searches this week covered a wide gamut of themes.

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Paris and the whole world looked on in shock as the 856-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral crumbled into ash. The tragic infernal destruction of this tourist attraction of historical and religious significance led South Africans to generate more than 200 000 search queries for “Notre Dame Cathedral” on Monday. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that razed the architectural icon.

In other top trending searches on Google this week, radio presenter Siyabonga Ngwekazi, AKA Scoop Makhathini, went viral when it appeared he had taken to Twitter to expose his girlfriend, Akhona Carpede, for cheating on him. Scoop has since come out to say that he was not responsible for the bitter rant and that his account was hacked. “Scoop Makhathini” generated more than 20 000 search queries on Wednesday.

Fans generated more than 20 000 search queries for “Sam Smith” on Tuesday ahead of the the British superstar’s Cape Town performance at the Grand West Casino. Smith ended up cutting his performance short that night due to vocal strain.

Local Game of Thrones superfans were beside themselves on Sunday, searching the internet high and low for the first episode of the American fantasy drama’s eighth season. “Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 1” generated more than 100 000 queries on Google Search on the weekend.

As the festivities kicked off in California with headliners such as Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande, South Africans generated more than 2 000 search queries for “Coachella” on Saturday.

South Africans generated more than 5 000 search queries for “Wendy Williams” on Friday  as it emerged that the American talk show host had filed for divorce from her husband Kevin Hunter after 21 years of marriage. Hunter has long been rumored to have been cheating on Williams, which reportedly finally led to the divorce.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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5G smartphones to hit 5M sales in 2019

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According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Early 5G smartphone models will be expensive and available in limited volumes. Samsung, LG and Huawei will be the early 5G smartphone leaders this year, followed by Apple next year.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We forecast global 5G smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Less than 1 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide will be 5G-enabled this year. Global 5G smartphone shipments are tiny for now, due to expensive device pricing, component bottlenecks, and restricted availability of active 5G networks.”

Ville Petteri-Ukonaho, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung will be the early 5G smartphone leader in the first half of 2019, due to initial launches across South Korea and the United States. We predict LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola and others will follow later in the year, followed by Apple iPhone with its first 5G model during the second half of 2020. The iPhone looks set to be at least a year behind Samsung in the 5G smartphone race and Apple must be careful not to fall too far behind.”

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The short-term outlook for 5G smartphones is weak, but the long-term opportunity remains huge. We forecast 1 billion 5G smartphones to ship worldwide per year by 2025. The introduction of 5G networks, by carriers like Verizon or China Mobile, opens up high-speed, ultra-low-latency services such as 8K video, streaming games, and augmented reality for business. The next big question for the mobile industry is how much extra consumers are really willing to pay, if anything, for those emerging 5G smartphones and services.”

Strategy Analytics provides a snapshot analyses for the outlook for 5G smartphone market in this Insight report: 5G Smartphones : From Zero to a Billion

Strategy Analytics provides a deep-dive into the air-interface technologies that will power phones through 2024 across 88 countries here: Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies : 2003 to 2024

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