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Big rise in spam malware

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The latest Kaspersky Lab Spam and Phishing Report has discovered that although the quantity of spam emails has been decreasing, they have become more criminalised.

At the same time, the level of malicious mailshots has dramatically increased – Kaspersky Lab products prevented 22,890,956 attempts to infect users via emails with malicious attachments in March 2016, twice the number of attempts reported in February 2016.

Since 2012 the level of spam in email traffic has constantly been decreasing. However, the quantity of emails with malicious attachments has increased significantly – in Q1 2016 it was 3.3 times higher than during the same period in 2015. There was also a growing amount of ransomware reported throughout the quarter. This is often propagated through emails with infected attachments – for example Word documents. The main actor on this field in Q1 was the ransomware Trojan Locky, which has been actively distributed via emails in different languages and has targeted at least 114 countries. Locky emails have contained fake information from financial institutions that have deceived users and forced them to open the harmful attachment.

Kaspersky Lab’s findings suggest that spam is becoming more popular for fraudsters to target Internet users, because web browsing is becoming safer. Almost all popular web-browser developers have now implemented security and anti-phishing protection tools, making it harder for cybercriminals to propagate their malware through infected web pages.

During this quarter fraudsters tried to lure users into opening malicious files, gaining their attention with emails about terrorism, a subject which is always in the news. To prevent terrorist attacks many countries have strengthened their security measures and this has therefore become a popular topic for spam emails.

Some spam fraudsters tried to convince recipients that the file attached to their spam email contained a new mobile application, which, after installation, could detect an explosive terrorist device. The email emphasised that the US Department of Defense had discovered this technology and that it was sufficiently simple and accessible. The attachment usually contained an executive file, which was detected as Trojan-Dropper.Win32.Dapato, malware that can steal personal user information, organise DDoS-attacks and install other malicious software.

Well-known Nigerian spammers also used terrorist topics in their emails. According to the Kaspersky Lab report, the quantity of these emails has increased considerably. These spammers previously preferred to send long emails with a detailed story, and links to news to make it more convincing. However, they are now only sending short messages with no detail, asking the recipients to get in touch.

“Unfortunately we are seeing our previous predictions about the criminalisation of spam coming true. Fraudsters are using diverse methods to attract user attention, and to make them drop their guard. Spammers are employing a diversity of languages, social engineering methods, different types of malicious attachments, as well as the partial personalisation of email text to look more convincing. The fake messages often imitate notifications from well-known organisations and services. This is raising spam to a new dangerous level,”  warns Daria Gudkova, Spam Analysis Expert, Kaspersky Lab.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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