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Flawless phishes coming

What lies ahead for companies, governments and individuals regarding cybersecurity in 2019? Will we see the EU government forcing US data centers to hand over data? Will the European Union issue its first major fines for organisations in contravention of its General Data Protection Regulation? Will our growing dependence on social media expose us to unwanted risks as our accounts become compromised? BRIAN PINNOCK, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast, gives his opinion.



The World Economic Forum recently placed cybersecurity as the fifth biggest global risk for doing business, with 19 countries ranking it as their number one concern, including 14 in Europe and North America, as well as Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore and the UAE. As the political climate around the world continues to create volatility, growing numbers of connected global citizens will turn to the Internet to have their message heard. The growth in connected devices– from consumer wearables to industrial IoT to medical devices – is compounding the security challenge as each device represents a potential cybersecurity risk.

Here, we take a global look at some of the key developments we expect to see on the cybersecurity front in 2019.

More effective, not different, cyberattack types

Throughout 2019, the most insidious development won’t be new attack types but rather improved execution of existing attack types, especially those delivered via email. Better social engineering, more advanced phishing attacks, increases in credential stuffing attacks, and more complicated malware with multiple stages and different form factors for transmission, will make threats incredibly tricky to detect.

Phishing techniques like the use of homoglyphs, elongated URLs, the use of legitimate certifications (green lock), and credential-harvesting sites will increase. Flawless phishes will continue to prey on the gap in human firewalls, pivoting internally around organisations and intensifying efforts to better educate all staff. Cybersecurity awareness training, which according to a global Mimecast and Vanson Bourne study is only continuously conducted by 11% of global organisations, will receive renewed attention as organisations bolster the capabilities of their first line of defence: their employees.

Cybercriminals will also shift focus to weaker countries and industry verticals that lag in their adoption of more advanced cyber defences. More industrialised countries are investing heavily in cybersecurity, making them less attractive to cybercriminals. Companies in particularly the Middle East and Africa often assume their security is sufficient without realising that the threat landscape is drastically shifting. This makes them easy targets for cybercriminals who tend to follow the path of least resistance. Attackers will also continue to shift their attention away from larger organisations to small and medium businesses.

Monetisation of data breaches

There have been several highly successful high-profile data breaches over the past few years. From Equifax to Facebook, eBay to JPMorgan, hackers have made off with sensitive data for hundreds of millions of user accounts. Just recently, Marriott announced that its Starwood database was hacked for approximately 500 million guests – one of the largest breaches in history. With global cybercrime organisations’ growing in maturity and sophistication, many are now acquiring capabilities that were once the sole reserve of nation states. We’re likely to see these cybercriminals use stolen credentials from the past few years’ data breaches to compromise the security of even the most secure organisations. Even companies with good cyber protection have little protection against the reuse of passwords that have been collected in other breaches.

The evolution of cyberattacks has also created entire ecosystems of fraud. Stolen personal health information, for example, could be used to gain insight to patients’ ailments and likely treatments. Hackers could use this information to obtain prescriptions for strictly controlled medication that is then traded or sold illegally. It’s no longer just about a straightforward cyberattack: cybercrime is fast becoming a trickle-down economic system with multiple layers of fraud and criminality built into its very fabric.

Intelligence becomes ‘intelligent’

Organisations will realise the importance of threat intelligence and will talk about the need for an intelligence function. What they really mean is that they want some insight from their vendors around the huge amounts of threat data they’re acquiring. There may be a handful organisations who will stop recasting threat data as intelligence and instead focus on generating actionable insights from this data, the prerequisite for ‘threat intelligence’. Unfortunately, the vast majority still won’t take any action from the data presented, which means they won’t actually have any intelligence –only an interesting storyline.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a more prominent role as the velocity and variety of attacks makes conventional approaches – such as blacklists – outdated and ill-equipped to deal with modern cyber threats. The average phishing site, for example, is only online for a few hours. With such a crowded domain space, attackers have to be clever about the domains they register and exploit. Luckily, these domains generally have certain characteristics, which machine learning algorithms can exploit and detect, while other properties of attack vectors can also be recognised by appropriately trained AI.

AI will also be used to detect break-ins, spam, phishing and more. Although it will mostly work well, look out for the occasional mistake: these will be utterly incomprehensible to humans, and very hard for vendors to explain to their customers.

From financial gain to life-and-death

As our world becomes increasingly digitised and connected devices continue to permeate every aspect of our daily lives, the risks posed by cybercriminals are escalating. A large-scale attack on critical infrastructure such as energy services, water supplies or even hospitals could cause massive damage and even loss of life. Autonomous vehicles, although not prevalent on our shores yet, are attractive targets for the more ruthless type of cybercriminal. And with the growth in digital medical devices, hackers could directly target an individual and interfere with their pacemakers or heartrate monitors.

Privacy will also become a key concern: consumer connected devices such as cameras, microphones and wearables will become a major security issue as hackers discover ways to see live audio and video of unsuspecting people’s lives. The fallout of such an incident being exposed could drastically erode trust in technology and make people treat technology with greater caution as they realise the devices they have enjoyed without concern, carry immense risk to their personal privacy and security.

Even though the threat landscape keeps changing what seems to be the common thread is that email continues to be the most common – and least protected – attack vector. We can’t predict exactly what 2019 threats will look like, but we can predict that while email remains vulnerable it will continue to be the preferred entry point for criminals to deliver threats to your organisation.


Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds



Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at

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Nokia to be first with Android 10



Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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