Author: My Office News

Source: MyBroadband

Telkom and Openserve are accused of unlawfully using network infrastructure of another provider to offer fibre broadband services.

The unlawful use of network infrastructure was discovered during the recent R30-million upgrade of the fibre optic cable network in Midstream Estate.

To fully understand the situation, it is necessary to go back to the early 2000s when Midstream Estate was in the development stage.

During this phase, the developer Bondev registered servitude for the installation and maintenance of a telecommunications network.

It built a primary set of sleeves to provide telecoms services in the estate. A separate set of sleeves were also installed by Bondev and handed to Telkom for their purposes.

Over time the Telkom sleeves network and connection pits were extended, and fibre optic cables were installed by contractors under the instruction of Telkom and Openserve.

Supersonic, a subsidiary of MTN, entered into a long-term agreement with Bondev in 2016 to use the primary set of sleeves and kiosks to install fibre and provide broadband access to Midstream residents.

In 2018 Supersonic made important changes to its service in Midstream Estate. This included upgrading the entire fibre optic cable network.

What was discovered during this upgrade was that Telkom/Openserve or their sub-contractors unlawfully used the Bondev sleeve network and kiosks to provide services.

Midstream Estate said these unlawful connections must now be removed from the Bondev and Supersonic infrastructure.

This is needed to “prevent future unauthorised and unlawful access to either the sleeves or kiosks which may lead to damage of the expensive network installed”.

A challenge is that the cables through the kiosks are unlabelled which made it impossible to identify these irregular cables.

They are now removed in bulk, along with the legacy cables of Supersonic.

This is causing service interruption to houses where Telkom/Openserve unlawfully used Bondev’s infrastructure.

“In a few instances, contractors took matter into their own hands and damaged or vandalised some of the kiosks,” the manager added.

He said a process has started to claim damages from the parties involved.

Another problem is that Telkom contractors, in some cases, used the Supersonic fibre to pull Openserve fibre into homes.

They allegedly broke open the Bondev kiosks and unlawfully used this infrastructure to serve their needs.

This causes damage to the Supersonic fibre network and resulted in downtime for clients.

Telkom responded to the allegations, saying Openserve has the largest fibre infrastructure in South Africa and does not occupy other operator’s infrastructure without agreement.

It said Openserve has legal access to roll out fibre infrastructure in Midstream Estate and has its own conduits in the estate.

It explained Midstream Estate has a unique situation of two telecommunications infrastructures which creates the confusion.

In some instances, due to poor identification of conduits, operators lay infrastructure in the wrong ducts.

“The agreement in Midstream Estate with the operators is to correct this following the issue of a 7-day notice,” it said.

What is interesting about this case is that Telkom has previously launched a legal challenge against Vodacom for the unlawful use of Telkom infrastructure in the Dennegeur residential estate.

This came after the Homeowners’ Associations of 15 private residential estates in the Western Cape invited Vodacom to install fibre in their complexes.

Telkom already had underground conduits in these estates which it used for telephone lines and ADSL services.

Vodacom asked Telkom to use its ducts, but Telkom refused. It argued it was not obliged to share its infrastructure.

Vodacom installed fibre in these ducts anyway, which resulted in a protracted legal battle between the two parties.

Vodacom also filed a complaint with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) regarding Telkom’s unwillingness to enter into a Facilities Leasing agreement.

ICASA determined that the sharing of duct infrastructure in these estates was “technically and economically feasible”, and “promoted the efficient use of networks and services”.

The legal battles also went Vodacom’s way.

The Western Cape High Court initially ruled that Vodacom unlawfully accessed its duct infrastructure, but this ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

The SCA ruled that Telkom did not possess the infrastructure which formed part of Dennegeur, but that it was owned, occupied, and controlled by the Home Owners Association.

Telkom tried to fight this ruling, but the SCA denied Telkom leave to appeal. The ruling effectively forces Telkom to share its cable ducts with competing fibre network operators.

It is interesting that Telkom was therefore simultaneously using other operators’ infrastructure and trying to declare others using its infrastructure unlawful.

 

Cape Town’s “digital nomad” visa plan

Source: MyBroadband

The Western Cape provincial government wants the national government to introduce a “remote working visa” aimed at international digital nomads, but they are struggling to convince the Department of Home Affairs.

Cape Town is perfectly positioned to take advantage of people who live in and work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was voted the best city in the world for many years running in the Telegraph Travel Awards which illustrates its appeal to international travellers.

With good Internet infrastructure, quality restaurants, and an idyllic setting, Cape Town is an attractive location for digital nomads.

It wants to follow in the footsteps of Dubai which launched a remote-work programme last year.

This programme allows international professionals to live in the Emirates while continuing to serve their employers in their home country.

The remote-work visa gives applicants access to all services in Dubai, including telecoms and schooling.

The Western Cape provincial government wants to do the same for Cape Town through a South African remote-work visa.

The city’s mayoral committee member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, James Vos, said the pandemic created a great opportunity to take work on a holiday.

“Cape Town has everything it takes to be the best remote working location in the world. We just need to make it easier for people to travel to South Africa,” said Vos.
To make it even more attractive to travellers, Western Cape tourism company Wesgro has partnered with Airbnb to promote the province as an ideal location for digital nomads.

The partnership includes offering people up to 50% off stays longer than 28 days through Airbnb.

“Digital nomads will now be able to take advantage of the Western Cape’s tech- and entrepreneur-friendly economy at an affordable price,” said the DA’s provincial spokesperson for Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism, Deidré Baartman.

There is, however, a snag – the national government.

The Western Cape government has tried to engage with President Cyril Ramaphosa and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, but their request has not been successful.

Cape Town is, however, not giving up. The Cape Town city council continues to put pressure on the national government to make this happen.

It also wants the application process for the remote working visa to move online.

Vos told Rapport it is high time that South Africa implements its electronic visa (e-visa) system to accommodate international travellers.

South Africa has already piloted the new e-visa system, but the pandemic has delayed the implementation of this system.

 

Alibaba accepts record fine

Source: BBC

Chinese tech giant Alibaba said on Monday that it accepted a record penalty imposed by the country’s anti-monopoly regulator.

Regulators slapped a $2.8bn fine after a probe determined that it had abused its market position for years.

The fine amounts to about 4% of the company’s 2019 domestic revenue.

Alibaba Group’s executive vice chairman Joe Tsai indicated that regulators have taken an interest in platforms like Alibaba as they grow in importance.

“We’re happy to get the matter behind us, but the tendency is that regulators will be keen to look at some of the areas where you might have unfair competition,” he told an investor call on Monday.

The company added that it was not aware of any further anti-monopoly investigations by Chinese regulators, though it signalled that Alibaba and its competitors would remain under review in China over mergers and acquisitions.

The main issue for regulators was that Alibaba restricted merchants from doing business or running promotions on rival platforms.

The company said it would introduce measures to lower entry barriers and business costs faced by merchants on e-commerce platforms.

“With this penalty decision we’ve received good guidance on some of the specific issues under the anti-monopoly law,” Mr Tsai said.

The group does not expect any material impact on its business from the change of exclusivity arrangements imposed by regulators.

The message from Alibaba today in its investor call was: we may be the biggest and the first Chinese tech firm to attract regulators’ attention – but we are by no means the last.

Alibaba executives sought to reassure investors that they are playing ball with the regulators. They’re going to make it cheaper for businesses to sell on their platform, and not force them to pick and choose between platforms – a practice seen by some in the industry as a case of “it’s my way or the highway”.

So far, Alibaba says, the discussions with regulators have been amicable, and the statement from the firm on accepting the penalty is markedly contrite.

It may also be heaving a sigh of relief. The 4% of 2019 revenue penalty is a record fine, but for Alibaba, which has a huge war chest, it’s a drop in the ocean.

But there will be more oversight and scrutiny of it and other firms.

The e-commerce giant indicated that while for now Alibaba is in the clear in terms of future investigations, the same could not be said for other firms in this sector.

Chinese tech firms are a powerful force in the country, and Beijing is keen to regulate them. Alibaba’s experience is a sign of more of the same to come.

The penalty is the latest in a chain of events targeting the company that kicked off last October, after its co-founder Jack Ma criticised regulators, suggesting they were stifling innovation.

Shortly after the speech, Chinese regulators scuppered the share market launch of Ant Group, which is Alibaba’s sister company and China’s biggest electronic payments provider.

However, some commentators noted that regulators had legitimate concerns about Ant Group’s consumer finance arm.

Ant Group was expected to be last year’s biggest share market launch on the Hong Kong exchange.

But Alibaba isn’t the only Chinese company to come under scrutiny by China’s increasingly assertive regulators.

Last month, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) said it had fined 12 companies over 10 deals that violated anti-monopoly rules.

The companies included Tencent, Baidu and Didi Chuxing – which are among China’s largest tech companies.

 

Source: IOL

Security researchers have found that phishing emails are more likely to originate from certain countries in parts of Eastern Europe, Central America, the Middle East, and Africa.

The country where emails originate and the number of countries they are routed through on the way to their final destination offer important warning signs of phishing attacks.

For the study, researchers at cloud-enabled security solutions provider Barracuda Networks teamed up with Columbia University researchers.

They examined the geolocation and network infrastructure across more than two billion emails, including 218,000 phishing emails sent in the month of January 2020.

In phishing attacks, attackers use social engineering tactics to lure victims into providing personal information such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, or banking information.

Thus, to detect the same, the entire focus should be on the content of phishing emails and the behaviour of attackers.

As phishing attacks become more complex, increasingly sophisticated methods are required to defend against them.

After analysing the geography of phishing emails and how they are being routed, Barracuda researchers identified that over 80 per cent of benign emails are routed through two or fewer countries, while just over 60 per cent of phishing emails are routed through two or fewer countries.

Senders that produce a higher volume of phishing emails (more than 1,000 emails in the dataset) with a higher probability of phishing originated from countries or territories including (in descending order) Lithuania, Latvia, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Iran, Palestine and Kazakhstan, said the study.

These are some of the territories from where senders produce a higher volume of phishing emails with a higher probability of phishing.

“With phishing attacks expected to play a dominant role in the digital threat landscape and cybercriminals adjusting their tactics to bypass email gateways and spam filters, it’s crucial to have a solution that detects and protects against spear-phishing attacks, including brand impersonation, business email compromise, and email account takeover,” Murali Urs, Country Manager of Barracuda India, said in a statement.

“Deploy a solution that doesn’t rely on malicious links or attachments but uses machine learning to analyse normal communication patterns within an organisation to spot anomalies that may indicate an attack.”

Meanwhile, employees should be provided up-to-date awareness training for recognising attacks and knowing how to report them to IT right away, Barracuda Networks said.

 

By Loyiso Sidimba for IOL

The Labour Court has ordered the dismissal of an employee who refused to self-isolate and continued working despite testing positive for Covid-19.

Labour Court Judge Edwin Tlhotlhalemaje overturned the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration’s (CCMA) decision to hand Eskort assistant butchery manager Stuurman Mogotsi a final written warning.

Mogotsi was found guilty in the internal disciplinary process and fired in September last year.

However, after referring an unfair dismissed case at the CCMA he was handed a final written warning and reinstated.

Eskort approached the Labour Court to challenges the CCMA ruling.

The CCMA had found that Eskort’s disciplinary code and procedure called for a final written warning in such cases and failed to justify the sanction of dismissal and ruled that Mogotsi must be reinstated retrospectively, without back-pay and given a final written warning.

On March 18, Judge Tlhotlhalemaje reviewed and set aside the CCMA award and substituted the ruling with an order that Mogotsi’s dismissal was substantively fair.

Mogotsi had been found guilty of gross negligence in that after receiving his Covid-19 test results, which were positive, he had failed to self-isolate, continued working for three days and put the lives of his colleagues at risk.

In the three days he continued working after testing positive for Covid-19 he failed to follow workplace health and safety protocols and to adhere to social distancing and personally came to work to hand in a copy of his results.

Judge Tlhotlhalemaje described Mogotsi’s actions of not informing his employer about his results, hugging fellow employees, walking around his workplace without a mask as extremely irresponsible in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and therefore grossly negligent.

“For reasons which are clearly incomprehensible, Mogotsi had through his care-free conduct, placed everyone he had been in contact with whether at the workplace or at his residence at great risks,” reads Judge Tlhotlhalemaje’s ruling, for which he delivered reasons on March 28.

In his defence, Mogotsi claimed he did not know that he needed to self-isolate, despite being a member of the in-house Coronavirus site committee.

After testing positive Mogotsi was found hugging a fellow employee who had undergone a heart operation five years earlier and had recently experienced post-surgery complications.

”In the midst of all the monumental harm he had caused, and which was clearly foreseen, Mogotsi could only come up with the now often used defence that he was victimised. At no point did he show any form of contrition for his conduct,” Judge Tlhotlhalemaje found, adding that Mogotsi was not only grossly negligent and reckless, but also dishonest.

The judge described the facts of the case as “indeed extraordinary”.

 

By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadband

Around 35% of senior managers in government do not have the necessary qualifications or credentials for their position.

This was revealed by the Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu in a written response to a parliamentary question posed by the Democratic Alliance.

Senior managers in South African government require at least an NQF Level 7 qualification, which is equal to a Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Diploma.

According to information captured in government’s Personal and Salary System (PERSAL) as of 15 February 2021, however, there were no records of such qualifications for 3 301 of the 9 477 senior managers in the public service.

  • 5 447 of government’s senior managers operated at national level
  • 1 987 did not have a record of a suitable qualification
  • The largest number of those were in the police department, which accounted for 228 unqualified senior managers
  • The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development follows with 227
  • The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has 189
  • 1 314 out of 4 028 senior managers at provincial government departments did not have the required qualifications
  • Gauteng accounted for the highest number among the provinces, with 381 senior managers lacking the necessary qualifications for their jobs – the largest number of these were in the Health department
  • KwaZulu-Natal has 246 unqualified senior managers
  • The Eastern Cape has 185 unqualified senior managers

Loan Guarantee Scheme extended until July

By Siphelele Dludla for IOL

The government has extended the deadline for the R200-million Loan Guarantee Scheme (LGS) by three months to 11 July 2021, in a bid to harmonise it for all participating commercial banks.

The end of the Availability Period was set for April 11 for most participating banks under the guarantee scheme.

The troubled scheme, set up in May 2020 as part of the R500 billion Economic Stimulus Package, has largely been rendered moribund as small businesses owners have been reluctant to take on more debt in a weak and uncertain business environment.

The scheme was meant to support small businesses experiencing financial distress from the Covid-19 impact.

Funds borrowed from this scheme, through the banking industry, can be used for operational expenses such as salaries, rent and lease agreements and contracts with suppliers.

The government said as at March 27, banks had approved 14 827 in loans to the value of R18.16bn, from R18.01bn a month before.

In a joint statement by the National Treasury, the SA Reserve Bank, and the Banking Association SA (Basa), the government said the scheme would continue to service all loans advanced up to the extended date, for up to five years.

“The further extension of three months will enable an orderly winding down of the scheme and allow those businesses who have applications already lodged to be assessed,” it said.

“The LGS has not been as effective as originally envisaged, as many distressed companies have been reluctant to assume more liabilities with little certainty of the length and severity of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The government said existing support measures by the SA Reserve Bank and Financial Sector Conduct Authority would continue, subject to conditions and regulatory mandates.

It said the National Treasury continued to explore more appropriate support and risk-sharing mechanisms, including proposals related to non-bank financial institutions and development finance institutions.

Basa said given the lack of demand for Covid-19 loans, it would welcome the opportunity to work further with National Treasury to leverage state grants and equity funding in support of small businesses.

Basa said it had also called for the reduction of red-tape and policy uncertainty, and for it to be made easier to do business, especially for small and medium enterprises. Facilitating entrepreneurship and small business development is among the surest and fastest ways to boost inclusive economic growth and job creation, without having to introduce new programmes and additional spending.

Until March 27, the scheme had received 49 957 applications for loans, of which 26 percent were approved by banks and were taken-up by the applicants. Two percent of the applications were still in the process of being assessed.

Fifty-six percent of applications received so far were rejected because they did not meet the eligibility criteria for the scheme, as set out by Treasury and the Reserve Bank, or because they did not meet banks’ risk criteria. The main reasons for rejection were that the requested value of the loan was too high for the business to be reasonably expected to be able repay it; or the enterprise was not in good financial standing before the pandemic.

Eighty-two percent of the loans approved – with a value of R6.77bn – went to enterprises with a turnover of up to R20m. The average value of a loan under the scheme is R1.24m.

The loan extension comes as analysts revise South Africa’ growth expectations for the year.

In its latest Economic Outlook 2021 Report, Momentum yesterday revised downwards South Africa’s growth forecast to 3.4 percent this year, from 3.8 percent forecast in March, amid slowing pace of global vaccination.

Momentum’s outlook is right in the middle of the SA Reserve Bank and the National Treasury estimates, which expect the economy to rebound by 3.3 percent and 3.8 percent this year, respectively.

However, Momentum’s world economic outlook was at odds with the recent optimistic global growth by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF last week revised its world economic growth estimate for 2021 upwards to 6 percent, from 5.5 percent estimated in January 2021 and 5.2 percent estimated in October 2020.

 

Eskom moves to dispose of non-core properties

By Sibahle Motha for Jacaranda FM

Power utility Eskom has confirmed that it will finalise the sale of Die Wilge flats at the Kusile power station during the first half of the year (pictured).

Construction work at the flats began in 2008 at a budget of R160-million.

However, costs ballooned to more than R800-million by 2019 with the project now being abandoned and incomplete.

Eskom says the sale of Die Wilge and other properties form part of the power utility’s disposal of non-core immovable property.

The power utility has since managed to sell two high rise offices in Kimberley and Johannesburg, raising a total of R76.1-million.

Eskom says it aims to raise more than R2-billion from the sale of non-core property.

Why LG killed its phone business

By Lisa Eadicicco for Business Insider US

LG is officially bowing out of the smartphone market.

The South Korean tech giant announced on April 5 that it’s exiting the “highly competitive” smartphone business by closing its mobile unit, signaling the end of an era for a company that was once a top-tier handset maker.

The decision underscores how difficult it is to compete with industry giants like Samsung and Apple, particularly in the United States which is part of the world’s third largest smartphone market.

LG was once among the top five smartphone makers in the world. However, it failed to stand its ground.

Worldwide, Apple took the number one spot in the fourth quarter of 2020 with 23.4% of the market while Samsung came in second with 19.1%, according to The International Data Corporation.

Samsung and LG are longtime rivals in the electronics and home appliances industries, but there’s one critical advantage the former has that the latter lacks when it comes to smartphones.

Samsung established itself as the primary competitor to the iPhone when the smartphone market was still fairly young in 2012. Back then, it had a blockbuster hit on its hands with the Galaxy S3, which overtook the iPhone 4S to become the world’s best-selling smartphone in 2012, according to Strategy Analytics.

The Galaxy S3’s successful launch helped shape a narrative that the smartphone market had become a two-horse race between Apple and Samsung. It fuelled headlines in outlets like The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and The Guardian declaring the two tech giants as the winners of what had become the biggest shift in computing in recent history.

No Android phone maker had anything that came close to the popularity of the Galaxy S3 at the time. It put Samsung’s Galaxy S series on the map, setting it up to be the iPhone’s main competitor for years to come.

And despite being more innovative in some ways, other Android phone makers simply couldn’t keep up. For example, tech critics praised HTC in 2013 for its eye-catching One M7 phone, which outpaced every Android phone on the market in terms of build quality and design. But it never had the sales to match those accolades, and HTC sold a chunk of its smartphone business to Google in 2018.

Motorola’s original Moto X from 2013 was also ahead of its time with hands-free voice controls that preceded the Amazon Echo and was well-received by reviewers. But Google sold off Motorola’s mobile unit to Lenovo 2014, and the PC giant has struggled to boost its presence in the smartphone market.

Even Google, which operates Android, has had a hard time breaking into the smartphone business. It pivoted to selling less expensive Pixel smartphones after it had trouble selling high-end phones designed to compete with the iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S line.

LG took a similar path. It was ahead of competitors in some ways, such as its decision to bring cameras with a wider field of view to its smartphones years before Apple and Samsung did. But its smartphone division has incurred losses totalling $4.5 billion over six years, resulting in the decision to shut down the unit after it reportedly failed to find a buyer. LG will instead focus on areas like smart home devices, electric vehicle components, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Of course, the success of Samsung and Apple is just one element that’s influenced the market for mobile phones, albeit a big one. Popular Chinese brands that have stood out for their more accessible price points like Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, and OnePlus also rose in popularity around the time that LG’s market share began slipping around 2015, as Gartner data provided to Insider indicates.

Still, Samsung and Apple have been comfortably at the top of the smartphone market for years, and LG is just the latest casualty.

 

Source: OFM

More than 40% of victims of ransomware attacks in South Africa pay the cybercriminals responsible to try to secure or recover their data. But in many cases, the crooks simply disappear with the money.

This is according to a new report from security firm Kaspersky, which said 42% of local ransomware victims coughed up money to recover their data.

Whether they paid or not, only 24% of victims were able to restore all their encrypted or blocked files following an attack. Sixty-one percent lost at least some files; 32% lost a significant amount; and 29% lost a small number of files. Meanwhile, 11% who did experience such an incident lost almost all their data, Kaspersky said.

According to TechCentral, Marina Titova, head of consumer product marketing at Kaspersky, said handing over money doesn’t guarantee the return of data, and only encourages cybercriminals to continue the practice. Kaspersky always recommends that those affected by ransomware should not pay as that money supports this scheme to thrive.

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