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EMEA PC sales keep falling

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) PC market experienced a 13.3% year-on-year decline in shipments in the second quarter of 2016 to total 2.9 million units, according IDC.

While this is a continuation of a long-running tend, the overall decline seen in Q2 2016 was the slowest in the past five quarters. When segmenting the market, notebook shipments fell 11.4% to total 1.7 million units, while desktops suffered a sharper decline of 15.7% to total 1.2 million units.

“The speed of the market’s slump was slowed by the growth seen in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia,” says Fouad Charakla, senior research manager personal computing, systems, and infrastructure solutions at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. “But some key markets experienced significant declines, with Nigeria’s shipments suffering the biggest fall at 63.4% year on year, while the Saudi PC market almost halved in size. Other key markets to experience notable declines included the Rest of Middle East sub-region (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan) and the smaller Gulf markets (Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar). The reasons for these declines vary from country to country but include political instability, currency issues and fluctuations, security concerns, low oil prices, and high levels of inflation.”

Another key reason for the overall decline was a significant slowdown in consumer demand, caused primarily by the ongoing shift away from PCs towards tablets and smartphones. This shift is particularly pronounced in the consumer segment, although home users continued to account for the majority of PC demand in the region.

The market continued to see some consolidation in terms of vendor share, with the top five players combined gaining share both quarter on quarter and year on year. Indeed, the top three vendors – HP Inc., Lenovo, and Dell – accounted for over 60% of overall PC market share in Q2 2016, and over 70% of demand stemming from the commercial segment. Notebook vendor Toshiba has all but exited the region’s PC market, with the vendor recording only a few shipments in just one country during the quarter.

Despite losing market share from Q1 2016, HP Inc. was once again the region’s leading PC vendor by a significant margin, courtesy of its strong distribution and channel network. Lenovo retained its position at number two, dominating the consumer segment with its strong presence in the retail space. Dell ranked third, experiencing notable growth within both the corporate and SMB segments, while fourth-placed ASUS was the only player among the top five to increase its shipments year on year. The vendor continues to focus on the consumer segment, which is where it experienced gains. Acer suffered the sharpest decline of the leading vendors, after suffering intense competition in the consumer space.

“Demand in the MEA PC market will continue to be inhibited by a variety of factors over the coming quarters,” says Charakla. “However, the market will decline at a slower rate than previously experienced. It is worth noting that IDC’s forecast for Turkey, the single biggest market in the region, has been revised significantly downwards for the second half of 2016 due to the insecurity and instability that has followed July’s failed coup attempt. Post 2016, the MEA PC market will likely return to a slow growth trend as PC penetration in certain parts of the region is still relatively low and we expect IT adoption in general to continue increasing steadily.”

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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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Crouching Yeti strikes

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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.

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