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High-profile targeted hacking takes off

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According to a recent report, the second quarter of 2015 showed a increasing number of high-profile attacks where cybercriminals became more inventive when attacking existing technologies that are often overlooked.|According to a recent report, the second quarter of 2015 showed a increasing number of high-profile attacks where cybercriminals became more inventive when attacking existing technologies that are often overlooked.

The second quarter of 2015 was wrought with high profile vulnerabilities and hacks. Cybercriminals became more inventive in their attack methods to infiltrate and abuse existing technologies that are often overlooked. These developments are analysed in the recently released Trend Micro Q2 security roundup report, “A Rising Tide: New Hacks Threaten Public Technologies.” It details the evolution of tools and methods attackers use to get the greatest return on every cybercrime investment.

“In the second quarter, we saw a shift in the threat landscape with cyber criminals becoming more sophisticated and creative, amplifying existing methods of attack, and using them in new ways,” said Raimund Genes, CTO, Trend Micro. “The ethereal outlook on the threat of cybercrime can no longer be held by the general population. This quarter demonstrated that the potential damage caused by cyber-attacks extends far beyond a simple software bug to hacks of airplanes, smart cars and television stations.”

Hackers are taking more strategic approaches, refining their approach and targeting more selective victims to improve their infection rates. This is reflected by the exponential increase in the use of several traditional attack methods, including a 50 percent increase in the integration of the Angler exploit kit, a 67 percent growth in overall exploit kit-related threats, and CryptoWall ransomware becoming highly targeted, with 79 percent of infections occurring in the U.S.

Additionally, government entities have realized the full impact of cyberattacks during the second quarter with massive data breaches on both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in May and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) system in June. The OPM data breach was the largest of its kind to date, exposing personally identifiable information of approximately 21 million individuals. Other government agencies were impacted by targeted campaigns using macro malware, new command and control (C&C) servers, and the continued use of newly exploited vulnerabilities and 0-days Pawn Storm.

When looking at the Q2 threat landscape as a whole, the U.S. is a major player in both deploying and receiving various attacks, with malicious links, spam, C&C servers and ransomware are all having a major presence.

Report highlights include:

Hacks causing disruptions to public utilities

Broadcast networks, airplanes, automated vehicular systems and home routers pose not only the risk of malware infections, but physical inconveniences and threats. Lone wolf cybercriminals gain notoriety via successful ransomware and PoS attacks, FighterPoS and MalumPoS deployed by solo hackers “Lordfenix” and “Frapstar,” along with Hawkeye keylogger attacks, demonstrated that single individuals are capable of making a significant impact in today’s threat marketplace.

Government entities fight back against cybercrime

Interpol, Europol, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI all played a role in taking down longstanding botnet operations. Additionally, the indictment of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht brought to light the nebulous nature and dangers of the Dark Web.

National and political impacts were made by attacks on government organisations

The attack on OPM was a shocking realisation that no one’s personal data is safe. Macro malware, island-hopping and C&C servers were among the tactics used to target government data in this and similar breaches.

Public-facing websites and mobile devices were threatened in new ways

While threats to software are always present, vulnerabilities in Web apps were proven to be just as dangerous. Attackers will leverage any vulnerability available and custom applications need custom security attention to ensure those entry points are eliminated.

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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