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South Africa’s giant data breach: how to stay safe

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NordVPN offers some online safety tips after South Africa was hit by the biggest data breach in its history.

South Africa was recently hit by the worst data breach in its history. The personal information of more than 30 million South Africans – more than half of the total population – has leaked online, potentially causing identity theft for each one of the affected individuals. The leaked data includes names, ID numbers, income information, employment history, phone numbers and home addresses of everyone on the list.

The leaked information, contained in a 27GB file dating to 2015, was discovered by an Australian Internet security provider, Troy Hunt.

“When a huge amount of personal information is stolen, it can be used to steal bank account information or open bank accounts in that person’s name, “ said Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN (Virtual Private Network). “Cyber criminals are not different from thieves who break into someone’s house – they just operate on a much larger scale, and are therefore even more dangerous. Governments still struggle with solutions for such massive-scale hacks, so our advice is for people to take their privacy into their own hands.”

NordVPN recommends these steps post-data breach (these are general safety tips that should be followed by every Internet user regardless if their privacy has been breached or not):

1. Use only https URL. Make sure all websites that you give your data to have the secure https URL. The ‘s’ in the URL means that it is a secure protocol and your data is encrypted properly.

2. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPNs connect you to the Internet through an encrypted tunnel. VPN server acts as a relay between the Internet and a company’s device, so nobody can see what data is being shared over the Internet. All that can be seen is that you are connected to a VPN server. A VPN service provider, such as NordVPN, can offer multiple benefits to small businesses and individuals, including secure data connections for remote workers and increased safety for business owners to share sensitive company data via an encrypted connection, so it’s not seen by any third parties.

3. Avoid downloading files from unknown senders. The rule is simple: if you are not familiar with the sender, better don’t click to download any attachments or any links they might be sending.

4. Update your firewall. Most systems have an automatically installed firewall–just make sure you follow up with its regular updates.

5. Use antivirus. Use an updated virus protection to make sure your system is protected from malware such as malvertising (advertisement online with malicious codes).

6. Strong passwords. Perhaps the most basic requirement for any online account setup is using strong passwords. Weak passwords make it simple for hackers to break into your system and cause severe damage.

7. Update your operating system. It sounds simple and easy to do, but sometimes we ignore the pop-up reminders for software updates. However, it’s one of the most important things to do with a computer, as the updates fix security vulnerabilities and system bugs.

8. Secure your mobile. If you are happy that your system is now secure, you might be forgetting one important part – your mobile devices. You probably store important passwords on your smartphone and other sensitive information, therefore, remember to encrypt your phone either.

9. Do not provide your private information to any third party. When you need to enter your personal data anywhere online, provide it only if it’s absolutely necessary. You never know where it will end up.

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Wannacry still alive

One and a half years after its epidemic, WannaCry ransomware tops the list of the most widespread cryptor families and the ransomware has attacked 74,621 unique users worldwide.

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These attacks accounted for 28.72% of all users targeted by cryptors in Q3 2018. The percentage has risen over the last year, demonstrating more than two thirds growth against Q3 2017, when its share in cryptor attacks was 16.78%. This is just one of the main findings from Kaspersky Lab’s Q3 IT threat evolution report. 

A series of cyberattacks with WannaCry cryptor occurred in May 2017 and is still considered to be one of the biggest ransomware epidemics in history. Even though Windows released a patch for its operating system to close the vulnerability exploited by EternalBlue 2 months prior to the start of the attacks, WannaCry still affected hundreds of thousands devices around the globe. As cryptors do, WannaCry turned files on victims’ computers into encrypted data and demanded ransom for decryption keys (created by threat actors to decipher the files and transform them back into the original data) making it impossible to operate the infected device.

The consequences of the WannaCry epidemic were devastating: as the victims were mainly organisations with networked systems – the work of businesses, factories and hospitals was paralysed. Even though this case demonstrated the dangers cryptors pose, and most of PCs around the world have been updated to resist the EternalBlue exploit, the statistics show that criminals still try to exploit those computers that weren’t patched and there are still plenty of them around the globe.

Overall, Kaspersky Lab security solution protected 259,867 unique users from cryptors attacks, showing a substantial rise of 39% since Q2 2018, when the figure was 158,921. The growth was rapid yet steady, with a monthly observed increase in the number of users.

The rising share of WannaCry attacks is another reminder that epidemics don’t end as fast as they start – there are always long-running consequences. In the case of cryptors, attacks can be so severe that it is necessary to take preventive measures and patch the device, rather than deal with encrypted files later,” said Fedor Sinitsyn, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

 To reduce the risk of infection by WannaCry and other cryptors, users are advised to:

  • Always update your operating system to eliminate recent vulnerabilities and use a robust security solution with updated databases. It is also important to use the security solution that has specialised technologies to protect your data from ransomware, as Kaspersky Lab’s solutions do. Even if the newest yet unknown malware does manage to sneak through, Kaspersky Lab’s System Watcher technology is able to block and roll back all malicious changes made on a device, including the encryption of files.
  • If you have bad luck and all your files are encrypted with cryptomalware, it is not recommended to pay cybercriminals, as it encourages them to continue their dirty business and infect more people’s devices. It is better to find a decryptor on the Internet – some of them are available for free here: https://noransom.kaspersky.com/

·         It is also important to always have fresh backup copies of your files to be able to replace them in case they are lost (e.g. due to malware or a broken device), and store them not only on the physical object but also in cloud storage for greater reliability (don’t forget to protect your cloud storage with strong hack-proof password!)

·         If you’re a business, enhance your preferred third-party security solution with the newest version of the free Kaspersky Anti-Ransomware Tool.

·         To protect the corporate environment, educate your employees and IT teams, keep sensitive data separate, restrict access, and always back up everything.

·         Use a dedicated security solution, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business that is powered by behaviour detection and able to roll back malicious actions. It should also include Vulnerability and Patch management features that automatically eliminates vulnerabilities and installs updates. This reduces the risk of vulnerabilities in popular software being used by cybercriminals.

·         Last, but not least, remember that ransomware is a criminal offence. You shouldn’t pay. If you become a victim, report it to your local law enforcement agency.

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Nokia 6.1 gets slice of Pie

HMD Global has announced that the Nokia 6.1 will start receiving Android 9 Pie – the second smartphone in the portfolio to receive the latest version of Android less than a month after the update arrived on the Nokia 7 plus.

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Packed with Google’s newest software and building on the features of Android 8.0 Oreo, Android 9 Pie’s focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning gives owners a more customised and tailored experience.

Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 Mobile Platform, the Nokia 6.1 is over 60% faster than its predecessor. Also, now offering enhanced Dual-Sight, ZEISS optics, USB-C fast-charging, Nokia spatial audio and pure, secure and up-to-date Android Oreo.

The Nokia 6.1 has been selected by Google to join the Android One family and therefore users get exclusive access to Apps Actions – a feature only available to Android One and Google Pixel devices.  App Actions helps users get things done faster by predicting their next move and displaying the right action on right away.

Now with Android 9 Pie, the Nokia 6.1’s already impressive battery life is further complimented with the introduction of Adaptive Battery, an update that uses deep learning to understand usage patterns and prioritise battery power on the most important apps.

Other key features of Android 9

·       Slices – Identifies relevant information on favourite apps to make them more easily accessible when needed

·       Adaptive Brightness – Automatically adapts phone brightness by learning from interactions with different settings

·       New system navigation – Features a single home button that provides intelligent predictions and suggestions (user enabled)

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