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Scammers cleaning up with gullible computer users

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Kaspersky experts have detected a two-fold rise in the number of users being attacked with fake system cleaners – fraudulent programmes designed to trick users into paying for alleged serious computer issues to be fixed. The number of users hit reached 1,456,219 in the first half of 2019, compared to just 747,322 for the same period in 2018. During this time, some of the attacks have become more sophisticated and dangerous.

A slow-working or poorly performing computer is a common complaint among PC users, and there are many legitimate tools available to solve such issues. However, alongside genuine system cleaners, there are fake ones developed by fraudsters that are designed to trick users into believing their computer is in critical danger, for example through memory overload, and needs immediate cleaning. The attackers then offer to provide such a service in return for payment. Kaspersky defines and detects such programmes as ‘hoax system cleaners’.

Upon receiving user permission and payment, the fraudsters install the hoax programmes that claim to clean the PC, but which often either do nothing or install adware – an annoying, but not critical, storm of unsolicited advertising – on the computer. Increasingly, however, the cybercriminals are using the installation of hoax cleaners to download or disguise malware such as Trojans or ransomware.

The countries most affected by attacks with hoax cleaners in the first half of 2019 show how geographically widespread the threat is; leading the list is Japan with 12% of affectedusers, followed by Germany (10%), Belarus (10%), Italy (10%) and Brazil (9%).

“We’ve been watching how the phenomenon of hoax cleaners has been growing for the last couple of years, and it is a curious threat. On the one hand, many samples that we have seen are spreading more widely and becoming more dangerous, evolving from a simple ‘fraudulent’ scheme into fully functioning and dangerous malware. On the other hand, they are so widespread and seemingly innocent, that it is much easier for them to trick users into paying for a service, rather than frightening them with screen blockers and other unpleasant malware. However, these two ways end up with the same results with users losing their money,” says Artemiy Ovchinnikov, security researcher at Kaspersky.

Kaspersky detects hoax system cleaners as:

Hoax.Win32.PCFixer.*

Hoax.Win32.PCRepair.*

Hoax.Win32.DeceptPCClean.*

Hoax.Win32.Optimizer.*

Hoax.MSIL.Optimizer.*

To avoid falling victim to hoax threats, Kaspersky researchers advise users to:

  • Always check that the PC services that you are about to adopt are legitimate and easy to understand. If it sounds confusing, use a search engine to find out more about the service as there may be a more detailed explanation available
  • Use a reliable security solution for comprehensive protection with a clean-up function for a wide range of threats and PC cleansing, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud.
  • If you are purposely looking for a PC cleaner, use reliable, IT-targeted sources of information for recommendations, with a long-built reputation and software reviews.

Read the full report on Kaspersky Daily.

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Vodacom cuts cost of smallest bundle by 40%

The country’s largest mobile operator has kept to a promise made last month to slash the price of entry-level data packages

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Vodacom has cut the data price of its lowest-cost bundle by 40%, reducing the price of a 50MB 30-day bundle from R20 to to R12. This follows from the operator’s promise in March, when it announced a 33% cut in the cost of 1GB bundles, to reduce prices of all smaller bundles by up to 40%.

Vodacom’s various 30-day data bundle prices will be cut across all of its channels, with the new pricing as follows:

30-day bundle size New Price Reduction
50MB R12 40%
150MB R29 33%
325MB R55 33%
500MB R79 21%
1GB R99 34%
3GB R229 23%
5GB R349 14%
10GB R469 22%
20GB R699 31%

Vodacom confirmed it will provide free data to access essential services through Vodacom’s zero-rated platform ConnectU with immediate effect. The value of these initiatives, it says, is R2.7-billion over the next year.

“Vodacom can play a critical role in supporting society during this challenging time and we’re committed to doing whatever we can to help customers stay connected,” says Jorge Mendes, Chief Officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit. “Since we started our pricing transformation strategy three years ago, our customers have benefitted from significant reductions in data prices and the cost of voice calls. Over the same period, we invested over R26 billion in infrastructure and new technologies, so our customers enjoy wider 2G, 3G and 4G coverage and vastly increased data speeds.”

The latest data reductions will complement the discounted bundle offers that will also be made available to prepaid customers in more than 2,000 less affluent suburbs and villages around the country. For qualifying communities to access further discounted voice and data deals, they need to click on the scrolling ConnectU banner on the platform via connectu.vodacom.co.za

ConnectU – which is a zero-rated platform – also went live this week. It will provide content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services for free. Learners and students enrolled in schools and universities can access relevant information for free, with no data costs. The ConnectU portal includes a search engine linked to open sources such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary as well as free access to job portals; free educational content on the e-School platform; free health and wellness information and free access to Facebook Flex, the low data alternative to Facebook that enables customers to stay socially connected.

Vodacom’s popular Just4You platform has been a significant contributor to the approximately 50% reduction in effective data prices over the past two years. Substantial cuts in out-of-bundle tariffs and the introduction of hourly, daily and weekly bundles with much lower effective prices have also driven increased value and affordability, resulting in R2-billion in savings for customers in 2019.

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OneBlade shaves price of electric precision

Electric razors and their blades are usually quite expensive. But the Philips OneBlade shaves the cost, writes SEAN BACHER

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Electric razors come in all shapes and forms and their prices vary as well. When your nearest electronic retail outlet opens again, you will be able to pay a small fortune for a wet and dry razor that cleans itself, shows you when it needs to be recharged, and tells you to replace the cleaning solution – all via a little LCD panel in the handle.

But does everyone want that? Does everyone need that? Surely there must be customers who want an easy-to-use, no-mess, no-fuss razor that gets the job done just as well as a “smart razor”?

With this in mind, Philips has launched its OneBlade wet and dry electric razor. The razor is dead simple to use. It comes with three stubble combs – 1mm, 3mm and 5 mm –  which can be clicked onto the head much like one would with a hair shaver. Should you want a really close shave, simply the combs off. I found this to be the most effective as I don’t have a beard.

The razor’s blade is the size of the striking side of a matchbox and has 90-degree angles all round. This offers precise shaving and, because of its small size, it is able to get just about anywhere on a person’s face.

The blade has a usage indicator that shows when it is time to replace the blade – usually after four months – and an additional blade is included in the box.

The OneBlade’s battery takes up to eight hours to charge, and will give up to 45 minutes shaving time.

Overall, the Philips OneBlade will give a man a comfortable and precise shave. Its battery life, combined with its size, makes it a perfect travel companion as it is no bigger than an electric toothbrush. Its relatively low price compared to other electric razors also counts in its favour.

The One Blade can be bought from most electronic retailers or can be ordered online from websites like takealot.com. The razor retails for R650 and a set of two new blades will cost around R450.

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