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R3bn in needless cellphone spend in SA

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Tariffic estimates that companies are unnecessarily wasting more than R3 billion a year because of the lack of effective tools to manage their cellphone spend.

Tariffic, the company which specialises in saving corporates money on their cellphone bills, aims to cut this excessive overspending through the launch of Tariffic Online, its complete Cellular Management Platform – a 360-degree real-time management dashboard for all your corporate cellphone spend.

“More and more, companies have told us that it’s impossible for them to manage their company spend, their abuse, and their upgrades”, says Tariffic’s CEO Antony Seeff. “The self-service platform allows companies to easily understand their cellphone costs, manage their cellular environment, curb abuse in real-time, and save on their cellphone bills both in-contract and when contracts expire”. Tariffic Online operates across all networks in one easy-to-use environment and provides you with management data in real-time allowing companies to actively curb their cellphone spend.

Vodacom owns the corporate market

“Over the past few years working in the cellular industry we have seen some very interesting trends”, says Cherise Stein, who heads up Business Development for Tariffic, “although Vodacom’s packages are approximately 21% more expensive than the other mobile network operators, Vodacom continues to own the lion’s share of the corporate cellphone market in South Africa”. More than 80% of all corporate contracts analysed by Tariffic over the years, belong to the Vodacom network.

Each contract wastes approximately R280 per month

“When looking at the tens of thousands of contracts analysed by Tariffic” says Nicholas Botes,

Tariffic’s CTO, “we have found that we can save on average about R280 per contract per month just by ensuring that each employee is on the correct package. For a company with 500 contracts that’s on average a saving of R1.68m that goes directly to the company’s bottom line”.  Botes notes that savings are achieved even in contract, “what people don’t realise is that Out-of-Bundle data is over 6 times more expensive than in-bundle data, and Tariffic Online sees company employees saving an average of R226 per month by simply adding the correct bundles.”

11% of contracts land up in a desk drawer

Further analyses by Tariffic indicates that 11% of corporate lines analysed have no usage on them whatsoever. Antony Seeff explains “our Tariffic Online system identifies this – usually when an employee leaves a company or moves roles, the SIM cards then land up gathering dust in a desk drawer somewhere while the company is still charged every month”.

Your extra spend is ordained in the stars

“Our Tariffic Online system finds “Extra Costs”, which are a killer financially”, says Toma Batev, Tariffic’s Head of DevOps, “the average SIM has R55 per month in extra costs, which are generally completely unnecessary. It is absurd that companies are paying for employees’ daily horoscope SMSs and for BlackBerry charges when the employees are not using Blackberry phones – and many haven’t been for years!”

Are your employees taking you for a ride?

Employees try get away with whatever they can when they think their bosses aren’t watching.  Tariffic Online also identifies voice and data abuse and notifies the company and employees in real-time, based on predefined notification alerts.  Tariffic has helped identify a case of an employee using in excess of 70GB of data on their cellphone in a single month. “We also look at frequently-dialled numbers and after-hours calling to pick up real-time abuse”, explains Seeff. We have even found some employees doing airtime transfer off their SIM cards to other people of more than R25 000 per month.

“There is too much smoke and mirrors in this industry” says Seeff, “by removing the mystery and providing the right tools, we can regain the margin and give it back to the consumers”.

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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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