Source: eNCA

In February, the Soweto debt was sitting at R17-billion in unpaid electricity bills.

Eskom spokesperson, Dikatso Mothae said the power utility “continues with initiatives to improve revenue recovery from residential customers”.

These include removing illegal connections, conducting meter audits, repairing faulty or tampered meters and limiting ghost vending of prepaid electricity, installing smart and/or prepaid meters within protective enclosures to prevent tampering, converting customers from post-paid to prepaid and stepping up disconnection of customers not honouring their current accounts

In his State of the Nation Address last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ailing Eskom will continue to received further bailouts.

He said the government has a strategy to deal with Eskom defaulting on its loans.

“We will, therefore, table a Special Appropriation Bill on an urgent basis to allocate a significant portion of the R230-billion fiscal support that Eskom will require over the next 10 years in the early years,” Ramaphosa said.

The president also said that Eskom is working hard to recover money owed by municipalities and customers.

Additionally, he said that “the days of boycotting electricity payments are over”.

Meanwhile, according to Mothae, municipal debt is sitting at R20-billion as at the end of March 2019.

“We continue to have discussions with Municipalities, Provincial Government and National Government and the Inter-Ministerial Task Team to find a resolution. We are continuously reviewing Payment Arrangements with municipalities, issuing default letters and then as a last resort we start a PAJA [Promotion of Administrative Justice Act] process when they default which leads to planned power interruptions,” she said.

“However, we normally get interdicted by customers or customer groupings preventing us from interrupting electricity supply and Municipalities typically take payment holiday during these interdicts. Eskom has now started to issue summons to municipalities for the amount in the Acknowledgement of Debt,” Mothae added.

Earlier this year, the Orlando Action Committee said it was willing to negotiate with the President Cyril Ramaphosa on electricity payment.

The Sunday World reported that Gauteng townships have become “a nightmare” for Eskom employees, who are often “intimidated and assaulted when working in these areas”.

Was the eNATIS system stolen?

By Tebogo Monama for IOL 

A David versus Goliath battle looms after an emerging Pretoria company accused the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) of stealing their idea for the online booking system.

From last year, motorists in Gauteng have been able to make pre-bookings online for the renewal of their driving and learner’s licences.

When the system was first launched, the national Department of Transport said introducing the online booking system on eNaTIS would improve service delivery and minimise corruption by officials.

But the system, which was met with excitement by motorists, left a bitter taste in the mouths of Techub, a Pretoria-based company.

The company claims it came up with the system and had sent its proposals for two years to the RTMC for possible approval. It also claims the RTMC implemented its system without giving it any credit.

One of the owners of the company, Herman Mawela, has claimed it developed the online application system in 2016.

“We first took it to the Tshwane metro police department and they said we should take it to the RTMC.”

Mawela added that the company sent emails of the plan to several employees of the RTMC but never received a response. To his dismay, last year he saw an announcement based on what he claimed was his system.

“After we sent our presentation in 2016, the officials stopped being available. Every time we called, the officials were either not available or in meetings,” Mawela said.

He said the system that was introduced last year was tweaked a bit from what they had proposed.

“Our system had some extras like paying for your traffic fines online.”

The RTMC has vehemently denied that it stole Mawela’s idea.

Spokesperson Simon Zwane said: “We would not do that to an entrepreneur. We are a government that believes in empowering people and not taking advantage of them.”

Zwane said the RTMC started working on the concept in 2007.

“We introduced the telephone booking in Gauteng on the eNaTIS system. We then refreshed the idea in 2011. The IT department reworked the functionality in 2017 in preparation for the launch.”

Zwane added that the employees to whom Mawela sent his idea did not work directly on the project. “The employees are not in the IT environment and would not know what plans were there. We are prepared to invite him to come to our office and see all the preparatory work for himself,” Zwane said.

The Star

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By Jasper Hamill for The Metro 

WhatsApp has promised to take legal action against people or companies who break its rules – even if the ‘abuse’ took place on another platform. The messaging app has strict guidelines governing its own users’ behaviour and anyone who breaks the terms of service can already be hit by a ban.

But now the Facebook-owned company wants to take things a bit further by hauling users into court. And you don’t need to break the rules on WhatsApp itself to find yourself in trouble, because its enforcers will strike even they find ‘off platform-evidence of abuse’.

It wrote: ‘WhatsApp is committed to using the resources at its disposal – including legal action – to prevent abuse that violates our terms of service, such as automated or bulk messaging, or non-personal use. ‘This is why in addition to technological enforcement, we also take legal action against individuals or companies that we link to on-platform evidence of such abuse.

WhatsApp reserves its right to continue taking legal action in such circumstances.’

If you want to keep a WhatsApp account and not get sued, you might want to avoid using bots to send spam – which is known as automated or bulk messaging. The app has said that anyone who leaves off-platform evidence of abuse after December 7, 2019, will find themselves in its crosshairs.

WhatsApp added: ‘Beginning on December 7, 2019, WhatsApp will take legal action against those we determine are engaged in or assisting others in abuse that violates our Terms of Service, such as automated or bulk messaging, or non-personal use, even if that determination is based on information solely available to us off our platform.

‘For example, off-platform information includes public claims from companies about their ability to use WhatsApp in ways that violate our Terms. This serves as notice that we will take legal action against companies for which we only have off-platform evidence of abuse if that abuse continues beyond December 7, 2019, or if those companies are linked to on-platform evidence of abuse before that date.

‘We are committed to reinforcing the private nature of our platform and keeping users safe from abuse.’

Public Protector guns for Gordhan

On Friday 24 May, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane issued a report which found that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan had acted improperly when he approved the early pension payout for former SARS senior official Ivan Pillay. The early pension payout was granted in Gordhan’s capacity as Finance Minister.

Following the report, Gordhan filed an urgent application with the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday, in order for the court to to review and set aside the public protector’s findings that he violated the constitution.

Gordhan has called the findings by Mkhwebane that of “stunning incompetence, irrationality and negligence”.

Mkhwebane found Gordhan guilty of “violating the constitution” and instructed President Cyril Ramaphosa to take disciplinary action against him.

Public calls for Gordhan to to suspend his participation in all structures of government until his name is cleared are growing.

Societal groups such as the African Transformation Movement (ATM) have called on President Ramaphosa to “act in consideration of the facts contained in the report”, as South Africa “can simply not afford to have elected and appointed individuals tainted by a grand authority such as the Public Protector”.

By Emma Beswick for EuroNews

Anonymous hackers have brought the US city of Baltimore to its knees by seizing control of government computers, demanding bitcoin in return for releasing their hold over the systems.

A ransomware attack was discovered on May 7, with the city taking down online systems and services in an effort to contain it.

While the attack took place two weeks ago, the city’s mayor, Bernard Young, is refusing to pay the requested sum, leaving officials unable to process parking tickets among other administrative functions.

He warned that it could take months for normal service to be resumed.

“Like any large enterprise, we have thousands of systems and applications. Our focus is getting critical services back online, and doing so in a manner that ensures we keep security as one of our top priorities throughout the process,” Young said in a statement.

The city’s emergency services have not been affected.

The hackers demanded 13 bitcoins — worth around R1,4-million — to remove the file-locking virus, according to a ransom note obtained by the Baltimore Sun.

“We’ve (been) watching you for days and we’ve worked on your systems to gain full access to your company and bypass all of your protections,” it read. “We won’t talk more, all we know is MONEY! … Hurry up! Tik Tak, Tik Tak, Tik Tak!”

The city remained unable to send or receive emails at the time of writing.

A similar cyber attack hit Atlanta last year, according to NBC, costing millions to recover damage, while Greenville in North Carolina was targetted in April.

As many as 25 local governments have been attacked by hackers this year, the media added, citing analysts.

 

 

WhatsApp is hacked

Source: BBC

WhatsApp has confirmed that a security flaw in the app let attackers install spy software on their targets’ smartphones.

That has left many of its 1.5-billion users wondering how safe the “simple and secure” messaging app really is.

On Wednesday, chip-maker Intel confirmed that new problems discovered with some of its processors could reveal secret information to attacks.

How trustworthy are apps and devices?

Was WhatsApp’s encryption broken? No. Messages on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, meaning they are scrambled when they leave the sender’s device. The messages can be decrypted by the recipient’s device only.

That means law enforcement, service providers and cyber-criminals cannot read any messages they intercept as they travel across the internet.

However, there are some caveats.

Messages can be read before they are encrypted or after they are decrypted. That means any spyware dropped on the phone by an attacker could read the messages.

What is encryption?
On Tuesday, news site Bloomberg published an opinion article calling WhatsApp’s encryption “pointless”, given the security breach.

However, that viewpoint has been widely ridiculed by cyber-security experts.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to say end-to-end encryption is pointless just because a vulnerability is occasionally found,” said Dr Jessica Barker from the cyber-security company Cygenta.

“Encryption is a good thing that does offer us protection in most cases.”

Cyber-security is often a game of cat and mouse.

End-to-end encryption makes it much harder for attackers to read messages, even if they do eventually find a way to access some of them.

What about back-ups?
WhatsApp gives the option to back up chats to Google Drive or iCloud but those back-up copies are not protected by the end-to-end encryption.

An attacker could access old chats if they broke into a cloud storage account.

How to stay safe on WhatsApp
WhatsApp discovers ‘targeted’ surveillance attack
Of course, even if users decide not to back up chats, the people they message may still upload a copy to their cloud storage.

Should people stop using WhatsApp?
Ultimately, any app could contain a security vulnerability that leaves a phone open to attackers.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which typically issues software fixes quickly.

Of course, even large companies can make mistakes and Facebook has had its share of data and privacy breaches over the years.

There is no guarantee a rival chat app would not experience a similar security lapse.

At least, following the disclosure of this flaw, WhatsApp is slightly more secure than it was a week ago.

Signal is an open-source project
Some rival chat apps are open-source projects, which means anybody can look at the code powering the app and suggest improvements.

“Open-source software has its value in that it be can tested more widely but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more secure,” said Dr Barker.

“Vulnerabilities can still be found with any tech, so it’s not the answer to our prayers.”

And if someone did decide to switch to a rival chat app, they would still have to convince their contacts to do the same. A chat app without friends is not much use.

Is any device ever safe?
In theory, any device or service could be hacked. In fact, security researchers often joyfully pile in on companies that claim their products are “unhackable”.

They quickly discover vulnerabilities and the embarrassed companies retract their claims.

If people are worried data may be stolen from their computer, one option is to “air gap” the device: disconnect it from the internet entirely.

That stops remote hackers accessing the machine – but even an air gap would not stop an attacker with physical access to the device.

Dr Barker stressed the importance of installing software updates for apps and operating systems.

“WhatsApp pushed out an update and consumers might not have realised that security fixes are often included in updates,” she told BBC News.

WhatsApp did not help the cause, however, by describing the latest update as adding “full-size stickers”, and not mentioning the security breach.

“People need to be made aware that updates are really important. The quicker we can update our apps, the more secure we are,” said Dr Barker.

As always, there are simple security steps to remember:

  • Install app and operating system security updates
  • Use a different password for every app or service
  • Where possible, enable two-step authentication to stop attackers logging in to accounts
  • Be careful about what apps you download
  • Do not click links in emails or messages you are not expecting

Source: Cape Times 

With the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) investigating the failure of the “indelible” ink used to mark voters’ thumbs, enabling illegal double voting, perhaps microchips could be a safer bet in future.

This is of course if South Africans are willing – or could afford – having microchips implanted. About 3 000 Swedes have had a single microchip inserted under their skin, which is as tiny as a grain of rice, so that they would have no need to carry IDs and daily necessities such as key cards and train tickets, Agence France-Presse reported.

The IEC says it will be seeking answers from its supplier about what could have gone wrong with the so-called “indelible” ink pens used in Wednesday’s election.

Tender documents show that the IEC awarded a tender worth R2.7 million for the supply of the pens in February last year, Business Insider SA reported.

The supply contract went to Lithotech Exports, a division of the JSE-listed Bidvest, which beat out six other security-product and printing companies.

The ink used to mark the left thumb of every voter is supposed to remain visible for at least seven days and not meant to be easy to remove. This has led to political parties lodging official concerns about the double-voting they believe may have resulted.

Experts and tender documents suggest there are multiple ways indelible ink can fail, especially if you skimp on the silver nitrate. It’s believed a stockpile of 165 000 pens were needed, suggesting a per unit price of just more than R16 a pen, a price that raised eyebrows among experts as low.

According to Justin Howard, of specialist voting ink manufacturer AP Africa, which has previously supplied the IEC but was not involved in the current contract, voting ink pens can fail because of mechanical problems with the pen itself or because the ink is not properly applied, or even if voters’ fingers are oily enough.

As for micro chips, the state-owned SJ rail line in Sweden started scanning the hands of passengers with biometric chips to collect their train fare while on board.

Inserting the microchip is similar to that of a piercing and involves a syringe injecting the chip into the person’s hand. However, the chip implants could cause infections or reactions in the body’s immune system, Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at MAX IV Laboratory in southern Sweden, told AFP.

About four years ago, Swedish biohacking group Bionyfiken started organising “implant parties” – where groups of people insert chips into their hands en masse – in countries including the US, UK, France, Germany and Mexico.

By Corbin Davenport for Android Police 

Google Play Protect is just about two years old, as it was introduced at I/O 2017. The tool scans all applications installed on your phone for identified malware – whether they are from the Play Store or from a sideloaded APK. At Google I/O 2019, it was revealed that Play Protect now scans 50-billion applications each day.

The number was announced as part of the focus on privacy and security during today’s keynote presentations. Play Protect has seen a number of improvements since it was introduced, like a new interface added earlier this year, though it mostly remains a silent and unobtrusive component to most people.

By Riccardo Spagni for Fin24

Privacy is widely held as a fundamental human right and is recognised in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in the Constitution of nearly every country in the world.

Privacy is becoming a growing concern as the world continues its mass digitisation. As we move more of our day-to-day business and personal communications and interactions online, the trail of personal data breadcrumbs we leave behind grows.

Take something as simple as an online transaction: when the average consumer pays a merchant in Europe via their PayPal account, their data goes to as many as 600 different companies. The consumer has zero visibility over any of the companies involved. The amount of metadata about our lives is staggering – and we have no control over any of it.

Financial privacy and its malcontents

Regulators have tried to resolve some of the issues around data privacy and use of personal information by businesses. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation is a far-reaching piece of legislation that aims to protect EU citizens from unwanted or unauthorised personal data use. Although the upper limits of its sanctions still need to be tested, GDPR promises fines of up to €20-million to organisations that compromise the personal data of any EU citizen.

But for most transactions, consumers and businesses remain at the mercy of a vast network of interlinked companies that process and distribute our personal metadata across the globe. A lot of this is driven by convenience: when cash was still the preferred payment method, people enjoyed a fair amount of privacy as cash transactions can be concluded away from any prying eyes.

With the introduction of electronic payment methods such as wire transfers, SWIFT, credit cards and mobile payments, privacy has been sacrificed for convenience. The amount of Know-Your-Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) processes in place means consumers have little in the way of financial privacy as financial services firms are bound by law to constantly analyse transactions for any irregularities and report them to authorities where appropriate.

Shining a light on criminality

Financial crime is a massive problem. A 2018 Thomson Reuters survey of 2373 respondents in 19 countries – including South Africa – found that the aggregate lost turnover as a result of financial crimes amounted to $1.45-trillion, or 3.5% of their total global turnover. In Europe, on average one in every 200 transactions reviewed by bank compliance officers lead to a criminal investigation, but only 1% of criminal proceeds generated in the EU are confiscated by authorities.

But financial privacy is not only important to criminals; it is a critical safety measure for every digital citizen. Without financial privacy, personal and financial safety can be compromised by criminals who could, for example, see the value of a purchase that someone made – as well as their personal details – and use that information to target them with criminal activities. As a business, financial privacy keeps intimate business details such as salary information, profit margins and revenue away from unwanted eyes.

Cryptocurrencies often come into the firing line for their anonymity and lack of regulatory oversight. High-profile examples of illicit purchases on the dark web using cryptocurrencies have made regulators wary of their potential for driving criminal activity.

Not all cryptocurrencies are made equal

A large part of the appeal of cryptocurrencies is that they are more discrete than mainstream payment methods. And while this is partly what makes them attractive to criminals, it is unfair to assume all discrete transactions are criminal. We all make purchases we would rather other people not know about, for fear of embarrassment or judgement. Anonymity also has its benefits: who hasn’t suddenly seen a spike in advertisements related to something you once searched for online, or saw similar products to one you’ve just bought advertised on sites you visit?

Privacy enhancing cryptocurrencies are built on five pillars, namely:

  • Unlinkability, which conceals where transactions are going to;
  • Untraceability, which conceals the origins of transactions;
  • Cryptgraphically valueless, which hides the value of a transaction;
  • Passively hidden, which conceals the transaction from other internet users; and
  • Optionality, which maximises the privacy set while still enabling you to reveal information should you need to.

But not all cryptocurrencies are created equal. And not all have the privacy of their users as a primary concern. Cryptocurrencies such as Monero were built to provide users with the optimum amount of privacy. That’s why I’d add a sixth pillar to the above, namely Ideology. Since cryptocurrencies involve thousands – even millions – of people, it is critical that the cryptocurrency is managed according to a strict set of privacy-enhancing guidelines.

Every contributor to Monero, for example, understands they are responsible for other people’s money, privacy and, by extension, safety. Contributors could, through reckless actions, compromise someone’s financial security or even their lives. Any privacy project that treats it with less care is indistinguishable from a scam and can put people’s lives at risk.

There’s a popular argument that honest people don’t need privacy since they have nothing to hide. But that’s fallacy. As Edward Snowden put it, “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different to saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

Financial privacy is a fundamental human right. Technology can be both the greatest inhibitor or promoter of privacy. The responsibility rests on all of us who participate in the new world of cryptocurrencies to ensure we protect the privacy of our users.

Look out for these five WhatsApp scams

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

WhatsApp has become the most prominent messaging platform across many parts of the world, offering a range of features which enable faster and more convenient communication.

The application also boasts impressive security, with end-to-end encryption delivering secure communication.

Due to its high rate of adoption, however, it has also become a targeted platform for scammers and attacks which aim to either compromise the user’s details or infect their device with malware.

The nature of these scams and attacks is constantly evolving, but we have listed five of the most prominent and dangerous scams currently in circulation below.

SIM-swop takeover
SIM-swop fraud is one of the biggest threats to South African WhatsApp users, considering the meteoric rise in the number of cases reported over the last year.

By committing SIM-swop fraud and taking ownership of your number, a user can easily and instantly install WhatsApp on their own smartphone and log in with your account.

The two-factor authentication message will be sent to the number used to log in, which the attacker will now have access to.

From here, they can easily scam your contacts to divulge information or send them money by impersonating you.

This type of attack is also a serious threat to the security of platforms which use SMS two-factor authentication – including many banking apps.

Users should check immediately with their cellphone provider if reception on their cellphone is lost for no apparent reason, as this is the first sign that SIM-swop fraud has been committed.

Verification request
This type of scam is spread through compromised accounts, and usually comes from a known contact who has had their account compromised.

Victims will receive a message from a user in their WhatsApp contact list who asks them to send them their WhatsApp verification code.

If they do this, scammers will have access to everything they need to access the user’s Whatsapp account and will take over their number.

From the compromised profile, scammers will either ask the victim’s contacts for verification codes to access their profile or they will pose as the victim and ask for mobile money payments.

The easiest way to avoid this scam is to never divulge your WhatsApp verification code and be wary about sending your contacts money if they are acting strangely over WhatsApp.

WhatsApp Gold
WhatsApp Gold is a well-known hoax which has been around for years, although it still seems to resurface occasionally and catches out many people.

The scam is a simple phishing attack which comprises hoax messages stating that WhatsApp has launched a new upgraded messaging service called WhatsApp Gold.

Often this premium version is advertised as free and including features such as new themes and free voice calls.

The message contains a link to download the “latest secret update” for WhatsApp Gold, which actually leads to malicious software being installed on the victim’s device.

This malware could do anything from steal your information to spy on your messages and communications.

Avoiding scams like this is easy if you follow best practices and never click on unknown links or download unverified software onto your device.

Phishing with vouchers
This is similar to the WhatsApp Gold scam, but these messages are usually sent from a number impersonating a fake contact.

The message generally states that users have won a free voucher for a local supermarket in return for them filling in a short survey.

However, the link contained in this message goes to a fake website which impersonates the supermarket’s web page.

Once users have entered their details into this website, their information has been compromised and is fed straight to the scammers.

WhatsApp is not the only platform where this scam takes place, as this is one of the most widespread and organised types of scams operating around the world.

Malicious spy apps
During your online browsing or within a WhatsApp message, you may find a link to download a WhatsApp “spy app”.

These applications claim to be able to see what your contacts are saying to each other, along with giving you the ability to intercept their pictures, voice messages, and images.

Of course there is no way to intercept WhatsApp messages in this way as all conversations are end-to-end encrypted.

Instead, these applications usually either install malware on the victim’s device or sign them up to subscription content services which charge exorbitant fees.

It is also important to realise that the Google Play Store is not infallible and can contain many malware-infested “WhatsApp Spy” apps.

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