As a little girl in the village of Mhangweni in Tzaneen, Limpopo, Gladness Baloyi would sit and listen to her grandmother interpret life traditionally. But she decided that when she grew up she would become a scientist, writes AMANDA KHOZA.
At the weekend Baloyi, now 24, was among leading scientists and astronomers who gathered for the two-day Third Annual Astronomy meeting in Umhlanga, Durban.
She told News24 on Sunday that she was an example that “where you come from does not determine where you are going”.
Raised by a single mother, Gloria Bvuma, who died in 2009, Baloyi said she always had big dreams.
“My mother had a spaza shop in the village and she used all the money she got to support me and my younger sister, Glacious,” said Baloyi.
“When we were growing up we used to spend a lot of time with my grandmother who used to tell us these traditional tales and she would interpret them traditionally. One day I told her that I wanted to be a scientist so that I could interpret things scientifically.
“I told my grandmother that things had changed and that we were living in the modern times and that there was technology.”
After high school Baloyi applied for a bursary but she did not receive a reply so she applied for a student loan at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
“I realised that my mother had saved up enough money for me to register so I went to the University of Limpopo and applied to study for a Bachelor of Science and I was accepted.”
Baloyi said she remembers assisting other pupils in Maths and Science in high school.
“Today I am a graduate and an intern at the Department of Science and Technology because I persevered,” she said shyly.
Baloyi started working for the department in April.
“We do research in astronomy. I am looking at furthering my studies so that I can become an astronomer. People in my village lack information and some of them don’t imagine themselves out of the village and beyond their circumstances.
“Everyone in the village wants to be a nurse or a teacher. People should dream big and stay away from social networks. That is what is killing our youth today,” she said.
Baloyi said the youth should rather focus on doing research into their careers.
“One day I want to pass on the knowledge I have to my family. I think my mother is very proud of me where she is,” said Baloyi.
Chair of the South Africa’s committee of the International Astronomical Union Professor Patrick Woudt, who also heads the University of Cape Town’s astronomy department, said the two day meeting brought together astronomers and policy makers from the department and the National Research Foundation.
“We come together once every two years to discuss developments, new initiatives and share ideas of where we are going in the future and the capacity development is the most critical part of it.
“Young people need to be excited about astronomy. The discussions also focused on the efforts made by the community as well as the support from the department in developing capacity in astronomy.
“We also discussed the vision of astronomy, where we see ourselves in five to ten years… because there is a lot of investment that is made by the country and that investment needs to be matched by a clear vision and strategy,” said Woudt.
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.