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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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Cons exploit Telegram ICO

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Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.

In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.

Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.

The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.

Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.

“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:

  • Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
  • Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
  • Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.

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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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