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Here’s what an eavesdropper sees when you use an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot

You’ve probably read at least one story with warnings about using unsecure public Wi-Fi hotspots, so you know that eavesdroppers can capture information traveling over those networks. But nothing gets the point across as effectively as seeing the snooping in action. So I parked myself at my local coffee shop the other day to soak up the airwaves and see what I could see.My intent wasn’t to hack anyone’s computer or device—that’s illegal—but just to listen. It’s similar to listening in on someone’s CB or walkie-talkie radio conversation. Like CBs and walkie-talkies, Wi-Fi networks operate on public airwaves that anyone nearby can tune into.As you’ll see, it’s relatively easy to capture sensitive communication at the vast majority of public hotspots—locations like cafes, restaurants, airports, hotels, and other public places. You can snag emails, passwords, and unencrypted instant messages, and you can hijack unsecured logins to popular websites. Fortunately, ways exist to protect your online activity while you’re out-and-about with your laptop, tablet, and other Wi-Fi gadgets. I’ll touch on those, too.

Capturing webpages

I opened my laptop at the coffee shop and began capturing Wi-Fi signals, technically called 802.11 packets, with the help of a free trial of a wireless network analyzer. The packets appeared on screen in real time as they were captured—much more quickly than I could read them—so I stopped capturing after a few minutes to analyze what I had vacuumed up. Note: You can click on any of these screenshots to view larger versions that are easier to read.

My own website, captured via the hotspot packets and reassembled for viewing.


I first searched for packets containing HTML code, to see which websites other hotspot users were browsing. While I did see activity from other patrons, I didn’t capture anything interesting, so I visited my own website——on my smartphone.

This is a copy of the email I sent (and subsequently received) using my smartphone connected to the hotspot.


The raw packets with HTML code looked like gibberish, but as you can see above, the trial network analyzer I used reassembled the packets and displayed them as a regular webpage view. The formatting was slightly off and some of the images were missing, but plenty of information still came through.

I didn’t find anyone else sending or receiving emails during my visit, but I did discover the test messages I sent and received via my smartphone while it was connected to the hotspot. Since I use an app to connect to my email service via POP3 without encryption, you could have seen my login credentials along with the message (I’ve blurred the username and password in the screenshot).

This is all the information someone would need to configure their email client to use my account and start receiving my emails. They might also be able to send emails from my account.

And these are the packets that went over the network when I sent an instant message using Yahoo Instant Messenger.


I also used Yahoo Messenger to send a message while I was capturing Wi-Fi signals. Sure enough, the tool plucked that information out of the air, too. You should never use an unencrypted instant-messaging service with any expectation of privacy.

Capturing FTP login credentials

If you still use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to download, upload, or share files, you should avoid connecting to them over unsecured hotspots. Most FTP servers use unencrypted connections, so both login credentials and content are sent in plain text, where any eavesdropper can easily capture them.

These captured packets reveal the username and password securing my FTP server (I’ve blurred them in this screenshot).


While using my laptop to connect to my own Web server’s FTP server, I was able to capture the packets containing my login ID and password—details that would have enabled any nearby eavesdropper to to gain unfettered access to my websites.

Hijacking accounts

Computers aren’t the only devices susceptible to eavesdropping. I also ran an app called DroidSheep on my spare rooted Android smartphone. This app can be used to gain access to private accounts on popular Web services, such as Gmail, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Facebook.

DroidSheep looks for and lists any unsecure logins to popular websites. While it doesn’t capture the passwords to those sites, it can exploit a vulnerability that allows you to open the site using another person’s current session, giving you full access to their account in the process.

As you can see from the screenshot below, DroidSheep detected Google, LinkedIn, and Yahoo logins from other people who were connected to the hotspot, as well as the Facebook login I made on my other smartphone.

DroidSheep detected other users’ log-ins, which means those accounts were vulnerable to hijacking.


I couldn’t legally access other people’s logins, of course, but I did open my own Facebook login.

Using DroidSheep, I was able to access my own Facebook page without providing a user ID or password. I could have done the same with any other patron’s accounts if they were logged in.


Once I’d done that, I could magically access my Facebook account on that rooted Android phone (see the screen at lower right) without ever providing my username or password from that device.

How to use Wi-Fi hotspots securely

Now that you’ve seen just how easy it is for someone to eavesdrop on your Wi-Fi, here’s how you can use a public hotspot with some degree of security:

  • Every time you log in to a website, make sure that your connection is encrypted. The URL address should start with https instead of http.
  • You also need to make sure that the connection stays encrypted for all of your online session. Some websites, including Facebook, will encrypt your log-in and then return you to an unsecured session—leaving you vulnerable to hijacking, as discussed earlier.
  • Many sites give you the option of encrypting your entire session. You can do this with Facebook by enabling Secure Browsing in the Security settings.
  • When you check your email, try to login via the Web browser and ensure that your connection is encrypted (again, look for https at the beginning of the URL). If you use an email client such as Outlook, make sure your POP3 or IMAP and SMTP accounts are configured with encryption turned on.
  • Never use FTP or other services that aren’t encrypted.
  • To encrypt your Web browsing and all other online activity, use a VPN, or virtual private network (this article will show you how).
  • Keep in mind that private networks have similar vulnerabilities: Anyone nearby can eavesdrop on the network. Enabling WPA or WPA2 security will encrypt the Wi-Fi traffic, obscuring the actual communications, but anyone who also has that password will be able to snoop on the packets traveling over the network. This is particularly important for small businesses that don’t use the enterprise (802.1X) mode of WPA or WPA2 security that prevents user-to-user eavesdropping.

Taken from: on 26/11/2015.

Written by: Eric Geier

Is Facebook using up your Data?

So, Facebook hLogoas recently added a new feature to the app where it plays all the videos in your news feed automatically.  Even if you haven’t opened them!  This can seriously eat up your data cap and leave you with the bare minimum. We’ve put together a quick how-to guide on changing these settings to save your data!

Save on data by following these easy steps to change your Facebook settings:facebook

Important note: if you’re accessing Facebook via multiple devices, you need to change your settings on each device, to solve the problem.

If you’re accessing Facebook on your PC or Laptop:

  1. Go to Facebook and click on “Settings” (Top right of your screen).
  2. Select “Videos” from the menu on the left of your screen.
  3. Auto-Play Videos: Select “Off” from the drop-down field on the right

If you’re accessing Facebook via your Mobile phone (iOS/iPhone):

  1. Click on the Facebook app.
  2. Go to your “Settings” (Usually the bottom right of your screen and sometimes under the “more” tab).
  3. Select “Account Preferences”.
  4. Select “Videos and pictures”.
  5. Auto-Play Videos: select the “Never Auto-Play Videos” option from the drop down menu.

If you’re accessing Facebook via your Mobile phone (Android phones ie. Samsung etc.):

  1. Click on the Facebook app.
  2. Go to the ”hamburger” icon (3 parallel lines), and choose “Settings” (Usually the top right of your screen)
  3. Select “App Settings”.
  4. Switch “Videos play automatically” to “Off”.

Saving data is now EASIER!!

We hope this helps you to get the most out of your Internet data.

Telkom’s crazy fibre-to-the-home target

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko recently said the company wants to service one million FTTH-connected homes within the next three years.

Speaking at Satnac 2015, Maseko said Telkom will double its investment in FTTH and fibre-to-the-business to achieve these targets.

Telkom currently has 38,000 homes connected to its FTTH network, and plans to grow this number to 70,000 by the end of 2015.

Maseko said that by March 2016, they plan to serve 150,000 homes with fibre – expanding to 400,000 homes in 2017.

Maseko said Telkom is committed to democratising broadband access. “We have set ourselves the objective of contributing to transforming the South African economy”.

While Telkom’s fibre roll-out for large metropolitan areas will continue, the company is working with the government to provide broadband to under-serviced areas.

Very ambitious target

To put Telkom’s one-million FTTH target into perspective, it took the company 13 years to reach the same milestone with its ADSL service.

There is one big difference, though. The ADSL infrastructure – copper lines – already existed and were already installed in people’s homes.

Telkom’s new fibre-to-the-home infrastructure is still being rolled out. This includes both last mile and other network components.

The graph below shows the growth of ADSL in South Africa, and Telkom’s new fibre-to-the-home target.

Telkom FTTH plans

Undersea cable systems in South Africa from 1879 to 2015

Most of your Internet traffic is carried via submarine cable systems from Europe and the United States – here are the cable systems which have served the country over the last 150 years.

By August 10, 2015 7 Comments

African Undersea Cables Map 2014 header

There are currently several submarine cable systems which serve South Africa’s telecommunications needs – SAT-3/WACS, Seacom, WACS, and EASSy. All of these systems became operational over the last 15 years.

However, there were submarine cables long before the Internet was invented. The first submarine cable system which connected South Africa to Europe was launched in 1879.

The photos below, for example, show how a telephony undersea cable was laid in the 1940s in Cape Town.

A hat tip to Telkom’s library services for providing the photos.

Laying an undersea cable in Cape Town

Commencing to haul the cable ashore at Blaawberg in 1944

Main undersea cable systems in South Africa

Here is a summary of some of the submarine cable system which served South Africa’s telecommunications needs since the first telephone service was launched in the country.


1879 – First submarine cable between Europe and Durban

Cable station in 1879

On 27 December 1879, South Africa was directly connected with Europe via Durban and Zanzibar to Aden by means of the East Coast cable of the South African Telegraph Company. This was a single-channel cable.


1889 – First West Coast submarine cable from Cape Town to Europe

In 1889 the first West Coast submarine cable from Cape Town to Europe was established. The cable went via St Helena and the Ascension Islands.

Cape Town telegraph office in 1889


1968 – SAT-1

SAT-1 cable laying ship in 1969

The SAT-1 cable was laid in 1968, and stretched from Melkbosstrand in South Africa to Sesimbra in Portugal. The submarine cable was a co-axial telephone cable manufactured by Standard Telephone and Cables Ltd. The cable carried 360 telephone circuits, opened for traffic in February 1969, and was taken out of service in June 1993.


1993 – SAT-2

Laying of SAT-2

Construction on the SAT-2 cable started in May 1992, and ran from Funchal, Madeira to Melkbosstrand in South Africa. SAT-2 was a fibre optic cable, and was the first submarine cable constructed to enable commercial and private use of the Internet. The SAT-2 cable opened for service in March 1993, and replaced the SAT-1 cable.


2001 – SAT-3/SAFE

SAT-3 cable

SAT-3 is a fibre submarine cable linking Portugal and Spain to South Africa, while SAFE connects South Africa to Asia. SAT-3 had an initial design capacity of 340Gbps, while SAFE had a design capacity of 440Gbps. The system’s capacity has been upgraded since launch. The SAT-3/SAFE system was built by a consortium of operators, which included Telkom.


2009 – Seacom


Seacom is the first submarine cable system to connect South Africa to Europe via the East Coast of Africa. The 17,000km submarine fibre-optic cable system was launched in July 2009, and at launch had a design capacity of 1.28Tbps.


2010 – EASSy

EASSy landing

In July 2010 the 10,500km Eastern African Submarine Cable System – better known as EASSy – was launched. EASSy has a 2 fibre-pair configuration, and links South Africa with Sudan via landing points in Mozambique, Madagascar, the Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti. In 2011 the design capacity of EASSy was increased to 4.72Tbps.


2012 – WACS


The West Africa Cable System (WACS) was launched in May 2012 with a design capacity of 5.12Tbps. The 17,200km WACS fibre optic submarine cable system spans the west coast of Africa, starting at Yzerfontein near Cape Town and terminating in the United Kingdom. WACS is the first submarine cable system to make use of Generalized Multi-Protocol Label Switching to provide advanced in-system restoration of wavelengths – increasing network resilience.

Taken from on 11/08/2015.

Over seven billion mobile broadband subscriptions


Mobile broadband is growing rapidly‚ reaching nearly half of the global market this year‚ a twelve-fold increase in just eight years.

New figures released by ITU‚ the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs)‚ with 193 member states‚ show there are now more than seven billion mobile subscriptions worldwide‚ up from 738 million in 2000.

To put that in context, as of 2012 estimates the world population is also over seven billion.

Globally‚ 3.2 billion people are using the Internet‚ of which two billion live in developing countries.

“These new figures not only show the rapid technological progress made to date‚ but also help us identify those being left behind in the fast-evolving digital economy‚ as well as the areas where ICT investment is needed most‚” ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said in a prepared speech delivered at the press conference to launch the report today at the 2015 WSIS Forum in Geneva.

“ICTs will play an even more significant role in the post-2015 era and in achieving future Sustainable Development Goals as the world moves faster and faster towards a digital society‚” said Brahima Sanou‚ the Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.

Between 2000 and 2015‚ Internet penetration has increased almost seven-fold from 6.5 to 43 percent of the global population.

The proportion of households with Internet access at home advanced from 18 percent in 2005 to 46 per cent in 2015.

ITU figures also indicate that four billion people in the developing world remain offline. Off the nearly one billion people living in the Least Developing Countries‚ 851 million do not use the Internet.

05-wifi-connect-on-mobile-device-placeitMobile broadband is the most dynamic market segment‚ with mobile-broadband penetration globally reaching 47 percent in 2015‚ a value that increased 12-fold since 2007. In 2015‚ 69 percent of the global population will be covered by 3G mobile broadband‚ up from 45 percent in 2011.

There is also a rapid extension of 3G mobile broadband into rural areas‚ and ITU estimates that 29 percent of the 3.4 billion people worldwide living in rural areas will be covered by 3G mobile broadband by the end of 2015.

Among the four billion people living in urban areas‚ 89 percent will have access to 3G mobile broadband.

Fixed-broadband uptake is growing at a slower pace with a seven percent annual increase over the past three years. While the prices of fixed-broadband services dropped sharply between 2008 and 2011 in developing countries‚ they have been stagnating since then and even increased slightly in Least Developing Countries.

The figures indicate that broadband is now affordable in 111 countries‚ with the cost of a basic (fixed or mobile) broadband plan corresponding to less than five percent of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita‚ thus meeting the target set by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

The global average cost of a basic fixed-broadband plan‚ as measured in PPP$ (or purchasing power parity $)‚ is 1.7 times higher than the average cost of a comparable mobile-broadband plan. Differences in broadband speed persist‚ the report shows‚ with Korea republic‚ France and Ireland faring well whereas downloading information would require patience in Zambia‚ Zimbabwe‚ Pakistan and Senegal

The ITU report tracks ICT progress and shows gaps in connectivity since the year 2000‚ when world leaders established the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

-RDM News Wire

This article was taken from: on the 02/06/2015.

Elon Musk: How a bullied boy became a man who can change the world.


Genius, billionaire, philanthropist … Elon Musk is not Tony Stark, but he’s getting close.

Musk, who has a 10-second cameo in Iron Man 2, was the inspiration for director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey jnr’s big-screen Tony Stark because he’s at the cutting edge of technology and is shaping its impact on humanity.

The adventures of the South African-born Musk are documented in a new biography by Ashlee Vance, a Bloomberg journalist who hounded him into co-operating with him.

The CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and chairman of SolarCity is one of the most recognisable figures in the world. In his book, Vance details the boardroom battles and workplace fistfights between brothers Elon and Kimbal when they launched their first company, Zip2, later sold to Compaq for $300-million – as well as the inspiration and sheer force of will that were part of Musk’s often turbulent trip to the top.

Much has been made about his adventures in Silicon Valley. He co-founded PayPal and made a mint when eBay bought it for $1.5-billion.

Through his companies, Musk is pushing the boundaries of technology to achieve lofty goals: he wants to build a future that will see humankind weaned off fossil fuel (SolarCity and Tesla) and have us become an interplanetary species – SpaceX aims to get us to Mars to build colonies. Like, seriously? Where does he get the chutzpah?

Aware of his own myth, Musk recently tweeted: “The rumour that I’m building a spaceship to get back to my home planet Mars is totally untrue.”

He’s not from Mars. He’s from Pretoria. And therein lies some of the answer to the chutzpah question.

His prodigious natural – some might say unnatural – talents aside, Musk suffered the kind of adversity growing up that frequently leads bright sparks to achieve beyond the dreams of most.

He has successfully battled goliaths in two sectors notoriously hard to crack: the motor and aeronautical industries. And he’s done it before; along with Kimbal, Musk founded (later PayPal), initially conceived as the world’s first internet bank, beyond the secure internet payment system it was relegated to when bought by eBay.

The brothers have profited from their talents. But those talents could not have borne such glorious fruit were they not combined with an appetite for risk way beyond the norm, coupled with the motivation of wanting to escape an unhappy childhood.

Musk turned four a few days after the Soweto uprisings. He travelled abroad regularly with his father, Errol, and Vance notes the young Musk “would have gotten a flavour of how the rest of the world viewed South Africa”.

But despite being raised in a well-off, whites-only suburb, the Musk boys and their young sister Tosca did not have a happy childhood. Errol, an engineer, was not a happy man and could “suck the joy out of any situation”.

Musk and his first wife, Justine, have agreed that their children will never meet Errol. Musk ‘s mother, Maye, a former Miss South Africa finalist who was won over by Errol’s determined wooing, will not speak of what the family endured. The couple divorced when Musk was about eight . Maye moved to Durban with Tosca; Musk and Kimbal opted to live with Errol.

It would certainly be accurate to say that I did not have a good childhood. It was not absent of good, but it was not a happy childhood. It was like misery

“I don’t want to tell you stories. You know, you just don’t talk about it. There are kids and grandkids involved,” Maye told Vance. The book details how Errol would sit the boys down and lecture them for three or four hours without them being able to respond.

Kimbal told Vance: “He definitely has serious chemical stuff [imbalances]. Which I am sure Elon and I have inherited. It was a very emotionally challenging upbringing, but it made us who we are today.”

Musk called his father “an odd duck” and said: “It would certainly be accurate to say that I did not have a good childhood. It may sound good. It was not absent of good, but it was not a happy childhood. It was like misery.

But it was not just at home where things were rough. At school, Musk, already the nerdish know-it-all, was tormented by bullies. Vance writes that the “Afrikaner culture so prevalent in Pretoria and the surrounding areas had an impact on Musk”.

“Hypermasculine behaviour was celebrated and tough jocks were revered.” And the jocks decided that Musk, a compulsive reader since childhood and prone to “dreamlike states”, did not belong. The books of JRR Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, and his childhood favourite, Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, provided an escape, but the small world he lived in was stifling.

Vance writes that Musk bounced around a few schools and encountered serious bullying at Bryanston High. One afternoon, he and Kimbal were sitting on the top of a flight of concrete stairs eating when a boy crept up behind Musk, kicked him in the head and pushed him down the stairs. Musk said: “I think I accidentally bumped this guy at assembly that morning and he’d taken some huge offence at that.”

After he’d tumbled down the stairs, a bunch of boys jumped on him, kicking him in the side while the ringleader smashed his head on the ground. “They were a bunch of f***ing psychos,” Musk said. After a week in hospital, he had to return to school. But the bullies did not relent. Vance writes that they beat up a boy whom Musk considered his best friend, until the boy agreed to stop being Musk’s friend.

The author notes that “while Musk enjoyed a level of privilege, his notion that something about the world had gone awry received constant reinforcement, and Musk, almost from his earliest days, plotted his escape”.

Musk had an American dream and spent much of his time plotting to get to the US. His dad tried to teach him a lesson by sending away the housekeepers so the young boy would have to do all the chores – to let him know what it was like “to play American”.

It did not work. Musk got to the US via Canada in his 20s, helped by his mother’s Canadian citizenship.

Would Elon Musk be Elon Musk without the adversity of his formative years? Would he have chased a dream in Canada and the US if all his needs had been met in South Africa? Probably not. Probably he would be living a life far less

Article taken from: on 02/06/2015. Sunday Times.