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Digital hygiene essential

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New research has revealed that Increasing levels of information stored on smartphones, tablets and computers put at risk modern digital devices because of users’ poor digital hygiene.

New global research by Kaspersky Lab reveals that user attitudes towards app care and maintenance on their devices is making sensitive data on computers and tablets particularly vulnerable to security threats.

The global research shows us that keeping control of the content on their devices is a task that users tend to avoid. Only about half of people revise the content on their computers and tablets on a regular basis but as many as two-in-three (63%) people do this on their smartphones. However, this is typically because smartphones have less memory than computers and tablets. In fact, 35% of users have deleted apps on their smartphones due to lack of storage, whereas only 13% of users on computers have done the same.

A quarter of users don’t remember when they last uninstalled an application from their computers, while this figure goes down to 12% for smartphones. This has led to a situation where a third of applications on user computers are completely redundant – they are never used, but stay on the hard disk taking up space and potentially running in the background, putting sensitive information at risk.

All of our devices store sensitive data, and they should therefore be maintained in the same way. However, the research shows us that users do not treat their devices equally. The survey found that 65% of users update apps on their smartphones as soon as they are released, providing them with the latest security patches and updates. By contrast, users are less likely to update apps on tablets and computers, with just 42% and 48% respectively updating apps as soon as possible.

As a result of this behaviour, users are risking a range of problems associated with a buildup of digital clutter on their devices – particularly on their computers. Kaspersky Lab statistics show us that users face malware on their computers more than other devices (28% compared to 17% on smartphones). Worryingly, the study has found a contradiction in user attitudes towards their devices and the threats they face on those devices. According to the survey, despite users’ risky attitudes to storing content on computers and the greater threat of malware infections on these devices, most respondents still consider computers to be the safest place for their data.

Andrei Mochola, Head of Consumer Business at Kaspersky Lab said: “The digital devices we use every day store precious data that users don’t want to fall into the wrong hands or lose due to a device crashing or malware infection. In order to avoid these risks users should take action managing, cleaning and updating apps across all devices in their household. Care and maintenance should be a priority in your digital life, as in the physical world, in order to keep the hackers at bay.”

In order to keep digital devices safe, users are advised to take the following steps:

1.   Update apps –  it is important for users to update apps as soon as new versions are released because they might include security patches that prevent or reduce vulnerabilities in the app

2.   Clean apps – improperly managed smartphone apps also represent a security threat because they often transmit data even when they’re not being used.

3.      Change app settings – these enable the user to manage how the app interacts with the device. For example, apps can get access to user sensitive information, track user locations and share user data with third party servers. Failure to manage these settings can result in unused apps gaining access to information on the device without the user being aware.

4.      Use specialist software – install specialist software that can help to distinguish apps behaving suspiciously and those that are not used, as well as those which need to be updated. To find out more about these features in Kaspersky Lab’s flagship security solutions for home users, please follow the link.

Those users who take a serious approach to storing their valuable data will benefit from reliable protection with award-winning security solutions like Kaspersky Internet Security – multi-device 2017. Until the 10th of May 2017 users will get up to 30% off and receive 100GB of secure online cloud storage for free from Tresorit. More information on this special offer can be found by the link.

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*The study “Digital Clutter and its Dangers” was based on insight gained from a unique combination of online research and technical analysis of security threats and app performance:

·         Statistics from the Kaspersky Security Network, a cloud-based system that processes depersonalised cyberthreat-related statistics received from millions of Windows and Android devices owned by Kaspersky Lab users across the globe.

·         A real-life experiment on Android devices analysed the performance of applications was conducted in January 2017 by Kaspersky Lab internal testers.

·         An online survey conducted by research firm Toluna and Kaspersky Lab in January 2017 assessed the attitudes of 16,250 users aged over 16 years old from 17 countries.  Data was weighted to be globally representative and consistent, split equally between men and women.

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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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