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Airbnb boosts SA homes

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Airbnb, the community-driven hospitality company, has revealed that the typical South African Airbnb host who occasionally shares space in their home boosts yearly income by more than R28 000.

In 2015 there were 7,500 active hosts in South Africa and almost half were freelancers, entrepreneurs, or self-employed, which is the same number that say welcoming guests helps them afford to stay in their home. 66 % of hosts share space in their primary residence.

The way people travel is changing, too, driven by a new experience led economy where people place greater value on experiences over ownership. More than 130,000 guests have stayed in a listing on Airbnb in South Africa in the last year alone, enjoying authentic and local travel experiences through their hosts’ personal hospitality and insider knowledge. This number represents a 250% increase in travellers on Airbnb compared to 2014. And hosts and guests on Airbnb are older than one might think with the average host being 44 years old and guests being 37 on average.

Airbnb empowers regular South Africans to use their homes as economic assets

●     In South Africa in 2015, there were 7,500 active hosts sharing their home. In the last year, the typical host earned an extra R28 000 by sharing his home

●     The average host is 44 years old and 36 percent are over 50

Airbnb increases consumer choice and helps grow and diversify travel across South Africa

●     134,000 guests used Airbnb to visit South Africa in the past year

●     99,000 South African residents used Airbnb for their travels

●     The average host rating by guests is 4.7 out of 5

Airbnb hosts in Cape Town are providing guests with an authentic and affordable travel experience and boosting local economies

●     66 percent of hosts share space in their primary residence

●     Airbnb guests stay an average of 6 nights

●     More than 40 percent of guest spending takes place in the neighbourhood where they stay

●     58 percent of Airbnb guests visited local businesses based on host recommendations

●     50 percent of guests who saved money on Airbnb spent it on food, shopping and other amenities

Nicola D’Elia, General Manager for Africa and the Middle East at Airbnb highlights how Airbnb helps to spreads benefits to new communities and local businesses: “Airbnb is good news for everyone, providing an economic boost for thousands of South Africans, helping them make ends meet and support their families by hosting on Airbnb. 27% of visitors to Cape Town for example – Airbnb’s largest market in South Africa – tell us that they wouldn’t have come at all or stayed as long if it hadn’t been for Airbnb. Half of those guests spend more money in local shops and restaurants, often following their hosts’ recommendations. Even if it’s just for a night, staying with local hosts will allow visitors to really live there.”

Tim Harris, CEO at Wesgro, the tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, agrees: “Cape Town and the Western Cape is a world class tourism destination. Thanks to Airbnb, more travelers can enjoy the natural beauty our country has to offer in an authentic way. It’s great to see that outside Cape Town, Knysna is the second most popular town with the Airbnb community. This shows how Airbnb hosts are helping to drive visitors across the province, allowing them to experience more of the Western Cape with their local hosts. ”

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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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