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Renault-Nissan deal pays off

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The Renault-Nissan Alliance delivered significant growth in 2016, with global sales of 9.96 million vehicles.

The car group also reinforced its leadership in zero-emission vehicles with cumulative sales of nearly 425,000 electric vehicles since the introduction of the Nissan LEAF in 2010, followed by the Renault ZOE.

The Alliance sales figures include Mitsubishi Motors sales of 934,013 vehicles globally. Mitsubishi Motors joined the Alliance last fall with Nissan’s acquisition of a 34 percent equity stake in the company.

“The combination of Groupe Renault, Nissan Motors and Mitsubishi Motors creates a new force in the global auto industry,” said chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn. “The strength of this innovative partnership that began 18 years ago has allowed us to improve our competitiveness, boost our growth and engage in the race for the vehicle of the future.”

The Alliance brands accounted for about one in nine cars sold worldwide last year.

Groupe Renault‘s sales were up 13.3 percent to 3,182,625 vehicles in 2016 for the last year of the “Drive the Change” plan. This marked the fourth consecutive year of sales growth with a record year-on-year increase of 374,000 units.

Both Renault and Dacia brands had a record year in terms of sales volumes and Renault Samsung Motors volumes were up by 38.8 percent. Market share and sales volumes are up in all regions, with the Renault brand becoming No. 2 in Europe.

Nissan Motor sold a record 5,559,902 cars and trucks worldwide, up 2.5 percent. In the U.S.A. and China, the company achieved sales growth of 5.4 percent and 8.4 percent respectively, setting new records in both markets. Infiniti sold over 230,000 vehicles in 2016, a 7 percent increase from the previous year. In December alone, Infiniti sold 27,200 vehicles, an 18 percent increase versus the prior year.

Mitsubishi Motors sold 934,013 cars worldwide, down 13 percent. Sales grew in the United States and Australia, but were offset by lower sales in Brazil, Russia, and the Middle East. Japan sales were also affected by lower consumer confidence following the fuel consumption issue.

Through Nissan’s partnership with Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan expects to target synergy benefits worth 24 billion yen in fiscal year 2017, rising to 60 billion yen in fiscal year 2018 and beyond. The gains will contribute to increased earnings per share worth an estimated 4 yen per share in fiscal year 2017 and 10 yen per share in fiscal year 2018 – on top of any earnings accretion linked to Nissan’s overall shareholding in Mitsubishi Motors.

AVTOVAZ, which sells cars under the LADA brand, sold 284,807 vehicles. Together, the Renault-Nissan Alliance and AVTOVAZ sell about one in three cars in Russia.

Sustained leadership in electric vehicles

The Renault-Nissan Alliance, with Mitsubishi Motors, cumulatively sold 424,797 electric vehicles through 2016, making it the undisputed leader in zero-emission mobility.

The Nissan LEAF, the first mainstream, mass-marketed electric vehicle, remains the world’s best-selling EV with more than 250,000* vehicles sold since its launch in December 2010.

In addition to the LEAF, Nissan also sells the e-NV200, a light commercial vehicle sold mainly in Europe and Japan since 2014.

Renault has sold more than 112,000 electric vehicles worldwide since 2011, including the Renault ZOE, Kangoo Z.E., Fluence Z.E., the SM3 Z.E. and the Twizy.

Renault was at the top of the European EV market last year, with sales up by 11 percent at 25,648 units (excluding Twizy). ZOE led the EV ranking with 21,735 sold. Renault Pro+ recently announced the addition of two new commercial EVs to its lineup: the New Kangoo Z.E. and Master Z.E.

In 2016, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, including Mitsubishi Motors i-Miev series, sold 94,265 EVs, up more than 8 percent from 2015.

* Including Venucia E30 sales in China. No CO2 emissions and no regulated exhaust pollutants while driving, according to NEDC homologation cycle.

Boosting innovation for the vehicle of the future

In 2016, the Renault-Nissan Alliance took several steps to advance the development of future vehicles that will be electric, autonomous and connected.

The Alliance plans to launch at least 10 models with autonomous drive functionality by 2020. Development and tests of connectivity and autonomous drive technologies are underway with several partners, including Microsoft and NASA.

“We were the first to launch an affordable electric car back in 2010. Other major automakers are now recognizing that EVs are the most effective zero-emission solution,” Ghosn said. “With autonomous drive and connected cars and services, we are firmly engaged in the race for the vehicle of the future.”

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Cons exploit Telegram ICO

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Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.

In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.

Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.

The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.

Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.

“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:

  • Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
  • Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
  • Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.
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Crouching Yeti strikes

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Kaspersky Lab has uncovered infrastructure used by the Russian-speaking APT group Crouching Yeti, also known as Energetic Bear, which includes compromised servers across the world.

According to the research, numerous servers in different countries were hit since 2016, sometimes in order to gain access to other resources. Others, including those hosting Russian websites, were used as watering holes.

Crouching Yeti is a Russian-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) group that Kaspersky Lab has been tracking since 2010. It is best known for targeting industrial sectors around the world, with a primary focus on energy facilities, for the main purpose of stealing valuable data from victim systems. One of the techniques the group has been widely using is through watering hole attacks: the attackers injected websites with a link redirecting visitors to a malicious server.

Recently Kaspersky Lab has discovered a number of servers, compromised by the group, belonging to different organisations based in Russia, the U.S., Turkey and European countries, and not limited to industrial companies. According to researchers, they were hit in 2016 and 2017 with different purposes. Thus, besides watering hole, in some cases they were used as intermediaries to conduct attacks on other resources.

In the process of analysing infected servers, researchers identified numerous websites and servers used by organisations in Russia, U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that the attackers had scanned with various tools, possibly to find a server that could be used to establish a foothold for hosting the attackers’ tools and to subsequently develop an attack. Some of the sites scanned may have been of interest to the attackers as candidates for waterhole. The range of websites and servers that captured the attention of the intruders is extensive. Kaspersky Lab researchers found that the attackers had scanned numerous websites of different types, including online stores and services, public organisations, NGOs, manufacturing, etc.

Also, experts found that the group used publicly available malicious tools, designed for analyzing servers, and for seeking out and collecting information. In addition, a modified sshd file with a preinstalled backdoor was discovered. This was used to replace the original file and could be authorised with a ‘master password’.

“Crouching Yeti is a notorious Russian-speaking group that has been active for many years and is still successfully targeting industrial organisations through watering hole attacks, among other techniques. Our findings show that the group compromised servers not only for establishing watering holes, but also for further scanning, and they actively used open-sourced tools that made it much harder to identify them afterwards,” said Vladimir Dashchenko, Head of Vulnerability Research Group at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT.

“The group’s activities, such as initial data collection, the theft of authentication data, and the scanning of resources, are used to launch further attacks. The diversity of infected servers and scanned resources suggests the group may operate in the interests of the third parties,” he added.

Kaspersky Lab recommends that organisations implement a comprehensive framework against advanced threats comprising of dedicated security solutions for targeted attack detection and incident response, along with expert services and threat intelligence. As a part of Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense, our anti-targeted attack platform detects an attack at early stages by analysing suspicious network activity, while Kaspersky EDR brings improved endpoint visibility, investigation capabilities and response automation. These are enhanced with global threat intelligence and Kaspersky Lab’s expert services with specialisation in threat hunting and incident response.

More details on this recent Crouching Yeti activity can be found on the Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT website.

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