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Top Tips for Security and Privacy This Holiday Season



Written by Phil Muncaster, guest writer at ESET

Thanks to a decade or more of big-name data breaches, global privacy scandals, and consumer rights legislation like the GDPR, we’re all more aware of cybersecurity and privacy issues today. And now that many of us are working more from home and our personal and work lives have begun to blur, the stakes have raised somewhat. No one wants to end up in front of HR because their reused passwords were stolen and used to hack a corporate database, for example.

Our personal data is of great value not just to advertisers and data brokers, but even more worryingly, to cyber criminals. Unfortunately, there are many ways for nefarious individuals to get hold of it. They could use phishing attacks to target us directly. They may hide info-stealing malware in mobile apps, gaming torrents, or other legitimate-looking software. Or they might use previously breached data to obtain our credentials and hijack our accounts. When it comes to advertisers and data brokers, much of the data slurping and selling is done silently in the background, often thanks to third-party cookies for better ad targeting or user experience.

Understandably, many of us want to mitigate the impact of these threats. So why not give the gift of better security and privacy and help your loved ones make some practical steps towards better protecting their personal information online? But let’s first mention something that is a must these days and surely you have it covered already: comprehensive security software. You know by now that you and your family should use a security solution from a reputable provider on all your devices.

Smartphones and tablets – which have been among the most popular holiday tech gifts for a while now – also need comprehensive protection from the device-, network-, web- and app-based threats. If a device is connected to the internet, then there’s a possible risk malware could find its way onto it. And once on there, the malware could be used to steal your data, lock down your machine for extortion, or for other nefarious ends.

Now onto a few less obvious ideas for gifts for your relatives – or even for yourself! Admittedly, not all of the below will be the ideal fodder for a traditional Christmas list – not least because some are free to use or difficult to buy or gift-wrap for others – but each is worthy of your attention. Or perhaps just think of it as a list of things to add to your cyber-hygiene practices, on top of these bad security and privacy habits you could consider shedding in the new year?

  • Secure Wi-Fi router: All of us have a wireless router in our homes, but we’re probably using one provided by our ISP. Many of these leave a lot to be desired when it comes to security, for example, not accepting long and strong passwords, failing to notify when critical updates are available, or having ‘things’ like UPnP or WPS enabled. A better option would be to choose a small business router designed for security and if possible, consider setting up a virtual private network on it and so avoid installing a VPN on each device. This brings us to the next point…
  • Virtual private network (VPN): These handy tools reroute your traffic via a secure encrypted tunnel so that the site you visit can’t identify you. A VPN is useful for enhancing privacy and security – blocking ISPs, government spooks, hackers, and advertisers from spying on you – and is particularly important if you’re out and about using public Wi-Fi networks. However, not all VPNs are created equal. Free services may sell your data to make money, while those with servers located in specific countries may pressure the provider to hand over data. Independent research is required to find the right choice.
  • Password manager subscription: Many of us have so many accounts and apps online today that we need to use easy-to-remember passwords, and often share the same credentials across multiple accounts. The problem is that if just one of these ends up in the hands of hackers, it may imperil all of them, as the bad guys can use automated “credential stuffing” tools to try and unlock your other accounts protected with the same password. With a password manager, you can easily create and store unique and strong passwords or passphrases for each site. The manager will remember them for you, whereas all you need to remember is a single password called “master password”.
  • 2FA hardware-based key: Two-factor or multi-factor authentication (2FA/MFA) offers protection from password-stealing threats by providing another layer of user authentication. Although dedicated MFA apps can also do this, another option is a physical hardware key. After enrolling it in each site you want to use, simply insert the key (usually into a USB port) to log in subsequently. If a criminal doesn’t have your key, they won’t be able to impersonate you.
  • Laptop privacy screen: Hybrid working means more of us will be travelling to the office again. That means more opportunities for shoulder surfers to see what we’re typing on our way to work. A privacy screen is an obvious solution, only letting light filter out from the display at narrow angles, thus reducing the chances of in-person snooping.
  • Webcam cover: Webcam hacking, also known as camfecting, isn’t unheard of. Cybercriminals or ‘just’ peeping Toms can hijack other people’s front-facing cameras through various means, including Remote Access Trojans (RATs) or vulnerability exploits. They could then use the stolen material or recordings for fraud or extortion, among other crimes. A sliding webcam cover can, therefore, come in handy. Other simple countermeasures involve placing a piece of tape over the lens when the camera is not in use, or unplugging the camera if it’s an external one.
  • Privacy-enhancing email: Email was not originally built with security in mind. And now there’s a secondary risk: that the providers themselves are snooping on your data to sell to advertisers or share with government agencies. Once again, numerous alternatives to the main players have sprung up in recent years with a focus on security and privacy. That not only means messages are encrypted by default, but the providers make money from premium subscriptions rather than advertising and are located in a country unlikely to share information with the US authorities if that’s a concern for you.
  • Secure messaging apps: These are unlikely to be on many of our Christmas lists, given that the apps are usually free to use and difficult to gift wrap. But it’s worth checking the one you’re using is optimized for security and privacy and provides end-to-end encryption. That means even if government or law enforcers ordered a provider to turn over customer data, they could not. Ensure the feature is turned on, as it may not always be by default. While you’re at it, consider tweaking the app’s settings further for even better privacy and security.
  • Anti-tracking software: As privacy concerns have grown among the populace, the market has responded with ad and tracking blockers. As the name suggests, they’re designed to protect your browsing activity from unwanted monitoring by ensuring any invasive or potentially malicious ads don’t appear on your screen.
  • Pro-privacy search engine: Major search engine makers generate their profits by selling advertisers access to your search history so that they can target ads. Many users will be fine with this level of intrusion if it means more relevant ads. For those who aren’t, there are plenty of alternatives now on the market – and they’re free and can, of course, be used from your regular web browser – or even from, for example, the Tor browser if you want to up the ante further.

Let this holiday season be also a time of security and privacy awareness. By taking small steps like those above, we can keep our information safer and make life harder for opportunistic fraudsters.

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Is Apple’s New ‘NameDrop’ Feature a Cause for Parental Concern?



In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, Apple’s new iOS 17 update has introduced a feature that’s sparking a mix of curiosity and concern: NameDrop. This functionality allows users to share contact information with others seamlessly, but it’s not without its set of caveats and considerations.

At the core of the apprehension is the proximity-based nature of NameDrop. For the feature to work, both devices must have iOS 17 installed, be unlocked, and be in close physical proximity – a touch is required to initiate the contact transfer. The user experience involves a swift interaction, prompting a screen at the top of the device with options to “receive only” or “share.”

The need for consent is emphasised in this process. Both users must actively participate in the transfer, acknowledging and approving the exchange of contact information. This deliberate approach is aimed at ensuring that the sharing of personal data is a conscious and intentional act.

However, the rollout of NameDrop has not been without its share of concerns, particularly among parents and law enforcement agencies. Police departments across the United States have issued warnings, urging parents to manually disable the feature on their children’s devices. The fear, it seems, is rooted in the potential for unintended consequences, especially considering the close physical interaction required.

Is it wise to err on the side of caution and turn off NameDrop? Perhaps. Is it time to hit the panic button? Not necessarily, according to experts in the field. In a report by The Washington Post, Chester Wisniewski, a digital security expert at Sophos, dismisses the concerns surrounding NameDrop as “hysteria” and “nonsense.” He suggests that Apple has implemented safeguards to prevent inadvertent information sharing.

One key aspect that should offer reassurance is the need for mutual consent and the deliberate physical proximity required for the feature to activate. The intentionality of this process is to eliminate the risk of accidental data exchanges, putting control firmly in the hands of the users.

As with any technological advancement, understanding and awareness play pivotal roles in ensuring a positive user experience. Educating users, especially parents and guardians, about the intricacies of NameDrop can empower them to make informed decisions about its use. Apple, being at the forefront of user privacy and security, is likely to continue refining and enhancing the feature based on user feedback and evolving security standards.

While the warnings from law enforcement underscore the importance of vigilance, it is crucial to approach the situation with a balanced perspective. The benefits of a feature like NameDrop, enabling seamless contact sharing in a world where connectivity is key, should not be overshadowed by fear.

Apple’s NameDrop feature introduces a novel way of sharing contact information, but its success hinges on user awareness and responsible usage. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the safeguards and features aimed at ensuring a secure and positive user experience. By staying informed and engaged, users can navigate the landscape of advancements like NameDrop with confidence.

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Expert Speak

Password Management: Creating, Storing, and Managing Secure Passwords



Navigating the complexities of online security begins with effective password management. This article aims to provide practical advice on creating, storing, and managing passwords, ensuring your digital safety with an approach that is both informative and user-friendly.

Crafting Unbreakable Passwords: A Practical Approach
Creating a strong password is more than a security step; it’s a necessity in today’s digital world. Follow these guidelines to enhance your security:

  • Length Matters: Passwords should be at least 16 characters long. A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that longer passwords significantly reduce the risk of hacking.
  • Complexity is Key: Combine different character types for a robust password. Use a blend of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Memorable Phrases: Create passwords using unusual phrases or sentences. Think “VanGoghStarry1Night!” instead of “Password123”.

The Importance of Diversifying Passwords
Using the same password for multiple accounts is like having one key for every lock. Diversify your passwords to ensure that a breach in one account doesn’t jeopardize others. According to a report by Verizon, 80% of hacking-related breaches are due to weak or stolen passwords.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Your Safety Net
Incorporating MFA can significantly increase your account security. This method, which often involves receiving a code on your mobile device, adds an extra layer of protection.

Personal Information: The Password Pitfall
Avoid using easily guessable personal information in your passwords. Cybersecurity experts warn that personal details are often exploited by hackers.

Password Managers: The Organizational Tool
A password manager is a secure and practical way to store and manage passwords. These tools also help in generating strong passwords. Consider options like LastPass, KeePass, or Keeper, based on your personal preference and needs.

Regular Updates: Key to Continuous Protection
Regularly updating your passwords can dramatically reduce your vulnerability to cyber attacks. Cybersecurity experts recommend changing passwords every three to six months.

Stay Informed: Your Best Defense
Staying updated with the latest cybersecurity trends and threats is essential. Never share your passwords, and always be alert to phishing attempts.

Embracing Secure Password Recovery Methods
Secure Password Recovery: It’s essential to establish secure methods for password recovery. Cybersecurity experts advise against using easily guessable security questions. Instead, opt for two-factor authentication or a secondary email for recovery. According to a report by Google, this simple step can prevent 100% of automated attacks.

The Role of Biometrics in Password Security
Biometrics Integration: The use of biometrics (like fingerprint or facial recognition) in conjunction with traditional passwords is becoming increasingly popular. This method, known as biometric authentication, adds an extra layer of security. A study by the University of Michigan showed that biometrics could reduce the time spent on password entry by 78%, enhancing both security and convenience.

Navigating Public Wi-Fi and Password Safety
Public Wi-Fi Risks: Be cautious when entering passwords on public Wi-Fi networks. These networks are often unsecured, making them hotspots for cybercriminals. The Federal Trade Commission suggests using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your internet connection in such scenarios. Additionally, services like Cisco Umbrella can provide an extra layer of security by offering internet gateway protection. This service not only secures your connection but also helps in blocking malicious sites and phishing attempts, making it a valuable tool for anyone frequently using public Wi-Fi.

The Evolution of Passwords: Future Trends
Future of Passwords: Stay abreast of evolving technologies in password security. Innovations like single sign-on (SSO) systems and blockchain-based passwords are shaping the future of digital identity management. A survey by TechCrunch indicated that 65% of tech professionals believe traditional passwords will be obsolete in the next five years.

Educating Others: Spreading Password Safety Awareness
Spreading Awareness: Educate family, friends, and colleagues about password safety. Sharing knowledge and best practices can dramatically reduce the collective risk of data breaches. The National Cyber Security Centre reported that promoting basic password hygiene could prevent up to 80% of common cyber attacks.

Tailoring Your Password Strategy
Remember, password management is not one-size-fits-all. Consider your unique digital habits and needs when implementing these strategies. Personalization is key to effective password management.

In the intricate web of digital security, password management plays a vital role. By embracing advanced recovery options, considering biometric solutions, exercising caution on public networks, keeping pace with technological trends, and sharing knowledge, we can fortify our digital defences. Effective password management is not just about creating strong passwords; it’s about adopting a comprehensive approach to digital safety, tailored to our unique needs and the evolving cyber landscape.

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Levelling Up Your PC Game Marketing to Capitalise on the MENA’s Gaming Boom



By Adam Smart, Director of Product – Gaming, AppsFlyer

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is home to the world’s fastest-growing gaming market — an estimated 377 million players, which is more than all of Europe combined (386 million) and considerably more than the US (210 million). Gamers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) combined have topped 65 million by 2021 and this number is predicted to reach almost 86 million by 2025. MENA gaming revenue is set to reach more than US$5 billion by 2025. In the UAE, where nine in every 10 adults say they play video games, the country’s gaming market is expected to reach more than $306 million this year.

One segment that has been growing consistently is PC and console gaming. As the growth has occurred, the PC gamer has evolved. No longer exclusively the domain of World of Warcraft aficionados brandishing their “l33t” statuses in front of hordes of “noobs”, the PC market is more diverse, and therein lies the opportunity. First, we have to temper the excitement by reminding you that enthusiasm is no substitute for strategy. Paid and organic moves must combine in a journey of iteration and learning. Hype must be built patiently, in four steps.

Pick Your Genre
You start out with a dream. You want to learn. You want your game to be played. So, the first thing you will do is determine — through research on marketplaces like Steam — what your best positioning is. What genre should your game inhabit to give you the best chance of momentum? Your genre will determine your competition and revenue potential. Each genre releases different numbers of games and has different sales volumes and average revenues per user (ARPU).

Consider a less competitive genre to start with, so you can build some revenue before embarking on more ambitious projects. Consider what kind of streamers play in this genre and how your game’s art style and vibe may fit their tastes. And get to know where your audience consumes content — Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, or others.

Get to Know Steam
Steam is the largest gaming marketplace, where visibility and downloads play out a little differently to Google Play or the App Store. Standing out among 50,000 other games and drawing players from among 130 million monthly active users is a daunting goal. Make sure you pay attention to your capsule (the hero image that represents you in the store). An attractive, professional design is more likely to pique interest. Next, craft your landing page to be a polished artefact that intrigues and inspires browsing — great imagery, short trailers, and lots of gameplay footage. And tag your game to ensure discovery. Steam is known for its window shoppers, so make sure they can add your game to their wish lists. This is a great marketing tool, an effective social wedge, and a sustainable driver of sales.

Leverage UA Channels
As an indie developer, signing with a publisher can help a lot with marketing, especially if your budget is tight. You can also get the word out through alpha and beta releases. Apart from hype, this is a way to keep your most loyal players engaged. Use tools like Sullygnome, Playboard, or HYPR to find well-known gamers/streamers. Many streamers made the difference for games once they started playing them on Twitch. Also check out online festivals like GDC, PAX, Tiny Teams, and Summer Game Fest to further build awareness. And if you have the budget, look into Meta ads, Twitch ads, and YouTube ads.

Find out which platforms host your potential gamers. Engage with them wherever they are. Run your campaigns on channels with which you are familiar, such as mobile and Web. Do not rule out CTV (connected TV) ads or offline ads to capture interest at bus stops and metro stations.

Measure and Optimise
By this point, you will have built a hype train. Now, you must measure its efficiency. You need to know your most profitable campaigns and channels and to do this, you need to measure and attribute conversions accurately. This is not easy in the multichannel haze in which the modern consumer dwells. A gamer could have spotted a Tweet, then watched a CTV ad, then a mobile ad, and then been confronted with a billboard. Which drove their conversion? Today’s marketing measurement and analytics solutions, backed by the right partner, can help organisations connect these dots to the purchase of your game. These platforms even offer a real-time view of campaigns’ performances across multiple channels and devices — a critical capability for branching out to sell games on consoles.

You Just Levelled Up
PC and console gaming sales are a world apart from mobile markets. But provided you understand the target genre and make the right moves on Steam (including wish lists), you should be in the necessary visibility bracket to take your campaign to the next level. Get social, plug yourself into the channels where your target gamers can be found. Enlist a publisher, dole out alpha and beta launches, and cosy up to celebrity gamers/streamers. Be seen at online festivals, spend (if possible) on Meta Ads, Twitch, and YouTube, and consider cross-platform campaigns across mobile, CTV, offline, and Web. But most importantly, measure. And through measurement, as the gamers say, “GiT GuD”.

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