Tag: data

By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba for ITWeb

Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has agreed to ensure 80% of the South African population has access to the Internet by 2024.

On Tuesday, the performance agreements signed by president Cyril Ramaphosa with all ministers were made public, indicating the targets agreed to by his incumbent executive.

Ramaphosa initially announced the performance agreements in his State of the Nation Address in February, explaining that signing agreements is in line with strengthening the capacity of the state and increasing accountability.

The agreements, which are based on the targets contained in the medium-term strategic framework (MTSF), have been made public to allow citizens to hold those whom they elected into office to account, according to a government statement.

In her performance agreement, Ndabeni-Abrahams has signed on to boost SA’s Internet penetration to 80% over the MTSF, up from only half of the population with Internet access.

South Africa’s Internet penetration measures above the halfway mark, with 56.3% of the population reported to be Internet users, according to Statista.

According to Stats SA’s General Household Survey, at least one member in a household can access the Internet at home, workplace, place of study or Internet café. Mobile devices still remain the most common way in which to access the Internet, in terms of the survey.

Government’s performance agreement, however, does not state the targeted Internet speeds or how the 80% target will be met.

The minister of communications must also oversee implementation of phase two of SA Connect, focusing on 42 000 government sites to 10MBps. In addition, she must review the model for SA Connect to increase private sector participation with government as a buyer of services.

Among the targets, the minister must introduce the state Digital Infrastructure Company Bill, including the integration of excess capacities of self-provision companies: Prasa, Sanral, Eskom and Transnet.

Furthermore, she must amend the Electronic Communications Act (replace it with the Digital Infrastructure Bill), to ensure transformation, competition and more investment in infrastructure, according to the performance agreement.

Still fighting for #DataMustFall
Turning to the #DataMustFall plight, Ndabeni-Abrahams must reduce the current cost of data by 50%.

South Africa is among 57 countries identified by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) that are yet to meet the UN Broadband Commission’s affordability threshold of 1GB data for no more than 2% of average monthly income.

In the case of SA, 1GB of mobile data averages about 2.17% of the average monthly income, meaning the country does not meet the affordability standards, according to the A4AI’s 2020 Affordability Report.

The performance agreement highlights that SA is ranked 31st in Africa for the price of 1GB of mobile data as per the Competition Commission. With that in mind, the target is to ensure the country will be in the top 10 in Africa for the price of 1GB data pricing by 2024.

On spectrum licensing, the document emphasises the allocation of high-demand 4G spectrum to reduce the cost of data and increase access to the Internet.

Spectrum allocation is critical to SA in regards to the reduction of data prices which resulted in the #DataMustFall campaigns. Since 2016, South Africans have been complaining about the high price of data through the #DataMustFall social media banner, and both the Competition Commission and the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) initiated inquiries into data pricing.

Equally, mobile network operators Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Cell C have been readying themselves to take advantage of the spectrum to strengthen and develop new services, such as 5G.

Furthermore, for government, a spectrum auction will boost the fiscus.

To achieve the 4G coverage target, Ndabeni-Abrahams is responsible for ensuring ICASA is adequately resourced in order to license 4G spectrum. She must also implement the performance management system for ICASA councillors.

The minister must also ensure the National Radio Frequency Plan is revised in line with WRC-19 outcomes by June 2021.

In terms of the Broadcasting Digital Migration programme, the minister must meet the March 2023 implementation target.

Turning to 5G spectrum, the target is for licensing and commencement of rollout by March 2024. The minister is therefore responsible for issuing policy direction on 5G by December 2021.

As part of the policy direction, she is to introduce the conditions and obligations for the participation of youth, women and people with disability in the digital economy by December 2021, states the performance agreement between Ramaphosa and Ndabeni-Abrahams.

 

Source: MyBroadband

The person behind the recent Absa data breach was a credit analyst at the bank who had access to risk modelling systems and sensitive client information.

The employee, who Absa said they trusted, leaked the client data to an external platform and then sold it to third parties.

This is feedback from Absa chief security officer Sandro Bucchianeri, who was speaking to ENCA about the data breach.

Bucchianeri first learned about the data breach on 27 October, after which they informed the Information Regulator about it.

Around a month after first being alerted to the data breach, Absa sent an email to affected clients warning them that their personal information had been shared with third parties.

He said the communication with customers was delayed to ensure they did not compromise the investigation, which was going through a court process at the time.

To date, Absa has not provided much detail about the number of clients affected and the person behind the leak, but Bucchianeri has now shed more light on the issue.

He said the Absa credit analyst sold private information about their retail banking clients to third parties.

While Bucchianeri could not divulge who these third parties were, he said they were from a “marketing type perspective who were looking for that type of information”.

“They may use the information to sell services or try to commit fraud on these accounts,” he said.

This employee has subsequently been suspended pending further information. Absa has also brought criminal charges against the employee, and these are playing out in the courts now.

Bucchianeri said the information which was leaked included bank account numbers, names and surnames, ID numbers, and contact details.

He added that the details of around 200,000 of their retail banking customers have been compromised.

Absa has now destroyed the leaked data and the external party devices have gone through an independent forensic review.

“We are in the process now to obtain the files for our own investigation,” said Bucchianeri.

He said Absa may also bring charges against the third parties who had access to the leaked data.

Following the data breach, Absa has implemented heightened monitoring on all the clients’ accounts who were leaked.

 

 

By Phillip de Wet for Business Insider SA

South Africa’s largest ever data breach has now been contained, says credit bureau Experian, which handed over the personal details of some 24 million people to an individual it now calls a fraudster.

But it is still not clear what happened between the end of May – when Experian handed over that data – and mid August, when that containment actually took place.

On Thursday Experian confirmed that what it terms “the release” took place on 24 May and 27 May. That was when it handed over data including ID numbers, telephone numbers, and physical and e-mail addresses of more than 23 million individuals and nearly 800,000 businesses to someone who presented themselves as authorised to have that information.

As of Thursday, South Africa’s largest banks are warning affected and potentially affected customers to exercise heightened vigilance, because that information could be used in identify theft attempts, or to convince people to hand over more information.

For all of June, July, and the first two weeks of August, customers were not aware of that possibility, though, as Experian first sought to plug the leak.

This week the company said it had secured the hardware the information had been stored on via an Anton Piller, a court order that allows for search and seizure without prior warning in order to preserve evidence in civil cases.

“[W]e delayed publishing the incident due thereto that the Anton Piller is reliant on the element of surprise and we therefore could not make the incident public,” the company told Business Insider South Africa on Thursday.

Experian said it had detected the breach on 22 July – 57 days after handing over the data.

“The fraud was detected once Experian struggled to contact the representative of the company on his mobile and then attempted to make contact on the company’s landline,” the company said in response to questions. “The actual person who was impersonated confirmed that he did not have any dealings with Experian.”

It immediately started to investigate, Experian said, but needed “to ensure that we have the necessary evidence that is required to apply for the Anton Piller order.”

It actually applied for that order on 13 August, 79 days after handing over the data.

The order was fully executed by 18 August – 84 days after the breach.

On Thursday Experian said it believes “that the incident has been contained”, after it seized hardware from the suspected fraudster and the data was “secured and deleted”.

Asked why it believed the data had not been sold or otherwise passed on in three months, the company said:

“We have been monitoring the various platforms (i.e. the dark web) to ascertain whether the data is being offered for sale. We also employed a leading digital forensic investigator to assist us with our efforts.

“Also, from our internal investigations we ascertained that the fraudster conducts an insurance and credit services market place and uses the information to contact consumers in order to offer services to consumers.

“Due to the serious nature of the Anton Piller order, we are not permitted to share any details around this.”

The company also reiterated that it believes the breach was not that big a deal, as the “consumer information concerned was publicly available information”.

Beware this uncapped data scam

By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadband

Mobile users in South Africa should be wary of scammers claiming to offer data or airtime packages at suspiciously low prices.

An online-based scam which claimed to sell unlimited prepaid data, voice calls, and messaging bundles was recently pointed out by MyBroadband Forum members.

A party calling itself “Unlimited Prepaid Bundles” was selling several mobile products which it claimed worked on Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom’s networks.

The scammers had also taken out sponsored ads on Facebook for these “unlimited” bundles.

Upon visiting the Facebook page for “Unlimited Prepaid Bundles”, we discovered several early warning signs of trouble.

The first was the suspiciously low pricing of the bundles, which included an uncapped monthly data bundle at R249 and yearly uncapped data at R799.

After MyBroadband lodged these queries, the Facebook page and website of the scammers were taken down.

MyBroadband notified African Bank of the site and provided the details of the bank account which was being used to scam buyers. The bank confirmed it had launched a forensic investigation into the account.

Vodacom slashes data prices by up to 40%

Source: Tech Financials

Vodacom has cut data prices by up to 40% and will provide free data to access essential services through Vodacom’s zero-rated platform ConnectU with immediate effect.

The value of these initiatives is some R2.7-billion over the next year.

Vodacom’s various 30-day data bundle prices will be cut across all of its channels by up to 40%, providing customers with even greater value and making it more affordable to connect.

30-day bundle size price reduction

  • 50MB R12 – cut by 40%
  • 150MB R29 – cut by 33%
  • 325MB R55 – cut by 33%
  • 500MB R79 – cut by 21%
  • 1GB R99 – cut by 34%
  • 3GB R229 – cut by 23%
  • 5GB R349 – cut by 14%
  • 10GB R469 – cut by 22%
  • 20GB R699 – cut by 31%

Jorge Mendes, Chief Officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit, says: “Vodacom can play a critical role in supporting society during this challenging time and we’re committed to doing whatever we can to help customers stay connected. Since we started our pricing transformation strategy three years ago, our customers have benefitted from significant reductions in data prices and the cost of voice calls. Over the same period, we invested over R26 billion in infrastructure and new technologies, so our customers enjoy wider 2G, 3G and 4G coverage and vastly increased data speeds.”

The latest data reductions will complement the discounted bundle offers that will also be made available to prepaid customers in more than 2,000 less affluent suburbs and villages around the country. For qualifying communities to access further discounted voice and data deals, they need to simply click on the scrolling ConnectU banner on the platform via connectu.vodacom.co.za

ConnectU – which is a zero-rated platform – also goes live today. It will provide content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services for free. Learners and students enrolled in schools and universities can access relevant information for free, with no data costs.

The ConnectU portal includes a search engine linked to open sources such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary as well as free access to job portals; free educational content on the e-School platform; free health and wellness information and free access to Facebook Flex, the low data alternative to Facebook that enables customers to stay socially connected.

Vodacom’s popular Just4You platform has been a significant contributor to the approximately 50% reduction in effective data prices over the past two years. Substantial cuts in out-of-bundle tariffs and the introduction of hourly, daily and weekly bundles with much lower effective prices have also driven increased value and affordability, resulting in R2 billion in savings for customers in 2019.

This latest announcement is part of Vodacom’s social contract with the public and has been extensively discussed and agreed with the Competition Commission.

“Today’s price cuts and free access to ConnectU will also assist South Africans during the national state of disaster while at the same time helping to drive greater digital inclusion,” concludes Mendes.

By Yolisa Tswanya for IOL

They said it could’ve been slashed even further, but consumers have for now accepted a 34% reduction in Vodacom’s data prices.

Yesterday, it became the first network giant to comply with the Competition Commission’s call to lower data prices.

Morné Grewe said he was happy a decision has finally been made: “It will make a difference for many people.

“Even though it’s by 34%, it is a step in the right direction.

“It will make a difference to people and they won’t be spending so much per month on data.”

Beronisha Cloete said she found Vodacom to have good coverage but high prices: “I have never had any real problems with them.

“It can be a little lower, but it is what it is and we accept it.”

Nomzamo Balangile said the price reduction would allow her to buy data more regularly.

“I don’t always buy data because it’s expensive, but now maybe I will be able to buy more times a month,” she added. “I am glad they are lowering the price.”

Nedbank’s client data hacked

Source: Xinhuanet

Nedbank service provider’s IT systems have been breached, exposing the personal information of up to 1.7 million clients, said the bank last Thursday.

Computer Facilities, which does direct marketing for Nedbank by sending short messages and email marketing information on behalf of the bank, was breached.
The bank said there was some “potentially compromised data” which included names, identity cards numbers, telephone numbers, physical and/or email addresses.

“We regret the incident … and the matter is receiving our urgent attention. The safety and security of our clients’ information is a top priority,” said Nedbank CEO Mike Brown, adding that the bank systems or client accounts were not impacted.

“We are communicating directly with affected clients. We are also taking the necessary actions in close cooperation with the relevant regulators and authorities,” said Brown.

Nedbank group Chief Information Officer Fred Swanepoel said they have secured and destroyed all their client information held by Computer Facilities.

Last year the City of Johannesburg’s system was hacked and some payment in bitcoins were demanded. In 2017 South Africa’s insurance company Liberty was hacked and demanded ransom.

Disappearing MTN airtime caused by SMS error

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

MTN has investigated a report of disappearing airtime on its network and found the cause to be an issue with its SMS charging system.

An MTN customer recently contacted MyBroadband after noticing that his airtime balance was decreasing, despite him having active voice, SMS, and data bundles.

The customer recorded his MTN airtime balance over a 10-day period and found that his balance was depleting at a rate of around R0.10 per day.

This resulted in a total loss of R1.00 over the 10-day test.

Additionally, out-of-bundle data usage was not active for the user.

Faulty SMS charging node
MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said the depleting airtime was caused by a problem with an SMS charging node.

“Upon our investigation, we have established that our customer’s airtime was incorrectly depleted due to a faulty node which is used for SMS charging,” O’Sullivan said.

“The number format for the B-number was not being normalised to 083 format, but was instead being sent as 2783 which resulted in incorrect charging.”

“This node is one of eight which is used in a round-robin method for SMS charging,” she said.

O’Sullivan added that the node was detected and removed from traffic on 20 December 2019, which is why the customer’s airtime remained unchanged from this date.

Customers affected
It is currently unclear how many customers were affected by the faulty SMS charging node, but MTN is investigating this to determine which users to reimburse.

“We have extended our investigation to establish the number of customers that may have been affected by this error,” O’Sullivan said.

According to the mobile operator, the error affected SMS services for a number of its prepaid and hybrid customers.

“Pending the outcome of this investigation, we intend communicating to affected customers regarding their reimbursement.”

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.

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

A Vodacom customer contacted MyBroadband this week stating that their mobile data bundles were being depleted on a “Last In First Out” (LIFO) basis, which is in contravention of ICASA’s regulations which came into effect on 1 March 2019.

Among other requirements, these regulations require networks to deplete data on a “First In First Out” (FIFO) basis.

This means that your older data bundles should be used up before your newer bundles in order to optimise the amount of data eligible for rollover.

Depleting newer data bundles first means that the average expiry date of a customer’s rolled-over data balance becomes earlier.

The customer who contacted MyBroadband received a 20GB data bundle on 1 March 2019 and was left with 4.27GB of this bundle on 31 March 2019. On 1 April 2019, the customer then received a new 20GB data bundle.

According to the FIFO system, the bundle with a balance of 4.27GB should have been depleted first when usage occurred – but the new 20GB bundle which expired on 30 April began depleting instead.

MyBroadband contacted Vodacom for feedback on this case to determine whether this was an isolated incident or a possible failure to switch to the new rules.

Vodacom responds
Vodacom told MyBroadband that applying new systems in line with the regulations to its large customer base was a technical challenge.

“To meet the requirements of the regulations, Vodacom had to apply an order of consumption rule change to a base of over 40 million subscribers in addition to a number of other changes brought about by ICASA’s charter,” Vodacom stated.

“As one might expect with a complex and technical implementation of this magnitude – arguably one of the largest in Vodacom’s history – there will be some glitches.”

Vodacom said its technical team has worked tirelessly to resolve these when they arise and is currently investigating the case mentioned above.

“[The affected customer]’s case is an isolated incident that our technical team is currently investigating as all customers should have their data depleting according to the FIFO order of consumption rules,” Vodacom stated.

Vodacom added that its new data depletion system has already been implemented which automatically prevents out-of-bundle use.

Customers can also purchase Vodacom’s Data Refill product or set an out-of-bundle limit if they wish to retain connectivity after depleting their data bundle.

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