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Your password peril

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Most online social services require a password to gain access to them, but according to research by Kaspersky Lab, many users stick to a favourite or easy to guess password, which is used across all of these accounts, making users very vulnerable to online attacks.

With the increasing importance of the online world and its impact on our daily lives, today people spend more and more time online using web-based services such as, social networks including Twitter, Linkedin, Skype, as well as email, online banking and so on. However, generally, each of these services requires us to use a password for access the problem however is that too many people tend to stick to one ‚’favourite’ password for all their online interactions which can make them vulnerable to online attacks.

Using the same password for different services can be quite tempting and is often the case for many individuals today. However, such an approach can be dangerous, and while it may seem easier to just use one password for all accounts, it is important to note that this could make your online experience vulnerable and therefore, more emphasis needs to be placed on the use of more complex passwords which are not as easily recognisable.

‚”Kaspersky Lab did some research with our friends on Facebook and asked them how many passwords they have for all their online accounts to ascertain if people where using one password for all their accounts. Not surprisingly, about 20% of respondents admitted that they use the same password for all their online accounts,‚” explains Riaan Badenhorst, Head of Operations for Sub-Saharan Africa for Kaspersky Lab.

‚”This statistic needs to change! Consumers need to understand that it is not safe to only have one password for all their online accounts. Cyber criminals are aware that people make use of only one password and so they know that if they can get their hands on this password, it will lead them to access many accounts, which of course can be very beneficial to them,‚” adds Badenhorst.

The research was conducted in a number of countries where the study demonstrated that Russia was the most security-savvy (only 12% of users only have one password to access all their online accounts) and is the most aware of cybercriminals, which translated into the understanding of why it is important to upload proper security onto computers and mobile phones. However, Mexico was identified, in this study, as the most vulnerable to IT threats with 26% of users only having/using one password.

In light of the research Kaspersky Lab conducted with its Facebook friends, the brand was able to divulge even further and unravel some startling insight:

 One user in five countries has the same password for every account

 The average user has five accounts, which means 67% of users have one password for at least two accounts

 17% of users use their birthdates in their passwords

 10% use their telephone numbers

 10% use their names

 9% use their pets name

 12345 is the most popular password, followed by:

o Qwerty

o 1a263b

o Password

o Open up

o Buzz off

‚”While the research points to interesting country and user behaviour, beyond this it is still important to get online users to understand which category they fall into. Today, too many people still do not understand the dangers of only having one password and still maintain that online security breaches ‚’will never happen to me’ attitude?‚” says Badenhorst.

Kaspersky Lab urges all users to educate themselves on the severity of the situation today and follow the brands safety rules to ensure online accounts are kept safe. These safety rules include the following:

 Use strong passwords, which cannot be guessed.

 Keep passwords in your head or use a special programme to store them.

‚”I recommend all users to always be aware of cybercriminals and to make use of more than one password when dealing with their online accounts and the more complicated the password is, the better,‚” says Badenhorst.

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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