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More than half of corporate PCs come under attack

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A recent study has revealed that in addition to cybercriminals using a range of new techniques to attack corporate computers, well over half of them were hit with one attempted malware infection during 2015.

Cyberattack tools used against businesses in 2015 were different to those used against consumers, according to Kaspersky Lab’s review of corporate threats last year. They included greater exploitation of legitimate software programmes and malware being signed with valid digital signatures to keep malicious files hidden for longer. Kaspersky Lab’s experts also observed a steady rise in the number of corporate users attacked by ransomware.

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Kaspersky Lab’s experts found that in 2015 well over half (58%) of corporate PCs were hit with at least one attempted malware infection, up three percentage points on 2014. One in three (29%) business computers were exposed at least once to an Internet-based attack; with the exploitation of standard office applications seen three times as often as in consumer attacks.

Further, 41% of business computers faced local threats, such as from infected USB sticks or other compromised removable media. The experts also noted a 7% increase in the share of exploits targeting the Android platform, confirming hackers’ growing interest in data stored on employees’ mobile devices.

These attacks were found to be carefully planned, with cyber-attackers taking time to investigate a target company’s contacts and suppliers and even the personal interests and browsing habits of individual employees. This insight was then used to identify legitimate websites for compromise and malware distribution, with the attacks often repeated over time.

“The future cyber-landscape for business includes a new attack vector: infrastructure, because almost all of an organisation’s valuable data is stored on servers in data centers. We also expect tougher safety standards from regulators, which could lead to more cybercriminals being arrested in 2016,” says Yury Namestnikov, Senior Security Researcher at Global Research and Analysis Team, Kaspersky Lab.

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Hunting down the money

In 2015, cyber-criminals and advanced persistent threats (APT) groups focused a great deal of attention on financial services organisations, such as banks, investment funds, and both stock and currency exchanges, including those handling cryptocurrencies.

These attacks included Carbanak, which penetrated the networks of banks, seeking out critical systems that would allow it to withdraw money. One successful attack alone would bring in as much as $2.5 – $10 million dollars. The cyber-espionage group, Wild Neutron also spent much of 2015 hunting down investment companies as well as organisations working with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and companies involved in mergers and acquisitions.

Diversification

Kaspersky Lab’s experts observed a growing diversification in attack targets. For example, in 2015, the Chinese APT, Winnti APT switched targets from companies involved in computer games to those in pharmaceuticals and telecommunications.

Stealing at point of sale

Point-Of-Sale terminals, used by retailers and other consumer-facing organisations were another target for attack in 2015, with Kaspersky Lab products blocking more than 11,500 attempts to hack into PoS devices. The company knows of ten families of programmes designed to steal data from PoS terminals, and seven of them appeared for the first time this year.

The rise and rise of ransomware

2015 also saw a doubling of the number of cryptolocker attacks, with Kaspersky Lab detecting cryptolockers on more than 50 thousand corporate machines. This could reflect the fact that ransoms received from organisations can be far larger than those received from individuals. There is also a greater likelihood of the ransom being paid. Many companies simply cannot function if the information on several critical computers or servers is encrypted and inaccessible.

Kaspersky Lab recommends that companies take steps to reduce risk and to increase their knowledge of the latest threats. The basic principles of security in corporate networks remain the same: train employees, establish robust security processes and make full use of new technologies and techniques as each additional layer of protection reduces the risk of network penetration. To eliminate the threat of ransomware infection, companies should use protection against exploits and ensure that their security solutions include behavioural detection methods, such as Kaspersky Lab’s System Watcher.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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