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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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AppDate: DStv taps Xbox, Hisense for app

DStv Now app expands, FNB gets Snapchat lens, Spotify offers data saver mode, in SEAN BACHER’s apps roundup

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DStv Now for Xbox and Hisense

Usage of DStv Now, the online DStv service available free to DStv customers, is increasing rapidly with more than two million plays of live and Catch Up content per week. In addition to using DStv Now to watch TV on tablets and smartphones, an increasing number of DStv customers are also opting to use it as their primary method of getting DStv on additional TVs in the house. This is set to increase with the release of two new big-screen TV apps, one for Xbox gaming consoles (Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X) and another for Hisense smart TVs (2018 and newer models).

Expect to pay: A free download.

Platform: Any of the Xbox One range of gaming consoles and 2018 or later Hisense smart TVs.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your Xbox console or HiSense smart TV.

Santam Safety Ideas

Start-up businesses that have a FinTech or InsurTech business venture brewing are called to enter the third annual Santam Safety Ideas competition. Safety solutions or InsurTech ventures that are ready for piloting could win up to  R150 000 worth of incubation support and R200 000 in seed funding. 

The Safety Ideas competition was launched two years ago in partnership with LaunchLab,  Stellenbosch University’s startup incubator that facilitates valuable connections for corporates and startups sourced from the startup ecosystem and partner universities in South Africa. The previous winners are Herman Bester and Anton Swanevelder, co-founders of MyLifeLine – a wearable panic device that won the competition last year; and Ntsako Mgiba and Ntandoyenkosi Shezi, co-founders of Jonga – a cost-effective security system for low income families, which won the competition in 2017.

Entries close on 28 February 2019. For more information on how to enter, visit: www.santam.co.za/safetyideas/

Click here to read about the FNB Snapchat lens, Spotify Free with data saver, and 00:37.

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Fortnite fixes hackers’ hole

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Epic Games has repaired a vulnerability that exposed Fortnite, the world’s most popular game of the moment, to hackers. The hole, which was left in Epic’s web infrastructure,  allowed hackers to target players with email that appeared to come from Epic Games, but would have led them to a phishing site, where their log-in details would have been stolen.

Researchers at cyber security solutions provider Check Point Software alerted Epic to vulnerabilities that could have affected any player of the hugely popular online battle game.

Fortnite has nearly 80 million players worldwide. The game is popular on all gaming platforms, including Android, iOS, PC via Microsoft Windows and consoles such as Xbox One and PlayStation 4.  In addition to casual players, Fortnite is used by professional gamers who stream their sessions online, and is popular with e-sports enthusiasts.

If exploited, the vulnerability would have given an attacker full access to a user’s account and their personal information as well as enabling them to purchase virtual in-game currency using the victim’s payment card details. The vulnerability would also have allowed for a massive invasion of privacy, as an attacker could listen to in-game chatter as well as surrounding sounds and conversations within the victim’s home or other location of play. 

While Fortnite players had previously been targeted by scams that deceived them into logging into fake websites that promised to generate Fortnite’s ‘V-Buck’ in-game currency, these new vulnerabilities could have been exploited without the player handing over any login details.

Click here to read how the Fortnite hack worked

To win a set of three Fortnite Funko Pop Figurines, click here.

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