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Ransomware: worse to come

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This year has seen ransomeware rock headline across the globe and unfortunately it is not about to go away anytime soon. In fact some believe that we haven’t seen the worst of it yet.

Many businesses – and individuals – were affected by the various cyber-attacks perpetrated in the past six months.  Ransomware seems to have taken over the headlines this year, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Ransomware is most likely be a topic that will remain highlighted in the years to come.

The business world is becoming more digitized. Data, systems, apps and networks can be crippled by a ransomware attack, which is catastrophic for any business or organization when these vital systems become interrupted. But it’s not just business that suffers: in this year’s WannaCry attack, 70 000 devices in Britain’s National Health Services were affected with knock-on effects on emergency medical services.

Ransomware has climbed meteorically since it first emerged in the mid-2000s, but the aim has mostly remained the same: to extort money from victims. Important data and files are encrypted, leaving the hacker with the only means to access those files. The victim is then asked to pay a ransom – most often in Bitcoin – in order to receive a decryption key so that they can retrieve their files safely.

“In the beginning, many of the ransomware attacks were actually very convincing hoaxes. Other cyber attackers used screen locks so all the victim could see was the notification window. These days, the ransomware that’s out there not only locks information and data, but can also potentially delete encrypted files after a specified time period,” explains Anvee Alderton, channel manager at Trend Micro Southern Africa.

According to Trend Micro, there were 29 different ransomware families in 2015. Just a year later, 247 families emerged – that’s a 752% increase. The hackers have indeed profited from their attacks, raking in millions of dollars by attacking big businesses without data back ups. In the first few months of 2017, ransomware attacks climbed a further 250%.

These attacks are on track to reach another milestone this year as seen in another  report, ransomware attacks rose 250 percent during the first few months of 2017, with many infections centered around the U.S.

“We at Trend Micro believe that the ransomware strategy used by hackers will evolve in the not too distant future. Given the amount of new ransomware we hear about regularly, there will be new ransomware samples that will emerge. The sad thing is that there are a lot more attacks focusing on the healthcare industry these days, because of the valuable patient data they have. These attacks on healthcare providers might increase, too,” Alderton predicts.

This may sound as though we are heading towards a ransomware apocalypse, however the good news is that law enforcement is making strides towards catching up with cyber criminals. Various law enforcement organisations have begun to collaborate with other groups such as Cyber Threat and No More Ransomware in order to identify the sources of powerful ransomware, and prevent attacks.

The first port of call for diffusing cyber attacks remains in the hands of an organisations’ staff. Employees should be made aware of the risks of ransomware and understand how infection is delivered and to report any suspicious activity. Access to sensitive data must be limited and patches and backups need to be done regularly and consistently.

“Security solutions also need to incorporate a cross-generational technology approach. This means reputation-based analysis with other capabilities like whitelisting and application control, behavioral analysis, network monitoring, vulnerability shielding, and high-fidelity machine learning. This is the optimal way to protect your business or organisation,” Alderton says.

Arts and Entertainment

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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