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Half-million downloads of rogue Pokemon app

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Kaspersky Lab experts have recently discovered a malicious app on the Google Play store called “Guide for Pokémon Go”, which is capable of seizing root access rights on Android smartphones. The app has reportedly been downloaded more than 500,000 times.

The global phenomenon of Pokémon Go has resulted in a growing number of related apps and, inevitably, increased interest from the cybercriminal community. Kaspersky Lab’s analysis of the “Guide for Pokémon Go” Trojan has uncovered malicious code that downloads rooting malware, securing access to the core Android OS for the purposes of app installation and removal as well as the display of advertising.

The Trojan includes some interesting features that help it to bypass detection. For example, it doesn’t start as soon as the victim launches the app. Instead, it waits for the user to install or uninstall another app, and then checks to see whether that app runs on a real device or on a virtual machine. If it’s dealing with a device, the Trojan will wait a further two hours before starting its malicious activity. Even then, infection is not guaranteed. After connecting with its command server and uploading details of the infected device, including country, language, device model and OS version, the Trojan will wait for a response. Only if it hears back will it proceed with further requests and the downloading, installation and implementation of additional malware modules.

This approach means that the control server can stop the attack from proceeding if it wants to – skipping those users it does not wish to target, or those which it suspects are a sandbox/virtual machine, for example. This provides an additional layer of protection for the malware.

Once rooting rights have been enabled, the Trojan will install its modules into the device’s system folders, silently installing and uninstalling other apps and displaying unsolicited ads to the user. Kaspersky Lab analysis shows that at least one other version of the malicious Pokémon Guide app was available through Google Play in July 2016. Further, researchers have tracked back at least nine other apps infected with the same Trojan and available on Google Play Store at different times since December 2015.

Kaspersky Lab’s data suggests that there have been just over 6,000 successful infections to date, including in Russia, India and Indonesia. However, since the app is oriented towards English-speaking users, people in such geographies, and more, are also likely to have been hit.

“In the online world, wherever the consumers go, the cybercriminals will be quick to follow. Pokémon Go is no exception. Victims of this Trojan may, at least at first, not even notice the increase in annoying and disruptive advertising, but the long term implications of infection could be far more sinister. If you’ve been hit, then someone else is inside your phone and has control over the operating system and everything you do and store on it. Even though the app has now been removed from the store, there’s up to half a million people out there vulnerable to infection – and we hope this announcement will alert them to the need to take action,” said Roman Unuchek, Senior Malware Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

People concerned that they may encounter the Trojan should install a reliable security solution, such as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, on their device.  If the security scan shows that they are already infected, the best way to remove the rooting malware is to backup all data and reset the device to factory settings.

In addition, Kaspersky Lab advises users to always check that apps have been created by a reputable developer, to keep their operating system and application software up-to-date, and not to download anything that looks at all suspicious or whose source cannot be verified.

To learn more about the Pokémon Go Guide rooting Trojan, read the blog on Securelist.com.

 

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Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards

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The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.

The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”

Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever AwardShe has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).

The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:

SPORT

The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognitionAge cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.

Click here to see who won the awards for data journalism , CSI/sustainability and photography.

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Cons exploit Telegram ICO

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Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.

In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.

Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.

The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.

Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.

“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:

  • Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
  • Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
  • Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.

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