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Spam stays steady

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According to Kaspersky Lab’s spam report, in Q1 2013, the amount of spam in e-mail traffic grew slightly (+0.53 percentage points) and averaged 66.55%. The increase in the proportion of emails with malicious attachments was also small, reaching 3.3%, while the share of phishing e-mails fell 4.25 times to 0.0004%.

In the first quarter of 2013, spammers switched to techniques that were once well known however had fallen into disuse. They revived the use of the once-popular method of creating background noise known as “white text‚””. This method involves adding random pieces of text (this quarter they were sections of news reports) to the email. These insertions are in light gray font against a gray background and are separated from the main text of the ad with a lot of line breaks. The scammers expect content-based spam filters to regard these emails as newsletters and, besides, the use of random news fragments makes each email unique and thus difficult to detect.

In addition, spammers have been exploring the possibilities of legal services and are now using them to bypass spam filtering. The actual address to which the malicious link leads is masked by two legal methods at once. Firstly, the spammers used the Yahoo URL shortening service and then processed the subsequent link through Google Translate. This service can translate web pages in the user-specified link and generate its own link to that translation. The combination of these techniques makes each link in the mass mailing unique and furthermore the use of the two well-known domains adds “”credibility”” to the links in the eyes of the recipient.

n the first quarter of 2013, several high-profile events occurred: the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died, Pope Benedict XVI resigned and the new Pope Francis was officially inaugurated. As usual, such events did not go unnoticed by spammers. There were many mass mailings which imitated BBC or CNN news reports and the users’ curiosity was aroused by the promises of sensational photos and video footage.

China (24.3%) and the US (17.7%) remained the most active spam distributors. South Korea came 3rd with 9.6% of all distributed spam in Q1 2013. Interestingly, the spam originating from these countries targets different regions: most Chinese spam is sent to Asia while junk mail from the US is mainly distributed in North America, i.e. its major part can be considered internal spam. Unsolicited messages from South Korea, meanwhile, go chiefly to Europe.

‚””In Q1 2013, the percentage of unsolicited correspondence in mail traffic fluctuated from month to month, although the average figure remained practically unchanged from the previous quarter. We expect the share of spam to remain at its present level in the future or grow slightly due to the recent increase in the number of multimillion mass mailings,‚”” commented Tatyana Shcherbakova, Senior Spam Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

‚””Spammers keep trying to draw users’ attention to their messages: they use famous names, world events or fake notifications from popular online resources. Many emails contain links to malicious programmes, including exploits. We would like once again to remind users not to click the links in emails, even if the sender appears to be someone you know. It is much safer to enter the address in the browser manually.‚””

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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