The Middle East and Africa (MEA) Internet of Things (IoT) market is set to grow 15% year on year in 2018, according to a recent update to the Worldwide Semiannual Internet of Things Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC).
The global technology research and consulting firm’s latest forecast shows MEA spending IoT reaching $6.99 billion in 2018 and $12.62 billion by 2021 as organizations ramp up their investments in the hardware, software, services, and connectivity that enable IoT solutions.
“IoT adoption in the MEA region is expected to accelerate over the coming year as organizations from both the public and private sectors increasingly digitalize their businesses in a bid to automate their operations and ramp up productivity,” says Wale Babalola, a research analyst for telecommunications and IoT at IDC MEA. “And as organizations increasingly realize the added value that is provided by IoT, we can expect to see further development of innovative industry-specific solutions.”
Totaling $2.48 billion, IoT services is forecast to be the market’s largest technology category in 2018, with the majority of this total going towards ongoing services, IT services, and installation services. Hardware will be the second-largest technology category, followed by software and then connectivity. The vast majority of hardware spend (85%) will go towards modules and sensors. Meanwhile, software will be market’s fastest growing category over the coming years, with spending in this area increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.3% over the 2016–2021 forecast period.
The industries that are expected to spend the most on IoT solutions in 2018 are manufacturing ($1.07 billion), transportation ($0.85 billion), cross industries ($0.76 billion), utilities ($0.75 billion), and consumer ($0.68 billion). Manufacturers will direct most of their IoT spending over the coming 12 months towards solutions that support manufacturing operations and production asset management. Over in the transportation sector, fleet management and freight monitoring will account for up to 78% of IoT spending in 2018.
In the “cross industries” category, which represents use cases common to all industries, IoT spending will largely focus on smart buildings and connected vehicles. Smart grids for electricity will account for a little over 82% of total IoT spending in the utilities sector, while around 50% of consumer IoT spending will be driven by investments around smart buildings.
The IoT use cases that IDC expects to attract the largest investments in 2018 are smart grid electricity ($0.62 billion), manufacturing operations ($0.57 billion), freight monitoring ($0.52 billion), smart home ($0.41 billion), and remote health monitoring ($0.40 billion). IDC forecasts manufacturing operations to overtake smart grid electricity into top spot by 2021. The use cases that will see the fastest spending growth over the 2016-2021 forecast period are insurance telematics (32.4% CAGR), smart buildings (31.4% CAGR), airport facility automation (30.5% CAGR), in-store contextualized marketing (28.8% CAGR), and electric vehicle charging (28.3% CAGR).
“The growing implementation of initiatives that leverage digital solutions will continue to fuel IoT adoption over the coming 12 months, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, ” says Babalola. “As such, these two countries combined are expected to contribute $1.57 billion of the MEA region’s total IoT spending of $6.99 billion in 2018.”
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
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.
Crouching Yeti strikes
Kaspersky Lab has uncovered infrastructure used by the Russian-speaking APT group Crouching Yeti, also known as Energetic Bear, which includes compromised servers across the world.
According to the research, numerous servers in different countries were hit since 2016, sometimes in order to gain access to other resources. Others, including those hosting Russian websites, were used as watering holes.
Crouching Yeti is a Russian-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) group that Kaspersky Lab has been tracking since 2010. It is best known for targeting industrial sectors around the world, with a primary focus on energy facilities, for the main purpose of stealing valuable data from victim systems. One of the techniques the group has been widely using is through watering hole attacks: the attackers injected websites with a link redirecting visitors to a malicious server.
Recently Kaspersky Lab has discovered a number of servers, compromised by the group, belonging to different organisations based in Russia, the U.S., Turkey and European countries, and not limited to industrial companies. According to researchers, they were hit in 2016 and 2017 with different purposes. Thus, besides watering hole, in some cases they were used as intermediaries to conduct attacks on other resources.
In the process of analysing infected servers, researchers identified numerous websites and servers used by organisations in Russia, U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that the attackers had scanned with various tools, possibly to find a server that could be used to establish a foothold for hosting the attackers’ tools and to subsequently develop an attack. Some of the sites scanned may have been of interest to the attackers as candidates for waterhole. The range of websites and servers that captured the attention of the intruders is extensive. Kaspersky Lab researchers found that the attackers had scanned numerous websites of different types, including online stores and services, public organisations, NGOs, manufacturing, etc.
Also, experts found that the group used publicly available malicious tools, designed for analyzing servers, and for seeking out and collecting information. In addition, a modified sshd file with a preinstalled backdoor was discovered. This was used to replace the original file and could be authorised with a ‘master password’.
“Crouching Yeti is a notorious Russian-speaking group that has been active for many years and is still successfully targeting industrial organisations through watering hole attacks, among other techniques. Our findings show that the group compromised servers not only for establishing watering holes, but also for further scanning, and they actively used open-sourced tools that made it much harder to identify them afterwards,” said Vladimir Dashchenko, Head of Vulnerability Research Group at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT.
“The group’s activities, such as initial data collection, the theft of authentication data, and the scanning of resources, are used to launch further attacks. The diversity of infected servers and scanned resources suggests the group may operate in the interests of the third parties,” he added.
Kaspersky Lab recommends that organisations implement a comprehensive framework against advanced threats comprising of dedicated security solutions for targeted attack detection and incident response, along with expert services and threat intelligence. As a part of Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense, our anti-targeted attack platform detects an attack at early stages by analysing suspicious network activity, while Kaspersky EDR brings improved endpoint visibility, investigation capabilities and response automation. These are enhanced with global threat intelligence and Kaspersky Lab’s expert services with specialisation in threat hunting and incident response.
More details on this recent Crouching Yeti activity can be found on the Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT website.