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You’re not that private!

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Images, locations and health issues are just some of the bits of data that are sent to the cloud – sometimes out of our control. But, have you wondered who has access to this data? VINCE RESENTE of Intel explores these issues an how we can address them.

You’re watching your son play a school soccer match. Your camera is ready when he scores the winning goal, taking his team to victory. You’re so proud; you can’t wait to share the news. Along with the picture, you write: “The goal that made Sunny Hills Primary School winners today; well done, Peter!”

A few hours later, you get this message: “I saw Peter’s goal for Sunny Hills – amazing! I was on the other side; you have to see this angle.” You probably won’t think twice about clicking on the link in the message – obviously the person sending the message was there, how else would he know your son’s name, his school and that he scored the winning goal?

Two months later, you can’t understand why you’ve been blacklisted and the bank won’t grant you a personal loan.

Hackers are using social engineering methods such as these, which prey on our willingness to share our lives online, to access our personal information. They trick us into following links that give them access to our phones, which these days store everything from our social media profiles, which are always logged in, to our GPS apps that have our home addresses already saved. It’s become almost too easy to steal someone’s identity.

IoT?

With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), we’ll soon be sending a lot more personal information to the cloud. Wearable devices that monitor our heart rates, blood pressure and glucose levels are becoming as common as regular wristwatches, while apps like Waze and Foursquare let anyone know where we are – and when we’re not at home, which is practically an invitation to burglars.

Where is all this information going and who has access to it? At the moment, too many people.

I don’t mind if my doctor can see my health data, but I have a problem with my medical insurance company using it to hike my premiums because my heart rate never goes past resting. And I certainly don’t want hackers getting their hands on it.

By default, our IoT DNA should be locked down in a virtual vault for which only we have the password. Only we should decide who can access what information – like an opt-in system – and block access to everyone else.

But passwords are inherently insecure, especially when we use the same one for multiple accounts. Anti-virus software and firewalls don’t offer sufficient protection as they’re easily breached and rely on users to regularly update them.

My eyes only

Everyone in the value chain has a responsibility to protect users’ information, from the users themselves and device manufacturers, to software creators and security providers.

We’re already seeing promising developments in the security industry. Soon, our faces or fingerprints will be our passwords, while password repositories will store passwords for the sites we use most often, and will only allow us to access those sites once we’ve supplied a ‘master’ password.

Device manufacturers and software vendors are also addressing flaws in existing security systems. Intel Security (previously known as McAfee), for example, is no longer just concerned with viruses and firewalls. It now checks multiple entries for infiltration and records common patterns. Anything out of the ordinary – if your computer pings every other PC on the network, for example – will get blocked and reported.

Soon we won’t need anti-virus software because the processor will be doing the smart thinking to flag suspicious behaviour. Every PC will be equipped with a software appliance that will operate as the firewall instead of having to load software onto an operating system.

In the past, we could walk the streets at night and not continually look over our shoulders. Today, we jump at every sound and take precautions to protect ourselves. We’ve adapted to changes in our physical security; we need to apply that same vigilance to cyber security.

* Vince Resente, Enterprise Technology Specialist at Intel Corporation

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Homemation creates comfort through smart homes

Home automation is more than just turning the lights on and off, Homemation’s Gedaliah Tobias tells BRYAN TURNER

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The world is taking interior design notes from the Danish, in a style of living called hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). Its meaning varies from person to person: some see hygge as a warm fire on a cold winter’s night, others see it as a cup of hot coffee in the morning. The amount of “good feelings” one gets from these relaxing activities depends on what one values as indulgent.

But how does technology fit into this “art of feeling good”?

We asked Homemation marketing manager Gedaliah Tobias to take us through a fully automated home of the future and show us how automation creates comfort and good feelings.

“The house is powered by Control4, which you can think of as the brain of the smart home,” says Tobias. “It controls everything from the aircon to smart vacuum cleaners.”

The home of the future is secured by a connected lock. It acts like other locks with keypads and includes a key in the event of a power interruption. The keypad is especially useful to those who want to provide temporary access to visitors, staff, or simply kids who might lose their parents’ house keys.

“The keypad is especially useful for temporary access,” says Tobias. “For example, if you have a garden service that needs to use the home for the day, they can be given a code that only turns off the perimeter alarm beams in the garden for the day and time. If that code is used outside of the day and time range, users can set up alerts for their armed response to be alerted. This type of smart access boosts security.”

Once inside, one is greeted with a “scene” – a type of recipe for electronic success. The scene starts by turning on the lights, then by alerting the user to disarm the alarm. After the alarm is disarmed, the user can start another more complicated scene.

“Users can request customised scene buttons,” says Tobias. “For example, if I press the ‘Dinner call’ scene, the lights start to flash in the bedroom, there’s an announcement from the smart speakers, the blinds start to come down, the lighting is shifted to the dinner table. Shifting focus with lighting creates a mood to bring the house together for dinner.”

Homemation creates these customised scene buttons to enable users to control their homes without having to use another device. In addition to scene buttons, there are several ways to control the smart home.

 “Everything in the smart home is controllable from your phone, the touchscreens around the house, the TV, and the dedicated remote control. Everyone is different, so having multiple ways to control the house is a huge value add.”

We ask Tobias where Homemation recommends non-smart home users should start on their smart home journey.

“Before anything, the Control4 infrastructure needs to be set up. This involves a lot of communications and electrical cabling to be run to different areas of the home to enable connectivity throughout the home. After the infrastructure is set up, the system is ready for smart home devices, like lighting and sound.”

“For new smart home users, the best bang for their buck would be to start with lighting once the infrastructure is set up. Taking it one step at a time is wise.”

•    For more information, visit https://www.homemation.co.za/

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Face App grabs SA attention

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South Africans generated more than 100 000 search queries for “Face App” on Wednesday, while only generating 50 000 for “Mandela Day”. The Internet wentcrazy over the two-year-old app, which uses artificial intelligence to create a rendering of what users might look like in a few decades. Face App went viral as users posted their aged likenesses on social media in the #faceappchallenge. Privacy experts, however, warned that the app (made in Russia) may pose a threat to users’ privacy as it stores photos on its servers, with US Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, appealing to the FBI to investigate the app. 

In other top searches on Google this week, “Johnny Clegg” garnered more than 500 000 search queries on Tuesday as the news of his passing broke. The ‘White Zulu’ of Juluka and Savuka fame was an internationally acclaimed musician who was also an important figure in the fight against apartheid. Tributes to Clegg have been flooding media and social media over the past couple of days. Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66.

More than 200 000 search queries were generated for “Mark Batchelor” on Monday after the former soccer star was brutally gunned down outside his Olivedale home in Gauteng. Investigations into the shooting are still ongoing. Batchelor played for Orlando Pirates, Wits University, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Moroka Swallows and Bafana Bafana. 

“Jacob Zuma” also garnered more than 100 000 search queries on Monday as he made his first, much-anticipated appearance in front of the Zondo Commission on state capture. 

On Sunday “Macdonald Ndou” picked up more than 10 000 search queries after reports of theMuvhango actor’s arrest made the rounds. Ndou was held on various charges including extortion and kidnapping. The Hawks have reportedly provisionally withdrawn charges against the TV star, but a spokesperson said the decision to withdraw does not mean the charges will not be reinstated.

“Serena Williams” garnered more than 50 000 searches on Saturday as the tennis superstar suffered a 6-2, 6-2 defeat against Simona Halep in a Wimbledon final that lasted just 56 minutes. Williams later told Agence France Presse, “She [Halep] played out of her mind” and “I was like a deer in headlights”.

Last Friday, South Africans produced more than 20 000 search queries for “Duduzane Zuma” as the Randburg Magistrates Court found the former first son not guilty of a charge of culpable homicide. In February 2014, Zuma was involved in a car crash that took the life of Phumzile Dube when his vehicle crashed into the taxi she was travelling in.

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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