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And the malware goes to…

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Popular films gain the attention of cybercriminals, no less than movie fans, with the Oscars in the calendar only upping the stakes. To better understand how cybercriminals try to capitalise on our interest in high-profile movies, Kaspersky researchers looked into the prevalence of such scams. With over 20 phishing websites and 925 malicious files detected under the guise of this year’s nominated films, the findings show that those who are looking for a nice evening in front of the screen watching the latest blockbuster, need to stay on the lookout for much more action, in the form of phishing and malware.

Kaspersky found over 20 phishing websites and Twitter accounts offering users the chance to watch nominated films for free. These phishing websites gather users’ data and prompt them to carry out a variety of tasks in order to gain access to the desired film. These can vary from taking a survey and sharing personal details, to installing adware or even giving up credit card details. Needless to say, that at the end of the process, the user does not get the content.

The Best Picture nominees
11917
2Ford v Ferarri
3Jojo Rabbit
4Joker
5Little Women
Marriage story
7Once upon a time in Hollywood
8Parasite
9The Irishman

The titles of the best picture nominees analysed by Kaspersky researchers


An example of a phishing website gathering credit card details

An example of a Twitter account promoting a phishing website

To further support the promotion of fraudulent websites, cybercriminals also set up Twitter accounts, where they distribute links to the content. Coupled with malicious files spread via different channels, this brings them successful results.

The number of malicious files detected by Kaspersky products under the guise of nominated films

Malicious files spread on the internet under the guise of copies of nominated films also provide an indication of the levels of interest towards the nominees. Kaspersky researchers compared malicious activity under the name of nominated films during the first four weeks after the public premiere of the film. As a result, ‘Joker’ took first place among films used – being the most popular film among cybercriminals with 304 malicious files named after the Gotham villain. ‘1917’ was second in this rating with 215 malicious files, The Irishman, third with 179 files. Korean film ‘Parasite’ did not have any malicious activity associated with it.

Kaspersky also looked into whether there was a significant rise in malicious files just after the public release of the film. This showed that most malicious files appeared during the third or fourth week after the public cinema release of the film, although some were distributed even before the premiere.

The number of detections of malicious files by Kaspersky products

Kaspersky experts also analysed whether the availability of a film on a streaming platform influences the likelihood of users searching for an illegal copy of it on the web, by comparing malicious activity after the initial limited cinema release and actual release on Netflix streaming platform.

In the case of ‘Marriage Story’ no malware was found upon and after the initial release of the film in cinemas. However, cybercriminals started using the movie title after its release on Netflix, reflecting the interest that grew towards the film. In the case of Sorrento’s long-awaited ‘The Irishmen’, even though less users were engaged in finding a copy of the movie on the internet, they were more determined to do so – the number of detections following the initial limited release of the film on screen was higher than after its release on Netflix.

“Cybercriminals aren’t exactly tied to the dates of film premieres, as they are not really distributing any content except for malicious data. However, as they always prey on something when it becomes a hot trend, they depend on users’ demand and actual file availability. To avoid being tricked by criminals, stick to legal streaming platforms and subscriptions to ensure you can enjoy a nice evening in front of the TV without having to worry about any threats,” comments Anton Ivanov, Kaspersky malware analyst.

To avoid falling victim to malicious programs pretending to be popular films or TV shows, Kaspersky recommends taking the following steps:

  • Pay attention to the official movie release dates in theaters, on streaming services, TV, DVD, or other sources
  • Don’t click on suspicious links, such as those promising an early view of a new film; check movie release dates in the cinema and keep track of them
  • Look at the downloaded file extension. Even if you are going to download a video file from a source you consider trusted and legitimate, the file should have an .avi, .mkv or .mp4 extension among other video formats, definitely not .exe
  • Check the website’s authenticity. Do not visit websites allowing you to watch a movie until you are sure that they are legitimate and start with ‘https’. Confirm that the website is genuine, by double-checking the format of the URL or the spelling of the company name, reading reviews about it and checking the domain’s registration data before starting downloads
  • Use a reliable security solution, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud, for comprehensive protection from a wide range of threats

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Huawei Mate Xs foldable goes beyond design

The new foldable handset from Huawei ups the game with great performance and improved hinge design, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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“Falcon Wing Design.” Run those words over your tongue. It sounds cool, it looks cool and it feels cool. And it sums up the high-tech engineering that will make the new foldable handset from Huawei a formidable competitor in this fast-growing segment.

But it is not only design that sets the new Huawei Mate Xs apart. Unlike its predecessor, the Mate X, the device runs on EMUI10.0.1, an operating system based on Android Open Source Project. The software is based on Google’s mobile operating system, but is not affected by the United States government ban on Huawei using American technology. That means the phone operates like an Android 10 phone, but does not run Google Mobile Services (GMS), which includes the Play Store and its automatically updated apps.

Instead, it uses Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), which replaces the likes of Google Assistant with Huawei Assistant, and allows services like Gmail to run on top of a built-in email service. It allows browser-based versions of any Google service, like YouTube, to be accessed via an on-board browser,  and includes workarounds for various other commonly used Google apps.

At first sight, one gets the sense that HMS and EMUI10.0.1 will quickly teach users that they are not as heavily dependent on Google apps as they may have imagined. Our first half hour spent on the phone suggested very little commonplace functionality that was not easily available. On a personal level, once Gmail is sorted for me, my apps needs are highly specific, rather than being dictated by an ecosystem – whether HMS or GMS.

But let’s get back to the Falcon Wing design. It was first used on the origjnal Mate X, but the new version, which features more than 100 interlocking parts, is made with a zirconium-based liquid metal, resulting in a hinge that is both more durable and provides a more satisfying 180-degree fold.

@arr2gee

#Huawei’s new foldable #smartphone is our. Check out the #MateXs in folding action #foryou

♬ original sound – arr2gee

The flexible display uses a two-layer polymer structure, manufactured by adhering two layers of aerospace-grade polyimide with an optically clear adhesive. This, says Huawei, allows the display to produce great image quality, colour saturation and brightness while retaining a high degree of durability. 

In folded mode, the Mate Xs is a dual-screen smartphone, with a 6.6-inch main screen on the front and a 6.38-inch secondary screen on the back. The secondary screen folds into an edge which serves as a grip when the device unfolds into an 8-inch tablet.

Unfolded, the Xs comes into its own. It offers Multi-screen Collaboration, which Huawei says “breaks down the boundaries between Windows and Android devices”. This means that it allows content to be moved easily between supported devices, and can allow two systems to be controlled from one device.

The phone also provides seamless Multi-window support, allowing two apps to be opened side by side, with a third one “floating” on top, and allowing content to be dragged between the apps – including text, images and documents. The Floating Window can be used to respond to instant messaging, for example, without closing the other apps.

Talking of apps, the Mate Xs debuts a revamped AppGallery, which Huawei intends to develop as a replacement for the Google Play Store. The company would, of course, want to suggest that it is a superior option, but that could take a few years more.

Read more on the next page about the cameras on the Mate Xs, along with the device specs.

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Surviving tax season: An accountant’s tech guide

As we approach the February tax-year deadline, Xero SA country manager COLIN TIMMIS offers tech tips for tackling the number-crunching

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We’re approaching the end of February, which means it’s officially coming to the end of the tax and financial year. It’s a difficult time for accountants and businesses as admin piles up, and task lists get longer by the day. And to top it all off, it’s summer too.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be a time drain. Research from Xero found that accountants can save up to 15 hours a week by using cloud accounting. That’s an average of 54 hours per month or 27 days – an entire annual holiday allowance, plus change. When respondents were asked what they would do with this spare time, of those who chose non-work related activities, 30% would spend more time with family, while 22% selected more time at the beach.

Together with Simon Magner, Xero partner and Director of Iridium Business Solutions, we’ve come up with a checklist to help accountants and small businesses prepare for this busy time.

Ensure your bookkeeping is up to date

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your bookkeeping is accurate and up to date. You don’t want to be scrambling for the information that you need at the last minute – doing the legwork to make sure all the data is ready will pay off in dividends when you come to generating the year-end report.

Check employee data

Remember that your employee data needs to be up to date, and it isn’t up to your employees to sort this out. If it’s not your responsibility to collect this data, warn the relevant people about the year-end in advance. You’ll need to gather all information on payroll and bonuses, while also collecting all receipts for expenses.

Use technology to help you

Admin-heavy work like invoicing, transaction imports, reconciliation, payments – and more – are time-consuming. Even though software can do all these tasks, they’re often done manually by accountants and business owners – which means there is more room for human error. Xero research reflects this too – a quarter of accounting and finance professionals said they could work smarter if they spent fewer hours on administrative tasks.

Having up to date records in real time using cloud accounting software allows you to make better business decisions in terms of your tax position and avoid any costly mistakes.

Don’t let the leap year fool you

Even though 2020 is a leap year, the last working day is the 28th of February – so don’t think you can file your return on the 29th. On that note, don’t leave it until the 28th, either – just in case issues pop up at SARS on the last filing day of the tax year.

Use previous data to guide you

Remember to use past data to inform your current return. Last year’s assessed profit should be used as a starting point to determine the minimum tax you should be paying as a business. And remember, if you made an assessed loss in prior years you could deduct it against the current year’s profits.

When experienced accounting professionals and business owners have to spend time inputting data, processing reports, and scrutinising invoices, they can’t work on strategy, pursue new business or developing client relationships. If accountants want to spend some time away from their desks during tax season, they need to invest in the right processes. It will save them time, energy and costly mistakes.

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