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New security rules to stay safe on Black Friday

One of the most common pieces of advice we get about avoiding phishing scams is that, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Except this doesn’t really apply on Black Friday, writes BRIAN PINNOCK, cyber security expert at Mimecast MEA.

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For one day a year (23rd November this year), retailers take advantage of consumers’ appetite to spend by offering “loss leader” deals, which they advertise broadly on email and social media. The purpose of these offers is to entice shoppers to retailers’ sites and stores and convince them to buy more than the too-good-to-be-true TV for R500. And cybercriminals know and take advantage of this.

There’s good news and bad news for Black Friday shoppers this year. The bad news is that cybercriminals are using new tactics that make it harder to spot fake deals. The good news is that with robust cybersecurity awareness training, an understanding of the new attack methods and sophisticated email security systems, consumers can protect their money and personal information, and businesses can better protect their sensitive data and systems.

Old dogs, new tricks

Black Friday is like Christmas for hackers. While you’re shopping for bargains, they’re shopping for your credentials, which they use to log into your Internet banking and other online accounts to steal your money. If cybercriminals have your login details, they can access your profile even on sites implementing good security practices. Criminals are hitting various online services with credentials in the hopes of a password and username being accepted as legitimate.

Black Friday grows every year in South Africa. Last year, sales increased by 2571% over 2016 as more retailers jumped on the bandwagon. This year will be even bigger, which means gullible and uninformed consumers – many of whom work for enterprises –  are ripe for the picking. And chances are they aren’t aware of the new tactics being used against them.

Forget everything you know about cyber security

Ok, maybe not everything. But a lot of what we know about cybersecurity, and the tips and tricks that protected us in the past, no longer apply to some phishing attacks.

As we’ve already learnt, we’re often told to be suspicious of ridiculously cheap deals, but on Black Friday, ridiculously cheap is expected, so we’re not likely to question R500 TVs.

Another thing we’re told is to look for the green or black padlock on a website, or for the all-important ‘s’ in ‘https’ of the site’s URL. But we can’t even trust this anymore. That’s because cybercriminals can create or buy a real security certificate for their fake website in minutes. One site issued over 14,000 SSL certificates to “PayPal” sites – 99% of these were used for phishing fraud. So, while a fake website looks secure, it really isn’t.

So, what security advice is still valid?

  • Look out for spelling errors in emails. While the days of phishing emails with dozens of grammatical errors are gone, many cybercriminals still deliberately include a few to filter out smart people and target those who are not paying attention
  • Don’t click on links within emails. Enter the site’s address directly into your browser. If you can’t find the deal that was advertised in the email, warning bells should be ringing.
  • Check the sender’s address. Takealot won’t send you an email from a Gmail account, they will use their domain.
  • Be password smart. Don’t re-use passwords across multiple services
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever possible: This makes it harder (but not impossible) for criminals to use your username and password against you if your credentials have previously been stolen.

New and evolving attack methods

Cybercriminals increasingly use various forms of domain similarity– when they subtly change characters and words in URLs and email addresses to match a trusted organisation. These types of attacks often bypass certain email security systems because the sites and email senders aren’t known to be malicious.

To create lookalike domains, attackers often use non-Western character sets to display letters that look identical to the naked eye. Mimecast.com, for example, looks like мімесаѕт.com in Cyrillic. You might think we’re getting fancy with our font. We’re not. Combined with a legitimate certificate, it becomes much harder to spot a fake website.

This creates prime conditions for a successful phishing attacks: nearly half of all South African firms in a recent Vanson Bourne and Mimecast research report saw an increase in targeted spear phishing attacks using malicious links over the past year.

Quick tip: Check the URL carefully. A very long URL might be a sign that the website is fake. However, these are difficult to spot when browsing on a mobile phone, unless you scroll all the way. Rather check on your computer to be sure.

Stay safe in the wild

Consumers and businesses can stay safe this Black Friday.

Here’s how:

  • Be suspicious by default. Don’t trust any email and go straight to the retailer’s website instead of clicking on links.
  • Create a separate email address when signing up for Black Friday alerts. Don’t use your work or personal email.
  • Use a separate credit card for online purchases to limit your losses if you are attacked.
  • Conduct regular security awareness training to ensure all employees have the awareness to spot potential cyber threats. Human beings are an organisation’s greatest cyber risk and its best defence against cybercrime. During high-risk periods such as Black Friday, unaware users could expose the organisation and their families to unwanted cyber risk. Focus on implementing effective, modern training techniques and create a human firewall around sensitive company data.

The threat landscape has evolved yet again. We can never let our guard down and we have to assume that we’re never completely safe – even if we have robust security systems in place. Apple CEO Tim Cook said recently that cyber resilience is like running on a treadmill. You can’t just stop. If you do, you’ll fall off and will probably get hurt.

Think of Black Friday emails as you would Black Friday crowds outside Checkers. When you’re distracted by the pushing and shoving, you’re not likely to notice the pickpocket until he’s made off with your wallet.

Stay alert. Stay safe. And happy shopping.

Arts and Entertainment

Netflix to make SA series

The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.

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World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.

The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.

The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.

South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.

Pearl Thusi stars as Queen Sono in Netflix’s first original series in Africa.

“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.

“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.

The series is due to start production in 2019.

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Microsoft adds Chrome to Edge

Microsoft is working to build a new version of its Edge browser on the open-source version of Google Chrome, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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After 20 years of backing Internet Explorer and its underlying software technologies, Microsoft has chosen to integrate Chromium, the open source version of Google Chrome. This announcement comes just three years after launching Microsoft Edge, the refreshed version of Internet Explorer.

“We intend to adopt the Chromium open source project in the development of Microsoft Edge on the desktop to create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers,” said Joe Belfiore, corporate VP at Windows, in a blog post on 6 December.

The change affects the back-end elements of the browser that run in the background to make the web pages work for the user. The shift includes scrapping Microsoft’s EdgeHTML rendering engine in favour of Chrome’s Blink.

Utilising the Blink engine will allow Microsoft to support versions of new Edge on Windows 7, 8 and 10, as well as a version for macOS. Belfiore said that the company had also started contributing to the Chromium open source project: “We’ve begun making contributions to the Chromium project to help move browsing forward on new ARM-based Windows devices.”

Microsoft’s move to Chrome has shifted the “browser wars” in favour of Google Chrome, as Opera and Edge will now both be using Chrome’s rendering engine.

“If you’re a Microsoft Edge customer, there is nothing you need to do, as the Microsoft Edge you use today isn’t changing. If you are a web developer, we invite you to join our community by installing preview builds when they’re available and staying current on our testing and contributions.” said Belfiore.

Edge’s project manager, Kyle Alden, confirmed in a Reddit thread that Chrome extensions will be compatible with the new version of Edge. It is expected to launch in a preview build in early 2019.

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