533 million Facebook users’ phone numbers and personal data have been leaked online

The personal data of over 500 million Facebook users has been posted online in a low-level hacking forum.
• The data includes phone numbers, full names, location, email address, and biographical information.
• Security researchers warn that the data could be used by hackers to impersonate people and commit fraud.
A user in a low level hacking forum has published the phone numbers and personal data of hundreds of millions of Facebook users for free online.
The exposed data includes personal information of over 533 million Facebook users from 106 countries, including over 32 million records on users in the US, 11 million on users in the UK, and 6 million on users in India. It includes their phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birthdates, bios, and – in some cases – email addresses.
Though South Africa is not directly listed as an affected country, millions of SA accounts appear to be affected under the designation “Africa”.
Insider reviewed a sample of the leaked data and verified several records by matching known Facebook users’ phone numbers with the IDs listed in the data set. We also verified records by testing email addresses from the data set in Facebook’s password reset feature, which can be used to partially reveal a user’s phone number.
The leaked data could provide valuable information to cybercriminals who use people’s personal information to impersonate them or scam them into handing over login credentials, according to Alon Gal, CTO of cybercrime intelligence firm Hudson Rock, who first discovered the leaked data on Saturday. “A database of that size containing the private information such as phone numbers of a lot of Facebook’s users would certainly lead to bad actors taking advantage of the data to perform social engineering attacks [or] hacking attempts,” Gal told Insider.
Facebook did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.
Gal first discovered the leaked data in January when a user in the same hacking forum advertised an automated bot that could provide phone numbers for hundreds of millions of Facebook users in exchange for a price. Motherboard reported on that bot’s existence at the time and verified that the data was legitimate.
Now, the entire dataset has been posted on the hacking forum for free, making it widely available to anyone with rudimentary data skills.
It’s not the first time that a huge number of Facebook users’ phone numbers have been found exposed online. A vulnerability that was uncovered in 2019 allowed millions of people’s phone numbers to be scraped from Facebook’s servers in violation of its terms of service. Facebook said that vulnerability was patched in August 2019.
Facebook previously vowed to crack down on mass data-scraping after Cambridge Analytica scraped the data of 80 million users in violation of Facebook’s terms of service to target voters with political ads in the 2016 election.
Gal said that, from a security standpoint, there’s not much Facebook can do to help users affected by the breach since their data is already out in the open – but he added that Facebook could notify users so they could remain vigilant for possible phishing schemes or fraud using their personal data.
“Individuals signing up to a reputable company like Facebook are trusting them with their data and Facebook [is] supposed to treat the data with utmost respect,” Gal said. “Users having their personal information leaked is a huge breach of trust and should be handled accordingly.”

Here are the 10 critical skills needed in South Africa right now

A critical skills survey conducted by Xpatweb highlights the most in-demand ‘scarce’ skills in the country, which has led to businesses seeking talent recruitment from abroad.
The survey was conducted across a wide range of multi-national and corporate firms to assess the level of difficulty organisations face when sourcing scarce skilled individuals and the role of foreign nationals in addressing these shortages.
The number of respondents has grown exponentially in recent years, with a 30% increase in responses from 178 in 2019, to 220 in 2020/21.
Xpatweb managing director Marisa Jacobs highlighted the results of the latest Xpatweb Critical Skills Survey 2020/21.
“The survey has revealed that 77% of organisations have stated that they are still struggling to recruit and obtain critical skills in South Africa for their local and cross-border operations.
“76% of participants further confirmed that an international search will assist the organisation in meeting its business objectives,” Jacobs said.
According to the latest survey, the top 10 skills businesses are struggling to recruit include:
• Engineers (18%);
• ICT (13%);
• Foreign language speakers (10%);
• Media and Marketing Specialists (9%);
• Artisans (8%);
• C-Suite Executives (7%);
• Senior Financial Executives (6%);
• Health Professions
• Related Clinical Sciences (5%);
• Science Professionals (4%)
• Accounting (1%).
Over the past five years, the skills shortage has persisted with eight categories of skills dominating the top of the list of professionals that businesses find difficult to recruit.
“This has led to many organisations seeking suitably qualified and experienced candidates beyond South Africa’s borders to fill these posts,” Jacobs said.
ICT professionals and engineers in highest demand
The number of businesses indicating that engineers are difficult to recruit rose from 16% to 18% which could indicate that these skills are being lost to the brain drain as countries like Australia and the United Kingdom compete directly with South Africa for qualified and experienced professionals.
Business expansions into Africa for special projects locally in the oil and gas sectors also tend to attract these in-demand skills.
Mechanical engineers (26%) were most in-demand, followed by maintenance engineers (18%), chemical engineers (13%) and industrial engineers (14%).
The demand for ICT skills remains unprecedented and climbing, as 14% of businesses, compared to 15% of respondents in the 2019 survey now indicate that they struggle to source skilled professionals in this field to drive their operational demand to transition into the digital economy.
The most sought after professionals include IT application developers (11%), data analysts (10%), data scientists (9%), software developers (9%) and software engineers (8%).
“As big data, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things rapidly shape the way of doing business, which often marks the difference between firms that survive and thrive in the transition from the third industrial revolution into the 4IR and those that don’t compete effectively, sourcing these skills is a priority that cuts across all sectors,” Jacobs said.
Executives and foreign-language speakers
Senior financial and C-suite executives remain in demand with the number organisations reporting that it is a struggle to find suitable candidates to fill these key business leadership positions.
Most in demand professions were chief operating officer (24%), chief financial officer (24%), chief executive officer (19%) and chief technology officer (19%).
These skills are most sought after in sectors including business and finance; production and manufacturing; management; information communication; IT and technical services, mining and administrative services.
“Factors influencing the challenges that businesses face in recruiting the right person for these roles include the fact that in a global village, organisations are increasingly seeking professionals with international experience.
“Businesses are not only seeking essential tick box qualifications and experience required for a traditional executive position, but they want professionals who are equipped with niche business experience to lead their expansion and growth across international markets,” Jacobs said.
“Businesses are aware of market dynamics in their various global markets and need to be certain that candidates understand the nuances of their specific focus areas.”
This global expansion of businesses and especially growth in cross-border trade on the African continent has also led to rising demand for foreign language skilled professionals, including the hiring of interpreters.
Some 10% of organisations indicated that they struggle to find people with adequate foreign language skills, a marked increase from just 4% in the 2019 survey.
Foreign language speakers most in-demand included, French (29%), German (18%), Mandarin (14%); Italian (10%), Spanish (10%) and Dutch (4%).
Sectors that are finding a demand for these skills are largely information technology and communication; business and finance; hospitality and tourism and education and libraries.

Home Affairs, UN Refugee Agency project seeks to clear SA asylum seeker backlog

CAPE TOWN – Asylum applications could be streamlined with the launch of the Asylum Backlog Project.
It’s a joint endeavour by the Home Affairs Department and the UN Refugee Agency.
It aims to eliminate the backlog in South Africa’s asylum system by 2024.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that the Asylum Backlog Project would include hiring more staff to help deal with a backlog.
“We provided a sum of U$9.6 million for this project over a period of four years. They’ll also provide technical assistance in the form of training. The money will be used to employ 36 extra lawyers because at the moment there are only three.”
Motsoaledi said that when the Refugee Act came into effect in 1998, the country had 11,000 asylum applications and in 2006 it reached 53,000.
“In 2008, it increased fourfold – 207,000 people just arrived and said they’re looking for asylum. Now while the system was still shocked, the following year another 223,000 followed, which means there’s still 400,000 people within a period of two years. Since that time, the system has never recovered.”
He said that they’d still not been able to clear that backlog.
“The number of people now who must be cleared via this backlogs is 163,000 applications


Travel ban in place – Travel to Germany and visa applications under Covid-19 restrictions

In a move to prevent the introduction of SARS-CoV2-variants, the German Government on 30th January 2021 has imposed a general ban on travel and entry from countries with widespread occurrence of such virus variants (referred to as areas of variant of concern). These include South Africa, Eswatini and Lesotho.
The ban has been extended until 14.04.2021 and may be further extended depending on the development of the pandemic.
Transport companies, e.g. air carriers and railway companies, may not transport any persons from these countries to Germany. Entry for such travellers into Germany is not allowed under Art. 14 (1) / Art. 6 (1) lit e of the Schengen Borders Code.
There are only a few, strictly defined exceptions to this travel ban:
• German citizens
• Members of the nuclear family of Germans who travel jointly with them. The nuclear family comprises spouses, legal partners, minor children and parents of minor children
• Citizens of the EU-countries and Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland who have their permanent residence in Germany
• Third country nationals with permanent residence and lawful residence in Germany
• Transit passengers (in international transit only, not within the Schengen Area)
• Repatriating crews
• Health Workers
• Persons traveling on urgent humanitarian reasons
• Persons traveling in official mission for EURATOM, the International Atomic Energy Organization or the United Nations or UN-organizations.
Please find more details on the Website of the German Federal Foreign Office concerning the following topics:
Travel ban, general entry restrictions, test requirements, digital entry registration, quarantine regulations
Answers to frequently asked questions regarding the Corona-Virus situation in Germany can be found here.
Applications for long-term visa
If you are planning a long term stay in Germany (such as for work or family reunification) you can find more information here. Please note that although it is currently possible to submit a national visa application the visa itself will not be issued as long as the above mentioned travel ban is in place.
The following information only applies for the time after the travel and entry ban from areas with virus variants of concern will have been lifted:
Applications for Schengen visa – only in exceptional cases
Entry to Germany from South Africa, Eswatini and Lesotho under certain conditions – after lifting of the entry ban – will be possible. Please find below the list of exceptions where travel is permitted and a Schengen visa application may be submitted.
If you already have a valid Schengen visa issued before 17.03.2020 you will only be permitted entry to Germany – after lifting of the entry ban – if one of the exceptions apply to you and the additional documentation (as mentioned below) are provided upon entry.
How to apply for a Schengen visa – additional documentation required
Should you be planning a trip under one of the exception categories, you may schedule an appointment with the external service provider TLS to submit your application.
Please make sure that, in addition to all the documents required for the basic purpose of the trip (e.g. business or visit), you also submit the documentation listed below in the respective category with your application.
You can find general information on Schengen-Visas here
Applications for which the required documentation is missing, including proof of the existence of an exceptional case, must unfortunately be rejected. Neither the visa fee nor the service providers’ fee will be refundable in these cases.
When travelling please make sure that the documentation is on hand at all times in case requested by the Federal Border Police upon entry.
Quarantine in Germany – still mandatory
When entering Germany you are subject to quarantine regulations. Check carefully whether the duration and circumstances of the quarantine make it possible to achieve your purpose and duration of the trip, justifying the current trip.
Further Information regarding current quarantine regulations can be found here and on the Website of the Federal Foreign Office.
Regulations on accomodation in Germany
Due to the partial lockdown in Germany many Hotels, pensions and guest-houses are closed or may close. When a Schengen visa is issued, the German Missions in South Africa cannot foresee that the booked accommodation will still be open at the time of arrival in Germany. Hotel closures due to a lack of demand can be expected. If there is no additional booking confirmation, the traveler may be denied entry by the German Federal Police.
Therefore for Schengen visa applications, additional documents regarding accomodation must be submitted with immediate effect:
• A hotel booking confirmation for business travelers, which was issued after 29.01.2021 and confirms the reservation. The applicant needs to travel with the requested document on hand.
• Confirmation from the family that was issued after 29.01.2021 that accommodation will be provided by them. The applicant needs to travel with the requested document on hand.
List of exceptions from entry restrictions for short-term stays in Germany
A) Family Visits:
Visits by members of the so-called nuclear family (i.e. spouses, registered partners, minor children and parents of minor children) of the following group of persons:
• German citizens
• European Union citizens
• Citizens of the United Kingdom, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway or Iceland
• Third-country nationals with an existing long-term right of residence and residence in an EU or Schengen member state or the UK (residence permit or long-term visa)
To be submitted additionally:
• Proof of the family relationship and passport copy of the family member who is being visited
Short-term visits of first or second degree relatives not belonging to the “nuclear” family for imperative family reasons such as
• Births; Weddings; Deaths / Funerals
• Special exceptional cases for which there is compelling reason.
To be submitted additionally:
• Proof of the urgent reason for travel and the family relationship
Short-term visits by the third-country partner to a nonmarried/non-registered partner in Germany and for marriage if:
• It is a long-term, permanent relationship / partnership;
• Both partners having met at least once in person;
• The partner issuing the invitation is a German citizen, a citizen of another EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland or the United Kingdom or a third-country national with a long-term residence permit for Germany.
To be submitted additionally:
• a written invitation from the person living in Germany, as well as a copy of the identity documents of the person issuing the invitation,
• a declaration of the existence of the relationship, signed by both partners and including the contact details of both partners, and
• other suitable evidence of previous personal meetings, in particular passport stamps, travel documents / flight tickets or a shared residence in another country; additional documentation such as photos, social media posts, postal/email correspondence etc. may also be provided.
Joint visits by unmarried couples from abroad if
• There are urgent reasons (e.g. wedding, illness or funeral of close relatives)
• One of the partners is a German citizen or a citizen of another EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland or the United Kingdom.
• The relationship/partnership is of a long term-nature, i.e. intended to be lasting and both partners having a joint place of residence abroad.
To be submitted additionally:
• A written explanation of the urgent reason for the joint entry with a declaration of the existence of the relationship, signed by both partners and including the contact details of both partners, and
• Proof of the existing relationship, particularly proof of a joint place of residence abroad (e.g. residence registration certificate). Supplementary proof may be provided in the form of photos, social media, letters and email correspondence.
B) Business trips and work purposes
Business trips for specialists or highly qualified people
To be submitted additionally:
• A declaration on the absolute necessity for a business trip at short notice personally signed by the business partner or employer in Germany. (n.B: a declaration by a business partner or employer in the sending State (third country) is not sufficient by itself). The letter by the German business partner / employer must contain the declaration that the trip cannot be postponed, the work cannot be carried out abroad and is absolutely necessary for economic reasons. (Sample letter)
• Proof that the business traveler is a specialist or highly qualified Person
Trade Fair exhibitors
To be submitted additionally:
• Confirmation of participation by the trade fair organizer
Trade Fair visitors
To be submitted additionally:
• Entry ticket to the fair
• Confirmation by at least one exhibitor that an appointment has been scheduled for a business meeting at the trade fair
Assembly specialists
To be submitted additionally:
• Contract for work and services
• Contractor´s employment confirmation for the traveller
• Labour Agency´s confirmation of receipt for the notification made by the customer having commissioned the assembly or disassembly in question
To be submitted additionally:
• Confirmation from the employer about the purpose of the trip
• Seafarers’ book
Professional athletes taking part in competitions / tournaments
To be submitted additionally:
• Invitation / confirmation of participation from the German organizer
Umpires taking part in competitions / tournaments or international sporting events in Germany
To be submitted additionally:
• Invitation by the respective German Federal Sports Federation or accreditiation by the organizing committee
Journalists in particularly justified individual cases
To be submitted additionally:
• Letter by the employer specifying the particular need for travel
Employees for religious reasons in particularly justified cases
To be submitted additionally:
• Letter by the employer in Germany specifying the particular need for travel
Artists in particularly justified individual cases
To be submitted additionally:
• Letter by the German organizer specifying the particular need for travel
C) Other travel purposes:
Travel for compelling medical reasons
To be submitted additionally:
• Verification and confirmation that treatment cannot be carried out in SA and that without the treatment; the condition would be life threatening and further damage could occur (sample doctors’ certificate)
• Confirmation by the receiving clinical institution in Germany about scheduled medical Treatment
Participation in court hearings
To be submitted additionally:
• Summons from the German court
If you are planning a long term stay in Germany (such as for work or family reunification) you can find more information here.
Frequently asked questions to the Corona-Virus situation in Germany can be found here.

New Zealand issues timeline for resumption of visa processing Immigration New Zealand has outlined the way forward for the restart of its visa processing services.

Many South African families have been forced to live apart for up to a year now as a result of New Zealand’s extended border closure and the halting of its visa issuing processes.
There is however good news on the horizon for South Africans who have been desperately trying to get to New Zealand. The country’s immigration department has revealed a timeline for the expected dates of its visa processing restart.
For several years, New Zealand was one of only a few countries that South Africans were able to travel to with visa-free access. The New Zealand government ended visa-free entry to South African nationals when it implemented a visa regime for South Africans in January 2017.
Since then, South Africans have been required to obtain visitor visas prior to travelling to the “Land of the Long White Cloud”.
New Zealand’s borders have been closed since March 2020 in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 infections in the country by prohibiting entry to individuals from outside of its borders.
While New Zealand has not been receiving visitors or issuing visas, it came to the attention of Immigration New Zealand that visa processing could be done in New Zealand. To save costs, the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) decided to close its visa processing centres in three locations: South Africa, India and the Philippines.
According to Imagine Immigration, a migration company specialising in migration assistance to Australia and New Zealand, senior officials at Immigration New Zealand have outlined the following timeframe for the resumption of visa processing:
• Visitor visas from July 2021;
• Student and partnership temporary visas from October 2021; and
• All resident class visas within 12 to 18 months.
Imagine Immigration also stated that there is pressure on the New Zealand government to allow entry to families who have been separated for lengthy periods of time due to New Zealand’s border closure and the halting of visa issuing.
It is believed that priority will be given to those whose visas had been approved when the country shut its borders, where a partner or parent is already living in New Zealand. Next in line will be those who did not have visas when the border closed, but who have a partner or parent in New Zealand.

COVID liability: What to do when COVID-19 strikes your hotel or guesthouse

While accommodation establishments grapple with record low occupancy levels, slow recovery, and health and safety protocols, there is another worry looming in the background – how do you protect yourself from potential COVID-19 litigation? Is an accommodation establishment liable if a guest falls ill? And what steps can an establishment take to make sure they are never on the wrong side of a negligence claim?
Insurers offer cover for pretty much any incident, accident or sudden illness on your property; they no longer offer liability cover for COVID-related cases – leaving clients vulnerable to a potential lawsuit.
What then can operators, guesthouses, lodges, hotels and B&Bs do to mitigate their risk during a global pandemic that may well become endemic?
According to corporate, commercial and contract attorney, Stefan de Beer, in a negligence claim, business owners will need to show that they took all reasonable steps to protect their patrons and guests from COVID-19 – but that burden of proof rests with the claimant.
“Negligence comes down to an objective test,” says De Beer. “What would the reasonable person in your position do? This is not someone who is an expert, or someone who has endless resources. It’s someone with similar access to resources, information and experience as you have: what would they do? The rule of thumb is that he who alleges must prove. If someone alleges that you are negligent, they must prove that allegation. Keeping records of all efforts made and information around the events in question will, however, only make it easier to disprove allegations of negligence.”
Any successful claim of negligence will come down to an intentional or negligent breach of duty of care. You can minimise the possibility of litigation by following a few key steps:
1. Update your paperwork
Have you updated your contracts and terms and conditions to meet post-COVID traveller needs? Your contract – and related T&Cs – will be your first line of defence against possible litigation. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution as every business is different, so look carefully at your own situation and consider:
• Your refund policy if a guest’s stay is impacted by a COVID incident out of their control.
• Waiving penalty fees due to travel bans/travel restrictions out of a guest’s control.
• How to deal with penalty clauses, for example, if a guest is turned away at the airport due to fever (i.e. fails medical screening).
• A provision in your T&Cs that guests/participants are obliged to undergo testing and remove themselves from the tour/group until a negative test result is received.
• Disclaimers/indemnities that offer a layer of protection against COVID claims – if standard, reasonable measures are taken to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Once you have looked carefully at your own business’s operational needs and formulated your T&Cs, it is important to get an attorney to assist you in finalising the contract.
1. Follow strict health and safety protocols
The National Disaster Management Act lays out certain regulations around gatherings, social-distancing, curfews, testing, self-isolation, quarantine and the wearing of masks. This is law and has to be followed. In addition, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has a comprehensive list of health and safety guidelines in place – and these demonstrate that that you are taking all precautions necessary against COVID-19.
While the TBCSA guidelines are not legal requirements, if you have made the pledge that you will follow the protocols – and you have received your stamp of certification that confirms you are compliant – you are bound to the protocols. In other words, if you portray your business as fully compliant, then you can be held liable if found negligent in your duty of care.
1. Have a plan of action
Imagine the scenario; a guest arrives at your guesthouse displaying COVID symptoms, or arrives symptom-free but has received word en-route that they have been exposed to a close family who has just tested positive for COVID-19. Do you have a plan of action?
According to the law, anyone displaying symptoms, or who was within an enclosed space for more than 15 minutes with a COVID-positive individual without PPE, must isolate.
This means isolating guests in their room, providing room service, access to COVID testing, access to medical care if necessary, and PPE (including a medical kit with pulse oximeter if possible). Ensure that you have developed a good relationship with your local health authority – and know exactly whom to call for testing and support. SATIB clients have the added benefit of just calling SATIB24 Crisis Call, who will guide you through any protocol.
1. Draw up SOPs
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a great way to ensure that all staff know the process – and their responsibilities – should a COVID-19 incident occur. An SOP leaves no room for interpretation and describes the necessary steps to take (in accordance with government regulations) should a guest fall ill.
An operator or establishment can draw up SOPs to cover (for example):
• Health screening and recording keeping,
• Steps to take if a guest arrives displaying COVID symptoms,
• Steps to take if a guest comes down with symptoms during their stay,
• Steps to take if a member of staff becomes ill/displays symptoms, and
• Steps to take if a guest refuses to follow agreed protocols (for example, wearing a mask in public).
1. Enforce COVID-compliant behaviour
But an SOP is not worth the paper it is written on if it is not followed to the letter. Model COVID-compliant behaviour, ensure that each and every staff member follows your agreed protocols – and ask your guests to do the same. No one is exempt from wearing masks in public areas, for example; it is the law. Have it clear in your contract, T&Cs, check-in information – and signage around your establishment.

Scalabrini’s ‘abandonment’ court case challenges constitutionality of South African refugee laws

Scalabrini Centre in Court seeking an interdict against the Department of Home Affairs, in first step to challenging the constitutionality of the Refugee Amendment Act’s ‘deemed abandonment’ provisions.
On 28 October 2020, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, represented by Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa Inc, is in the Western Cape High Court, seeking to interdict the Department of Home Affairs from implementing or operating specific provisions related to the deemed abandonment of asylum applications, which provisions were implemented with the coming into effect of the Refugees Amendment Act and Regulations from 1 January 2020.
Scalabrini Centre, in its own right as well as in the public interest, has brought a constitutional challenge against certain provisions in the Refugees Amendment Act and Refugees Regulations, which came into effect on 1 January 2020. The specific provisions being challenged are those relating to the ‘deemed abandonment’ of asylum applications simply because the asylum applicant is a month or more late in renewing their asylum document. In this challenge, Scalabrini Centre has first sought an interdict against the Department of Home Affairs, stopping the Department from implementing or applying the specific provisions. This interdict is to ensure that anyone who may have, or might still, fall foul of those provisions is protected against refoulement pending the final hearing of the main matter – the constitutional challenge of the impugned provisions.
Today, 28 October 2020, Scalabrini Centre is in court to argue why the interdict is necessary pending the finalisation of the main matter. The Department of Home Affairs has opposed the interdictory relief being sought by Scalabrini Centre. It has also opposed the constitutional challenge.
For more on the main challenge, see below.