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SA behind in SDN

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Software Defined Networks is taking the world by storm as organisations seek greater control over their data centre. However, research has shown that South Africa is behind the adoption curve, writes JOHAN DE VILLIERS, Managing Director, First Technology.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is taking the rest of the world by storm as organisations seek greater control, performance and management across the data centre and the network; and recognise the benefits SDN can offer in terms of cost savings on capital and operating costs, improved network performance, increased productivity, and improved security.

However, new research shows South Africa is behind the adoption curve. First Technology and Extreme Networks recently polled 200 South African business respondents, including 6 CIOs, 43 C-suite executives, 70 IT managers and 81 IT professionals on their views on SDN and the cloud, which is closely aligned with SDN.

Surprisingly, 30.5% of respondents said they didn’t know what SDN was; 27.38% had no plans to adopt an SDN strategy, and 11.81% did not believe SDN would benefit them.27.83% said their companies were not using SDN and had no plans to do so, 48.11% said their companies were currently embarking on SDN strategies, and 24.06% said their companies were already SDN-enabled.

In a market expected to top $132 billion globally by 2022, South Africa is lagging, even though local survey respondents said their top network priorities right now were performance (35.42%) and security (33.96%) – all areas where advanced new SDN platforms offer solutions. Extreme Networks’ EXOS Linux-based operating system, for example, supports fast and flexible yet consistent provisioning, programmability and heterogeneity across platforms.

The majority of respondents believed their companies were somewhat ready (41.06%) or completely ready (38.16%) ready for Software Defined Networking. However, 20.77% said their companies were not ready for SDN. South African IT professionals who had no SDN strategy reported that complexity (47.26%) and cost (40.93%) stood in the way of adoption.

As SDN maturity is closely linked with cloud adoption, South African respondents were also asked about their companies’ current level of cloud adoption. The largest proportion (37.71%) reported some private cloud use. 16.53% reported some hybrid cloud use, 15.68% said they made some use of public cloud, and only 14.83% reported that their companies made extensive use of the cloud.  15.25% reported that their companies made no use of the cloud at all. Respondents said the main factors hampering their companies’ optimal use of cloud technologies were security concerns (35.12%), control and management concerns (27.09%), cost (26.76%) and limitations caused by existing infrastructure (11.04%).

The SDN and cloud concerns can be easily overcome, however. Advanced new solutions such as Extreme Networks’ SDN deliver open-standards, comprehensive platform that makes it easy for any organisation to deploy SDN solutions, regardless of their size or in-house skills. Organisations can now migrate their existing networks without expensive forklift upgrades. They can accelerate application innovation and reduces risks for the entire network. They address complexity concerns through modular, open and standards-based development environments that integrate with existing infrastructure and avoid architecture lock-in, while also offering edge-to-core management that addresses enterprise concerns around security, control and management.

In the South African survey, respondents believed the top benefits of SDN were centralised security (22.77%), centralised network provisioning (22.28%), lower operating costs (15.35%), holistic enterprise management (12.87%), cloud abstraction (8.17%) and guaranteed content delivery (6.93%). These results are in line with international trends, where SDN’s benefits are well recognised.

A software-defined approach to business and IT accelerates digital transformation and addresses key concerns among South African IT managers and CIOs; and SDN is increasingly recognised as the architectural model most capable of aligning with the 3rd platform for IT. In a hyper-connected world, SDN has never been more important for keeping it all together, and South Africa needs to move faster to overcome its concerns and catch up.

 

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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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