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Tablet sales slump

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) personal computing devices (PCD) market, which is made up of desktops, notebooks, workstations, and tablets, declined 15.2% year on year in Q3 2017, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global technology research and consulting firm’s Quarterly PCD Tracker for Q3 2017 shows that PCD shipments fell to around 5.9 million units for the three-month period, which represents the lowest quarterly volume recorded during the last five years.

“The poor performance of the tablet category was the primary cause of this decline, with shipments of both slate and detachable tablets declining rapidly year on year,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. “Kenya suffered huge declines in its tablet market after a massive education project that boosted shipments in Q3 2016 was not repeated in Q3 2017. There was a near-universal decline in demand for slate tablets across the region, with the exception of IDC’s ‘Rest of Africa’ grouping, where a large education project was delivered in Ethiopia.”

“While market sentiment remained weak across large parts of the region, most of the key PCD markets performed relatively well during the quarter,” continues Charakla. “The region’s biggest single country market, Turkey, experienced some growth, while Saudi Arabia and South Africa both remained flat. The UAE experienced a slight decline, while the rising cost of living saw consumer demand decline across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Meanwhile, currency issues meant that consumer demand was also constrained in Nigeria and Egypt.”

Looking at the PC market in isolation, each of the top five vendors maintained their respective positions when compared to the corresponding quarter of 2016:

Middle East & Africa PC Market Vendor Shares – Q3 2016 vs. Q3 2017
Company Q3 2016 Q3 2017
HP Inc. 27.3% 28.4%
Lenovo 20.1% 19.3%
Dell 12.9% 15.9%
ASUS 9.0% 9.3%
Acer Group 7.5% 4.0%
Others 23.2% 23.0%

In the tablet space, Samsung experienced the biggest year-on-year gain in share among the market leaders. Lenovo cemented second place in the overall market following its involvement in the aforementioned education project in Ethiopia. Huawei lost some share, while Apple and TCL both reported notable gains.

Middle East & Africa Tablet Market Vendor Shares – Q3 2016 vs. Q3 2017
Company Q3 2016 Q3 2017
Samsung 17.6% 21.3%
Lenovo 13.5% 15.2%
Huawei 13.5% 12.8%
Apple 7.9% 9.6%
TCL 2.4% 5.8%
Others 45.1% 35.3%

It should be noted that HP, Lenovo, and Dell together accounted for around 75% of overall commercial PCD shipments in the region during Q3 2017, while the rest of the market’s players are primarily focused on serving the consumer segment.

“A slowdown in government initiatives and commercial projects, as well as weak-to-modest consumer spending, will ensure the region’s PCD market closes 2017 with a significant overall decline,” says Charakla. “However, a number of very large education projects are anticipated for the UAE, Pakistan, and Ethiopia, and these will act as short-term drivers of demand, helping to cushion the fall in coming quarters.

“Looking further ahead, PCD shipments overall are expected to continue declining over the next few years as users continue to shift from one PCD category to another and increasingly embrace technologies beyond the PCD market, such as smartphones. The impact of these developments will be most notable in the slate tablet market, with IDC expecting this category to suffer the region’s most severe volume declines in the years leading up to 2021.”

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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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