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Behind ransom-as-a-service

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A report has recently been published on Cerber, one of the largest active ransomeware campaigns. Furthermore, the report shines light on how researchers are helping businesses gain access to their encrypted files without having to pay for the ransoms of cyber criminals.

Check Point has published new findings on Cerber, one of the largest active franchises in a murky segment of cybercrime called ransomware-as-a-service. The report shines a light on the growing ransomware-as-a-service industry, revealing a path researchers are now using to help individuals and businesses gain access to their encrypted files – without paying the increasingly inflated ransoms of cyber criminals.

In a 60-page report, Check Point’s Threat Intelligence and Research Team, along with research partner IntSights Cyber Intelligence, identify new details and analysis on Cerber’s technical and business operation, revealing:

·       Of all ransomware, the Cerber infection rate is significantly higher and more profitable. Cerber is currently running more than 160 active campaigns across the globe, with total annual projected revenue of approximately $2.3 million. Each day eight new campaigns on average are launched; in July alone, the research revealed approximately 150,000 victims affected in 201 countries and territories.

·       Cerber affiliates have become successful money launderers. Cerber uses the Bitcoin currency to evade tracing, and creates a unique wallet to receive funds from each of its victims. Upon paying the ransom (usually one Bitcoin, which is currently worth $590), the victim receives the decryption key. The Bitcoin is transferred to the malware developer through a mixing service, which involves tens of thousands of Bitcoin wallets, making it almost impossible to track them individually. At the end of the process, the money reaches the developer, and the affiliates receive their percentage.

·       Cerber is opening the doors for more would-be hackers. Cerber enables non-technical individuals and groups to take part in the highly profitable business and run independent campaigns, using a set of assigned Command & Control (C&C) servers and a convenient control panel available in 12 different languages.

Since June 2016, Check Point and IntSight have been charting a comprehensive map of the complex system developed by Cerber, as well as its global distribution infrastructure. Researchers were able to regenerate actual victim wallets, allowing the team to monitor payments and transactions, and opening the door to track both the revenue gained by the malware and the money flow itself. Further, this information provided the blueprint for a decryption tool that could remedy infected systems without individuals or businesses bending to cyber-criminal ransom demands.

“This research provides a rare look at the nature and global targets of the growing ransomware-as-a-service industry,” said Maya Horowitz, group manager, Research & Development, Check Point. “Cyber-attacks are no longer the sole essence of nation-state actors and of those with the technical ability to author their own tools; nowadays, they are offered to anyone and can be operated fairly easily. As a result, this industry is growing extensively, and we should all take the proper precautions and deploy relevant protections.”

For more information on the findings, the full report ‘CerberRing: An In-Depth Exposé on Cerber Ransomware-as-a-Service’ can be found here: http://www.checkpoint.com/resources/cerberring/. In addition, for the steps a business or individual can take to decrypt a file infected with Cerber-based malware, visit: http://cerberdecrypt.com.

Check Point’s Threat Intelligence & Research divisions regularly investigate attacks, vulnerabilities and breaches, and develop protections to secure Check Point’s customers. For more information on other research findings from Check Point, visit: http://www.checkpoint.com/threatcloud-central/.

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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