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SA improves in threat index

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Check Point Software has published its latest Threat Index for May 2016, revealing that while South Africa improved its global ranking, the number of active global malware families increased by 15 percent in May 2016.

South Africa ended May ranked 61st in the world, according to the Global Threat Index, an improvement of 36 places and a far cry from April 2016 that saw the country ranking 25th. There are 112 countries on the overall Index.

Globally, Check Point detected 2,300 unique and active malware families attacking business networks in May. It was the second month running Check Point has observed an increase in the number of unique malware families, having previously reported a 50 percent increase from March to April. The continued rise in the number of active malware variants highlights the wide range of threats and scale of challenges security teams face in preventing an attack on their business critical information. Most notably:

·       While Virut was the most commonly used malware in the period, banking malware Trojan Tinba became the fifth most prevalent form of infection last month in South Africa, allowing hackers to steal victim’s credentials using web-injects, activated as users try to log-in to their banking website. Tinba ranked second in the overall international threat list

·       Attacks against mobile devices also remained constant as Android malware HummingBad persisted in the overall top 10 of malware attacks in South Africa during the period. Despite only being discovered by Check Point researchers in February, it has rapidly become commonly used; indicating hackers view Android mobile devices as weak spots in enterprise security and as potentially high reward targets.

“This is a significant improvement in South Africa’s global ranking on the Threat Index, but also reflects a large degree of volatility in the month-to-month rankings,” said Doros Hadjizenonos, Country Manager at Check Point Software Technologies South Africa. “Check Point continues to see a substantial escalation in the number of families of active malware attacking business networks. We feel this reflects the considerable effort hackers and cybercriminals are putting into new attack methods. South African companies must remain conscious of the sheer scale of the threat facing them from malware, and invest accordingly in securing their networks using advanced threat prevention measures on all devices, as well as networks and endpoints.”

In May, Virut was the top malware threat in South Africa. Dnschanger and Conficker were the second and third top threats in South Africa during the month.  Internationally, Conficker was the most prominent malware family, accounting for 14 percent of recognised attacks.

1.       Virut – This is one of the top malware and botnet distributors in the Internet, and uses DDoS attacks, spam distribution, data theft and fraud methods. Spread through executables originating from infected devices, Virut alters the local host files and opens a backdoor to remote attackers via an IRC channel.

2.       ↔ Dnschanger – A backdoor targeting Windows platform, this malware is often distributed by Mamba, another malware. It changes DNS settings by replacing the name server, and survives reboots by creating a scheduled task that runs daily.

3.       ↔ Conficker – Worm that allows remote operations, malware downloads, and credential theft by disabling Microsoft Windows systems security services. Infected machines are controlled by a botnet, which contacts its Command & Control server to receive instructions.

Mobile malware families continued to pose a significant threat to business mobile devices during May with six entries into the global list of top 100 overall malware families. Most of these targeted Android, but in a continuation of the trend seen in April several targeted iOS. South Africa’s top mobile-specific threat was Hummingbad.

4.       ↔ HummingBad Android malware that establishes a persistent rootkit on the device, installs fraudulent applications, and with slight modifications could enable additional malicious activity such as installing a keylogger, stealing credentials and bypassing encrypted email containers used by enterprises.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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