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Second time round as MTN Money goes live in January

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MTN will make a second attempt at capturing the mobile money market in South Africa next month. It  has announced that its mobile money service, MoMo, will go live in January 2020, “allowing customers to send, receive, save and spend money as well as pay for goods and services using their mobile phones”.

MoMo is the successor to MTN Mobile Money, which was shut down in South Africa in 2016. This came hard on the heels of Vodacom closing down its Mpesa service in South Africa, despite it being wildly successful in Kenya and Tanzania. Similarly, MTNMobile Money was a major success in Uganda and Ghana, but failed to gain traction in South Africa.
“The operating costs of providing a mobile money platform has become prohibitive,” said Larry Annetts, MTN’s chief consumer officer, in a statement at the time.

World Wide Worx conducted extensive research into the success of these services in other African countries, and concluded that this as based on mobile money meeting a desperate need. In South Africa, the retail money transfer market was well established, and a high proportion of adults had bank accounts, obviating the need for a new form of money transfer. Since the mobile money services were not easy to use, nor cheap in terms of transaction cost, they did not succeed in converting a high proportion of the population. Numerous  success factors that were not present in South Africa were also identified in other countries.
The announcement of MoMo’s launch date came as MTN was finalising its engagements with the relevant regulatory bodies and authorities, including the South African Reserve Bank. 

MTN said it welcomed the positive conclusion of these engagements and looked forward to making MoMo available to all consumers via USSD functionality on *120*151# (MTN customers can dial *151# for free) as well as via App download in the Google Play store and the Apple App store by 30 January 2020. 

“The introduction of this mobile money service is a pivotal step in MTN’s strategy and represents MTN’s participation in the next phase of increasing convergence we are seeing between financial services and mobile technology,” said MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa.

“We have been deliberate in selecting best of breed technology to enable MoMo,” he said. “To this end MoMo will run on the Ericsson Converged Wallet and we’re exciting to be partnering with them across the Group.”

Felix Kamenga, MTN SA Chief Officer of Mobile Financial Services, said: “We are delighted to make this payments service available to South Africans as many of our people remain unbanked. Our research shows that approximately 11-million South African’s remain unbanked, while 50% of the adult population remain thinly served. MoMo aims to bridge this gap with this innovative mobile moneyoffering, providing a payments solution that encourages financial inclusion.
 “MoMo has been through rigorous testing and we are confident that consumers will reap the benefits of our efforts in this regard.  Our investment in our network means that we able to evolve with the ever-changing Fin-Tech landscape, making us the best network for mobile financial service.”

Kamenga also pointed to MTN’s mobile money successes in other African countries. “We have learnt what to do as well as what not to do and we believe that MTN has significant footprint in South Africa to reach underbanked and underserved communities still heavily reliant on cash to transact.

“This represents an MTN Group effort as we worked with our counterparts in other markets, tapping into technical and human resources available from established markets which made this journey easier.”

During the initial phase MoMo will only be available to MTN customers, with basic services, but the company promises “further innovation in early 2020 that aims to bring even more South Africans into the digital economy”. 

Users of MoMo do not need to have a bank account but must be South African residents, 18 years or older, with a valid South African ID. Users also need to be active MTN customers to qualify for selected promotional offers.

Initial functionality of MoMo will allow users to:
•    Send money to any working cell phone number in SA;
•    Buy prepaid services like electricity, data and SMS bundles.
•    Pay for purchases at selected till points.
•    Perform Cash In and Cash Out transactions at any MTN store or Mobile Money Agents.

No minimum balance will be required. There are no monthly finance charges and no automated debits.  MTN customers can get cash back every time they buy something at selected merchants. MTN says there will be a promotional offer of 100% bonus for users who buy MTN Airtime bundles using MoMo.

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Worldwide ICT spending poised to hit $4.3-Tn in 2020

Worldwide spending on ICT will increase by 3.6% this year over 2019, with commercial and public sector spending accounting for well over half the total

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A new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts worldwide spending on information and communications technology (ICT) will be $4.3 trillion in 2020, an increase of 3.6% over 2019. Commercial and public sector spending on information technology (hardware, software and IT services), telecommunications services, and business services will account for nearly $2.7 trillion of the total in 2020 with consumer spending making up the remainder.

Serena Da Rold, program manager in IDC’s Customer Insights and Analysis group, says: “The slow economy, weak business investment, and uncertain production expectations combined with protectionist policies and geopolitical tensions — including the US-China trade war, threats of US tariffs on EU automobiles and the EU’s expected response, and continued uncertainty around the Brexit deal — are still acting as inhibitors to ICT spending across regions. On the upside, our surveys indicate a strong focus on customer experience and on creating innovative products and services driving new ICT investments. Companies and organizations across industries are shifting gears in their digital transformation process, investing in cloud, mobility, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, and increasingly in DevOps and edge computing, to transform their business processes.”

IT spending will make up more than half of all ICT spending in 2020, led by purchases of devices (mainly mobile phones and PCs) and enterprise applications. However, when combined, the three IT services categories (managed services, project-oriented services, and support services) will deliver more than $750 billion in spending this year as organizations look to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. The application development & deployment category will provide the strongest spending growth over the 2019-2023 forecast period with a five-year compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of 11.1%.

Telecommunications services will represent more than one-third of all ICT spending in 2020. Mobile telecom services will be the largest category at more than $859 billion, followed by fixed telecom services. Both categories will see growth in the low single digits over the forecast period. Business services, including key horizontal business process outsourcing and business consulting, will be about half the size of the IT services market in 2020 with solid growth (8.2% CAGR) expected for business consulting.

Consumer ICT spending will grow at a much slower rate (0.7% CAGR) resulting in a gradual loss of share over the five-year forecast period. Consumer spending will be dominated by purchases of mobile telecom services (data and voice) and devices (such as smartphones, notebooks, and tablets).

Four industries – banking, discrete manufacturing, professional services, and telecommunications – will deliver 40% of all commercial ICT spending in 2020. IT services will represent a significant portion of the spending in all four industries, ranging from 50% in banking to 26% in professional services. From there, investment priorities will vary as banking and discrete manufacturing focus on applications while telecommunications and professional services invest in infrastructure. The industries that will deliver the fastest ICT spending growth over the five-year forecast are professional services (7.2% CAGR) and media (6.6% CAGR).

More than half of all commercial ICT spending in 2020 will come from very large businesses (more than 1,000 employees), while small businesses (10-99 employees) and medium businesses (100-499 employees) will account for nearly 28%. IT services will represent a significant portion of the overall spending for both market segments – 54% for very large businesses and 35% for small and medium businesses. Application and infrastructure spending will be about equal for very large businesses while small and medium businesses will invest more in applications.

“SMBs are increasingly embracing digital transformation to take advantage of both the opportunities it presents, and the disruption it can mitigate,” says Shari Lava, research director, Small and Medium Business Markets at IDC. “Digitally determined SMBs, defined as those that are making investments in digital transformation-related technology, are almost twice as likely to report double-digit revenue growth versus their technology indifferent peers.”

IDC’s Worldwide ICT Spending Guide Industry and Company Size is IDC’s flagship all-in-one data product capturing IT spending across more than 120 technology categories and 53 countries. This IDC Spending Guide will provide a granular view of the market for IT spending from a country, industry, company size, and technology perspective. This comprehensive database delivered via pivot table format or IDC’s custom query tool allows the user to easily extract meaningful information about various technology markets and industries by viewing data trends, relationships, and making data comparisons across more than three million data points.

The Worldwide Small and Medium Business Spending Guide provides detail on small and midsize business IT spending across 40 technology categories in nine geographic regions and 53 countries. Spending details are also provided for four company size categories: 1–9 employees, 10–99 employees, 100–499 employees, and 500–999 employees. Unlike any other research in the industry, the comprehensive spending guide was designed to help IT decision-makers to clearly understand the direction of SMB spending today and over the next five years.

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Hackers hit SA with fake VPN

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Kaspersky researchers have detected an unusual malicious campaign that uses phishing to mimic a popular VPN service. This helps spread AZORult, a Trojan stealer, under the guise of installers for Windows. The campaign, which kicked off at the end of November 2019 with the registration of a fake website, is currently active and focused on stealing personal information and cryptocurrency from infected users. This shows that cybercriminals are still hunting for cryptocurrency, despite reports that interest in the currency has died down. AZORult is highly active: in 2019 this malware targeted 78,189 users in Africa, with 16,975 users located in South Africa, 8,165 in Kenya and 1,965 in Nigeria. January 2020 has already seen the continuation of this dangerous trend, with 759 users hit in South Africa, 128 in Nigeria, and 639 in Kenya.

AZORult is one of the most commonly bought and sold stealers on Russian forums, due to its wide range of capabilities. This Trojan poses a serious threat to those whose computers may have been infected as it is capable of collecting various data, including browser history, login credentials, cookies, files from folders, cryptowallet files, and can also be used as a loader to download other malware.

In a world where privacy is heavily fought for, VPN services play an important role by enabling additional data protection and safe internet browsing. Yet cybercriminals try to abuse the growing popularity of VPNs by impersonating them, as is the case in this AZORult campaign. In the most recent campaign, the attackers created a copy of a VPN service’s website, which looks exactly the same as the original with the only exception being a different domain name.

Screenshot of a phishing copy of the targeted VPN service’s website

Links to the domain are spread through advertisements via different banner networks, a practice that is also called ‘malvertizing’. The victim visits the phishing website and is prompted to download a free VPN installer. Once a victim downloads a fake VPN installer for Windows, it drops a copy of AZORult botnet implant. As soon as the implant is run, it collects the infected device’s environment information and reports it to the server. Finally, the attacker steals cryptocurrency from locally available wallets (Electrum, Bitcoin, Etherium, and others), FTP logins, and its passwords from FileZilla, email credentials, information from locally installed browsers (including cookies), credentials from WinSCP, Pidgin messenger and others.

Upon the discovery of the campaign, Kaspersky immediately informed the VPN service in question about the issue and blocked the fake website.

“This campaign is a good example of how vulnerable our personal data is nowadays”, says Dmitry Bestuzhev, head of Kaspersky’s Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) in Latin America in Latin America. “In order to protect it, users need to be cautious and be especially careful when surfing online. This case also shows why cybersecurity solutions are needed on every device. When it comes to phishing copies of websites, it is very difficult for the user to differentiate between a real and a fake version. Cybercriminals often capitalise on popular brands and this trend is not likely to die down. We strongly recommend using a VPN for protection of data exchange on the web, but it is also important to closely study where the VPN software is downloaded from.”

Kaspersky detects this threat as HEUR:Trojan-PSW.Win32.Azorult.gen

Read more about this AZORult campaign on Securelist.com.

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