Africa’s smartphone market experienced a quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) decline of 6.4% during Q4 2017, according to the latest insights announced today by International Data Corporation (IDC).
The global technology research and consulting firm’s Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows smartphone shipments were down to 20.3 million units for the quarter. Year on year (YoY), this represents an 18.0% decline, meaning the YoY improvement seen in the previous quarter did not extend to the year’s final – and traditionally strongest – quarter.
In the feature phone space, shipments totaled 33.4 million units, up 3.1% QoQ after decreasing in the previous quarter. Year on year, the feature phone market was up 9.9%. Feature phones continue to account for a majority share (62.2%) of the region’s overall mobile phone market as they adequately address the needs of consumers that have limited purchasing power and require a reliable long-lasting mode of communication, particularly in rural areas.
Combining smartphones and feature phones together, the overall Africa mobile phone market saw shipments of 53.7 million units in Q4 2017, which represents downturns of 0.7% QoQ and 2.6% YoY. The continent’s two biggest markets saw extremely strong growth, with shipments up 19.9% QoQ in Nigeria and 27.0% QoQ in South Africa. North Africa also experienced a slight increase, although there were declines across most other markets, which explains the region’s overall decline.
“Major campaigns took place around Black Friday and during the lead up to Christmas, which positively impacted consumer spending in Nigeria and South Africa,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC. “While Nigeria continues to recover from recession and consumer spending is on the rise, there are also clear signs of improvement in South Africa. The end to the political crisis means that challenging economic conditions will be addressed as a priority by the new government, which will have a positive effect on consumer confidence and spending on mobile phones.”
In terms of the vendor landscape, Transsion brands continued to lead the smartphone category in Q4 2017 with 30.4% share, followed closely by Samsung on 27.0%. “The Transsion Group maintains its top position by designing attractively priced devices that address the specific needs of each local market – a strategy the group proudly refers to as its ‘glocal’ approach,” says Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at IDC. “Despite the significant presence of Transsion brands in most African markets, it is important to note the increasing prevalence of local brands that are gaining considerable share in their home markets and slowly expanding to surrounding countries.” In the feature phone space, Tecno and itel – both of which are Transsion brands – continued to dominate in Q4 2017 with a combined share of 57.2%.
IDC’s research shows that 4G phones are growing in popularity, finally accounting for a majority share of the smartphone market at 56.8%. Shipments of 4G devices were up 3.9% QoQ in Q4 2017, with a drop in prices for entry-level 4G phones and an increase in the number of 4G networks across the continent driving this growth. “Despite the push of operators towards 4G, the price differential between 3G and 4G devices together with the price sensitivity of African consumers means that many people in Africa still prefer 3G phones,” says Popal.
Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to grow 0.7% QoQ in Q1 2018, with overall shipments to increase slightly through 2018, leading to YoY growth of 2.0% for the year as a whole. Demand for feature phones is expected to remain strong, although IDC expects vendors to drive smartphone uptake by offering more features in affordable price bands.
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
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.
Crouching Yeti strikes
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.