Password House of Cards

One of the password golden rules is that you do not reuse passwords.

To secure you valuables and information you need a password for everything. From social media accounts to banks and credit cards from e-commerce to website logins and apps logins. The list goes on and on and on, you get the picture. We are hosing passwords we cannot remember on the cloud. What makes everything worse is that we still get hacked because our password are not strong enough. By the way this happens even with strong passwords. It just takes hackers a little longer. 

The stronger your passwords the more difficult it is to remember so we buy apps to help us remember.

They are sold with the promise that you just need to remember only one password, the master password. The others are stored online for you. Now big companies have created an even riskier way of storing your passwords. It’s called “Login with Facebook”, Login with Apple” and “Login with Email”. Essentially what this means is the you give your life’s information to one of the three. Compromised accounts in the past should actually deter us from using them but we still do. It’s convenient and easy, that is until you get hacked. 

I scanned my passwords file to see how many access points I had and how many different password I had. Strangely, I found fewer unique passwords which means I repeat some of my passwords on multiple logins. I also realised how many I cannot remember except the few I used frequently. So is there a solution to this? The simple answer is NO and the easy answer is YES but unless you live in times when the internet did not exist the answer remains a firm NO. Solution that I use are:

  • Change your password as frequently as possible and 
  • Where possible also use the fingerprint facility and photo Id and
  • Use a very strong password

There are a number of available apps which offers high encryption. You need to make up your mind which is suitable for your needs. I tried from the list below and settled on one of them and my phone. There are much much more to choose from.

  • Your phone – outdated but still my favourite
  • LastPass – all OS at a fee
  • 1Password – all OS at a fee
  • Dashlane – all OS at a fee

All these solutions offers accessibility anywhere on any operating system by charging a monthly or annual subscription. This is supposedly aimed at making your life easier, until you passwords become for sale because the company was hacked. It is strange how we so easily relinquish our security at a price with no guarantees. Ironic, considering every website and bank says not to share your PIN or password with anyone. Once you pay your information is no longer just yours but everyone else who can crack that company’s encryption.

The reason we increase security for our house is either because we live in a bad neighbourhood or our house was broken into or we fear that our house might be broken into. Don’t get me wrong, I use one of these systems and has worked very well for me over the years. I love the security of my phone. It’s with me all the time, password protected either with my fingerprint or facial recognition and it can only be hack by someone who physically has to access my phone. Before I converted to the online subscription apps I used a notepad on my phone with a password. So I had double encryption. My phone PIN and password protected notepad to access my password list. The downside is that if I were lose my phone I have to start from scratch. Trust me that’s not fun at all. 

Lastly, change you master password regularly and make it as strong as possible. 

It’s the only one you really have to remember. 

Home Offices

In 1987, I saw my first computer when I was studying at the University of South Africa. It was my first year out of high school. I knew then that I was hooked. You could type a name of a book and it will tell you where to find it. Somedays I sat there for hours just typing book name and check if the computer was right. I was fascinated. A friend of mine was studying computer programming so he spent more time on it and the way he talked about computers made me even more fascinated. I guess what I should have done then was to follow this path, but I did not.

I used to wonder, maybe to some extent I still do, how TV shows always showed computer being always connected. There seemed to be an automatic connection which did not exit yet, at least. In real life, even now, you have to navigate through a lot of interactions in order to get connected. When I went to Europe I experience this first hand, granted this was ten year ago. Maybe things have improved now, but I doubt it. Connections that are not intended to steal your information are secure and you have to acquire access through payment. Even after this gaining access is not as simple as all that. It’s almost as if you need some computer degree to navigate the process. Technology these days has tried to make it easier to get online albeit a few people million at a time. 

Statistics shows that more that 50% on South African population has internet connection, either though mobile phones, work or personal computers.

What the statistics does not show is the average number of unique users of the internet. This 50% may be a result of multiple connections from the same person. For example my internet connections in my house is close to 15 in total comprising of 6 cellphones, 3 tablets, 4 laptops and 2 gaming consoles. There are only 4 people in my house. Does this count as 15 user or 4 users. The unemployment rate is estimated at 25% but we believe it to be 50%, which means less than 25% on the population internet access. Technology was mean to rescue us during the lockdown but instead we were plagued with endless connectivity challenges due to the system being overworked or taken over by criminals. 

Our infrastructure support companies with one entry point irrespective of how many employees there are. One access point which could be increased or decrease according to demand. Those employees are no longer accessing the internet through this one point but through millions and millions of access points from various locations. So what ended up happening that weakness and heavy traffic usage in the system started showing up. Video conferencing facilities were hacked and disrupted. Some became so slow it became ineffective to hold online meetings. Video conferencing became teleconferencing i.e audio only. Staying at home also created a streaming consumption of online video content, TV Shows, Movies and games. Congestion moved from the roads to the house i.e. online.

So why were we not ready, technology-wise? We clearly have the technology, expertise and resources. When the rest of the world was downloading content at 30mb per second and few years back, in South Africa were happy to be paying the same rate for only 3 – 4mb per second, maybe even less. Why? The world has reached 100mb speeds or more but were are still lagging behind at 10mb maybe 20mb at a very hefty price. When the lockdown started, we started running around trying to figure out what to do next. As the days went by, the difficulties of connecting became more and more of a challenge. We tried to implement first world solutions to third world challenges. We left so many people behind when we introduced online learning without first determining who has access. The academic year is at risk of being cancelled because we don’t know how many kids we are not reaching in order to continue our school year. Teachers are probably reaching 50%, more or less, of their kids who have the means to access online content.

It is time that we look at our needs as a South African society and start addressing them. A relook at what we are doing, currently, and where we want to go from here. What is the actual cost of working from home? Throughout this world pandemic, people have shared their experiences of home offices and home schooling. There was an easier transition for those businesses that already had employees working from home, however introducing this business model at short notice presented challenges. As with any business decision, when it is difficult to adapt the only option left is to let employees go. We have seen, heard or read around the world how people have lost their jobs because business could not adapt quickly enough. We also seen companies forcing employees to come to work risking their health and that of the world. The economy cannot survive this so whether we like it on not we need to adapt.

Digital Coupling

The human being are a close contact animal. We are designed to live in groups, for safety and survival, love, progress and the feeling of belonging. Without human contact survival of the human race is at risk. To create humans, the tried and tested method of contact is still the human thing to do. This is what human beings were designed for, to be a factory for other human. Irrespective of your belief system, as humans we have evolved from what we were back then to what we are today. It may be argued that we became what we are through our own doing not discounting other external factors which played a part in shaping our reality as it is today.

Travelling used to take years by moving from one place to another just to do business or see another place. At the time, it was the only way to do things. A patch of land used to feed family. Excess food from the land was exchanged with others for a different type of food. Agriculture was born. It was impossible, as it is today, to create everything that we needed to survive. Trading was born to exchange what one person had with what they needed from another person. This used to happen face to face, which created communities trading with each other. Now it can be done online and a drone will even deliver what you bought right to your door.

 

Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution: The Digital Age

How we continues to interact as humans when faced with virus with abilities to wipe out mankind depends on our ability to evolve, adapt and be creative. All the revolutions which happened before, was leading to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (#fir), the digital revolution, or as I call it the “Forced Uncoupling of Man, (#forum). What is happening is simply another form revolution which is forcing humans to adapt to a new way of doing things. Technology is playing a vital role of creating capabilities which will facilitate the “Digital Coupling, (#digicoup). If you searched for today’s jobs that will become obsolete soon it becomes evident  that most are those that involve human interactions. These are being replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Augmented Intelligence as it is now referred. Technology is augmentation with Humans in collaboration. 

How prepared are we for this transformation from #forum to #digicoup. It caught us by surprise. We went from teaching our kids in classes to looking at computer screen. Technology has been advancing at a slow pace due to adoption. An increase in demand has put stress on these systems and that is why they are failing. Not because they are not adequate but because a flood on demand did not give time for companies to increase capacity at the same pace. As we see more and more people working from home, more and more of these service will remain in high demand. We need to still hold meetings, teach our kids, transact and trade. Infrastructure is at the core of any of these system. We do this by adapting to the current technology available. FaceTime©, Skype© , Zoom© , WhatsApp©  and Microsoft Teams© are the new boardrooms, dating sites and classrooms. People are conducting their meeting on these platforms and more. Internet connectivity is the mode of transport and infrastructure and the computer networks that were enabling this interaction. And finally the human factor is the last piece of the puzzle.

The future has become the present. We no longer need to prepare for tomorrow when tomorrow is already here.

Computer Virus and Corona Virus

My computer was infected by viruses the other day. This is my fourth time. After the first time I took precautions and thought it will never happen to me again. And then it did happen again. I added more security but I did not change my computer and when I did I forgot about the virus security. I only realised one day that my new computer was infected, AGAIN. Why me, I thought. What this showed me is that no matter how strong my security can be, if I slip up and forget to lock the door i.e. don’t update my antivirus software, my computer will get infected. They say once beaten twice shy however in the case of viruses, computer or biological, it’s “x” to the power of (n) shy. You will be beaten over and over and over and over again… you get it right? Right.

While the world panics around corona (COVID-19), the world forget about the sinister underground world of hacking and information hijacking. Computer viruses are as old as the computers themselves and while biological viruses are quickly attended to, the world quickly declares the national disaster, your computer virus is your own problem. Yet these viruses have the potential to wreak as much have and their biological counterparts.

So, what happened to my computer when it was infected by this virus. My computer started slowing down almost to a halt. I keep an eye of my computer resources so I could quickly check them. Then things heated up and I saw that my computer’s hard disk space was being reduced, as if an installation was happening right before my eyes. My internet modem was very active for no device surfing the net. It was as if I was downloading a very big file. My hard disk space reduced by 15gb in two hours.

I tried a few things just to be sure 

  1. I disconnected my laptop from my Wi-Fi and the modem calmed down, 
  2. my disk space stopped reducing space, 
  3. I left them for 30 minutes to makes sure, 
  4. I restarted my laptop after 30 minutes, reactivated wi-fi back on and watched as the process continued. 

I knew this was a virus infection. Unfortunately even without the internet you never really know what the virus is doing in the background so the only alternative is a vaccine or in this case an antivirus software.

How does this happen, how does a computer virus attack your computer? Unlike biological viruses you computer cannot be infected by touch or sneezing or coughing. You physically have to install it, sometime without even know that you are. How you would you not know, ask? We love free stuff, we click on links that promises us free games or free software. We open email links from unknown sources. This is the cough or physical contact that the virus needs to infect your computer. 

My virus software shows that there are an estimated 14,441,873 Total Virus Signatures in the world, that’s 14 million signatures that you have to protect your computer against. These viruses ranges from the simplest one that just slows you computer down to the ones that takes over the world by hijacking information for a fee, called ransomware. Some companies have lost information and had close their doors due to some of these viruses. 

You are probably thinking, you don’t have much that hackers may want to steal from you right? WRONG. Think about it for a minute and you’ll see how wrong you really are, for example:

1) You identity could be used to create credit card debts or take over your life i.e identity theft,

2) Your picture or that of your family, with photoshop can be placed on anyones body and put on the internet,

3) Your bank account can be drained of all your money in a matter of minutes, maybe even seconds,

4) The passwords you use can be stolen and used for criminal purposes.

The list goes on. Now all of this happens in seconds or minutes but to undo them takes forever plus one month. So how do we protect ourselves from this. It’s not easy or fullproof. With biological viruses, a visit to your doctor who then prescribes antibiotics, exercise, sleep, fluids, etc and you get better at least until next time. The course of action is almost similar for computer viruses, except you’re the doctor who needs to research reputable software companies to help you combat the virus, at a fee. You paid the doctor, so why not the antivirus company. Is it worth the investment? Yes and no.

Technology imitates life or visa versa

Yes, in that it creates a feeling of your computer being secure by doing this and to an extend it is protected as long as you update your software and pay your subscription. This is going to become even more vital as we all migrate to the cloud. No, in that if you kept up your end of the deal i.e. your software is up to date and your subscription paid up and you still get hacked or your computer is infected with a virus, you have no recourse from the antivirus company in the same way as you have no recourse against a doctor if the medication he prescribed does not offers relief.

So what did I do differently this time around. Nothing really. I found and ran some of the free antivirus tools which found nothing. I also ran the premium software at a basic scan and it also found nothing. I then ran a full scan, overnight because it takes very long and slows down your computer a bit. It found and cleaned 19 viruses. I ran the full scan for the second time just to make sure. Did it work, I don’t know. Only time will tell.

Most people would probably have started looking at buying a new computer because this. As I just showed you, it is not slow, it was just sick. The cost of buying a new computer in comparison to the work I did is ten times less. Yes it took some time to assess and restore it to the usable state but I can probably still use it for and few more years, by only updating my software. 

Acteq It Solutions is an information technology company which help clients keep up with advanced technology by keeping it up to date for them and saving them time and money in the process. Our technicians have years’ of experience in dealing with security issues such as this. Put us to the test.

Passwords – Protect your own

The most common entry into your property or house is through the physical doors. Your physical possessions are contained in your house, you family also. What is becoming more valuable is information. With information, your life can be turned upside-down. Your bank account can be raided and all the funds stolen. 

Technology has created this illusion that our information is safe. We are giving our personal details very easily with the promise of making our life easy. This is true in most instances but we become complacent in not asking questions why I am so freely given information about my life away. Who am I giving it to and are they going to keep safe. 

We are very quick to click “I agree on the terms and conditions that we don’t take time to read them properly and ask questions. The realisation kicks in we are violated and start asking questions. We get surprised by the answers we are given – terms and conditions. Only then do we realise what we did but by then it may already be too late. Hackers loves the fact that we are so casual about our information. Constantly we are told to create strong passwords but it is an inconvenience because we are afraid we will forget them, which we do. Or we use one password for all our logins. All a hacker has to do is gain access to that password and they can take over your life. 

Small business using technology are at a high risk of financial loss due to access to all business information being given to one person because they trust them. Before they know that trust has been violated. We all know this, the simple rules to safeguard your information:

  1. Use very strong passwords with a combination of alphanumeric capital and characters. 
  2. Each login should have its own unique password that complies to number 1 above. 
  3. The same way you don’t give your house keys to stranger, never give your password to anyone especially via a telephone or email. 
  4. Don’t click on strange links asking you to enter your details. 
  5. Verify the source of the email asking you for information before responding. If unsure, delete the email. 

Here are 2020 examples of a bad passwords (Google search will show you more) that are being used and to avoid at all cost. If any of them look at all familiar, go and change the respective account login credentials immediately – 1) 12345, 2) 123456, 3) 123456789, 4) test1, 5) password, 6) 12345678, 7) zinch, 8) g_czechout, 9) asdf, 10) qwerty, 11) 1234567890, 12) 1234567, 13) Aa123456., 14) iloveyou, etc.

Cloud Storage or Computing

One colleague says to another –  Data is in the Cloud who then responds by saying – There is no Cloud. It is just a fluffy name for a bunch of warehouses full of hardware, which can be hacked. But Wikipedia says – Cloud storage is a computer data storage in which the digital data is physically stored in multiple servers (sometimes in multiple locations), with those servers owned and managed by a hosting company. Cloud computing is an on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power. Cloud storage and cloud computing are sometime used interchangeably.

So why the move to the CLOUD? Most companies are moving towards cloud storage and cloud computing primarily due to the cost of storage and networking hardware. Companies spend capex on IT infrastructure to prepare for a someday scenario which in some cases may results over-capitalisation. Cloud computing and storage presents an opportunity to spends only on what the company needs to achieve business objectives. Other factors influencing this move are mobility, human capital, security, downtime, etc. Third party cloud vendors ensure that companies only pay for what they needs and leave the rest to be managed by them. 

It must be noted that this move to cloud storage and computing does not eliminate the need for hardware, it merely reduces the high coating items to the peripherals needed to access the cloud data. Desktop computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones will always be needed together with high-speed internet connectivity (WAN) and Local Area Network (LAN) i.e company networks. The management, support and maintenance of these computers remains the objective of the company. Cloud vendors uses protocols which ensures that data can be accessed as needed with minimal downtime or interruptions. Connectivity by the company required to access data in the cloud remains a core function of the company. Thorough research is needed to ensure any company maximises the benefits of choosing one solution over the other. 

Computing Costs

Cost of IT Infrastructure Setup: Businesses need to acquire physical premises and infrastructure, including IT, to start, run or grow their business. This involves spending money upfront for hardware. For computing needs, business may need to take into account Server Costs, Storage Costs, Networks Costs, Backup and Archiving Costs, Technical Personnel Costs, etc. Businesses will need to spend money upfront for the setup which is recoverable over time as the business trades and grows. This cycles of spending repeats every time upgrades needs to be done. For a startup business these cost can becomes unaffordable leaving the business unable to conduct business effectively. Cost effective alternatives to conducting business within the local computing infrastructure or using Cloud Computing exist which businesses can implement. These alternatives are not only driven by cost but also but the needs to the business. With Cloud Computing however, many of the computing infrastructure costs can transferred to a service provider. Even in this alternative there is still no one solution fit all as various factors needs to be taken into account. Factors such as whether the business will be: Leasing software and customized features, Scaling charges based on usage/ demand instead of fixed hardware or capacity or Billing at the user or organization level. With either alternative, businesses still computer hardware.

Emails

The invention/ creation of emails has dramatically reduce the distance between any two or more parties wanting to talk to each other. With a few clicks of a mouse or touch on a smart device, you can reach anyone in the world … when it works. As with anything else, there are rules, settings and in IT lingo, protocols that need to be in place for emails to work properly and all the time. Network Connectivity with your service provider for one and everything they need to put in place. Even with all of this in place, who among us has never experienced one or all of the following few email issues –

1) I can’t send or receive,

2) I can’t receive but I an send,

3) I can receive but can’t send,

4) Some of my emails are missing,

5) I’m getting a lot of undeliverable messages that I haven’t sent,

6) I’m getting duplicate emails/receiving old emails again,

7) I’m getting a mailbox full error, and a few more.

You may be asking yourself why are emails so important or why the topic on email issues. Think about this for a second – “we know that about 269 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2017, and that figure is expected to grow to almost 320 billion daily emails in 2021, according to Statista.” This is how the world runs, this is how we communicate and conduct business. Without these emails, news stories cannot be filed, doing business would take much much longer to conclude. The pace and speed of doing business is instantaneous. How many emails did you miss or send or received today?

Windows 10 Upgrade

Have you Upgraded? You are probably wondering what your next step is after Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 7. It still works fine so you’re wondering why should you upgrade to Windows 10. Cost is also a huge factor, plus you will have to learn a new operating system, which cost even more time. You are also wondering if it is at all worth it.

Technology moves at such a fast pace that it has become more and more difficult to keep up.Even big businesses with huge budgets and dedicated IT Departments fail to keep up. Operating systems improves over time to work more efficiently, protects your information and also brings with it new improvements like security updates or fixes, or technical support for any issues, leaving your computer protected against risk from viruses and malware.

Keeping and old system running may cost more in the long run, especially as in this case, where it is no longer supported. Analysts says that upgrading remains the best option for keeping you computer hardware and software as well as your information safe.

Data Security

Data Security: How secure is your network from data breaches? A strong network security prevents unauthorised access to your business sensitive data. Policies and practices within your business can help monitor use or misuse, unauthorised access and modification to your intellectual property, your data. Hackers are constantly trying to find weaknesses in computer systems in order to gain access and steal information. Weaknesses to computer system can also be through users. Businesses needs to also ensure that users accessing their computer system comply to strong security passwords. Frequent review of network security systems will ensure minimal data breach which may cripple any business or be held to ransom by hackers. Network upgrades and operating system upgrades, which in most cases includes security upgrades, are the first lines of defence and are vital to any business against hackers and data breaches. Secure your data, secure your assets. Talk to Acteq It Solutions for a professional evaluation. We can be reached on our Facebook page, WhatsApp and through our website on https://www.acteq.co.za for our services.