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Android attacks escalate

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The Kaspersky Lab study ‘Financial Cyberthreats in 2014’ reports that the number of financial malware attacks against Android users grew by 3.25 times in 2014.

Following an initial decrease in March 2014, Kaspersky Lab researchers registered a significant increase in the number of attacks by Trojan-SMS malware during the second half of the year.

·         48.15% of the attacks against users of Android-based devices, that were blocked by Kaspersky Lab products, used malware targeting financial data (Trojan-SMS and Trojan-Banker) ;

·         The number of financial attacks against Android users in 2014 increased 3.25 times (from 711,993 to 2,317,194 attacks) compared with 2013, and the number of users attacked rose 3.64 times (up from 212,890 to 775,887);

·         98.02% of all attacks by Android banking malware were accounted for by only three malicious families.

Android is one of the most popular mobile operating systems in the world, and therefore attracts the attention of cybercriminals targeting users’ private information and money. During 2014, Kaspersky Lab’s Android products blocked a total of 2,317,194 financial attacks against 775,887 users around the world. The lion’s share of these (2,217,979 attacks against 750,327 users) used Trojan-SMS malware, and the rest (99,215 attacks against 59,200 users) used Trojan-Banker malware.

Although the Trojan-Banker contribution to the overall volume of financial attacks against Android users is relatively small, it continues to grow. During the year Kaspersky Lab products detected 20 different malicious Trojan-Banker programmes. But there were only three star performers among them: Faketoken, Svpeng and Marcher. Svpeng and Marcher are capable of stealing credentials for online banking as well as credit card information by replacing the authentication fields of mobile banking apps and app stores apps on an infected device. And Faketoken is made for intercepting mTAN codes used in multifactor authentication systems and forwarding it to criminals. These three families accounted for 98.02% of all Trojan-Banker attacks.

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Trojan-SMS comeback:

During Spring in Europe in 2014, Kaspersky Lab researchers noticed a significant decrease in the number of attacks by Trojan-SMS malware. One possible reason for this fall was the introduction by mobile-phone operators in Russia (the main source of Trojan-SMS threat) of an Advice of Charge (AoC) mechanism. This means that every time a customer (or an SMS Trojan) attempts to send a message to a premium number, the operator notifies the customer how much the service will cost and requests additional confirmation from the user.

The decrease ended in July and was followed by a steady increase throughout the rest of the year. The growth sped up in December, traditionally a “high” season for online shopping and online payment transactions and for criminals targeting financial data.

“During the year our cumulative Android user base grew significantly, which led to a rise in the number of financial malware detections and affected users. However, the overall growth rate of attacks with financial malware was faster and greater than could be explained by the increased number of Android devices alone. This growth rate is mainly down to Trojan-SMS. We believe that the main reason of the Trojan-SMS comeback is the appearance of malware capable of infection and theft even with AoC implemented in the cellular network. For example, we discovered such functionality in Opfake.a and Fakeinst malware modifications. Both are very active Trojan-SMS representatives”, said Roman Unuchek, Senior Malware Analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab has many years of highly respected experience in combating mobile cyberthreats. This experience underpins Kaspersky Lab’s security solutions. For example, a mobile software developer kit is included in the Kaspersky Fraud Prevention platform that enables banks to protect their customers from online financial fraud. This allows banks to create mobile banking applications that are resilient to cyberthreats. Kaspersky Lab’s solutions for home users, such as Kaspersky Internet Security – Multi-Device and Kaspersky Total security – Multi-Device, also include security applications for the most popular mobile platforms.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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