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Apple not out of the woods yet

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Just days after Apple released its patch for the Flashfake Trojan, have researchers at Kaspersky Labs found an Advanced Persistent Threat, which targets certain vulnerabilities in the Java Virtual Machine.

The notorious Flashfake Trojan that helped to create a botnet of 700k+ Mac computers may be the most prominent example of vulnerabilities in a Mac OS X environment, but it is certainly not alone. Kaspersky Lab’s researchers have discovered another malicious program that targets Apple computers, which has subsequently been confirmed as an Advanced Persistent Threat. Unlike the Flashfake Trojan, which has uncovered the theoretical dangers of an unprotected Mac OS X environment, the new malware known as Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a is a real example of how a vulnerable Apple computer could be fully controlled by cybercriminals.

The new backdoor was spotted in the wild in early April 2012. Similar to Flashfake, it used certain vulnerabilities in Java Virtual Machine. The number of users infected with this malware is relatively low, which also suggests this backdoor is used in targeted attacks. After activation on an infected system, it connects to a remote website for instructions. The command and control server was hosted in the US, and used a free dynamic DNS service to route the infected computers’ requests.

Subsequent events confirmed the initial theory that SabPub was part of a targeted attack. Kaspersky Lab’s experts set up a fake victim machine, infected by the backdoor, and on theof 15 April 2012 discovered some unusual activity. The attackers seized control of the infected system and started analysing it. They sent commands to view the contents of root and home folders and even downloaded some of the fake documents stored in the system. This analysis was most likely performed manually, and not using some automated system, which is unlikely in the widespread ‚mass-market‚ malware. Therefore, it can be confirmed that this backdoor is an example of an Advanced Persistent Threat in active use.

During the analysis of the backdoor, more details were uncovered about the infection vector of a targeted attack. Kaspersky Lab’s researchers have found six Microsoft Word documents, all of them containing the exploit. Two of them drop the SabPub payload. The attempt to open another four documents on a vulnerable system leads to infection with another Mac-specific malware. The contents of one of the SabPub-related documents contained direct references to the Tibetan community. Meanwhile, the obvious connection between SabPub and another targeted attack for Windows-based machines known as LuckyCat points to diverse and widespread criminal activity with the same origin.

Alexander Gostev, Chief Security Expert at Kaspersky Lab, commented: ‚The SabPub backdoor once again reveals that not a single software environment is invulnerable. The relatively low number of malware for Mac OS X does not mean better protection. The most recent incidents like Flashfake and SabPub indicate that the personal data of unprotected Mac users is also at risk, either because cybercriminals understand the rising market share of such machines, or because they are hired for the direct task of attacking Apple computers.‚

The Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a malware, along with the relevant exploits, is detected and remediated by Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2011 for Mac. More details about this Backdoor are available in the initial report and follow-up analysis at Securelist.com.

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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