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8.8m hit by cycbercrime in SA

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Norton by Symantec has released its findings from the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report revealing that despite growing concerns over online crime, over 8.8 million South Africans fell victim to it in the past year.

Surveying more than 18,000 consumers across 18 markets, including about 1,000 across South Africa, the research sheds a light on the global impact of consumer cybercrime, showing:

  • 76% of South Africans believe that identity theft is more likely than ever before;
  • 2 in 3 (67%) feel it is more difficult to control their personal information as a result of smartphones and the Internet;
  • South Africans are engaged with the topic of security (78% acknowledge the need to actively protect their information), but there is still some notion that security is an inconvenience;
  • 58% would rather cancel dinner plans with their best friend than have to cancel their credit/debit cards after their account has been compromised;
  • And the same percentage (58%) would rather endure a terrible date than deal with credit/debit card customer service after a breach or hack.

Technology both an enabler and a barrier 

Online crimes are increasingly prevalent with more than 1 in 7 having had unauthorised access to a social network profile. Compared to their global counterparts, South Africans have heightened sensitivity to online information compromises – 76 percent believed identity theft was more likely than ever before and 67 percent said it was easier to control personal information before smartphones and the Internet.

South Africans are more likely than their global counterparts to consider themselves tech savvy, but despite this, South African millennials are less likely to take personal responsibility for their security – nearly 1 in 3 millennials admits to abandoning an account rather than deleting it simply because it was easier (31%).

Millennials and Generation Xers are equally likely to have been victims within the last year at a staggering 39% and 37% respectively. However, only 23% of South Africans aged 55 and over experienced cybercrime during this period.

Additional findings include:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 does not have a password on his/her smartphone or desktop computer;
  • 6 in 10 consumers say it is riskier to share their email passwords with a friend than lend him/her their car for a day;
  • Storing credit/banking information in the cloud is viewed as riskier than not wearing a seatbelt;
  • South Africans are more likely to own internet-enabled devices than their global counterparts; smartphones and laptops being most common;
  • Though most devices are protected, South Africans falter when it comes to protecting home theatre devices, wearables, and Internet-connected video game systems;
  • Devices considered easiest to hack are among the most frequently used, such as a smartphones and laptops.

Too much hassle to be careful 

The research has shown that although there are considerable interest and fear in cybercrime, South Africans consider security measures to be a hassle. Fifty eight percent would rather cancel dinner with their best friend than cancel their debit or credit cards when hacked.

  • Over 1 in 3 South Africans admits to password sharing with email account passwords most shared;
  • Nearly 7 in 10 change their passwords after they’ve been compromised… meaning nearly a third don’t (32 percent);
  • Over half check their accounts after a breach has been announced by the media;
  • While nearly half of South African password users always use one that is secure, 1 in 5 still only does so when required;
  • Dealing with the consequences of a stolen identity is considered more stressful than many everyday inconveniences.

“The good news is more and more consumers are aware of the risks of cybercrime but the bad news is they neither feel they are doing enough to prevent it, or feel that technology has prevented them from being able to do anything about it,” said David Ribeiro, Head of Norton, Middle East and Africa. “Despite personal experience, many South Africans continue to put themselves at risk when it comes to online activity.”

Norton recommends the following best practices:

  • Passwords are the key to your kingdom so exercise caution and do not share.
  • Review all bank account and credit card statements to see if there are any irregularities.
  • Always use trusted online payment methods.
  • Do your research on merchants before purchasing online.
  • Never let your bank cards out of your sight.

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Crouching Yeti strikes

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Kaspersky Lab has uncovered infrastructure used by the Russian-speaking APT group Crouching Yeti, also known as Energetic Bear, which includes compromised servers across the world.

According to the research, numerous servers in different countries were hit since 2016, sometimes in order to gain access to other resources. Others, including those hosting Russian websites, were used as watering holes.

Crouching Yeti is a Russian-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) group that Kaspersky Lab has been tracking since 2010. It is best known for targeting industrial sectors around the world, with a primary focus on energy facilities, for the main purpose of stealing valuable data from victim systems. One of the techniques the group has been widely using is through watering hole attacks: the attackers injected websites with a link redirecting visitors to a malicious server.

Recently Kaspersky Lab has discovered a number of servers, compromised by the group, belonging to different organisations based in Russia, the U.S., Turkey and European countries, and not limited to industrial companies. According to researchers, they were hit in 2016 and 2017 with different purposes. Thus, besides watering hole, in some cases they were used as intermediaries to conduct attacks on other resources.

In the process of analysing infected servers, researchers identified numerous websites and servers used by organisations in Russia, U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that the attackers had scanned with various tools, possibly to find a server that could be used to establish a foothold for hosting the attackers’ tools and to subsequently develop an attack. Some of the sites scanned may have been of interest to the attackers as candidates for waterhole. The range of websites and servers that captured the attention of the intruders is extensive. Kaspersky Lab researchers found that the attackers had scanned numerous websites of different types, including online stores and services, public organisations, NGOs, manufacturing, etc.

Also, experts found that the group used publicly available malicious tools, designed for analyzing servers, and for seeking out and collecting information. In addition, a modified sshd file with a preinstalled backdoor was discovered. This was used to replace the original file and could be authorised with a ‘master password’.

“Crouching Yeti is a notorious Russian-speaking group that has been active for many years and is still successfully targeting industrial organisations through watering hole attacks, among other techniques. Our findings show that the group compromised servers not only for establishing watering holes, but also for further scanning, and they actively used open-sourced tools that made it much harder to identify them afterwards,” said Vladimir Dashchenko, Head of Vulnerability Research Group at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT.

“The group’s activities, such as initial data collection, the theft of authentication data, and the scanning of resources, are used to launch further attacks. The diversity of infected servers and scanned resources suggests the group may operate in the interests of the third parties,” he added.

Kaspersky Lab recommends that organisations implement a comprehensive framework against advanced threats comprising of dedicated security solutions for targeted attack detection and incident response, along with expert services and threat intelligence. As a part of Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense, our anti-targeted attack platform detects an attack at early stages by analysing suspicious network activity, while Kaspersky EDR brings improved endpoint visibility, investigation capabilities and response automation. These are enhanced with global threat intelligence and Kaspersky Lab’s expert services with specialisation in threat hunting and incident response.

More details on this recent Crouching Yeti activity can be found on the Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT website.

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R5m in software fines

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South African companies paid almost R5.2 million in damages for using unlicensed software in 2017 up from R3.6 million in 2016.

This is according to data from BSA | The Software Alliance, a non-profit, global trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners.

The significant increase in unlicensed software payments – which includes settlements as well as the cost of acquiring new software to become compliant – is the result of more accurate leads from informers, says Darren Olivier, Partner at Adams & Adams, legal counsel for BSA. In 2017 BSA received 281 reports in South Africa alleging the use of unlicensed software products of BSA member companies – this up considerably up from 230 leads in 2016.

“BSA’s recent social media campaign also helped to create awareness among local companies about the need to comply with existing legislation in order to avoid legal action,” Olivier says.

The result has been a 13% increase in settlements paid in 2017, with the settlements total reaching almost R2.5 million.

While the average settlement paid by companies in 2017 was around R36 094, in some cases the amount owed was far greater, as is evidenced by Shereno Printers, a print and design company based in Gauteng, which ended up paying a hefty settlement amount of R260 000 last year in an out of court settlement.

The company’s case was in line with a broader trend, which saw the print and design industry as a whole rank among the top sectors plagued by unlicensed software.

Aside from settlements, companies also paid more than R2.6 million in licenses purchased to legalise their unlicensed software.

And the ramifications of software piracy extend beyond financial implications. “It also results in potential job losses and loss in tax revenue. This is not to mention the financial and reputational damage brought about by security breaches and lost data,” comments Olivier.

As unlicensed software has not been updated with the latest security features, it leaves businesses vulnerable to cyberattack, he explains.

This is a particular problem for companies operating in South Africa where economic crime has recently reached record levels, according to the Global Economic Crime Survey. Indeed, 77% of South African organisations have experienced some form of economic crime. What’s more, instances of cybercrime totalled 29% of economic crimes reported.

This in turn, raises questions around government policy and the adequacy of existing copyright legislation, which only enables the registration of copyright in films, but not in computer programs.

Olivier notes that it is likely the percentage of unlicensed software on South African computers has increased over the past year. “We received many more leads this year, which is an indicator that the amount of pirated software is greater than in previous years,” he comments.

Often unlicensed software is not so much a case of deliberate piracy as it is a result of poor software asset management (SAM).

“For this reason, the BSA encourages all businesses to ensure they have effective SAM practices in place. Companies should be able to confirm what software they are using and are licensed to use – this will help them to identify unlicensed software and can also bring about cost savings. Even the most basic SAM practices such as regular inventories and software use policies can help,” says Chair of the BSA SA Committee, Billa Coetsee.

With this in mind the BSA offers a range of SAM solutions, not only to help organisations reduce legal and security risks, but also to create business value.

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