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Cisco finds Avast app breach

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Cisco’s cybersecurity research team, Cisco Talos,  is alerting consumers and businesses to a major cybersecurity incident that could affect millions of users worldwide

Attackers hijacked and hid malware inside Avast’s CCleaner application which was available for download between August 15 snd September 12, 2017. Anyone who downloaded the 5.33 version product or updated their existing product during this timeframe became infected.

On September 13, 2017, Cisco Talos notified Avast so that they could begin corrective action. At this time the version containing the malware has been removed and is no longer available for download. However, many consumers remain at risk – and will remain at risk even after updating their CCleaner software.

Billing itself the “world’s most popular PC cleaner and optimization tool,” Avast’s CCleaner is trusted by consumers to speed up PC and smartphone performance by removing unneeded/necessary files. As recently as November 2016, CCleaner boasted 2 billion downloads with a growth rate of 5 million users per week.

Once the malware was installed, attackers could potentially gain access to the user’s computer and other connected systems to steal sensitive personal data and/or credentials that could be used for online banking or other online activities.

Like the Nyetya malware in late June, in this instance attackers hacked into a legitimate, trusted application and turned it malicious. These types of attacks are often successful because consumers trust that these well-known and broadly-used applications are safe. Criminals are exploiting that trust.

WHAT TO DO

Because the malware remains present, even after users update the CCleaner software, Talos advises all users to wipe their entire computer — remove and reinstall everything on the machine — and to restore files and data from a pre- August 15, 2017 backup, before the current version would have been installed.

It is critical to remove this version of the CCleaner software and associated malware, since it’s structure means it has the ability to hide on the user’s system and call out to check for new malware updates for up to a year.

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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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