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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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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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