According to a recent report, the second quarter of 2015 showed a increasing number of high-profile attacks where cybercriminals became more inventive when attacking existing technologies that are often overlooked.|According to a recent report, the second quarter of 2015 showed a increasing number of high-profile attacks where cybercriminals became more inventive when attacking existing technologies that are often overlooked.
The second quarter of 2015 was wrought with high profile vulnerabilities and hacks. Cybercriminals became more inventive in their attack methods to infiltrate and abuse existing technologies that are often overlooked. These developments are analysed in the recently released Trend Micro Q2 security roundup report, “A Rising Tide: New Hacks Threaten Public Technologies.” It details the evolution of tools and methods attackers use to get the greatest return on every cybercrime investment.
“In the second quarter, we saw a shift in the threat landscape with cyber criminals becoming more sophisticated and creative, amplifying existing methods of attack, and using them in new ways,” said Raimund Genes, CTO, Trend Micro. “The ethereal outlook on the threat of cybercrime can no longer be held by the general population. This quarter demonstrated that the potential damage caused by cyber-attacks extends far beyond a simple software bug to hacks of airplanes, smart cars and television stations.”
Hackers are taking more strategic approaches, refining their approach and targeting more selective victims to improve their infection rates. This is reflected by the exponential increase in the use of several traditional attack methods, including a 50 percent increase in the integration of the Angler exploit kit, a 67 percent growth in overall exploit kit-related threats, and CryptoWall ransomware becoming highly targeted, with 79 percent of infections occurring in the U.S.
Additionally, government entities have realized the full impact of cyberattacks during the second quarter with massive data breaches on both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in May and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) system in June. The OPM data breach was the largest of its kind to date, exposing personally identifiable information of approximately 21 million individuals. Other government agencies were impacted by targeted campaigns using macro malware, new command and control (C&C) servers, and the continued use of newly exploited vulnerabilities and 0-days Pawn Storm.
When looking at the Q2 threat landscape as a whole, the U.S. is a major player in both deploying and receiving various attacks, with malicious links, spam, C&C servers and ransomware are all having a major presence.
Report highlights include:
Hacks causing disruptions to public utilities
Broadcast networks, airplanes, automated vehicular systems and home routers pose not only the risk of malware infections, but physical inconveniences and threats. Lone wolf cybercriminals gain notoriety via successful ransomware and PoS attacks, FighterPoS and MalumPoS deployed by solo hackers “Lordfenix” and “Frapstar,” along with Hawkeye keylogger attacks, demonstrated that single individuals are capable of making a significant impact in today’s threat marketplace.
Government entities fight back against cybercrime
Interpol, Europol, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI all played a role in taking down longstanding botnet operations. Additionally, the indictment of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht brought to light the nebulous nature and dangers of the Dark Web.
National and political impacts were made by attacks on government organisations
The attack on OPM was a shocking realisation that no one’s personal data is safe. Macro malware, island-hopping and C&C servers were among the tactics used to target government data in this and similar breaches.
Public-facing websites and mobile devices were threatened in new ways
While threats to software are always present, vulnerabilities in Web apps were proven to be just as dangerous. Attackers will leverage any vulnerability available and custom applications need custom security attention to ensure those entry points are eliminated.
Smart home arrives in SA
The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.
The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.
The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.
The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.
The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.
My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.
Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.
Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?
These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.
Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.
Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.
Matrics must prepare for AI
By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.
Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.
With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.
Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.
Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist.
So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?
For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.
In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.
This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.
In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.
As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.
This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.
The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.