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Employees download malware every 4 seconds

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This was a key finding from two new research projects by Check Point Software Technologies, namely the Check Point 2016 Security Report and Exploits at the Endpoint: SANS 2016 Threat Landscape Study. The research reveals critical challenges and key recommendations for IT leaders, as businesses continue to build up protections against evolving cyber threats.

In the company’s fourth annual Security Report, Check Point researchers analysed the activity of more than 31,000 Check Point gateways worldwide, revealing details on what enterprises are encountering in known and unknown malware, attack trends, and the impact of more mobile devices in the enterprise. Additionally, researchers were able to measure the impact successful breaches have had on organisations, and the added expenses that go beyond remediation costs.

In the recent SANS 2016 Threat Landscape Study, conducted in partnership with security education and research group SANS Institute, researchers surveyed more than 300 IT and security professionals across the globe to uncover the threats organisations encounter in the real world; when and how they become incidents; which types of threats had the biggest impact; and the greatest challenges enterprises face in protecting themselves.

“With billions of new connections formed every minute, the world is more globally linked than ever. Innovations like cloud, mobility and IoT are changing the way we deploy, the way we consume, and the way we secure technology,” said Doros Hadjizenonos, Country Manager of Check Point South Africa. “More and more malware is being put into our ecosystem that traditional security techniques are powerless to prevent. Given this, staying a leader requires being one step ahead of things you cannot see, know or control – and preventing attacks before they happen.”

Both the Check Point Security Report and SANS 2016 Threat Landscape Study present a comprehensive view of the entire threat landscape – from the network to the endpoint – offering key findings including:

·      Unknown malware continues its exponential and evolutionary growth. Researchers found a nine-fold increase in the amount of unknown malware plaguing businesses. This was fueled by the employees – who downloaded a new unknown malware every four seconds. In total, there were nearly 12 million new malware variants discovered every month, with more new malware discovered in the past two years than in the previous decade.

·       Security is lagging behind the speedy, on-the-go mobile device. With smartphones and tablets accounting for 60 percent of digital media time spent, businesses’ mobile devices present both an access curse and a business productivity blessing. While employees do not want to be the cause of a company network breach, one in five will cause one through either mobile malware or malicious Wi-Fi.

·       Endpoints represent the starting points for most threats. Among the businesses surveyed, endpoints were the most common cause of breaches and the most critical component in cyber defenses, with attackers leveraging email in 75 percent of cases. Also, 39 percent of endpoint attacks bypassed the network gateway firewalls, and routine operations uncovered 85 percent of threats after they had already gotten inside the enterprise.

Both reports conclude forward-looking security starts with having a best-of-breed architecture in order to address the current and future complexities of securing IT. Researchers found a common theme of advanced threat prevention, mobile device protection and segmenting a network all critical components for the modern enterprise.

To read the full 2016 Check Point Security Report, visit: http://www.checkpoint.com/securityreport/; and to read the full results of Exploits at the Endpoint: SANS 2016 Threat Landscape Survey, visit: https://www.checkpoint.com/webinars/sans-2016-threat-landscape-study/.

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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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R5m in software fines

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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.

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