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Employees download malware every 4 seconds

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This was a key finding from two new research projects by Check Point Software Technologies, namely the Check Point 2016 Security Report and Exploits at the Endpoint: SANS 2016 Threat Landscape Study. The research reveals critical challenges and key recommendations for IT leaders, as businesses continue to build up protections against evolving cyber threats.

In the company’s fourth annual Security Report, Check Point researchers analysed the activity of more than 31,000 Check Point gateways worldwide, revealing details on what enterprises are encountering in known and unknown malware, attack trends, and the impact of more mobile devices in the enterprise. Additionally, researchers were able to measure the impact successful breaches have had on organisations, and the added expenses that go beyond remediation costs.

In the recent SANS 2016 Threat Landscape Study, conducted in partnership with security education and research group SANS Institute, researchers surveyed more than 300 IT and security professionals across the globe to uncover the threats organisations encounter in the real world; when and how they become incidents; which types of threats had the biggest impact; and the greatest challenges enterprises face in protecting themselves.

“With billions of new connections formed every minute, the world is more globally linked than ever. Innovations like cloud, mobility and IoT are changing the way we deploy, the way we consume, and the way we secure technology,” said Doros Hadjizenonos, Country Manager of Check Point South Africa. “More and more malware is being put into our ecosystem that traditional security techniques are powerless to prevent. Given this, staying a leader requires being one step ahead of things you cannot see, know or control – and preventing attacks before they happen.”

Both the Check Point Security Report and SANS 2016 Threat Landscape Study present a comprehensive view of the entire threat landscape – from the network to the endpoint – offering key findings including:

·      Unknown malware continues its exponential and evolutionary growth. Researchers found a nine-fold increase in the amount of unknown malware plaguing businesses. This was fueled by the employees – who downloaded a new unknown malware every four seconds. In total, there were nearly 12 million new malware variants discovered every month, with more new malware discovered in the past two years than in the previous decade.

·       Security is lagging behind the speedy, on-the-go mobile device. With smartphones and tablets accounting for 60 percent of digital media time spent, businesses’ mobile devices present both an access curse and a business productivity blessing. While employees do not want to be the cause of a company network breach, one in five will cause one through either mobile malware or malicious Wi-Fi.

·       Endpoints represent the starting points for most threats. Among the businesses surveyed, endpoints were the most common cause of breaches and the most critical component in cyber defenses, with attackers leveraging email in 75 percent of cases. Also, 39 percent of endpoint attacks bypassed the network gateway firewalls, and routine operations uncovered 85 percent of threats after they had already gotten inside the enterprise.

Both reports conclude forward-looking security starts with having a best-of-breed architecture in order to address the current and future complexities of securing IT. Researchers found a common theme of advanced threat prevention, mobile device protection and segmenting a network all critical components for the modern enterprise.

To read the full 2016 Check Point Security Report, visit: http://www.checkpoint.com/securityreport/; and to read the full results of Exploits at the Endpoint: SANS 2016 Threat Landscape Survey, visit: https://www.checkpoint.com/webinars/sans-2016-threat-landscape-study/.

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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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