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R3bn in needless cellphone spend in SA

Tariffic estimates that companies are unnecessarily wasting more than R3 billion a year because of the lack of effective tools to manage their cellphone spend.

Tariffic, the company which specialises in saving corporates money on their cellphone bills, aims to cut this excessive overspending through the launch of Tariffic Online, its complete Cellular Management Platform – a 360-degree real-time management dashboard for all your corporate cellphone spend.

“More and more, companies have told us that it’s impossible for them to manage their company spend, their abuse, and their upgrades”, says Tariffic’s CEO Antony Seeff. “The self-service platform allows companies to easily understand their cellphone costs, manage their cellular environment, curb abuse in real-time, and save on their cellphone bills both in-contract and when contracts expire”. Tariffic Online operates across all networks in one easy-to-use environment and provides you with management data in real-time allowing companies to actively curb their cellphone spend.

Vodacom owns the corporate market

“Over the past few years working in the cellular industry we have seen some very interesting trends”, says Cherise Stein, who heads up Business Development for Tariffic, “although Vodacom’s packages are approximately 21% more expensive than the other mobile network operators, Vodacom continues to own the lion’s share of the corporate cellphone market in South Africa”. More than 80% of all corporate contracts analysed by Tariffic over the years, belong to the Vodacom network.

Each contract wastes approximately R280 per month

“When looking at the tens of thousands of contracts analysed by Tariffic” says Nicholas Botes,

Tariffic’s CTO, “we have found that we can save on average about R280 per contract per month just by ensuring that each employee is on the correct package. For a company with 500 contracts that’s on average a saving of R1.68m that goes directly to the company’s bottom line”.  Botes notes that savings are achieved even in contract, “what people don’t realise is that Out-of-Bundle data is over 6 times more expensive than in-bundle data, and Tariffic Online sees company employees saving an average of R226 per month by simply adding the correct bundles.”

11% of contracts land up in a desk drawer

Further analyses by Tariffic indicates that 11% of corporate lines analysed have no usage on them whatsoever. Antony Seeff explains “our Tariffic Online system identifies this – usually when an employee leaves a company or moves roles, the SIM cards then land up gathering dust in a desk drawer somewhere while the company is still charged every month”.

Your extra spend is ordained in the stars

“Our Tariffic Online system finds “Extra Costs”, which are a killer financially”, says Toma Batev, Tariffic’s Head of DevOps, “the average SIM has R55 per month in extra costs, which are generally completely unnecessary. It is absurd that companies are paying for employees’ daily horoscope SMSs and for BlackBerry charges when the employees are not using Blackberry phones – and many haven’t been for years!”

Are your employees taking you for a ride?

Employees try get away with whatever they can when they think their bosses aren’t watching.  Tariffic Online also identifies voice and data abuse and notifies the company and employees in real-time, based on predefined notification alerts.  Tariffic has helped identify a case of an employee using in excess of 70GB of data on their cellphone in a single month. “We also look at frequently-dialled numbers and after-hours calling to pick up real-time abuse”, explains Seeff. We have even found some employees doing airtime transfer off their SIM cards to other people of more than R25 000 per month.

“There is too much smoke and mirrors in this industry” says Seeff, “by removing the mystery and providing the right tools, we can regain the margin and give it back to the consumers”.

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Personal computing devices sales still decline in MEA

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) personal computing devices (PCD) market, which is made up of desktops, notebooks, workstations, and tablets, suffered a decline of -7.3% year on year in Q2 2017, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global technology research and consulting firm’s Quarterly PCD Tracker for Q2 2017 shows that PCD shipments fell to around 6 million units for the quarter.

“As forecast, the market followed a similar pattern to recent quarters, with the downturn primarily stemming from a decline in shipments of slate tablets and desktops,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. “This was the result of desktop users increasingly switching to mobile devices such as notebooks or even refurbished notebooks, while users of slate tablets shifted to smartphones. These trends translated into year-on-year declines of -21.9% for desktops and -15.7% for slate tablets in Q2 2017, while shipments of notebooks and detachable tablets increased 11.0% and 63.3%, respectively over the same period.”

“Market sentiment in the region remained low overall, although an aggressive push from some slate tablet vendors meant the market declined much slower than expected,” continues Charakla. “At the same time, heightened competition has also made it harder for certain players to sustain their slate tablet businesses and generate profits, causing them to lose interest in the slate tablet market altogether. Despite this, slate tablets are still the most popular computing device among home users in the region.”

Looking at the region’s key markets, IDC’s research shows that when compared to Q2 2016 overall PCD shipments were down -11.4% in the UAE, -8.9% in Turkey, and -6.7% in the ‘Rest of Middle East’ sub-region (comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan). South Africa and Saudi Arabia bucked this trend, recording year-on-year increases of 3.5% and 9.6%, respectively.

A massive education delivery in Pakistan acted as a key driver for notebook shipments in the region overall. Similarly, the education sector was the biggest driver of detachable tablet shipments, triggered by a huge delivery in Kenya, as well as two other deliveries in Pakistan and Turkey, which enabled this category to achieve the fastest growth of all the PCD categories.

“While a component shortage prevented market players from reducing their prices too much, the average price of consumer notebooks experienced a considerable year-on-year decline in Q2 2017,” says Charakla. “This played a key role in driving demand from the consumer segment, and was reflected in the growing popularity of lower-priced notebook models.”

Looking at the PC market’s vendor rankings, each of the top five vendors maintained their respective positions compared to the previous quarter, with the top four all gaining share.

Middle East & Africa PC Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
HP Inc. 23.7% 27.6%
Lenovo 19.8% 21.5%
Dell 16.3% 16.7%
ASUS 8.7% 9.4%
Acer Group 5.9% 4.1%
Others 25.7% 20.7%

Although Samsung continued to lead the tablet market, the vendor rankings in the space saw quite a few changes, with Huawei catapulting itself to second place. Lenovo also climbed up a position compared to the previous quarter, causing Apple to drop to fourth place.

Middle East & Africa Tablet Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
Samsung 20.5% 18.9%
Huawei 11.2% 15.8%
Lenovo 12.7% 9.8%
Apple 9.1% 8.8%
Alcatel 2.9% 5.0%
Others 43.5% 41.7%

“Looking to the future, the MEA PCD market is expected to decline at a faster rate than previously forecast for 2017 as a whole,” says Charakla. “Technological shifts are playing a pivotal role in deciding the future of this market, with demand for certain products shifting to other PCD products and beyond (i.e., smartphones). Accordingly, shipments of slate tablets are expected to continue declining over the coming years as demand is cannibalized by smartphones. Meanwhile, the ongoing shift to mobile computing will see growth in the desktop market remain close to flat throughout IDC’s forecast period ending 2021. Notebook shipments will experience very slow growth beyond 2018, while detachable tablets will remain the fastest growing PCD category, eating away share from other computing devices.”

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Gazer cyber-spies exposed

ESET has released new research into the activities of the Turla cyberespionage group, and specifically a previously undocumented backdoor that has been used to spy on consulates and embassies worldwide.

ESET’s research team are the first in the world to document the advanced backdoor malware, which they have named “Gazer”, despite evidence that it has been actively deployed in targeted attacks against governments and diplomats since at least 2016.

Gazer’s success can be explained by the advanced methods it uses to spy on its intended targets, and its ability to remain persistent on infected devices, embedding itself out of sight on victim’s computers in an attempt to steal information for a long period of time.

ESET researchers have discovered that Gazer has managed to infect a number of computers around the world, with the most victims being located in Europe. Curiously, ESET’s examination of a variety of different espionage campaigns which used Gazer has identified that the main target appears to have been Southeastern Europe as well as countries in the former Soviet Union Republic.

The attacks show all the hallmarks of past campaigns launched by the Turla hacking group, namely:

  • Targeted organisations are embassies and ministries;
  • Spearphishing delivers a first-stage backdoor such as Skipper;
  • A second stealthier backdoor (Gazer in this instance, but past examples have included Carbon and Kazuar) is put in place;
  • The second-stage backdoor receives encrypted instructions from the gang via C&C servers, using compromised, kegitimate websites as a proxy.

Another notable similarity between Gazer and past creations of the Turla cyberespionage group become obvious when the malware is analysed. Gazer makes extra efforts to evade detection by changing strings within its code, randomizing markers, and wiping files securely.

In the most recent example of the Gazer backdoor malware found by ESET’s research team, clear evidence was seen that someone had modified most of its strings, and inserted phrases related to video games throughout its code.

Don’t be fooled by the sense of humour that the Turla hacking group are showing here, falling foul of computer criminals is no laughing manner.

All organisations, whether governmental, diplomatic, law enforcement, or in traditional business, need to take today’s sophisticated threats serious and adopt a layered defence to reduce the chances of a security breach.

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