A recent study has revealed that in addition to cybercriminals using a range of new techniques to attack corporate computers, well over half of them were hit with one attempted malware infection during 2015.
Cyberattack tools used against businesses in 2015 were different to those used against consumers, according to Kaspersky Lab’s review of corporate threats last year. They included greater exploitation of legitimate software programmes and malware being signed with valid digital signatures to keep malicious files hidden for longer. Kaspersky Lab’s experts also observed a steady rise in the number of corporate users attacked by ransomware.
Kaspersky Lab’s experts found that in 2015 well over half (58%) of corporate PCs were hit with at least one attempted malware infection, up three percentage points on 2014. One in three (29%) business computers were exposed at least once to an Internet-based attack; with the exploitation of standard office applications seen three times as often as in consumer attacks.
Further, 41% of business computers faced local threats, such as from infected USB sticks or other compromised removable media. The experts also noted a 7% increase in the share of exploits targeting the Android platform, confirming hackers’ growing interest in data stored on employees’ mobile devices.
These attacks were found to be carefully planned, with cyber-attackers taking time to investigate a target company’s contacts and suppliers and even the personal interests and browsing habits of individual employees. This insight was then used to identify legitimate websites for compromise and malware distribution, with the attacks often repeated over time.
“The future cyber-landscape for business includes a new attack vector: infrastructure, because almost all of an organisation’s valuable data is stored on servers in data centers. We also expect tougher safety standards from regulators, which could lead to more cybercriminals being arrested in 2016,” says Yury Namestnikov, Senior Security Researcher at Global Research and Analysis Team, Kaspersky Lab.
In 2015, cyber-criminals and advanced persistent threats (APT) groups focused a great deal of attention on financial services organisations, such as banks, investment funds, and both stock and currency exchanges, including those handling cryptocurrencies.
These attacks included Carbanak, which penetrated the networks of banks, seeking out critical systems that would allow it to withdraw money. One successful attack alone would bring in as much as $2.5 – $10 million dollars. The cyber-espionage group, Wild Neutron also spent much of 2015 hunting down investment companies as well as organisations working with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and companies involved in mergers and acquisitions.
Kaspersky Lab’s experts observed a growing diversification in attack targets. For example, in 2015, the Chinese APT, Winnti APT switched targets from companies involved in computer games to those in pharmaceuticals and telecommunications.
Stealing at point of sale
Point-Of-Sale terminals, used by retailers and other consumer-facing organisations were another target for attack in 2015, with Kaspersky Lab products blocking more than 11,500 attempts to hack into PoS devices. The company knows of ten families of programmes designed to steal data from PoS terminals, and seven of them appeared for the first time this year.
The rise and rise of ransomware
2015 also saw a doubling of the number of cryptolocker attacks, with Kaspersky Lab detecting cryptolockers on more than 50 thousand corporate machines. This could reflect the fact that ransoms received from organisations can be far larger than those received from individuals. There is also a greater likelihood of the ransom being paid. Many companies simply cannot function if the information on several critical computers or servers is encrypted and inaccessible.
Kaspersky Lab recommends that companies take steps to reduce risk and to increase their knowledge of the latest threats. The basic principles of security in corporate networks remain the same: train employees, establish robust security processes and make full use of new technologies and techniques as each additional layer of protection reduces the risk of network penetration. To eliminate the threat of ransomware infection, companies should use protection against exploits and ensure that their security solutions include behavioural detection methods, such as Kaspersky Lab’s System Watcher.
Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?
Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.
Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.
Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.
Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.
Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.
Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?
It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.
However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.
The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.
One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.
It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.
The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.
They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.
The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.
Not enough firsts? There are a few more.
Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
IoT set to improve authentication
By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto
As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.
And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.
Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.
According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.
Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.
Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.
And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.
Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.
And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.
So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.
This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.