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Ransomware: Should you just pay up?

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Many companies are faced with the decision of paying an attacker when their data is held up for ransom, however JORNT VAN DER WIEL believes that companies should not pay the ransom, as if they don’t, there is no business model for the hacker.

The problem with ransomware (a malicious software used to block/encrypt access to a computer/device until a ransom is paid) is that it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. In fact, recent examples of wide-spread ransomware attacks, like CoinVault and CryptoLocker, indicate that cybercriminals are increasingly using these types of attacks.

At a recent Cyber Security Summit in Boston, the FBI advised companies that fall victim to hacks involving ransomware to pay the ransom. They were quoted “To be honest, we often advise people just to pay the ransom”.

Many companies face ransomware attacks and ask themselves: to pay or not to pay? In the security industry, however, we believe that paying criminals does not make the ransomware problem go away and should not be encouraged. If you pay, you keep the criminal business model rolling. If you don’t, there is no business model for them anymore.

Moreover, paying up will not guarantee that your files will be retrieved. Instead, think about securing your system, in advance. Today, ransomware is a very popular way of earning money for criminals, and the risk of infection is high. This is why it is essential (both for corporate and individual users) to make backups; to keep antivirus software updated; not to open any suspicious links or attachments; and be careful of the social engineering techniques used by criminals, to infect your files.

If your files are being held at ransom, first check to see if decryption keys are available – as often they are, which means that it may be possible to get your files back, at no cost.  In fact, Kaspersky Lab recently collaborated with the Dutch police on the CoinVault ransomware attacks, and the result was amazing – it led to the extraction decryption keys and the development of a decryption tool to help victims retrieve their files without paying any ransom. The Dutch police even caught the suspects, so there is always a hope that criminals will be caught and you’ll get your files for free.

So for us, the best possible solution is prevention. While today’s threats are becoming more sophisticated, we have found that too many users – both on the corporate and consumer side – could improve their cybersecurity practices to ensure they don’t fall victim to such attacks. It is important to choose the most effective protection available and ensure that this solution is updated regularly for the devices you use to be fully protected from such attacks. A good practice is also backing up files regularly and ensuring that you are aware of the types of ransomware attacks taking place.

If, however, you or your organisation does become a victim of ransomware, we urge you to first check this out and seek professional advice – certainly don’t pay the criminals.

* Jornt van der Wiel, Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team

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Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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