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‘Grey Saturday’ safer for shopping

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The annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales offer incredible opportunities, but they are also peak days for financial phishing attacks – and consumers are significantly safer on ‘Grey Saturday’, when the number of such attacks drops by up to a third.

Kaspersky Lab’s review found signs of Grey Saturday attack dips in both 2016 and 2015. In 2016 there was a decline of 33 percent in the number of attacks using popular online retail and payment brands (from around 770,000 to 510,000 detections), despite it being the second biggest shopping day in some countries, such as the U.S.

It represents a rare moment of respite from the cybercriminals in an ever busier holiday shopping season that now runs from October through December. Traditionally distributed by email, phishing attacks now also lure consumers through weblinks, banners, social media and more, persuading them to part with their personal financial data in the belief they are dealing with a reputable, known brand.

“The rise in people using online payments, banking and shopping means that financial phishing attacks are now consistently high all year round, but the holiday season makes it so much easier to hide in the noise. At this time of year, marketing and advertising levels go through the roof, and with consumers increasingly making their transactions on mobiles – probably while out and about and in a hurry – almost everyone is more exposed and has less time to think and check. On Grey Saturday the number of attacks drop significantly. Weekends generally see lower numbers of attacks and fewer people online – but on this big shopping day that’s an extra advantage. We expect this trend from 2016 to continue in 2017, so if you plan on shopping online these holidays, choose the day wisely,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

Other findings of the report include:

  • Following a decline in 2015, financial phishing abusing online payment systems, banks and retailers increased again in 2016.
  • Financial phishing now accounts for half (49.77 per cent) of all phishing attacks, up from 34.33 per cent in 2015.
  • Mobile-first consumers are likely to be a key driver behind the rise in financial phishing: the use of smartphones for online banking, payment and shopping has doubled in the last year according to the 2017 Kaspersky Cybersecurity Index.
  • Financial phishers are exploiting the Black Friday name in their attacks, as well as consumer awareness of, and concerns about online security – disguising their attack messages as security alerts, implications that the user has been hacked, or adding reassuring-sounding security messages.

In order to stay protected while shopping online – on any day – Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice:

  • Do not click on any links received from unknown sources or on any links that look suspicious.
  • Do not use insecure public Wi-Fi networks to make online payments, as hotspots can easily be hacked in order to listen to user traffic and steal confidential information.
  • Do not enter your credit card details on unfamiliar or suspicious sites and always double-check the webpage is genuine before entering any personal information (at least take a look at the URL). Fake websites may look just like the real ones.
  • Only use sites which run with a secure connection – the address of the site should begin with HTTPS://.
  • The more information is being asked for, the more cautious you should be: ask yourself if they really need all the information they demand.
  • Remember that banks and payment companies will never ask you to enter all your credentials.  If in doubt, call them.
  • Install a security solution on your device with built-in technologies designed to prevent financial fraud. For example, Safe Money technology in Kaspersky Lab’s solutions creates a secure environment for financial transactions on all levels.

Kaspersky Lab’s holiday season financial phishing overview is based on information gathered by Kaspersky Lab’s heuristic anti-phishing component that activates every time a user tries to open a phishing link that has not yet been added to Kaspersky Lab’s database.

To assist users seeking for a reliable security solution, Kaspersky Lab is running a special offer. Anyone who purchases Kaspersky Internet Security or Kaspersky Total Security for 1, 3 or 5 devices, will get 50% discount for online purchases. The promotion will run from the 22nd – 30th of November. For more information, please visit: https://www.kaspersky.co.za/home-security#all

To learn more about the latest holiday season phishing trends and examples, please see the Beyond Black Friday Kaspersky Lab Threat Report on Securelist.

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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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