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SA improves in threat index

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Check Point Software has published its latest Threat Index for May 2016, revealing that while South Africa improved its global ranking, the number of active global malware families increased by 15 percent in May 2016.

South Africa ended May ranked 61st in the world, according to the Global Threat Index, an improvement of 36 places and a far cry from April 2016 that saw the country ranking 25th. There are 112 countries on the overall Index.

Globally, Check Point detected 2,300 unique and active malware families attacking business networks in May. It was the second month running Check Point has observed an increase in the number of unique malware families, having previously reported a 50 percent increase from March to April. The continued rise in the number of active malware variants highlights the wide range of threats and scale of challenges security teams face in preventing an attack on their business critical information. Most notably:

·       While Virut was the most commonly used malware in the period, banking malware Trojan Tinba became the fifth most prevalent form of infection last month in South Africa, allowing hackers to steal victim’s credentials using web-injects, activated as users try to log-in to their banking website. Tinba ranked second in the overall international threat list

·       Attacks against mobile devices also remained constant as Android malware HummingBad persisted in the overall top 10 of malware attacks in South Africa during the period. Despite only being discovered by Check Point researchers in February, it has rapidly become commonly used; indicating hackers view Android mobile devices as weak spots in enterprise security and as potentially high reward targets.

“This is a significant improvement in South Africa’s global ranking on the Threat Index, but also reflects a large degree of volatility in the month-to-month rankings,” said Doros Hadjizenonos, Country Manager at Check Point Software Technologies South Africa. “Check Point continues to see a substantial escalation in the number of families of active malware attacking business networks. We feel this reflects the considerable effort hackers and cybercriminals are putting into new attack methods. South African companies must remain conscious of the sheer scale of the threat facing them from malware, and invest accordingly in securing their networks using advanced threat prevention measures on all devices, as well as networks and endpoints.”

In May, Virut was the top malware threat in South Africa. Dnschanger and Conficker were the second and third top threats in South Africa during the month.  Internationally, Conficker was the most prominent malware family, accounting for 14 percent of recognised attacks.

1.       Virut – This is one of the top malware and botnet distributors in the Internet, and uses DDoS attacks, spam distribution, data theft and fraud methods. Spread through executables originating from infected devices, Virut alters the local host files and opens a backdoor to remote attackers via an IRC channel.

2.       ↔ Dnschanger – A backdoor targeting Windows platform, this malware is often distributed by Mamba, another malware. It changes DNS settings by replacing the name server, and survives reboots by creating a scheduled task that runs daily.

3.       ↔ Conficker – Worm that allows remote operations, malware downloads, and credential theft by disabling Microsoft Windows systems security services. Infected machines are controlled by a botnet, which contacts its Command & Control server to receive instructions.

Mobile malware families continued to pose a significant threat to business mobile devices during May with six entries into the global list of top 100 overall malware families. Most of these targeted Android, but in a continuation of the trend seen in April several targeted iOS. South Africa’s top mobile-specific threat was Hummingbad.

4.       ↔ HummingBad Android malware that establishes a persistent rootkit on the device, installs fraudulent applications, and with slight modifications could enable additional malicious activity such as installing a keylogger, stealing credentials and bypassing encrypted email containers used by enterprises.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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