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Samsung brings smart design and innovation together

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At last week’s AfricaForum, Samsung launched a variety of new products, ranging from new QLED TVs to windless air-condition systems. SEAN BACHER was there to get some first hand experience.

Samsung Electronics’ QLED TV range, launched at CES last month, has been unveiled in South Africa just a few weeks later.

The local unveiling came at last week’s AfricaForum in Cape Town, where Samsung launched a range of products for the home user. Their product announcements ranged from new TVs, fridges, freezers, washing machines and air-conditioning units.

The QLED TV was possibly the biggest announcement: Using quantum dot technology, the QLEDS are said to provide richer colours with an improved colour range, offering viewers a much more detailed viewing experience than those of the competition.

The QLED technology also means that the devices can display colours at just about any brightness setting, with peak luminance levels being between 1 500 and 2 000 nits.

The QLED TV range includes a Q7 flat panel 55-inch 4K QLED at a recommended retail price of R32 800, with a 75-inch version going for R78 800. Its Q8 range of curved panel 4K models are available from R46 000 for the 55-inch model to R59 000 for the 65-inch TV. Also on display was the mammoth 88-inch Q9 TV, but its price was not yet available.

To complement the QLED TVs, Samsung revealed its MS750 Soundbar. Making use of Samsung’s proprietary UHQ 32-bit Audio Technology and its own audio algorithms, the Soundbar is able to deliver loud sounds with little or no distortion.

The device is small enough to be mounted to most flat-panel TVs and is connected via a single cable. This is one step closer to clearing away the spider web of cables that sit behind home entertainment systems and the single connection means that both the Soundbar and TV can be switched on at the same time. Pricing was not yet available but the Soundbar will be available at Samsung branded stores and leading retailers in the next few months.

Next up was Samsung’s TMF (Top Mounted Freezer/Refrigerator). The company claims this is a first fridge/freezer combination to use Twin Cooling Plus technology, which uses independent cooling sources for the fridge and freezer. This design not only improves the efficiency of both the fridge and freezer but also prevents odours from the fridge penetrating the freezer and vice-versa.

The top of the range Samsung RT7000 fridge/freezer maintains an optimum humidity level of 70% in the fridge compartment, extending the life of fruit and vegetables – no matter where in the fridge these are stored. At the same time, it uses smart power technology for up to a 42% power saving and offers features like Power Freeze and Power Cool modes to make ice and chilled drinks faster than Samsung’s competitors.

The Twin Cooling feature also prevents the freezer from icing up and allows one to convert the freezer into a fridge. It also lets you turn the fridge off while the freezer is running. Perfect for when going on holiday.

The Samsung Top Mounted Freezer-refrigerator range is available at selected Samsung Brand Stores and leading retailers for the following recommended retail prices:

RT6000K: R12 999.00

RT7000K: R15 999.00

Also launched was the Samsung AR9500M air conditioner. It uses the company’s Wind-Free Cooling technology that enables users to obtain both a cooler indoor climate with optimal energy efficiency and without having to experience uncomfortable direct airflows.

The wall-mounted AR9500M does this through its 21 000 micro air holes and a two-step cooling system, which when first turned on starts in a ‘Fast Cooling Mode’, before automatically switching to ‘Wind-Free Cooling Mode’, which creates cool still air once the desired temperature is reached. This approach will also reduce energy consumption by up to 72%. In addition, the unit is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing users to control it through the Samsung Smart Home app on their tablet or smartphone.

Pricing was not available for the AR9500M but it will be available at Samsung branded stores in the next few months.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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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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R5m in software fines

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South African companies paid almost R5.2 million in damages for using unlicensed software in 2017 up from R3.6 million in 2016.

This is according to data from BSA | The Software Alliance, a non-profit, global trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners.

The significant increase in unlicensed software payments – which includes settlements as well as the cost of acquiring new software to become compliant – is the result of more accurate leads from informers, says Darren Olivier, Partner at Adams & Adams, legal counsel for BSA. In 2017 BSA received 281 reports in South Africa alleging the use of unlicensed software products of BSA member companies – this up considerably up from 230 leads in 2016.

“BSA’s recent social media campaign also helped to create awareness among local companies about the need to comply with existing legislation in order to avoid legal action,” Olivier says.

The result has been a 13% increase in settlements paid in 2017, with the settlements total reaching almost R2.5 million.

While the average settlement paid by companies in 2017 was around R36 094, in some cases the amount owed was far greater, as is evidenced by Shereno Printers, a print and design company based in Gauteng, which ended up paying a hefty settlement amount of R260 000 last year in an out of court settlement.

The company’s case was in line with a broader trend, which saw the print and design industry as a whole rank among the top sectors plagued by unlicensed software.

Aside from settlements, companies also paid more than R2.6 million in licenses purchased to legalise their unlicensed software.

And the ramifications of software piracy extend beyond financial implications. “It also results in potential job losses and loss in tax revenue. This is not to mention the financial and reputational damage brought about by security breaches and lost data,” comments Olivier.

As unlicensed software has not been updated with the latest security features, it leaves businesses vulnerable to cyberattack, he explains.

This is a particular problem for companies operating in South Africa where economic crime has recently reached record levels, according to the Global Economic Crime Survey. Indeed, 77% of South African organisations have experienced some form of economic crime. What’s more, instances of cybercrime totalled 29% of economic crimes reported.

This in turn, raises questions around government policy and the adequacy of existing copyright legislation, which only enables the registration of copyright in films, but not in computer programs.

Olivier notes that it is likely the percentage of unlicensed software on South African computers has increased over the past year. “We received many more leads this year, which is an indicator that the amount of pirated software is greater than in previous years,” he comments.

Often unlicensed software is not so much a case of deliberate piracy as it is a result of poor software asset management (SAM).

“For this reason, the BSA encourages all businesses to ensure they have effective SAM practices in place. Companies should be able to confirm what software they are using and are licensed to use – this will help them to identify unlicensed software and can also bring about cost savings. Even the most basic SAM practices such as regular inventories and software use policies can help,” says Chair of the BSA SA Committee, Billa Coetsee.

With this in mind the BSA offers a range of SAM solutions, not only to help organisations reduce legal and security risks, but also to create business value.

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