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Malware demands Bitcoin ransom

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Security software provider ESET has reported that it has received multiple reports of a new malware-spreading campaign in various countries.

Security software provider ESET reports that it has received multiple reports of a new malware-spreading campaign in various countries, mostly in Latin America and Eastern Europe. It starts with a fake email purporting to contain a fax, but is in reality a campaign to spread malicious code. The code encrypts the victim’s files and is then used to extort a ransom in bitcoins for retrieval of the encrypted information.

Called CTB-Locker Ransomware, the malware has caused headaches for thousands of users. Poland, Czech Republic and Mexico iare the most affected, as shown in the following graphic:

The attack began with a fake email arriving in the users’ inbox.  The subject of the email pretends that the attachment is a fax; the file is detected by ESET asWin32/TrojanDownloader.Elenoocka.A.  If you open this attachment and your antivirus software does not protect you, a variant of Win32/FileCoder.DA will be downloaded to your system; all your files will be encrypted and you will lose them forever, unless you pay a ransom in bitcoins to retrieve your information.

Files with extensions such as mp4, .pem, .jpg, .doc, .cer, etc. are encrypted by a key, which makes it virtually impossible to recover the files. Once the malware has finished encrypting user information, it displays a warning and also changes the desktop background with a message similar to that seen in the image below:

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Another peculiar detail of CTB-Locker is this: not only is the message shown to the user in different languages , but it also displays the currency appropriate to that language. If the user chooses to view the message in English, the price is in US dollars, otherwise the value will be in Euros.

While the encryption technique used by CTB-Locker makes it impossible to recover files by analysing the payload, there are certain safety measures that are recommended for users and companies:

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·         If you have a security solution for mail servers, enable filtering by extension. This will help by allowing you to block malicious files with extensions such as .scr, as used by Win32/TrojanDownloader.Elenoocka.A

·         Avoid opening attachments in emails of dubious origins where the sender has not been identified.

·         Delete emails or mark them as spam to prevent other users or company employees being affected by these threats.

·         Keep security solutions updated to detect the latest threats that are spreading.

·         Perform up-to-date backups of your information.

Mitigating such attacks is no simple task, and you need to take a proactive stance by supporting security technology with awareness and education.

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SA academy offers 400 data science internships

The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced 400 free internships for its 12-month Accredited Skills Data Science Programme in 2019.

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The announcement coincides with the opening today of registrations for next year’s intake. The Cape Town-based academy will also open a campus in Gauteng next year to accommodate its expanding student base.

Commenting on the announcement, EDSA co-founder Shaun Dippnall said: “We opened the Academy in January this year with 100 interns. Growing local demand for data scientists, however, has propelled us to quadruple the number of internships offered in 2019.” 

“These internships are sponsored by South African corporates drawn largely from the ICT, banking, insurance and retail sectors, which are leading the application of data science in their businesses to leverage competitive advantage,” Dippnall added.

BCX is a founding partner of EDSA, having injected R50-million into the training of 300 interns over three years. The investment has largely been fuelled by the growing demand for big data analytics and BCX’s recognition of the need for this skillset within the country.

“Data analytics is a field with the potential to grow the South African economy to new heights.  At BCX, we believe data science will allow businesses to make intelligent, data-driven decisions and propel South Africa to become a technology leader as we enter the 4th industrial revolution,” said Portia Maurice, BCX’s Chief Social Impact Officer.

“We are proud to be a founding partner of the EDSA, and believe that our focused strategy on developing disruptive future digital skills has the capacity to change the lives of many young South Africans.”

“In fact, we expect our efforts in the market to contribute to the overall growth of the ICT sector, which is estimated to be at a market size of R155-billion by 2020,” she added.

Gauteng Campus

Commenting on the decision to expand the EDSA’s current base at the Bandwidth Barn in Woodstock, Cape Town to Gauteng in 2019, Dippnall said:

“Corporate demand for data science talent has been immense and given that most of our sponsors for our 2019 student intake are Johannesburg based, it makes sense to provide a campus in Gauteng, facilitating the flow of candidates into their businesses.”

“Also, more than half of our current students are not from Cape Town and chose to relocate to be here for the programme.”

BCX again has taken the lead by being the first to sponsor the inaugural intake of students for the Gauteng campus, which will open its doors in January 2019.

Student Progress

Dippnall is overjoyed by the progress made by the current intake of interns and the proven success of the Academy’s online application process.

No restrictions to entry, nor are formal qualifications required for the one-year Accredited Skills Data Science Programme.  Applicants should be between 17 and 35 years of age and must pass a series of challenging aptitude tests, an on-line data science boot camp, a case study and an interview

“We have had a 98 percent retention rate, which is extremely high, given the complex and highly technical nature of the course.

Of the 100 interns selected from the over 10 000 who applied for the 2018 intake, 32 were matriculants, with no previous training.

“What’s more students have already demonstrated their ability to begin solving real world problems – including an analysis of the water shortages in Cape Town, after just a few months of exposure to data science techniques and tools,” he said. 

A team from EDSA was placed third in a recent City of Cape Town-sponsored Hackathon.

Mirroring the workplace

The EDSA Accredited Skills Data Science programme is an agile, digital, peer-to-peer, modern education course that is Seta-accredited and teaches students new economy skills that are not offered on current platforms. In addition, AWS is Explore’s exclusive machine learning platform provider.

“Our course closely mirrors the demands of the workplace. Included in the curriculum are tools such as Python, PowerBI, SQL and Scikit-learn, which are routinely required when building data science applications. We have also added job immersion and self-paced project work, which both involve team dynamics and interaction,” Dippnall said.

While job placement at the end of the year is not guaranteed, Dippnall is confident that uptake of candidates will be strong given the shortage of skills. Stipends are available to cover the living expenses of successful candidates who are in financial need.

“We are particularly excited to be the first institution to offer a focused, comprehensive and free year-long accredited skills data science programme in the country that builds the relevant digital skills within our youth, so that they can thrive in the new economy,” Dippnall concluded.

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Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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