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Malware leaves destruction in its cyber wake

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According to a recent report, 2017 is shedding light on a new trend – simple, yet highly effective malware families are causing rapid destruction globally.

2017 has proved to be a lucrative year for cybercrime. Prominent malware and attack methods continue to evolve, creatively bypassing existing security solutions. In 2016, we witnessed sophisticated new malware emerging on a regular basis, exposing new capabilities, distribution methods, and attack services offered for sale through multiple platforms. 2017 is shedding light on a new trend – simple, yet highly effective malware families are causing rapid destruction globally.

So far, in 2017 cyber-attacks are occurring at a higher frequency than previous years. Recent infiltrations have demonstrated the agility, scale and persistence of an attack that criminals are capable of executing.  All regions have suffered from these large-scale attacks, reinforcing the need for proactive solutions. Massive attack campaigns such as WannaCry, NotPetya and Fireball showcase the nature of today’s threat landscape. As the year progressed, we were able to witness the reoccurring global trends listed below:

  1. Nation-state cyber weapons are now in the hands of criminals

Data leakage incidents have significantly evolved in sophistication, frequency and volume of data being accessed. As seen in several incidents throughout the first half of 2017, the theft and consequent availability of key nation-state hacking tools, combined with wide scale zero-day vulnerabilities, now enable unskilled hackers to carry out highly sophisticated attack campaigns.

  1. The line between Adware and malware is fading, and mobile adware botnets are on the rise

Adware, which automatically displays or downloads advertising material on an infected machine, was until recently not among our greatest concerns, as while sometimes annoying, its sole purpose is to generate revenue and not to cause actual damage. In parallel, mobile adware botnets continue to expand and dominate the mobile malware arena. In the first half of 2017, we witnessed a persistent rise in the spread and technical capabilities of mobile adware botnets.

  1. Macro-based downloaders continue to evolve

As malware continues to evolve, the same is true for its delivery methods. During the past six months, we have seen some new methods for exploiting Microsoft Office files, which no longer require victims to open the door for the attackers by enabling macros.

  1. A new wave of mobile bankers on GooglePlay

On top of the large adware campaigns which we have grown accustomed to finding on Google Play, a new wave of mobile bankers, most of which belong to the BankBot family managed to enter the play store undetected and infect users. This is an alarming development as the bankers malware harm users directly, and supposed to be easier to detect. However, the perpetrators combined open-sourced banking malware code with complex obfuscation techniques to successfully and repeatedly bypass Google’s protections.

When we look at the main malware categories – banking, mobile an ransomware – we see that ransomware is by far the most prevalent across all regions, including Europe, Middle East and Africa. The below infographic clearly shows the prominent spread of ransomware in each region:

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Even with massive outbreaks such as WannaCry and NotPetya making global news, most organisations continue to rely on a strategy of detection and response after an attack has occurred rather than prevention. Many of these prominent attacks use known malware variants that could easily have been blocked had the proper security been implemented before the attack had occurred. To stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, organisations should remain attuned to the ever-changing threat landscape.

By understanding emerging threats and implementing the latest prevention technologies, organizations can create a solid cyber security defensive posture. The Cyber Attack Trends: Mid-Year Report provides you with a comprehensive overview of the cyber landscape; ransomware, banking and mobile threats based on data drawn from the ThreatCloud World Cyber Threat Map between January and June of 2017.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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