Secure website, lazy website developers

Kalahari.com logoAre South African online retailers exempt from consumer security issues? It seems like some of them just don’t care, most notably, Kalahari.com.

Last week Friday I noticed an item appear in my basket on the site, a soft cover technical book. I was quite surprised and equally quite concerned as I never added it to the basket. So immediately I generated a new complex password for my account and proceeded to change my account password.

I followed up by emailing the Customer Service Manager with my concerns, as we’ve been in contact recently about some failed orders – a long story worthy of a series of blog posts! I don’t hear back from her and later I attempt to sign-in to my account once more only to be greeted with a sign-in failure dialog. So I try my previous password and it doesn’t work either.

Ok no worries, I use the password reset feature. About 10-15 minutes later I get an email with a new 5 character random password. I find it quite odd that the system generates such simple passwords, but at least its random I reckon. So I follow the instructions in the email and attempt to sign-in and change it to another suitably long and complex password. Alas their site doesn’t allow me to sign-in.

Dismayed I file off an email as per their instructions to their Support department, seeing as their Customer Service Manager at this point can’t be bothered to answer her phone or reply to my emails from earlier that morning. I get no response so I call the Customer Care line. The senior agent I get put through to explains that it takes about 30 minutes AFTER the new password is sent for the password to be reflected on the profile. So I wait another hour or so and try again. No joy. I give up.

On Saturday around lunchtime I get an email back from the support department telling me to sign-in with the following password and notice that it is indeed my password, not a new one, but my password is there in the email in clear-text!

Appalled by this I email the Customer Service Manager and explain how its not cool for Kalahari to store passwords in clear-text or even using reversible encryption, to which I get the following befuddled response clearly showing that the management doesn’t understand technology or how to read emails properly:

The support desk sign into your profile via our internal system called KMS, that enables us to do this without seeing / using your password.

What she failed to understand is that their Support staff managed to extract my password as clear-text and email it to me.

So now for the non-technical of you out there, let me put this in simple terms. Kalahari states in their Terms & Conditions:

You allow Kalahari to take all reasonable steps to ensure the integrity and security of the Website and back-office applications.

However it doesn’t appear that they implement the most common website security namely securing passwords. A common and recommended practice is for the website to store a one-way/non-reversible hash of your password. This means that if a hacker gets hold of their database or possibly even a disgruntled employee, they have no way other than brute-force to figure out your password.

But surely that shouldn’t be a problem as we all follow best practices and secure every site with a different password. Yeah right, not many people could be bothered. After all how dangerous is it if your Kalahari account is hacked ? Well What if you Kalahari password is the same as your company email account password or your online banking password? The risks are present, just not always clear to all.

My lesson out of this post is as follows, ensure every site and/or service you use has a unique and complex password. Use phrases, include spaces, include punctuation. Worried you will forget them, encrypt them using a master password in a password manager like 1Password (it syncs over DropBox onto all your devices). Just don’t be caught off-guard because sites like Kalahari don’t take all reasonable measures to ensure your data is safe.

Xbox LIVE launches in South Africa Summer 2010

Hot off the heels of the E3 game conference in the USA, Microsoft South Africa confirms that Xbox LIVE is heading to South Africa.

South Africa – 14 June, 2010 – Microsoft today announces its commitment to launching Xbox LIVE in nine new countries – Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Russia and South Africa – delivering the core gaming and entertainment features that have made Xbox LIVE the world’s premier online gaming destination.

“Xbox LIVE is about building communities and connecting people to each other and to great content. This expansion is another step toward our vision for LIVE – to deliver the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, wherever you are in the world,” said Marc Whitten, General Manager, Xbox LIVE.

The service will be available this summer and will focus first on delivering the core gaming and community features that have made Xbox LIVE the world’s premier online gaming destination, including matchmaking, friends list, Achievements, Gamerscore, a tailored Games Marketplace and more.

“This is an exciting step forward in the experience we can deliver to our loyal and committed Xbox communities,” states Yvette van Rooyen, Product and Marketing Manager, Xbox 360 South Africa. “Xbox fans in South Africa will now be able play the best games in the industry with the 23 million other Xbox LIVE users across the world who have made this their online gaming destination of choice. “

Naturally this is fabulous news for South African gaming, but we all knew it was coming, just didn’t know when exactly. It makes sense though with the rollout of Windows Phone 7 using Xbox LIVE features. Now all we need to get is a firm date of when and what will happen with Xbox LIVE accounts for early adopters – will we need to/be able to migrate across countries for billing purposes or will the restrictions be lifted entirely.

I told you all Xbox LIVE will be coming to South Africa.

Photos from the Johannesburg 27dinner

On Wednesday night a bunch of geeks, nerds and wannabe geeks packed into the upstairs section of Primi Piatti in The Design Quarter Fourways for the final 27dinner of 2009. This time there were no formal talks just lots of socialising and some really awesome grub.

It also proved an excellent opportunity for me to test out my new 50mm f/1.4 prime lens without blinding people with a flash. Unfortunately though I didn’t check my auto-focus setting and as a result quite a few of my shots are a tad blurry. But that’s what being an hobbyist photographer is all about, learning.

@mikestopforth Mike can haz pizza

@SnowgooseSAHeidi is huge on Twitter…

@vincenthofmannVincent is the the man

@donpackett & @CraigrodneyNormally there is only on person, but Don and Craig both have cheesy grins

 

You can find the rest of the photo album over here. I welcome your comments.

Comztek is the new Xbox distributor for SA

Comztek logoIt was sad to see Mi Digital got through liquidation however its great that Comztek has been appointed the official distributor for South Africa. Comztek has been distributing most, if not all, Microsoft hardware for the last couple of years. Not sure if I like that they are exclusive as I believe competition in supply chains is the key to optimising the supply chain and service levels.

Here is the official press release:

15 September 2009, Johannesburg – Xbox South Africa has officially appointed Comztek as its exclusive distributor in South Africa. Having taken on the challenge of being an interim distributor following the news of Mi Digital’s liquidation, Comztek has exceeded expectations of managing the distribution for Xbox over the last three months.“We are encouraged with the service received so far, addressing our priority of ensuring continuity of supply into the local market. We are confident that Comztek will continue to effectively manage and indeed grow the business of Xbox console, first party software and accessory distribution in South Africa,” says Lance Thorp, country manager, Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft South Africa.

Powercare remains the service agency for Xbox 360 consoles and will continue to manage the Xbox Warranty process.  Contact number : 011 997 5000.

South African pricing for Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero and DJ Hero announced

Megarom, the South African distributor for the Guitar/Band and DJ Hero series of games has just announced the pricing. I’m keen to try my hand on DJ Hero especially with the special controller designed for the purpose.

My only complaint with all these music games is that you end up having to license the same track under multiple games. Already I’m seeing duplicates in my Rock Band and Guitar Hero set lists, now I’m gonna have even more duplicates.

Official press release follows:

FOURWAYS, SOUTH AFRICA – September 10th, 2009 – Megarom Interactive (Pty) Ltd., South Africa’s leading interactive video game importer and distributor, today announced the local pricing of Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero and DJ Hero.

Guitar Hero 5, the latest title in the Guitar Hero franchise, has been priced locally from R899.00 for the Guitar Bundle and from R399.00 for the Stand-Alone Software. The full pricing details are set out below. The game has also been dated for release on October 16th, 2009.

DJ Hero, one of the new IPs in the Hero franchise, allows gamers to experience the thrills of a DJ with a unique new controller and gameplay technique. This product is set to retail in South Africa from R899.00 which includes the peripheral and the software (full pricing details below). DJ Hero is slated for release in November.

Band Hero, another new IP in the Hero franchise, allows players to experience the band feeling with the best pop songs made up from all era’s. Band Hero has been priced locally from R2,299.00 for the Super Bundle and from R399.00 for the Stand-Alone Software (full pricing details below). Band Hero is also slated for release in November.

Full Pricing Details:

Guitar Hero 5 – Guitar Bundle (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) – R999.00
Guitar Hero 5 – Guitar Bundle (PS2) – R899.00
Guitar Hero 5 – Stand-Alone Software (Xbox 360, PS3) – R599.00
Guitar Hero 5 – Stand-Alone Software (Wii) – R499.00
Guitar Hero 5 – Stand-Alone Software (PS2) – R399.00

DJ Hero – Bundle (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) – R999.00
DJ Hero – Bundle (PS2) – R899.00

Band Hero – Super Bundle (Xbox 360, PS2, Wii) – R2,499.00
Band Hero – Super Bundle (PS2) – R2,299.00
Band Hero – Stand-Alone Software (Xbox 360, PS3) – R599.00
Band Hero – Stand-Alone Software (Wii) – R499.00
Band Hero – Stand-Alone Software (PS2) – R399.00

This Christmas you can truly party the way you want with the variety offered by Activision and Red Octane.

Xbox 360 Elite price drop in South Africa

Xbox 360 Elite consoleIn true Microsoft reactive form, Microsoft South Africa have announced a very significant price drop on the Xbox 360 Elite console featuring a 120GB hard drive. It has been reported in the US that Elite consoles no longer include the HDMI cable, I’m checking with Microsoft South Africa regarding this. What is important though is that the 60GB console is now being phased out simplifying the product line-up to the Arcade, Elite and themed consoles.

The official press release follows:

August 27, 2009 — Xbox 360 today invites you to experience more fun, more entertainment and more ways to connect with friends and family at an even better value. From August 28th 2009, the price of an Xbox 360 Elite console with 120GB hard drive will drop by R1 500 to R3 399 (ERP).

Xbox 360 puts all your entertainment in one place so you can play games and watch movies from your Xbox 360, and as announced earlier this year, the Xbox 360 bought today will work with code-named “Project Natal” and controller-free gaming in the future.

“With the Christmas season right around the corner, it’s already time to start looking for entertainment and gifts that everyone will enjoy,” said Chris Lewis, vice president Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft Europe. “We have a goal over the next 18 months to reinvent entertainment in the living room and we want to ensure that we have the right foundations in place for our consumers to make simple informed choices around their entertainment platform.  We know that price is a critical influencing factor in consumer choice, but we also know that consumers across Europe are looking for value, benefit and entertainment experiences, so we need to address all these points to continue to grow and be successful in Europe.”

Having an Xbox 360 at the centre of your living room provides entertainment for any occasion. Whether you’re a gamer playing single player or with your friends, you can enjoy hundreds of titles that fit your gaming style. Watch movies, interact with the friends and view photos in the comfort of your home.

Games for everyone. Families and friends can get together to build a famous foursome and relive the music of the Fab Four with “The Beatles: Rock Band.” For those who crave action, players can tear up the tracks of “Forza Motorsport 3”; jump back into the “Halo” universe as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper in “Halo 3: ODST”; or deploy for combat with this year’s highly anticipated title from Infinity Ward, “Modern Warfare® 2,” the sequel to the best-selling first-person action game in history, “Call of Duty® 4: Modern Warfare.”

With all of these experiences available and the future addition of “Project Natal,” which will work with every Xbox 360 sold today and tomorrow, the Xbox 360 system provides more fun for less.

The price reduction on an Xbox 360 Elite coincides with a re-alignment in the Xbox console strategy across Europe, ensuring that at all price points Xbox 360 represents the best value for money in next generation gaming in each marketplace.  With the premium console of Xbox 360 Elite at a new price point of R3 399 aligned with R2 499 for Xbox 360 Arcade, the pricing structure provides clear choice, differentiation and value at both an entry and premium levels of Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 Pro with a 60GB hard drive will be phased out across South Africa.

So you’re stuck with a 20GB or 60GB console, the good news is that the retail stores should be stocking the 120GB hard drive accessory at around R1600. Note you can only use an original Xbox 360 hard drive on your console due to rights management. Transfer kits are available to help you transfer your content from your 20GB or 60GB hard drive to your new 120GB hard drive.

Guitar Hero & Rock Band 2 – I’m addicted

Guitar Hero : World Tour Super Bundle (Xbox 360)When I bought Guitar Hero 2 a few years back I must say the game didn’t get much play time in my Xbox 360 console, I just figured that I was clueless and lacked the required coordination to succeed at playing a plastic guitar.

Then last year after seeing what Rock Band was like at the 2008 MVP Global Summit party, I decided to order Guitar Hero World Tour, the complete band pack. Why? I figured the drums would do it for me. As a result I found myself playing a whole lot more Guitar Hero. I put it down to the songs not the drum kit as now I’m playing guitar more often than drums.

What really makes Guitar Hero World Tour so great though is that more than two people can play at the same time which is really awesome as it brings in people that would typically not be interested in gaming. Yes its a social experience and it rocks!

Rock Band 2 (Xbox360)Rock Band Song Pack 2 (Xbox360)In March I visited Seattle again for the 2009 MVP Global Summit and once again got to see and this time even played some Rock Band 2. Unfortunately its not officially available in South Africa yet and there is no news from Electronic Arts when it will be. However our good friends at Evolution Games have been importing PAL copies in for the local gamers. The awesome thing is that all of the Guitar Hero controllers work with Rock Band 2. Stock is very limited right now so get your orders in quickly for Rock Band 2 (Xbox 360) for R699 and the Rock Band Song Pack 2 (Xbox 360) for R409.

You can easily order for Guitar Hero World Tour Standalone (Xbox 360) for R596 or the Guitar Hero World Tour Super Bundle Pack (Xbox 360) including wireless drums, a wired microphone and a wireless guitar for R2869.

New Xbox 360 bundle with Burnout Paradise and Trivial Pursuit

Xbox 360 bundle with Burnout Paradise City and Trivial PursuitMicrosoft South Africa has just announced a new Xbox 360 console bundle that ships with the popular racing title Burnout Paradise as well as a well-known board game Trivial Pursuit.

The official press release follows:

Johannesburg – 25th March, 2009 – Microsoft today announces a limited edition Xbox 360 bundle, featuring an Xbox 360 60GB Pro with two games from EA – Burnout Paradise The Ultimate Box and Hasbro-inspired TRIVIAL  PURSUIT.  Available in stores across South Africa from 1st April 2009, the bundle represents great value at an Estimated Retail Price (ERP) of R3, 799.00 a value add well in excess of approx. R800, 00.

Welcome to Paradise!

Burnout Paradise The Ultimate Box, the latest offering from the Burnout series thrusts the player into Paradise City, the ultimate driving playground set in a vast open-world that will push your driving and riding skills to the limit.  The Ultimate Box features all the additional game add-on content and updates released following the games launch, all on one disc.

Nothing Trivial About It

Since its official launch in 1982, Hasbro’s TRIVIAL PURSUIT game has tested the wits of families and friends across the globe.  The bundled Xbox 360 version now brings the party to the living room TV with dynamic visuals, new questions and question types.  Players can connect with friends in classic TRIVIAL PURSUIT mode, hone their knowledge with the single player mode, and gather their friends and bet on their brains with the high stakes mode where every answer counts.

“This bundle offers families a great opportunity to bring the exciting multimedia entertainment capabilities of the Xbox 360 into their homes,” said John Press, Product Marketing Manager – Entertainment and Devices, Microsoft South Africa. “At fantastic value for families looking to save money by staying in, this offers high quality home entertainment right out of the box.”

Ninja Blade will ship to South Africa in April

Ninja Blade I can’t say I’m a fan of the Armored Core series of games, maybe because I’ve never played them, but FromSoftware have produced an awesome game called Chromehounds. Unfortunately it wasn’t well received by the market, but it remains an awesome game to play as team. Those who know the game most probably can thank Incredible Connection for the bargain price of R99 that one fateful weekend.

Here is the press release for their latest title, Ninja Blade:

JOHANNESBURG, 27 February 2009 – Microsoft and FromSoftware announced that Xbox 360 exclusive “Ninja Blade” has gone gold and will ship to retailers in South Africa on 4th April 2009.

FromSoftware, well-known for their work on “Armoured Core” and the “Tenchu” franchise, created a modern ninja epic where Ken Ogawa and his team of skilled fighters battle a terrifying disease that transforms the citizens of Tokyo into an infected monster horde. Armed with an extensive arsenal of ninja weapons and abilities, including Ninja Vision and Todomé Attack, players confront grueling challenges in their mission to save humanity.

“Ninja Blade” will have an estimated retail price of R699.00 and is rated PEGI 16+.  For more information, visit www.xbox.com/ninjablade.

Microsoft SA says no increase for Xbox 360 game prices

Late in 2008 the word on the street indicated that first and third party Xbox 360 game titles distributed by Microsoft locally would increase from the typical R699 recommended retail price to R899 and R999 per copy. Microsoft South Africa has issued the following press release regarding the Xbox 360 game prices that it distributes.

JOHANNESBURG – 23rd January 2009 – Microsoft today announced that there are no immediate plans to increase the prices of Xbox 360 games in South Africa.  Top of the range, new titles will remain fixed at R699.99 and Limited Collectors Editions at R799.99, despite speculation of game price increases in the volatile market. The pricing for Xbox 360 titles ranges from R 299 for classic games, to a maximum of R799.99 for first rate collectors titles, which means that there is always something affordable available for every gamer. This pricing is in line with the standard price of software in the gaming industry.

This is great news for gamers who were getting worried about the prices hitting about R999 per title.