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Swarms are attacking

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The most recent Global Threat Landscape Report from Fortinet says that automated and sophisticated swarm attacks are accelerating, making it increasingly difficult for organisations to protect users, applications and devices.

The Fortinet Q4 Global Threat Landscape Report notes that the sophistication of attacks targeting organisations is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. While digital transformation is reshaping business on the one hand, on the other it is opening up the attack surface for cybercriminals to take advantage of new, disruptive opportunities to attack.

Anton Jacobsz, managing director at value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited, which distributes Fortinet throughout Africa, says, “Cyber attackers are making use of newer swarm-like capabilities, while simultaneously targeting multiple vulnerabilities, devices, and access points. This combination creates rapid threat development that is becoming increasingly difficult for many organisations to defend against. Organisations need to adopt strategies based on automation and integration to address these problems of adversarial speed and scale.”

The threat data in the Fortinet Q4 Global Threat Landscape Report reinforces many of the predictions unveiled by the Fortinet FortiGuard Labs global research team for 2018, which had previously predicted the rise of self-learning hivenets and swarmbots, as clarified in a blog entry which noted that: “…cybercriminals will eventually replace botnets built with mindless zombie devices with intelligent clusters of compromised devices to create more effective attacks. This would be a hivenet instead of a botnet. It would be able to use millions of interconnected devices, or swarmbots, to simultaneously identify and tackle different attack vectors, enabling attacks at an unprecedented scale…

“…unlike individual zombies, individual swarmbots are smart. They are able to talk to each other, take action based on shared local intelligence, use swarm intelligence to act on commands without the botnet herder instructing them to do so, and recruit and train new members of the hive. As a result, as a hivenet identifies and compromises more devices it will be able to grow exponentially, and thereby widen its ability to simultaneously attack multiple victims.”

Deeper analysis into the Fortinet Q4 Global Threat Landscape reinforces this earlier insight. The report detected an average of 274 attacks per surveyed firm, which was a significant increase of 82 percent over the previous quarter. The number of malware families also increased by 25 percent (to 3,317) and unique variants grew 19 percent (to 17,671). This indicates a dramatic growth in volume as well as a significant evolution in the malware itself. Organisations must safeguard their networks and data from this onslaught of attacks coming from both corporate and employee devices.

Other notable findings from the report included the following:

·        Encrypted traffic using HTTPS and SSL grew as a percentage of total network traffic to an average high of nearly 60 percent. Encryption can help protect data in motion as it moves between core, cloud, and endpoint environments, but it also represents a challenge for traditional security solutions. This is because this additional layer of security for sensitive data can also disguise more malicious content, such as malware.  Some conventional network security tools cannot inspect SSL encrypted traffic, enabling malware hidden within that traffic to bypass security controls.

·        Three of the top twenty attacks identified targeted Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and exploit activity quadrupled against devices like Wi-Fi cameras. In addition, unlike previous attacks, which focused on exploiting a single vulnerability, new IoT botnets such as Reaper and Hajime can target multiple vulnerabilities simultaneously. This multi-vector approach is much harder to combat. Reaper’s flexible framework means that its code is easily updated to swarm faster by running new and more malicious attacks as they become available. For example, exploit volume associated with Reaper exhibited a jump from 50,000 to 2.7 million over a few days before dropping back to normal.

·        The Q4 2017 report noted that several strains of ransomware topped the list of malware variants, with Locky being the most widespread malware variant, followed by GlobeImposter. A new strain of Locky emerged, tricking recipients with spam before requesting a ransom. There was also a shift by cybercriminals from only accepting Bitcoin for payment to other forms of digital currency such as Monero.

·        Cryptomining malware also increased globally – cybercriminals are recognising the growth in digital currencies and are now ‘cryptojacking’ to mine cryptocurrencies on computers using CPU resources in the background without a user knowing. Cryptojacking involves loading a script into a web browser – nothing is installed or stored on the computer.

The final word goes to John Maddison, senior vice president: products and solutions at Fortinet, who notes in a blog published by Fortinet: “2017 was another landmark year for cybersecurity. In reviewing our quarterly Threat Landscape reports, it is clear that 2017 has been notable primarily for three things: the rapid digital transformation and expansion of the potential attack surface, the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks, and a lapse in basic cybersecurity hygiene, largely being driven by digital transformation coupled with the growing cybersecurity skills gap.”

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Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards

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The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.

The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”

Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever AwardShe has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).

The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:

SPORT

The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognitionAge cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.

Click here to see who won the awards for data journalism , CSI/sustainability and photography.

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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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