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SA shoots up ransomware target rankings

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Check Point has revealed that South Africa was among the countries impacted by a 10% increase in ransomware attacks last November, using Locky and Cryptowall. As a result, South Africa moved up the list of 117 most attacked countries.

In its monthly Global Threat Index, a ranking of the most prevalent malware families attacking organisations’ networks, Check Point found both the number of active malware families and number of attacks remained close to an all-time high as the number of attacks on business networks continued to be relentless.

Continuing a trend first detected in October, Locky ransomware continued to increase in prevalence, with a further 10% increase in the number of attacks using this family – a pattern that was mirrored by the fifth most common malware, Cryptowall.

Locky, which started its distribution in February 2016, spreads mainly via spam emails containing a downloader disguised as a Word or Zip file attachment, which then downloads and installs the malware that encrypts the user files. Locky was the no.1 malware family in the largest amount of countries (34 countries compared to Conficker, which was the top malware in 28 countries).

The pattern highlights the growing threat posed to corporate networks by ransomware and suggests that many organisations are simply paying ransoms to secure the return of their files, making it an attractive – and lucrative – attack vector for cyber-criminals.

Once again Conficker retained its position as the world’s most prevalent malware, responsible for 15% of recognised attacks. Second-placed Locky, which only started its distribution in February of this year, was responsible for 6% of all attacks, and third-placed Sality was responsible for 5% of known attacks. Overall the top ten malware families were responsible for 45% of all known attacks.

The three most common malware distributed in South Africa in November were:

1.       ↔ Virut – Botnet used in DDoS attacks, spam distribution, data theft and fraud. The malware is spread through infected devices such as USB sticks as well as compromised websites and files.

2.       ↑ Sality – Virus that allows remote operations and downloads of additional malware to infected systems by its operator. Its main goal is to persist in a system and provide means for remote control and installing further malware.

3.       ↔ Conficker – Worm that allows remote operations and malware to be download. Infected machines are controlled by a botnet, which contacts its Command & Control server to receive instructions.

The Ramnit banking Trojan saw the largest increase in attacks globally in November, entering Check Point’s top 10 ranking for the first time as the 6th most common malware.  It more than doubled its amount of infections since last October, and was mainly seen in Turkey, Brazil, India, Indonesia and the U.S. Ramnit is used to steal banking credentials, FTP passwords, session cookies and personal data.

For the eighth consecutive month, HummingBad remains the most common malware used to attack mobile devices globally.

Mobile malware families continued to pose a significant threat to businesses. The three most common mobile families were:

1.       ↔ HummingBad Android malware that establishes a persistent rootkit on the device, installs fraudulent applications and enables additional malicious activity such as installing a key-logger, stealing credentials and bypassing encrypted email containers used by enterprises.

2.       ↔ Triada – Modular Backdoor for Android which grants super-user privileges to downloaded malware, as helps it to get embedded into system processes. Triada has also been seen spoofing URLs loaded in the browser.

3.       ↑ Ztorg – Trojan that uses root privileges to download and install applications on the mobile phone without the user’s knowledge.

Doros Hadjizenonos, Country Manager of Check Point South Africa, explained, “Ransomware attacks are still growing in volume for a simple reason – they work and generate significant revenues for the attackers. Organisations are struggling to effectively counteract the threat posed by this insidious attack form; many simply don’t have the right defences in place, and may not have educated staff on how to recognise the signs of a potential ransomware attack in incoming emails. This, of course, only makes it even more attractive to criminals.

“Organisations must use advanced threat prevention measures on networks, endpoints and mobile devices to stop malware at the pre-infection stage, such as Check Point’s SandBlast™ Zero-Day Protection, Threat Extraction, and Mobile Threat Prevention solutions, to ensure that they are adequately secured against the latest threats,” added Hadjizenonos.

Check Point’s threat index is based on threat intelligence drawn from its ThreatCloud World Cyber Threat Map, which tracks how and where cyberattacks are taking place worldwide in real time. The Threat Map is powered by Check Point’s ThreatCloudTM intelligence, the largest collaborative network to fight cybercrime, which delivers threat data and attack trends from a global network of threat sensors. The ThreatCloud database holds over 250 million addresses analysed for bot discovery, over 11 million malware signatures and over 5.5 million infected websites, and identifies millions of malware types daily.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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