New research has revealed that Increasing levels of information stored on smartphones, tablets and computers put at risk modern digital devices because of users’ poor digital hygiene.
New global research by Kaspersky Lab reveals that user attitudes towards app care and maintenance on their devices is making sensitive data on computers and tablets particularly vulnerable to security threats.
The global research shows us that keeping control of the content on their devices is a task that users tend to avoid. Only about half of people revise the content on their computers and tablets on a regular basis but as many as two-in-three (63%) people do this on their smartphones. However, this is typically because smartphones have less memory than computers and tablets. In fact, 35% of users have deleted apps on their smartphones due to lack of storage, whereas only 13% of users on computers have done the same.
A quarter of users don’t remember when they last uninstalled an application from their computers, while this figure goes down to 12% for smartphones. This has led to a situation where a third of applications on user computers are completely redundant – they are never used, but stay on the hard disk taking up space and potentially running in the background, putting sensitive information at risk.
All of our devices store sensitive data, and they should therefore be maintained in the same way. However, the research shows us that users do not treat their devices equally. The survey found that 65% of users update apps on their smartphones as soon as they are released, providing them with the latest security patches and updates. By contrast, users are less likely to update apps on tablets and computers, with just 42% and 48% respectively updating apps as soon as possible.
As a result of this behaviour, users are risking a range of problems associated with a buildup of digital clutter on their devices – particularly on their computers. Kaspersky Lab statistics show us that users face malware on their computers more than other devices (28% compared to 17% on smartphones). Worryingly, the study has found a contradiction in user attitudes towards their devices and the threats they face on those devices. According to the survey, despite users’ risky attitudes to storing content on computers and the greater threat of malware infections on these devices, most respondents still consider computers to be the safest place for their data.
Andrei Mochola, Head of Consumer Business at Kaspersky Lab said: “The digital devices we use every day store precious data that users don’t want to fall into the wrong hands or lose due to a device crashing or malware infection. In order to avoid these risks users should take action managing, cleaning and updating apps across all devices in their household. Care and maintenance should be a priority in your digital life, as in the physical world, in order to keep the hackers at bay.”
In order to keep digital devices safe, users are advised to take the following steps:
1. Update apps – it is important for users to update apps as soon as new versions are released because they might include security patches that prevent or reduce vulnerabilities in the app
2. Clean apps – improperly managed smartphone apps also represent a security threat because they often transmit data even when they’re not being used.
3. Change app settings – these enable the user to manage how the app interacts with the device. For example, apps can get access to user sensitive information, track user locations and share user data with third party servers. Failure to manage these settings can result in unused apps gaining access to information on the device without the user being aware.
4. Use specialist software – install specialist software that can help to distinguish apps behaving suspiciously and those that are not used, as well as those which need to be updated. To find out more about these features in Kaspersky Lab’s flagship security solutions for home users, please follow the link.
Those users who take a serious approach to storing their valuable data will benefit from reliable protection with award-winning security solutions like Kaspersky Internet Security – multi-device 2017. Until the 10th of May 2017 users will get up to 30% off and receive 100GB of secure online cloud storage for free from Tresorit. More information on this special offer can be found by the link.
*The study “Digital Clutter and its Dangers” was based on insight gained from a unique combination of online research and technical analysis of security threats and app performance:
· Statistics from the Kaspersky Security Network, a cloud-based system that processes depersonalised cyberthreat-related statistics received from millions of Windows and Android devices owned by Kaspersky Lab users across the globe.
· A real-life experiment on Android devices analysed the performance of applications was conducted in January 2017 by Kaspersky Lab internal testers.
· An online survey conducted by research firm Toluna and Kaspersky Lab in January 2017 assessed the attitudes of 16,250 users aged over 16 years old from 17 countries. Data was weighted to be globally representative and consistent, split equally between men and women.
Crouching Yeti strikes
Kaspersky Lab has uncovered infrastructure used by the Russian-speaking APT group Crouching Yeti, also known as Energetic Bear, which includes compromised servers across the world.
According to the research, numerous servers in different countries were hit since 2016, sometimes in order to gain access to other resources. Others, including those hosting Russian websites, were used as watering holes.
Crouching Yeti is a Russian-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) group that Kaspersky Lab has been tracking since 2010. It is best known for targeting industrial sectors around the world, with a primary focus on energy facilities, for the main purpose of stealing valuable data from victim systems. One of the techniques the group has been widely using is through watering hole attacks: the attackers injected websites with a link redirecting visitors to a malicious server.
Recently Kaspersky Lab has discovered a number of servers, compromised by the group, belonging to different organisations based in Russia, the U.S., Turkey and European countries, and not limited to industrial companies. According to researchers, they were hit in 2016 and 2017 with different purposes. Thus, besides watering hole, in some cases they were used as intermediaries to conduct attacks on other resources.
In the process of analysing infected servers, researchers identified numerous websites and servers used by organisations in Russia, U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that the attackers had scanned with various tools, possibly to find a server that could be used to establish a foothold for hosting the attackers’ tools and to subsequently develop an attack. Some of the sites scanned may have been of interest to the attackers as candidates for waterhole. The range of websites and servers that captured the attention of the intruders is extensive. Kaspersky Lab researchers found that the attackers had scanned numerous websites of different types, including online stores and services, public organisations, NGOs, manufacturing, etc.
Also, experts found that the group used publicly available malicious tools, designed for analyzing servers, and for seeking out and collecting information. In addition, a modified sshd file with a preinstalled backdoor was discovered. This was used to replace the original file and could be authorised with a ‘master password’.
“Crouching Yeti is a notorious Russian-speaking group that has been active for many years and is still successfully targeting industrial organisations through watering hole attacks, among other techniques. Our findings show that the group compromised servers not only for establishing watering holes, but also for further scanning, and they actively used open-sourced tools that made it much harder to identify them afterwards,” said Vladimir Dashchenko, Head of Vulnerability Research Group at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT.
“The group’s activities, such as initial data collection, the theft of authentication data, and the scanning of resources, are used to launch further attacks. The diversity of infected servers and scanned resources suggests the group may operate in the interests of the third parties,” he added.
Kaspersky Lab recommends that organisations implement a comprehensive framework against advanced threats comprising of dedicated security solutions for targeted attack detection and incident response, along with expert services and threat intelligence. As a part of Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense, our anti-targeted attack platform detects an attack at early stages by analysing suspicious network activity, while Kaspersky EDR brings improved endpoint visibility, investigation capabilities and response automation. These are enhanced with global threat intelligence and Kaspersky Lab’s expert services with specialisation in threat hunting and incident response.
More details on this recent Crouching Yeti activity can be found on the Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT website.
R5m in software fines
South African companies paid almost R5.2 million in damages for using unlicensed software in 2017 up from R3.6 million in 2016.
This is according to data from BSA | The Software Alliance, a non-profit, global trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners.
The significant increase in unlicensed software payments – which includes settlements as well as the cost of acquiring new software to become compliant – is the result of more accurate leads from informers, says Darren Olivier, Partner at Adams & Adams, legal counsel for BSA. In 2017 BSA received 281 reports in South Africa alleging the use of unlicensed software products of BSA member companies – this up considerably up from 230 leads in 2016.
“BSA’s recent social media campaign also helped to create awareness among local companies about the need to comply with existing legislation in order to avoid legal action,” Olivier says.
The result has been a 13% increase in settlements paid in 2017, with the settlements total reaching almost R2.5 million.
While the average settlement paid by companies in 2017 was around R36 094, in some cases the amount owed was far greater, as is evidenced by Shereno Printers, a print and design company based in Gauteng, which ended up paying a hefty settlement amount of R260 000 last year in an out of court settlement.
The company’s case was in line with a broader trend, which saw the print and design industry as a whole rank among the top sectors plagued by unlicensed software.
Aside from settlements, companies also paid more than R2.6 million in licenses purchased to legalise their unlicensed software.
And the ramifications of software piracy extend beyond financial implications. “It also results in potential job losses and loss in tax revenue. This is not to mention the financial and reputational damage brought about by security breaches and lost data,” comments Olivier.
As unlicensed software has not been updated with the latest security features, it leaves businesses vulnerable to cyberattack, he explains.
This is a particular problem for companies operating in South Africa where economic crime has recently reached record levels, according to the Global Economic Crime Survey. Indeed, 77% of South African organisations have experienced some form of economic crime. What’s more, instances of cybercrime totalled 29% of economic crimes reported.
This in turn, raises questions around government policy and the adequacy of existing copyright legislation, which only enables the registration of copyright in films, but not in computer programs.
Olivier notes that it is likely the percentage of unlicensed software on South African computers has increased over the past year. “We received many more leads this year, which is an indicator that the amount of pirated software is greater than in previous years,” he comments.
Often unlicensed software is not so much a case of deliberate piracy as it is a result of poor software asset management (SAM).
“For this reason, the BSA encourages all businesses to ensure they have effective SAM practices in place. Companies should be able to confirm what software they are using and are licensed to use – this will help them to identify unlicensed software and can also bring about cost savings. Even the most basic SAM practices such as regular inventories and software use policies can help,” says Chair of the BSA SA Committee, Billa Coetsee.
With this in mind the BSA offers a range of SAM solutions, not only to help organisations reduce legal and security risks, but also to create business value.