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Financial phishing booms

On Safer Internet Day, it is revealed that financial phishing grew by almost 10% in the last quarter. How do you protect yourself?

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The last quarter of the year is a fruitful time for cybercriminals, who prey on users rushing to get a good deal ahead of the holidays. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the pre-Christmas shopping rush see growth not just in sales, but also in malicious activity.

Kaspersky researchers detected a 9.5% growth in financial phishing alone in the last quarter of 2019, with spam and scam activity also growing in numbers and variety. Ironically, the news comes as the world marks Safer Internet Day on 11 February.

With the holiday season over, analysis of the threat landscape during the period provides better understanding of changes in fraudulent activities. In 2019, the share of financial phishing continued to grow, surpassing over half (52.61%) of all phishing attempts in Q4.

Financial phishing dynamics in 2019

2019Q3Q4
Financial phishing total43.19%52.61%
E-shop5.52%8.89%
E-banks22.46%29.73%
E-payments15.21%14.00%

Phishing remains an effective way of luring users into handing over their personal data and credit card credentials to cybercriminals. Popular brands are most often used as bait. One of the examples discovered by Kaspersky was a fake Amazon page, offering users Christmas promotions so criminals could steal their Amazon Prime credentials.

An example of the Amazon phishing page

Such scams often prove effective. The analysis of phishing activity using the eBay and Alibaba brand-names as bait showed significant growth just before big shopping holidays. Just a few days before Black Friday sales, the number of users trying to access eBay phishing pages grew four-fold, reaching over 8,000 attempts daily. These high levels of visits were retained until mid-December, with an additional peak a week before Christmas. A similar pattern was seen with phishing versions of the Alibaba website.

The number of blocked attempts to visit phishing versions of eBay (right) and Alibaba (left) by Kaspersky users

Spam emails also showed slight growth in the holiday season, but a significant diversification in topics. Criminal schemes varied from promises of Christmas donations, to scams with attempts to steal cryptocurrency, or malicious emails sent to organisations as fake urgent Christmas orders.

Spam dynamics in 2019

Such holiday-related scams and spam emails are not exclusive to the Christmas season alone. Users in South East Asia also received typical ‘gift offers’, but instead tied to Lunar New Year.

“The holiday season is a time for impulse purchases and rash decisions. Pressure to get a good deal or buy presents can mean that users are distracted, making it easier for cybercriminals to take advantage of them. The hope of securing an amazing gift at a fantastic price, especially at this time of year, is a hard one to break. Criminals capitalise on that hope all year long, with the end of the year an especially fruitful time for them. Of course, this does not mean that anyone should abstain from shopping ahead of the holidays – users just need to pay extra attention to their credit card payments. It is possible that a subscription or a delayed charge for a present for friends or family could turn out to be fraudulent, as criminals often do not use stolen data straight away” – comments Tatyana Sidorina, security analyst.


An example scam offer for a Samsung smartphone allegedly sent as a gift for Chinese New Year

Read the full holiday season spam and phishing report on Securelist.com.

To stay safe from spam and phishing, follow this simple advice:

  • If you receive a link to a great offer via email, make sure to check the embedded hyperlink – sometimes it may differ from the visible one. If it does, access the deal page directly through the legitimate website
  • Only make purchases through official marketplaces and pay attention to the web addresses if you are redirected to them from other landing pages. If they differ from the official retailer, consider checking the offer you were redirected to by looking for it on the official web page
  • Use a security solution with behaviour-based anti-phishing technologies, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud or Kaspersky Total Security, which will notify you if you are trying to visit a phishing web page
  • Never use the same password for several websites or services, because if one is stolen, all your accounts will be made vulnerable. To create strong, hack-proof passwords without having the struggle of remembering them, use password managers, such as Kaspersky Password Manager

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Alexa can now read all messages

For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving

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For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.

Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too. 

“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.” 

ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.

“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO. 

Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging. 

“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.” 

Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.

All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.

*For more information, visit www.pingloud.com

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Coronavirus to hit 5G

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Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”

Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”

Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1

Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)20192020
5G19199
Rest of Market13941165
Total14131364
 
Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)20192020
5G1%15%
Rest of Market99%85%
Total100%100%

Source: Strategy Analytics

The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/wep83gc.

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