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Third of SA software unlicensed

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Computer users in South Africa are using unlicensed software at an alarming rate, despite the link between unlicensed software and cyberattacks, according to a new survey from BSA – The Software Alliance.

The survey, Seizing Opportunity Through License Compliance, found that in South Africa the percent of software installed on computers that was not properly licensed was 33 percent. This represents a one-point decrease compared with BSA’s prior findings in 2013.

South Africa is performing well compared to the rest of the region of Middle East and Africa, which has a rate of 57 percent unlicensed software use, falling by two points from 59 percent in 2013. The rate of access has been influenced in part by important trends under way across the continent. The driving force for the drop in the rate was the decrease of the consumer share of PC shipments,  enterprise oriented IP protection efforts, and a migration to subscription-based software.

“We are happy to see the rate of unlicensed software use has dropped again. We believe this progress is in part a result of the successful cooperation between the South African government and the software industry, including the recent joint initiative between BSA, the Companies & Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) and DALRO on raising awareness among South African companies on intellectual property and driving software license compliance” said Billa Coetsee, Chair of South African Committee of BSA. “However, as the report highlights, the value of unlicensed software in use in South Africa is $274 million, which is very high. We will have to continue building the success of our recent initiatives with government, other stakeholders and the business community.”

The survey, which canvassed consumers, IT managers, and enterprise PC users, reinforces that use of unlicensed software is still high, and that individuals and companies are playing with fire when they use unlicensed software. This is due to the strong connection between cyberattacks and the use of unlicensed software. Where unlicensed software is in use, the likelihood of encountering malware dramatically goes up. And the cost of dealing with malware incidents can be staggering. In 2015 alone, for example, cyberattacks cost businesses over $400 billion.

“As the report underscores, it is critically important for a company to be aware of what software is on the company network,” said BSA |The Software Alliance President and CEO Victoria A. Espinel. “Many CIOs don’t know the full extent of software deployed on their systems or if that software is legitimate.”

Among the other findings:

·        39 percent of software installed on computers around the world in 2015 was not properly licensed, representing only a modest decrease from 43 percent in BSA’s previous global rate  in 2013.

·        Even in certain critical industries, unlicensed use was surprisingly high. The survey found the worldwide rate is 25 percent for the banking, insurance and securities industries.

·        CIOs estimate that 15 percent of their employees load software on the network without their knowledge. But they are significantly underestimating the problem; nearly double that amount—26 percent of employees — say they are loading unauthorised software on the network.

Despite these numbers, the findings show a keen awareness of the problem:

·        CIOs said their highest concern was loss of data associated with such a security incident.

·        CIOs also said that avoiding security threats is a critical reason for ensuring the software running in their networks is legitimate and fully licensed.

·        In the broader survey of employees, 60 percent cited the security risk associated with unlicensed software as a critical reason to use legitimate, fully licensed software.

The report adds that companies can mitigate the cybersecurity risks of unlicensed software by ensuring all software is purchased from legitimate sources and establishing an in-house software asset management (SAM) program. Organisations that effectively deploy SAM will know what’s on their network, and whether it is legitimate and licensed; will optimise their use of software by deploying software that’s the best fit for their businesses; will have policies and procedures in place that govern procurement, deployment, and retirement of software; and will have integrated SAM fully into their business.

Highlights in this year’s survey, by region, include:

·        The region with the highest overall rate of unlicensed software was Asia-Pacific at 61 percent, a one-point decline compared with BSA’s previous findings in 2013.

·        The next-highest unlicensed software rate was in Central and Eastern Europe with 58 percent (falling three-points from the rate registered in 2013), and then the Middle East-Africa at 57 percent (dropping two-points since 2013).

·        North America continues to have the lowest regional rate at 17 percent, although this constitutes a significant commercial value of $10 billion.

·        In Western Europe the overall rate dropped one point to 28 percent.

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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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