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Smartphone records

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The smartphone market continues to set records: In 2017, manufacturers sold of 1.478 billion smartphones with an average price of US$323. In terms of numbers, countries in Emerging Asia and Central and Eastern Europe are driving sales, while customers in North America, Western Europe and Developed Asia are snapping up premium phones – with larger screens, more data storage and processing power, longer battery life, faster charging, and features like better water and shock protection.

However, don’t write off feature phones just yet: in developed markets, feature phones specifically designed for the elderly are hugely popular, while in markets like Russia and India, sales of cheaper smartphones continue to gain importance.

2017 was the year when wearables started to gain traction. Leaders of the pack are Smartwatches, which are beginning to take over from more basic fitness trackers. One category to watch is “earables” – in-ear headphones that also carry sensors and plenty of memory for music, and double up as fitness coaches. Another popular segment is locators with in-built connectivity and GPS, to find children or seniors. That’s especially true for Asia, where every third wearable device sold is a locator. In Europe, demand for wearables is up more than 23% (and 35% in terms of value), with similar growth rates in Asia.

“Smartphones still rule supreme, but 2018 could also be the year of the wearables, as these devices reach the right balance between cost, features and usability,” said Jens Heithecker, Executive Director of IFA Berlin. “The most fascinating aspect of this markets is that so many different industries are offering their take on the category – from mobile phone manufacturers to healthcare specialists to traditional watchmakers and many in-between.”
Dr. Jan Wassmann, Global Analyst New Products at GfK, said: ”In countries like Germany, GfK insights reveal that smartwatches are having a tremendous impact on the sales of traditional wristwatches. For instance, we see that in the Euro300-500 price range, more than every second watch sold so far in 2017 was connected – or smart. It appears smartwatches are a sort of substitution for traditional watches, as the market for the latter is shrinking.”
Have we reached peak tablet?
The rise of the tablet and the decline of PCs were the big tech story of a few years ago, but now we seem to have reached “peak tablet”. During the past year, retail channel sales of media tablets fell by 18% compared to the previous year (January-October). This was particularly driven by a sharp decline in emerging markets, which account for 34% of demand for computers (desktop, laptops and tablet computers).

The fall in the tablet market coincides with a slow recovery for personal computer sales – after years of decline. Notebook channel sales slightly recovered to decrease “only” by 7% compared to the previous year (January-October), but were strongly supported by improved sales for convertible notebooks with touchscreens and ultra-thin devices. Ultra-thin notebooks meanwhile represent 10% of the global retail demand (excluding North America) for computing devices, particularly driven by Western Europe and APAC as key regions.

Make no mistake: tablets are still very popular and for many consumers the go-to device for media consumption and computing on the go, but the rise of the segment seems to have been stopped and even reversed for now.

“Today, computing means mobile computing and, until recently, consumers had to make a choice: devices that were geared either towards media consumption or productivity. Productivity is finally winning out, but new form factors like ultra-thin devices and convertible notebooks are making the choice easier,” said Jens Heithecker, Executive Director of IFA Berlin.

Carolin Weinmann, GfK Global Analyst Computing, said: “With increasing market penetration for media consumption-oriented tablets and subsequent decreased demand for this category, the replacement of productivity-oriented computing devices was re-initiated. Particularly in developed regions, this is currently helping more design-oriented Ultrathin and Convertible Notebooks to grow into the market, ultimately also paving the way for more premium devices. Hybrid Tablets are only partially able to stop the negative trend for tablets worldwide.”

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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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