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Banking Trojan targets Android 6

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Kaspersky Lab has discovered a modification of the Gugi banking trojan that can bypass new Android 6 security features designed to block phishing and ransomware attacks.

The modified trojan forces users into giving it the right to overlay genuine apps, send and view SMS, make calls, and more. It is spread through social engineering and its use by cybercriminals is growing rapidly: between April and early August, 2016, there was a ten-fold increase in its number of victims.

The Gugi Trojan’s aim is to steal users’ mobile banking credentials by overlaying their genuine banking apps with phishing apps, and to seize credit card details by overlaying the Google Play Store app. In late 2015, Android OS version 6 was launched, with new security features designed specifically to block such attacks. Among other things, apps now need the user’s permission to overlay other apps, and to request approval for actions such as sending an SMS and making calls the first time they want to access them.

Kaspersky Lab anti-malware experts have uncovered a modification of the Gugi Trojan that can successfully bypass these two new features.

Initial infection with the modified trojan takes place through social engineering, usually with a spam SMS that encourages users to click on a malicious link. Once installed on the device, the trojan sets about getting the access rights it needs. When ready, the malware displays the following sign on the user’s screen: “additional rights needed to work with graphics and windows”. There is only one button: “provide.”

When the user clicks on this, they are presented with a screen asking them to authorise app overlay. After receiving permission, the trojan will block the device screen with a message asking for ‘Trojan Device Administrator’ rights, and then asks for permission to send and view SMS and to make calls. If the trojan does not receive all the permissions it needs, it will completely block the infected device. If this happens, the user’s only option is to reboot the device in safe mode and try to uninstall the trojan, an activity that is made harder if the trojan has already gained ‘Trojan Device Administrator’ rights.

Aside from these security workarounds and a few other features, Gugi is a typical banking trojan: stealing financial credentials, SMS and contacts, making USSD requests and sending SMS as directed by the command server. To date, 93% of users attacked by the Gugi Trojan are based in Russia, but its number of victims is on the rise. In the first half of August 2016 there were ten times as many victims as in April 2016.

“Cybersecurity is a never-ending race. OS systems such as Android are continuously updating their security features to make life harder for cybercriminals and safer for customers; cybercriminals are relentless in their attempts to find ways around this; and the security industry is equally busy making sure they don’t succeed. The discovery of the modified Gugi Trojan is a good example of this. In exposing the threat, we can neutralise it, and help to keep people, their devices and their data safe,” said Roman Unucheck, Senior Malware Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab advises Android users to take the following steps to protect themselves against the Gugi Trojan and other malware threats:

·         Don’t automatically agree to hand over rights and permissions when an app asks you to do so – think about what is being asked for, and why you are being asked for it.

·         Install an antimalware solution on all devices and keep OS software up-to-date.

·         Avoid clicking on links in messages from people you don’t know, or in unexpected messages from people you do.

·         Exercise caution at all times when visiting websites: if something looks even slightly suspicious, it probably is.

The Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Gugi family has been known about since December 2015, with the modification Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Gugi.c first discovered in June 2016. Kaspersky Lab products detect all modifications of the Gugi Trojan malware family.

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Personal computing devices sales still decline in MEA

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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, suffered a decline of -7.3% year on year in Q2 2017, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global technology research and consulting firm’s Quarterly PCD Tracker for Q2 2017 shows that PCD shipments fell to around 6 million units for the quarter.

“As forecast, the market followed a similar pattern to recent quarters, with the downturn primarily stemming from a decline in shipments of slate tablets and desktops,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. “This was the result of desktop users increasingly switching to mobile devices such as notebooks or even refurbished notebooks, while users of slate tablets shifted to smartphones. These trends translated into year-on-year declines of -21.9% for desktops and -15.7% for slate tablets in Q2 2017, while shipments of notebooks and detachable tablets increased 11.0% and 63.3%, respectively over the same period.”

“Market sentiment in the region remained low overall, although an aggressive push from some slate tablet vendors meant the market declined much slower than expected,” continues Charakla. “At the same time, heightened competition has also made it harder for certain players to sustain their slate tablet businesses and generate profits, causing them to lose interest in the slate tablet market altogether. Despite this, slate tablets are still the most popular computing device among home users in the region.”

Looking at the region’s key markets, IDC’s research shows that when compared to Q2 2016 overall PCD shipments were down -11.4% in the UAE, -8.9% in Turkey, and -6.7% in the ‘Rest of Middle East’ sub-region (comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan). South Africa and Saudi Arabia bucked this trend, recording year-on-year increases of 3.5% and 9.6%, respectively.

A massive education delivery in Pakistan acted as a key driver for notebook shipments in the region overall. Similarly, the education sector was the biggest driver of detachable tablet shipments, triggered by a huge delivery in Kenya, as well as two other deliveries in Pakistan and Turkey, which enabled this category to achieve the fastest growth of all the PCD categories.

“While a component shortage prevented market players from reducing their prices too much, the average price of consumer notebooks experienced a considerable year-on-year decline in Q2 2017,” says Charakla. “This played a key role in driving demand from the consumer segment, and was reflected in the growing popularity of lower-priced notebook models.”

Looking at the PC market’s vendor rankings, each of the top five vendors maintained their respective positions compared to the previous quarter, with the top four all gaining share.

Middle East & Africa PC Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
HP Inc. 23.7% 27.6%
Lenovo 19.8% 21.5%
Dell 16.3% 16.7%
ASUS 8.7% 9.4%
Acer Group 5.9% 4.1%
Others 25.7% 20.7%

Although Samsung continued to lead the tablet market, the vendor rankings in the space saw quite a few changes, with Huawei catapulting itself to second place. Lenovo also climbed up a position compared to the previous quarter, causing Apple to drop to fourth place.

Middle East & Africa Tablet Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
Samsung 20.5% 18.9%
Huawei 11.2% 15.8%
Lenovo 12.7% 9.8%
Apple 9.1% 8.8%
Alcatel 2.9% 5.0%
Others 43.5% 41.7%

“Looking to the future, the MEA PCD market is expected to decline at a faster rate than previously forecast for 2017 as a whole,” says Charakla. “Technological shifts are playing a pivotal role in deciding the future of this market, with demand for certain products shifting to other PCD products and beyond (i.e., smartphones). Accordingly, shipments of slate tablets are expected to continue declining over the coming years as demand is cannibalized by smartphones. Meanwhile, the ongoing shift to mobile computing will see growth in the desktop market remain close to flat throughout IDC’s forecast period ending 2021. Notebook shipments will experience very slow growth beyond 2018, while detachable tablets will remain the fastest growing PCD category, eating away share from other computing devices.”

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Gazer cyber-spies exposed

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ESET has released new research into the activities of the Turla cyberespionage group, and specifically a previously undocumented backdoor that has been used to spy on consulates and embassies worldwide.

ESET’s research team are the first in the world to document the advanced backdoor malware, which they have named “Gazer”, despite evidence that it has been actively deployed in targeted attacks against governments and diplomats since at least 2016.

Gazer’s success can be explained by the advanced methods it uses to spy on its intended targets, and its ability to remain persistent on infected devices, embedding itself out of sight on victim’s computers in an attempt to steal information for a long period of time.

ESET researchers have discovered that Gazer has managed to infect a number of computers around the world, with the most victims being located in Europe. Curiously, ESET’s examination of a variety of different espionage campaigns which used Gazer has identified that the main target appears to have been Southeastern Europe as well as countries in the former Soviet Union Republic.

The attacks show all the hallmarks of past campaigns launched by the Turla hacking group, namely:

  • Targeted organisations are embassies and ministries;
  • Spearphishing delivers a first-stage backdoor such as Skipper;
  • A second stealthier backdoor (Gazer in this instance, but past examples have included Carbon and Kazuar) is put in place;
  • The second-stage backdoor receives encrypted instructions from the gang via C&C servers, using compromised, kegitimate websites as a proxy.

Another notable similarity between Gazer and past creations of the Turla cyberespionage group become obvious when the malware is analysed. Gazer makes extra efforts to evade detection by changing strings within its code, randomizing markers, and wiping files securely.

In the most recent example of the Gazer backdoor malware found by ESET’s research team, clear evidence was seen that someone had modified most of its strings, and inserted phrases related to video games throughout its code.

Don’t be fooled by the sense of humour that the Turla hacking group are showing here, falling foul of computer criminals is no laughing manner.

All organisations, whether governmental, diplomatic, law enforcement, or in traditional business, need to take today’s sophisticated threats serious and adopt a layered defence to reduce the chances of a security breach.

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