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DDoS threats rise

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F5 Labs has released new figures highlighting how distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks continue to grow and evolve in EMEA.

According to customer data from F5’s Poland-based Security Operations Center (SOC), 2017 saw a 64% rise in mitigated incidents. EMEA is also firmly in the firing line, accounting for over 51% of reported global DDoS attacks.

Reflecting the spike in activity, F5 reported a 100% growth for EMEA customers deploying Web Application Firewall (WAF) technology in the past year. Meanwhile, anti-fraud solutions adoption increased by 76% and DDoS by 58%.

A key discovery was the relative drop in power for single attacks. Last year, the SOC logged multiple attacks of over 100 Gbps, with some surpassing 400 Gbps.

In 2017, the top attack stood at 62 Gbps. This suggests a move towards more sophisticated Layer 7 DDoS attacks that are potentially more effective and have lower bandwidth requirements. 66% of reported DDoS attacks were multi-vector and required sophisticated mitigation tools and knowledge.

“DDoS threats are on the rise in EMEA compared to the rest of the world, and we’re seeing notable changes in their scope and sophistication compared to 2016,” said Martin Walshaw, senior network engineer at F5.

“Businesses need to be aware of the shift and ensure, as a matter of priority, that the right solutions are in place to halt DDoS attacks before they reach applications and adversely impact on business operations. EMEA is clearly a hotspot for attacks on a global scale, so there is minimal scope for the region’s decision-makers to take their eyes off the ball.”

Four seasons of threat intelligence

Q1 2017 started with a bang, with F5 customers facing the widest range of disruptive attacks recorded to date. User Diagram Protocol (UDP) floods stood out, representing 25% of all attacks. Attackers typically send large UDP packets to a single destination or random ports, disguising themselves as trustworthy entities before stealing sensitive data. The next most common attacks were DNS Reflection (18%) and SYN Flood attacks (16%).

Q1 was also the peak for Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) attacks, whereby cybercriminals overwhelm businesses with rapid “echo request” (ping) packets without waiting for replies. In stark contrast, Q1 2016 attacks were a 50/50 split between UDP and Simple Service Discover Protocol (SSDP) floods.

Q2 proved equally challenging, with SYN floods moving to the front of the attack pack (25%), followed by Network Time Protocol and UDP floods (both 20%).

The attackers’ momentum continued into Q3, with UDP floods leading the way (26%). NTP floods were also prevalent (rising from 8% during the same period in 2016, to 22%), followed by DNS reflection (17%).

2017 wound down with more UDP flood dominance (25% of all attacks). It was also the busiest period for DNS reflection, which accounted for 20% of all attacks (compared to 8% in 2017 during the same period).

Another key discovery during Q4 – and one that vividly underlines cybercriminals capacity for agile reinvention – was how the Ramnit Trojan dramatically extended its reach. Initially built to hit banks, F5 Labs found that 64% of its targets during the holiday season were US based e-commerce sites. Other new targets included sites related to travel, entertainment, food, dating and pornography. Other observed banking Trojans extending their reach include Trickbot, which infects its victims with social engineering attacks, such as phishing or malvertising, to trick unassuming users into clicking malware links or downloading malware files.

“Attack vectors and tactics will only continue to evolve in EMEA,” said Walshaw.

“It is vital that businesses have the right solutions and services in place to safeguard apps wherever they reside. 2017 showed that more internet traffic is SSL/TLS encrypted, so it is imperative that DDoS mitigation solutions can examine the nature of these increasingly sophisticated attacks. Full visibility and greater control at every layer are essential for businesses to stay relevant and credible to customers. This will be particularly important in 2018 as the EU General Data Protection Regulations come into play.”

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Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards

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The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.

The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”

Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever AwardShe has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).

The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:

SPORT

The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognitionAge cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.

Click here to see who won the awards for data journalism , CSI/sustainability and photography.

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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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