Guest written by: Bruce Zhou, CEO, AXILSPOT
The ability to connect machines, devices, sensors, and other everyday things into an intelligent network and make sense out of them, has huge promises to change everyday life. As can be expected by taking in our entire world and attempting to change it one stroke and with one magic wand is unrealistic, challenging and cause for chaos in the short term.
For business decision makers and technology providers, some measure of clarity and progress can be made by understanding the challenges of applying IoT to business. We look at two principal challenges in making this happen.
The challenges of IoT are resident in the ability to connect sensors and devices directly to the Internet. To connect to the Internet any device and application must use Internet Protocol stacks. It is for this reason that devices called Internet Gateways have been created that connect to non-Internet Protocol devices and networks on one side and the Internet driven applications, devices and networks, on the other side.
By doing so, Internet Gateways need to be designed for the type of local networks and local applications that they manage on one side and how they connect to the Internet on the other side. Over the years, countless Internet Protocol driven applications, software tools and diagnostic kits, have been developed and exist, that can be applied to IoT devices and sensors, with or without much adaptation. This will help to get the IoT environment up and running in a short period of time, relatively speaking. That is provided they are in the same Internet Protocol environment.
The basis for the development of Internet Protocol applications till now has been growing availability of large computing power and significant memory capacity to manage complexity of the Internet Protocol based applications. And all this within localised high cost nodes like desktops, notebooks, smartphones, tablets, amongst others. This is the exact antithesis of the IoT environment as it exists today, which is low cost, low power consuming, low computing capacity, and distributed computing nodes.
When building an IoT network it is essential to plan and look ahead. It is also important to converse with all departments associated with the benefits and operations of the IoT network and applications. When dealing with tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of sensors and devices in any IoT project, it is important to have a networking strategy to ensure the end result is managed chaos instead of unmanaged chaos.
Industry consultants who have gone through such projects point out, IoT application and network designs need to be built looking at requirements five years from now. When in doubt the rule of thumb is design networks for a requirement that is 10X the number of devices that are connecting in now. Another important consideration is to design the wireless environment thinking about what will happen in that specific industry over next five years.
While the benefits of such best practices are self-evident, industry surveys show that such discussions are not happening as much as they should. If all else fails, the minimum rule of thumb to apply, think big for IoT. Looking ahead into the requirements for IoT type of networks there is a significant change in the way devices will communicate. More often than not, communication signals will hop from device to device, to enter and leave the network of devices, connecting into and out of their mesh network.
Using a number of hops between devices rather than the conventional hub to spoke jump will become the standard for most IoT applications and networks. The key here is multiple and random paths between IoT devices, based on predefined algorithms, rather than a fixed point to point hop. This saves power, saves cost, builds scale, and builds redundancy.
Such networks are called mesh networks and the devices are called wireless nodes. Since connectivity within mesh networks rely on each other, their efficiency grows with an increase in the number of devices. Mesh networks become more efficient as the number of wireless nodes inside them increases. This is the opposite of what happens with the hub and spoke, star network arrangement.
As silicon technologies improve the computing capabilities of IoT sensors, devices, machines and appliances, they will increasingly become more and more Internet like. At that stage the two worlds will come together in exponential fashion and the true power of IoT will become a reality.
How Scammers Subscribe Mobile Users to Unwanted Paid Services
With an ever growing number of smartphone users, the development of mobile applications has become a booming industry. Today there are millions of apps, helping users with almost every c of their everyday life – from entertainment to banking and billing. With this in mind, cybercriminals are working hard to develop their own apps and benefit from unsuspecting users.
Kaspersky researchers have observed fraudsters actively spreading Trojans, which secretly subscribe users to paid services, disguised as various different mobile apps, including popular games, healthcare apps and photo editors. Most of these Trojans request access to the user’s notifications and messages, so that the fraudsters can then intercept messages containing confirmation codes.
Users aren’t knowingly subscribing to these services but are, rather, falling victim to carelessness. For instance, a user fails to read the fine print and, before they know it, they’re paying for a horoscope app. These victims often don’t realize these subscriptions exist until their mobile phone account runs dry earlier than expected.
According to Kaspersky researchers, the most widely spread Trojans that sign users up to unwanted subscriptions are:
Trojans from the Trojan.AndroidOS.Jocker family can intercept codes sent in text messages and bypass anti-fraud solutions. They’re usually spread on Google Play, where scammers download a legitimate app from the store, add malicious code to it and then re-upload it under a different name. In most cases, these trojanized apps fulfill their purpose and the user never suspects that they’re a source of threat.
So far in 2022, Jocker has most frequently attacked users in Saudi Arabia (21.20%), Poland, (8.98%) and Germany (6.01%).
MobOk is considered the most active of the subscription Trojans with more than 70% of mobile users encountering these threats. MobOk Trojan is particularly notable for an additional capability that, in addition to reading the codes from messages, enables it to bypass CAPTCHA. MobOK does this by automatically sending the image to a service designed to decipher the code shown .
Since the beginning of the year, MobOk Trojan has most frequently attacked users in Russia (31.01%), India (11.17%) and Indonesia (11.02%).
Vesub Trojan is spread through unofficial sources and imitates popular games and apps, such as GameBeyond, Tubemate, Minecraft, GTA5 and Vidmate. This malware opens an invisible window, requests a subscription and then enters the code it intercepts from the victim’s received text messages. After that the user is subscribed to a service without their knowledge or consent.
Most of these apps lack any legitimate functionality. They subscribe users as soon as they are launched while victims just see a loading window. However, there are some examples, such as a fake GameBeyond app, where the detected malware is actually accompanied by a random set of functional games.
Two out of five users who encountered Vesub were in Egypt (40.27%). This Trojan family has also been active in Thailand (25.88%) and Malaysia (15.85%).
Unlike the Trojans mentioned above, this one does not subscribe victims to a third-party service – instead it uses its own. Users end up subscribing to one of these services by simply not reading the user agreement carefully. For example, there are apps that have recently spread intensively on Google Play, offering to tailor personal weight-loss plans for a token fee. Such apps contain small print mentioning a subscription fee with automatic billing. This means money will be deducted from the user’s bank account on a regular basis without needing any further confirmation from the user.
“Apps can help us stay connected, fit, entertained and generally make our lives easier. There are multiple mobile apps appearing every day, for every taste and purpose – unfortunately, cybercriminals are using this to their advantage. Some of the apps are designed to steal money by subscribing users to unwanted services. These threats are preventable, which is why it’s important to be aware of the signs that give away Trojanized apps. Even if you trust an app, you should avoid granting it too many permissions. Only allow access to notifications for apps that need it to perform their intended purposes, for example, to transfer notifications to wearable devices. Apps for something like themed wallpapers or photo editing don’t need access to your notifications,” explains Igor Golovin, security expert at Kaspersky.
Here’s what you need to do, to stay protected:
- Checking the permissions of the apps you’re using and thinking carefully before granting additional permissions.
- Using a reliable security solution to help detect malicious apps and adware before they achieve their goals.
- Updating your operating system and any important apps as and when updates become available. Many safety issues can be solved by installing the updated versions of software.
Three Most Dangerous Types of Android Malware
Written by Lukas Stefanko, Malware Researcher at ESET
These days, the device in your pocket can do far more than call or send text messages. Your smartphone stores almost every aspect of your life, from memories, captured as photos to personal notes and schedules, log-in details, and various other kinds of sensitive data.
Android-powered devices command more than 70 percent of the mobile operating system market. Add to that the open nature of the Android ecosystem and it’s clearer why these devices bear the brunt of malicious attacks on mobile devices and remain a lucrative target for attackers.
Google has, of course, introduced a number of privacy- and security-enhancing features for Android devices. Just a few days ago, the company announced that it had stopped 1.2 million policy-violating apps from reaching Google Play last year, among other measures aimed at cracking down on malicious apps.
However, this is not to say you should let your guard down when it comes to all sorts of dangers that lurk especially in third-party app stores.
Malware comes in various forms and works in various vicious ways. Watch the video to learn more about some of the most dangerous types of malware affecting Android devices, including:
- Malicious software that can hold your device and data hostage, possibly “on behalf of the FBI”
- Malware that steals login credentials and can in some cases bypass two-factor authentication
- Android nasties that give hackers control over your entire device
Netflix Wants All of Us to Understand the Cost of Password Sharing
Written by Steven Hope, CEO, Authlogics
Have you ever shared your Netflix password? If so, you are not alone. But have you stopped to think about the impact it is having? Earlier this week, it was revealed that the streaming service has lost in the region of 200,000 of its 221 million global subscribers, with millions more expected to depart in the coming months. The resulting fall in the Netflix share price (at one point 35%) was a shock for many investors, but with many of us ‘boxsetted out’ by the pandemic, and a cost-of-living crisis looming for many, what can the company do to stem the tide?
It seems one of the big bugbears for Netflix is the habit of sharing account passwords and a survey conducted by time2play in the US, indicates just how widespread it has become. In fact, more than 50% of residents in 17 states including California, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin, admitted to using another person’s Netflix account.
Some may argue that it is an innocent and victimless crime rather than theft. After all, Netflix’s revenue in 2020 was $24.9 billion, more than doubling since 2017, a trend not currently looking likely to continue. So, what harm does sharing a password with family and friends really do? Sure, the company may miss a ‘few’ dollars, Euros, pounds, and so on, but would those benefitting ever actually become a customer? I suspect for many the answer is no.
Speaking as someone that has spent over a decade campaigning for businesses and people in general to practice safe passwords, the Netflix situation highlights to me how little value is placed on the password, yet how costly they are. This is especially true if there is no perceived risk to the person who owns that credential. You only need to look at the lists of the top four passwords – “123456”, “123456789”, “Qwerty” and of course “Password” – to see how much effort goes into devising something un-hackable!
Poor password practice is of course not isolated to streaming services, it is commonplace in a busy workplace. How often have you said or been asked ‘Can I borrow your login details as mine are not working?’. To make matters worse, with so many people still working from home, usernames and passwords are copied and pasted into emails, SMS, and chats with little thought of the consequences.
So, when Netflix warned that prices would need to rise if the rules continued to be broken, I was struck by how they were able to communicate to the global masses in a matter of days, the link between password abuse and financial ramification, in a way that as security professionals we could never do. However, this may have the opposite effect as inflation is everywhere right now, and I suspect more subscribers may balk at an increase, cancel and switch to using illegal logins instead to cut their household costs.
The reality is that the likes of Netflix will struggle to move to a different authentication mode other than passwords for practical reasons. Would you use a streaming service that requires you to authenticate each time they want to watch, using a One Time Password, PIN, or Code for example? I think not.
While the suggestions of advertising revenue may seem to plug some of the Netflix revenue gaps, they ought to tread carefully. Paying customers don’t want to see ads, and some cost-conscious paying customers may well downgrade and accept ads to save money. However, I would urge Netflix to take a close look at technologies available that could protect its content from exploitation and piracy, without compromising the user experience of those who pay for it.
Whatever Netflix decides to do, it needs to do it quickly. The more all of us feel the squeeze on our finances the more likely we are to cancel such services or be willing to participate in the illicit sharing of passwords. But I would also urge any organisation that uses password-based logins to look at what is happening to Netflix and ask just how much is going on in your business?
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