Social Media and Shopping: Report Provides Potential Insights on North Korean Online Behavior

Image result for Social Media and Shopping: Report Provides Potential Insights on North Korean Online BehaviorA new report offers fascinating insight into Internet activity from North Korea, suggesting that average North Koreans and the upper echelons of the Workers’ Party and military aren’t nearly as cut off as commonly portrayed. However, no definitive conclusions can be drawn from the report about the source, frequency and range of this access because it doesn’t provide hard numbers for many of its conclusions and the raw data isn’t available. That is unfortunate because the findings are counter-intuitive to what we have assumed about North Korean online behavior. Opening the data to peer review may help us better understand the nature and scale of this activity and, if confirmed, could change the way the world deals with North Korea.

Findings

The report was published in July by the Insikt Group, the research arm of Massachusetts-based Recorded Future. The company utilizes machine learning to deliver online security threat intelligence to businesses. The basis for the report was Internet traffic captured outside of North Korea by Team Cymru, a computer security-focused non-profit that acts as Insikt’s “intelligence partner.”

In the report, researcher Priscilla Moriuchi, the director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future and a 12-year veteran of the US intelligence community, writes that users in North Korea spend much of their time online checking social media. Facebook was the most often accessed site with Google, Baidu and Instagram all attracting significant numbers of views. Alibaba, Amazon, Tencent and Apple rounded out the top eight social networking sites over the period of the data, which spanned April 1 to July 6 this year.

Just on April 1, for example, the report notes users accessed 163.com email accounts, streamed Chinese-language video from Youku and checked news on Xinhua and People’s Daily.

Team Cymru was vague about how it captured the data and exactly what it consisted of, but it has previously said it works with “data donors and sources.” It also declined to provide a copy of the North Korean data without subscription to its commercial service. But the report did provide details of how it decided what was “North Korean” traffic and it comes down to three blocks of Internet addresses.

  • The first was a block of 1,024 Internet addresses from 175.45.176.0 to 175.45.179.255. Those are addresses allocated to Star JV, North Korea’s sole Internet provider. All of the country’s websites sit within this range and it’s also used by the Koryolink 3G service for Internet access offered to resident foreigners and tourists.
  • The second was a smaller block of 256 addresses from 210.52.109.0 to 210.52.109.255. These are Chinese addresses but have been allocated to North Korea’s state-run telecom provider through China Netcom since before Star JV existed. North Korean websites sat in these addresses about 15 years ago.
  • The third group was another 256 addresses from 77.94.35.0 to 77.94.35.255. These are allocated to SatNet, a Russian satellite Internet provider and are currently registered as being used in Lebanon. In the past, these were registered as being used by North Korea, but information in the Internet address registration database isn’t verified so it’s unproven whether these were or are legitimate North Korean addresses.

Moriuchi feels sure the SatNet addresses were in use by North Korea during the time the data was collected and points to the similarity in access patterns between the SatNet addresses and the Star JV addresses; she didn’t see any traffic targeted at Lebanese websites, as might be expected. Again, the baseline data wasn’t available to illustrate or support that assertion. Moriuchi told me, however, that the SatNet traffic made up about 40 percent of the data with just 1 percent coming from the China Netcom block. The rest came from the North Korean IP range and that, if taken alone, would still support the general findings of the report.

Among Moriuchi’s research, she found a larger-than-expected amount of traffic from North Korea to India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nepal, Kenya and Mozambique. She said the amount of access was higher than would typically be expected and directed at sites such as a local news outlets and governments—the kind of sites only someone living there or with a link to the country might access.

In fact, one fifth of all activity observed in the data involved India—a surprising amount. According to the report, the traffic suggests North Korea has students at least seven universities and might be working with several research institutions in the country.

Of the countries mentioned, Malaysia and Indonesia also maintain diplomatic missions in North Korea, although Malaysia brought diplomats home as relations with Pyongyang broke down in the wake of the murder of Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur.

Perhaps most intriguingly, on May 17, Bitcoin mining traffic was observed. There had been none since the beginning of April but it suddenly spiked. The report notes the close timing with the release of the “WannaCry” malware that hit computers between May 12 and 15. WannaCry demanded a ransom in Bitcoin and was linked to North Korea by computer security companies.

The report also noted the use of at least seven different western VPN (virtual private network) services in traffic among the data. Such services require a credit card subscription, which isn’t impossible for a North Korean to arrange through overseas contacts, but again raises the question of who is behind the traffic.

The report notes, “one VPN was used by an iPad to check a Gmail account, access Google Cloud, check Facebook and MSN accounts, and view adult content. Other VPN and VPS (virtual private server) were used to run Metasploit (security software), make purchases using Bitcoin, check Twitter, play video games, stream videos, post documents to Dropbox, and browse Amazon.”

Caveats

An important caveat to many of the findings in the report is that it’s unclear how many people were covered and who they are. The report refers to those with Internet access as a “limited number,” but it didn’t acknowledge that several hundred foreigners might be present in Pyongyang at any one time, accessing the Internet and connecting to overseas sites. For them, using VPNs, accessing Facebook and Google and checking 163.com email accounts would be expected.

Moriuchi later told me she did see traffic that appeared to be foreign residents but it was just a small sliver of the overall data. But it’s impossible to know how much because the report doesn’t provide those numbers and Moriuchi wouldn’t disclose them.

Take the Indian traffic, for example. From the data provider, it’s impossible to determine whether the increased activity to India is just bored diplomats at India’s embassy Pyongyang. We also don’t know the amount of data analyzed, the number of websites accessed or even an estimate as to the number of Internet users in Pyongyang.

In a phone conversation, Moriuchi told me the traffic collected represented a significant number of records—it wasn’t just a handful of web sessions each day—but wouldn’t put numbers on it. When I asked her what it might compare to, she said it was about what you might expect from a medium-sized company—which is about 50 to 250 people according to most definitions.

Unanswered Questions

Just like almost everywhere else, Facebook is king for the people inside North Korea that have Internet access, and they also spend a fair amount of time on Google, Baidu and other major sites. If the traffic is really coming from North Koreans rather than resident or visiting foreigners, then they really are very much like us—more than we ever imagined.

However, while the report adds insight into the largely opaque area of access to the Internet from inside North Korea, it’s far from clear exactly what was captured and whether all of it was really from North Koreans.

I’ve spoken to several North Korea and Internet experts about the report and they all draw the same conclusion: that something is not quite right with the numbers. Perhaps a lot more of it is from foreigners than estimated or perhaps there’s an unknown Internet connection that wasn’t taken into account.

Or, perhaps we are all wrong and North Koreans really are going online and checking Amazon and Alibaba. Without more information, it’s impossible to know and that’s unfortunate because of the surprising nature of some of the findings.

Moriuchi says she’s sure about the results reached from the data set—the sites accessed, the traffic patterns, the activity—and I’m sure that’s true. Nonetheless, I’d love to do a deeper dive into the data to gain much greater granularity and insight into some of its conclusions.

[“Source-38north”]

Former Uber CEO Says Investor Lawsuit a ‘Public and Personal Attack’

Former Uber CEO Says Investor Lawsuit a 'Public and Personal Attack'

The ousted chief executive of Uber Technologies called a lawsuit filed against him by one of the company’s top investors a “public and personal attack” without merit, according to court documents filed late on Thursday.

Venture capital firm Benchmark Capital, which says it owns 13 percent of Uber and controls 20 percent of the voting power, sued former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick last week to force him off the board, where he still has a seat, and rescind his remaining power there, citing fraud and deception.

Kalanick, in the first court filing in response to the lawsuit, said Benchmark’s legal action is part of a larger scheme to oust him from the company he helped found and take away his power. He also argued that the legal quarrel should take place in arbitration.

ALSO SEEUber Investor Benchmark Capital Says Gave Former CEO Kalanick a Month Before Suing

Benchmark’s lawsuit marks a rare instance of a well-regarded Silicon Valley investor suing the central figure at one of its own, highly successful startups. The case has stunned Silicon Valley’s venture capital community and created a divided Uber board and infighting among shareholders, many of whom have criticised Benchmark for suing.

At issue is a change to the board structure in 2016 to expand the number of voting directors by three, with Kalanick having the sole right to fill those seats.

In its lawsuit, Benchmark argues that Kalanick hid from the board a number of misdeeds, including allegations of trade-secret theft involving autonomous car technology and misconduct by Kalanick and other executives in handling a rape committed by an Uber driver in India, when he asked Uber’s board to give him those extra seats.

Benchmark says it was “fraudulently induced” to agree to the change and wants Kalanick to give up control of those seats.

Kalanick’s court filing rejects that allegation, saying that at the time of the board change “Benchmark was fully aware of all of the allegations involving Kalanick”, yet the firm “made no mention of having been ‘fraudulently induced’ to enter” into the agreement. Through May, the venture firm continued to support him. Then in June, Benchmark was part of a group of five investors who demanded Kalanick’s resignation as Uber’s CEO.

“The Benchmark principals also handed Kalanick a draft resignation letter, and told him he had hours to sign it, or else Benchmark would start a public campaign against him,” the court filing said.

Benchmark first backed Uber in 2011 with an investment of $12 million, according to court filings. With 13 percent ownership at the $68 billion valuation that Uber achieved last year, Benchmark’s stake would be worth almost $9 billion.

“Resorting to litigation was an extremely difficult step for Benchmark,” the firm said in a statement through a spokeswoman. “Failing to act now would mean endorsing behavior that is utterly unacceptable in any company, let alone a company of Uber’s size and importance.”

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

In-depth: A tug of war between creative agencies and brands on remuneration

Shrinking profits, high rate of talent churn, looming threat from media and digital agencies and price competitiveness of smaller agencies. It’s been a double whammy for India’s creative agencies that have seen the remuneration from clients being stagnant for years and the business pie from the same client being distributed among various agencies.

There is a lot of hue and cry in the creative industry about not being paid well by clients despite the work load increasing. The agencies feel that these things will eventually affect the quality of work along with their balance sheets.

What has changed for creative agencies that were known to be the brain behind the brands?

Shiv Sethuraman

“The game has changed. Earlier, the creative agency always used to be at the top of the table, where they were considered the most important strategic partner,” said Shiv Sethuraman, Founder, The New Business.

“Today, the media and digital agencies are becoming more strategic. Also, not a lot of clients are spending as much on mass media as they used to. So, all of this has resulted in changing dynamics,” he added.

Sethuram said that agencies are equally to be blamed for their weakening position since they have been very slow to change which has led to casual erosion of their status and revenues.

Also, clients are not depending on only one agency and have empanelled a bunch of big and small agencies where the client fee gets divided.

Virat Tandon

“Clients are having to pay too many agencies. That is the new reality. Reducing the remuneration of the agency shows that probably the client doesn’t fully appreciate or understand their contribution. Or, that some clients are not getting their value from their agencies,” said Virat Tandon, CEO, Mullen Lintas.

In the hey days of creative agencies (the period between 1980’s and early 2000), brands had a single agency as partner to do media planning as well as creative work. Media and creative functions of the agencies disassociated with each other long time ago and became separate entities. Today, both marketers and agencies are trying to reach out to consumers through different mediums.

Prasoon Joshi

Prasoon Joshi, CEO and CCO, McCann Worldgroup India, Chairman McCann Asia Pacific, explained the changing scenario clearly. He said, “People are consuming content in a very complex manner. In today’s time, an agency is finding it challenging to build a brand and deliver its message and experimenting with various things like developing content and trying out different innovative ways to deliver the message. That world will definitely give birth to new revenue streams and it will also make certain ways of making money obsolete.”

Industry stalwarts feel agencies stuck with the business formula of 1980s are not going to stay in the game anymore.

Ashish Bhasin

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman and CEO, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, added, “The inefficient dinosaurs are getting squeezed out. The people who have built the businesses on the 1980s’ formula and are not willing to change are going to feel the pressure.”

Besides competitive scenario, Dhunji Wadia, President, Rediffusion Y&R, cited value-engineering by clients as one of the main reasons behind the growing revenue pressure.

Dhunji Wadia

Wadia also held agencies responsible for not keeping the pace with the change and said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten. So, unless the agencies change their behaviour they’ll continue getting the same results. Today, most agencies have gone beyond the traditional advertising offerings. Those who don’t can keep complaining.”

Where does the problem lie?

GroupM, a global media management investment conglomerate, has forecast the country’s advertising expenditure to grow by 10 per cent and to reach an estimated Rs 61,204 crore in 2017 as compared to Rs 55,671 crore in 2016. Advertising expenditure of the brands is only increasing over the years. Then why is there so much cribbing about reducing profitability and not getting paid well by the clients?

The creative industry is one place where anyone with a laptop and ideas can open an agency. The urge to grow and the feeling of running independent cause dropouts from the bigger creative agencies and give birth to independent smaller agencies and freelancers. All this, in turn, opens up more options for the brands to choose their creative partners and leads to competition among the peers.

A senior industry person who didn’t want to be quoted and has worked on both the creative and the brand sides said, “We keep aside a fixed sum to be spent on the creative campaign and if the agency is not able to deliver a piece of work fast and in the desired manner, we give it to the freelancer. So, it is not that we don’t spend money on creatives but the amount gets distributed.”

Experts feel that the increasing number of small and independent players have hit the margins hard as the brands tend to go for anything that doesn’t cost them much.

Akashneel Dasgupta

Akashneel Dasgupta, Senior Vice-President and Executive Creative Director, ADK Fortune, said, “The advertising industry itself needs to be blamed because we tend to sell ourselves too cheaply. In advertisement, there is hardly an entry barrier. There is no infrastructure that you have to set up. There is no price for an idea. The whole advertising pie size has increased, but compared to that, the number of people who are staking claim of the pie has multiplied by 10 times.”

Adding to it, Tandon of Mullen Lintas said, “Agencies are also at fault for undercutting each other to the extent that sometimes it’s unbelievable how they will pick up businesses for a totally unsustainable fee.”

Another senior creative professional said the problem of not being paid well by the clients has multiplied manifold due to demonetisation and implementation of GST. He said, “Earlier, it was due to demonetisation that we faced this problem of outstanding payments. Now, the brunt has increased with GST coming in. We need to pay our employees irrespective of when the clients are able to pay money. Even if they are giving us the money, they are trying to negotiate on the payment front.”

The agencies earn money from what brands pay them for their services. Till the time brands don’t increase the spend on the creative partners, these issues will continue.

Brands want creative agencies to re-invent

BestMediaInfo.com reached out to brands to know their point of view. We put forward the queries of creative agencies’ about remuneration to brands.

A senior marketer of a top FMCG company said, “Nobody is ready to pay the money agencies demand as there are so many options. Agencies are not in a position to negotiate. Negotiation happens when there are equal partners. There is so much of supply.”

BK Rao

While marketing spend increased at Parle Products, the brand agrees that the money spent on creative agencies has not increased to that extent. BK Rao, Deputy Marketing Manager, Parle Products, said, “Brands started negotiating on the commission bit and slowly the agency commission went on decreasing. The agencies also agreed to work on lower commissions.”

Earlier, the media spend by brands was very minuscule as compared to now. Therefore, a marketer was able to pay more to the creative agency. Till mid 90s it was only Doordarshan on which brands had to advertise. But now with more than 800 channels, TV as the medium has fragmented so much that on an average, to get decent visibility, one needs to spend more than Rs 8-10 crore per campaign.

The clutter level has also increased, which in turn has caused brands to be more accountable and here, the negotiation comes into play. A few marketers said that the mediums on which the marketing and communication money goes have also increased.

Subhrangshu Neogi

Subhrangshu Neogi, Director, Group Marketing and Brand, Religare Enterprises, said, “Marketing spends today have become much more fragmented and essentially are largely ROI-focused, especially in a category like BFSI. While you may still be spending on conventional media from the context of brand awareness and recall, you are also focused on performance marketing, social, affiliate marketing, email marketing and so on and so forth.”

Parle’s Rao also said that the market condition is extremely tight right now, especially in the last one year post demonetisation and GST. “All the clients have really gone low on communication and there are so many creative shops rising. There is increasing competition as far as creative shops are concerned. So, clients really don’t have a dearth of creatives now. It has become challenging for the creative agencies to keep winning accounts and retain clients at the same time.”

A few brands argued that there is no direct relationship between agency remuneration and media buying spend. Agencies are paid on a remuneration basis and the amount that a brand spends on buying different mediums is not related to each other and can’t be compared. On the contrary, agencies argue that the kind of return on investment the creative idea brings to the table by putting the particular campaign/creative idea on different mediums is huge and should be paid over and above the usual remuneration.

Brands say that they’re willing to shell out more money to creative agencies if they can show path-breaking work that they’ve done for other clients.

Sushil Matey

Sushil Matey, Director, Marketing, at Livpure, said, “A typical creative agency can be good in (a) strategy and (b) creative. The best agency is the one that excels in both. In today’s cluttered media sphere, a creative agency should deliver three things – create awareness, build memorability and break the clutter. Allocating money is directly dependent on the budget allotted for creative/ advertising agency. Also, a fact to be noted here is that category A agencies will charge fees as per their expertise and norms and the same goes for category B and C agencies. All these factors combined help an organisation to decide on getting the creative agency on board. However, if an agency can show path-breaking work done prior in a competitive category, the brand/ company can decide on allocating more money to that agency.”

According to Neogi, “The order is that the brands now don’t just want creative ideas but marketing solutions. Clients today are not just looking at a one-dimensional creative solution but are looking at holistic solutions for their business problems. So, the expectation from partners is obviously revisiting their skill and capability sets. And it’s not that people aren’t doing that. A lot of the traditional agencies have been working remarkably well in that direction.”

“It cannot just be a plain straight-jacketed solution that says, ‘I am a creative agency, I will only do creative’ or ‘I am a media agency, I will only do media’. Ideas/ thoughts can come from anywhere. Ultimately, what clients value and are looking for are people who can help them as I mentioned: ‘solve their business problems’,” he added.

Another space where brands are spending the money on creatives is that even after having agencies on record, they are letting out important brand campaigns on a project basis as and when required.

Parle Products has Everest Brands Solutions and Thoughtshop Advertising on its roster but got its last two campaigns done by Taproot Dentsu on a project basis because they thought Taproot made more sense to do the brand campaign for Parle Products.

The reason that Rao gives for hiring agencies on a project basis is that the AoRs will no longer be given work on a platter. They need to fight for it and each time we want a creative campaign, a pitch will be called, when we want a creative campaign. It will be the game of the survival of the fittest.

Suggestive solutions

 

Neelima Burra

Neelima Burra, Chief Marketing Officer and Business Head Health & Wellness, Cargill Foods India, has a pretty good solution for agencies if they could deploy that in practice. She said, “The creative agencies have to relook the model of service. Probably, the old-fashioned retainership model where their risk is protected while business nowadays is far more volatile. The industry is far more dynamic with higher inflation and the cost to serve is also increasing. In such a scenario it is good if a creative agency comes up with a model where they can take some part of incentive or bonus to deliver better results or ROIs of the campaign which they are promising. Who doesn’t like incentives and bonuses? If the team that is working on the account is put on the performances, higher bonuses and incentives, they would not leave the agency.”

Wadia said, “An idea without execution would be just a hallucination. According to Steve Jobs, ‘It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90 per cent of the work.’ And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then, of course, they can go off and make it happen. And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. For me, ideas are worth nothing without execution. Great execution would be worth millions. And agencies that imbibe this caveat will stand to gain.”

Sethuraman said, “The only real solution that I can see for creative agencies is to strive for a much stronger integration with the data and digital side of the business. There are few agencies who have a good creative reputation and who will continue to make decent revenue but over a period of time I don’t think it is going to sustain.”

DAN is a 26-agency network and eight of them are in the area of data, technology and media. 1,400-1,500 out of 3,500 people are in digital. Search and performances are going to be the key.

Bhasin realised where the brands are willing to invest their monies quite early in the game. He said, “When I started the journey a few years ago, people were saying that digital is only five per cent of the market. We found the field opened for us. Some of the large legacy kind of agencies didn’t see the wave coming and couldn’t act as fast as we could. The competitors were also not looking at the out-of-home areas where the world is moving, as the infrastructure is improving. You have to follow where the consumer is and where the client spends are going.”

Tandon of Mullen Lintas said that an agency should be clear that the value it can create for a client, no other agency can and no businesses should be picked for an unsustainable remuneration.

“I know at Mullen Lintas, we have lost a few pitches because we refused to be beaten down on pricing. We are quite confident of what value we deliver to our clients,” he said.

Wadia suggested that one must evolve and adapt. The best way to address this is to find a correlation between profit margin and revenue tracking. Agencies that track revenue per client will have higher profit margins than those that don’t. So, unless the agencies change their behaviour they’ll continue getting the same results. Today, most agencies have gone beyond the traditional advertising offerings. Those who don’t can keep complaining.

Piyush Pandey

In a recent interview, Piyush Pandey summed up the discussion well. He said, “I think each agency network is trying their best to keep up the pace as they are all competent agencies. There has to be good discussions with the clients about being open with the budgets if they want great creative output. The client will have to partner me in getting better people. It’s all about understanding, negotiation and managing your businesses properly while making efforts to increase profitability.”

[“Source-bestmediainfo”]

Buying a used cars? These simple tricks could save you time and money

If it’s not the plethora of models and versions available – plus diesels, petrols and hybrids – the choices can seem almost endless before you have even got to the detailed decisions of a used car’s mileage or condition.

However, the reality is that while there are plenty of hurdles to trip you up in the used car market, there is also plenty you can do to help yourself too.

Do a little homework on where and how to fi nd the best deal and you can give yourself a helping hand before you have even taken a test drive.

Buying a used carGETTY STOCK

Buying a used car needn’t cause headaches, just follow a few simple rules

1. CHOICES

The first steps are the most obvious. What do you need your car for?

There is little point in buying a small city car if you are likely to spend hours pounding the motorway but likewise there is no point in buying an expensive sports car if it sits in the train station car park for 90 per cent of the week.

Think about why you are buying this car and why you need it in the first place.

Do you need to regularly transport your family or is this car largely for you alone? Will anyone else be driving it and what are their needs?

Do you need a small hatchback or a large estate, four-wheel drive for tricky lanes or perhaps a crossover for that high-up driving position?

Is your situation likely to change soon with a new baby, children leaving home or even a job switch and how will that affect matters?

Of course, much of the above will be dictated by your budget and what you can afford but give it some serious thought as the last thing you want to do is to have to go through the whole process again.

Used carGETTY

Hybrid and electric cars are still not for everyone

2. FUEL FOR THOUGHT

Although hybrid and electric cars have gained massively in popularity and sales in recent years, they are still not for everyone.

Electric cars, while having improved, are still limited by their range compared to petrols or diesels and if you are doing a lot of motorway miles, then they might prove pricier to run than you think.

Look at online owner forums and read road tests to get a clearer picture of which might suit you.

The same goes for the age-old petrol versus diesel question too.

The latter might boast a better fuel economy at the pumps but you might need to be doing some serious annual mileage to realise that saving.

Some local authorities are penalising diesel drivers too when parking, so be sure to check.

Buying a used carGETTY

Buying a used car from a franchised dealer is undoubtedly the safest place to go shopping

3. BUYING FROM A DEALER

Buying a used car from a franchised dealer is undoubtedly the safest place to go shopping for your next wheels but it is probably the most expensive too.

They will have a larger stock, especially of newer models usually in excellent condition but be sure to shop around to get the best deal for you.

By comparison, independent dealers will be more affordable and usually feature slightly older cars but they cannot usually offer quite the same back-up with their warranties.

Some will be able to sell you independent warranties for a little peace of mind but make sure you read the small print to find out what is covered before signing on the dotted line.

Used carsGETTY STOCK

If you are after a mainstream model, then a car supermarket is a great choice

4. CAR SUPERMARKETS

If you are after a mainstream model, then a car supermarket such as Cargiant is a great choice.

The cars might not have the same level of care and attention bestowed upon them as a dealership but what you will have is great value and plenty of choice.

Look beyond the odd scuffed alloy wheel or higher-than-average mileage and you can fi nd some bargains.

The downsides?

The cars might require some cosmetic TLC but they are a great way to save on time and shoe leather especially with mainstream models as you can see lots of cars in one place at the same time. Instead of looking at one or two Ford Focuses or VW Golfs, you might have ten to choose from, so if you need a car in a hurry, they are a great opportunity.

10. Ford F-150

5. PURCHASING PRIVATELY

Aside from car auctions – which are certainly not for the faint-hearted – buying a car privately is probably the riskiest option here – but it’s also probably the cheapest.

The good news is that private sales can sometimes realise some real well-loved, one-owner bargains.

The bad news is that it can unearth some of the worst cars too. Before going to look at any car make sure you ask about its provenance, details and mileage of the car beforehand so that you can do an HPI check (to verify the car’s mileage and finance status).

Independent inspections by fi rms such as the AA and small garages are often available for a fee but rely on your common sense and you will not go too far wrong – if a car looks and sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Check every detail with a keen eye and make sure you take it on a decent test drive, running through all the gears and asking the owner about it.

If you are not confi dent enough to do it on your own, take a friend (two pairs of eyes are always better than one) and if they are mechanically-minded, so much the better. Whichever route you choose, though, when buying your next used car, do not buy a car that you are not 100 per cent happy with.

If it does not feel right, just walk away – there will always be another ten just around the corner.

The power to buy or not is always in your hands, never forget that.

[“Source-express”]