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Behind ransom-as-a-service

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A report has recently been published on Cerber, one of the largest active ransomeware campaigns. Furthermore, the report shines light on how researchers are helping businesses gain access to their encrypted files without having to pay for the ransoms of cyber criminals.

Check Point has published new findings on Cerber, one of the largest active franchises in a murky segment of cybercrime called ransomware-as-a-service. The report shines a light on the growing ransomware-as-a-service industry, revealing a path researchers are now using to help individuals and businesses gain access to their encrypted files – without paying the increasingly inflated ransoms of cyber criminals.

In a 60-page report, Check Point’s Threat Intelligence and Research Team, along with research partner IntSights Cyber Intelligence, identify new details and analysis on Cerber’s technical and business operation, revealing:

·       Of all ransomware, the Cerber infection rate is significantly higher and more profitable. Cerber is currently running more than 160 active campaigns across the globe, with total annual projected revenue of approximately $2.3 million. Each day eight new campaigns on average are launched; in July alone, the research revealed approximately 150,000 victims affected in 201 countries and territories.

·       Cerber affiliates have become successful money launderers. Cerber uses the Bitcoin currency to evade tracing, and creates a unique wallet to receive funds from each of its victims. Upon paying the ransom (usually one Bitcoin, which is currently worth $590), the victim receives the decryption key. The Bitcoin is transferred to the malware developer through a mixing service, which involves tens of thousands of Bitcoin wallets, making it almost impossible to track them individually. At the end of the process, the money reaches the developer, and the affiliates receive their percentage.

·       Cerber is opening the doors for more would-be hackers. Cerber enables non-technical individuals and groups to take part in the highly profitable business and run independent campaigns, using a set of assigned Command & Control (C&C) servers and a convenient control panel available in 12 different languages.

Since June 2016, Check Point and IntSight have been charting a comprehensive map of the complex system developed by Cerber, as well as its global distribution infrastructure. Researchers were able to regenerate actual victim wallets, allowing the team to monitor payments and transactions, and opening the door to track both the revenue gained by the malware and the money flow itself. Further, this information provided the blueprint for a decryption tool that could remedy infected systems without individuals or businesses bending to cyber-criminal ransom demands.

“This research provides a rare look at the nature and global targets of the growing ransomware-as-a-service industry,” said Maya Horowitz, group manager, Research & Development, Check Point. “Cyber-attacks are no longer the sole essence of nation-state actors and of those with the technical ability to author their own tools; nowadays, they are offered to anyone and can be operated fairly easily. As a result, this industry is growing extensively, and we should all take the proper precautions and deploy relevant protections.”

For more information on the findings, the full report ‘CerberRing: An In-Depth Exposé on Cerber Ransomware-as-a-Service’ can be found here: http://www.checkpoint.com/resources/cerberring/. In addition, for the steps a business or individual can take to decrypt a file infected with Cerber-based malware, visit: http://cerberdecrypt.com.

Check Point’s Threat Intelligence & Research divisions regularly investigate attacks, vulnerabilities and breaches, and develop protections to secure Check Point’s customers. For more information on other research findings from Check Point, visit: http://www.checkpoint.com/threatcloud-central/.

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

Use the page links below to continue reading about Tan’s visions.

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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