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Airline and Booking Services Scams Intensify at the Height of the Holiday Season

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Vacation season is well and truly upon us, and travellers around the world are looking for interesting places to go, cheap places to stay and reasonably priced flights. And scammers are here to give them what they need — well, sort of. Kaspersky researchers have observed intensified scamming activities, with numerous phishing pages distributed under the guise of airline and booking services. To help travellers avoid scams, company researchers share some of the most widespread fraud schemes used to lure victims as well as helpful tips on how to plan a safe, scam-free, vacation.

Fake Ticket Aggregators
Most trips start with a plane or train ticket, and travel enthusiasts are often interested in getting their hands on a bargain. Kaspersky experts have seen numerous fake websites claiming to offer users the chance to buy aeroplane tickets at cheaper costs. Such websites are usually well-made phishing pages that mimic famous airline services and air ticket aggregators. Some of these websites even display the details of real flights, with experienced phishers sending search requests to flight aggregators and displaying the information received from them. However, instead of delivering on promised flight tickets they keep your money and use your personal information for malicious purposes (e.g. selling your bank details and identifying information on the dark web).

Fake Lotteries for Discounted Tickets
There are also plenty of fake pages attempting to lure travellers with aeroplane ticket draws, lotteries and gift cards. Users are offered the opportunity to take a small survey and enter their personal details in exchange for a generous discount on a flight ticket. As with many other offers that seem to be too good to be true, such websites end up being phishing sites, collecting victims’ personal information and card details.

On top of this, the survey usually ends with a request to distribute the site among friends to receive the prize. In such cases, cybercriminals are using the victims themselves as a tool for spreading the scam further. A link sent by people you know seems more trustworthy than one received from a stranger. If the user then follows the link and tries to get their prize, they often find they need to pay a commission or fee first. After this money is paid, the cybercriminals disappear – without rewarding the user.

Fake Rentals
Another popular tactic used to scam travellers is fake rental services. One example includes the offer of a luxury two-bedroom apartment close to the centre of a European capital for just €500 a month. Another seemingly appealing offer is for the rental of an entire four-bedroom house with a pool and fireplace for only €1,000 for the whole month. The reviews describe amazing vacations and hospitable hosts. This encourages users to pay for their month-long stay, but in reality, they end up sending their money to fraudsters.

“Planning a vacation is not easy. People can spend weeks, even months, looking for the perfect place to stay and the tickets to get them there. Fraudsters use this to lure users that have grown tired of searching for great deals. After two years of flight restrictions imposed by the pandemic, travelling is back. But so are travel scams – with intensified scamming activity targeting users through fake booking and rental services. Such attacks are totally preventable, which is why we urge users to be sceptical about overly generous offers. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is,” comments Mikhail Sytnik, a security expert at Kaspersky.

To keep yourself protected while planning a vacation, Kaspersky experts recommend:

  1. Carefully look at the address bar before entering any sensitive information, such as your login details and password. If something is wrong with the URL (i.e. spelling, it doesn’t look like the original or it uses some special symbols instead of letters) don’t enter anything on the site. If in doubt, check the certificate of the site by clicking on the lock icon to the left of the URL.
  2. Only book your stay and tickets through the trusted websites of trusted providers. Ideally, type the address of their website manually in the address bar.
  3. Not clicking on links that come from unknown sources (either through e-mails, messaging apps or social networks).
  4. Visiting the business’ official website if you see a giveaway offered in e-mail or on social media by a travel company or an airline to confirm the giveaway exists. You should also carefully check the links the giveaway ad leads you to.
  5. Using a good security solution that can protect you from spam emails and phishing attacks. We recommend Kaspersky Security Cloud.
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Is Apple’s New ‘NameDrop’ Feature a Cause for Parental Concern?

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In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, Apple’s new iOS 17 update has introduced a feature that’s sparking a mix of curiosity and concern: NameDrop. This functionality allows users to share contact information with others seamlessly, but it’s not without its set of caveats and considerations.

At the core of the apprehension is the proximity-based nature of NameDrop. For the feature to work, both devices must have iOS 17 installed, be unlocked, and be in close physical proximity – a touch is required to initiate the contact transfer. The user experience involves a swift interaction, prompting a screen at the top of the device with options to “receive only” or “share.”

The need for consent is emphasised in this process. Both users must actively participate in the transfer, acknowledging and approving the exchange of contact information. This deliberate approach is aimed at ensuring that the sharing of personal data is a conscious and intentional act.

However, the rollout of NameDrop has not been without its share of concerns, particularly among parents and law enforcement agencies. Police departments across the United States have issued warnings, urging parents to manually disable the feature on their children’s devices. The fear, it seems, is rooted in the potential for unintended consequences, especially considering the close physical interaction required.

Is it wise to err on the side of caution and turn off NameDrop? Perhaps. Is it time to hit the panic button? Not necessarily, according to experts in the field. In a report by The Washington Post, Chester Wisniewski, a digital security expert at Sophos, dismisses the concerns surrounding NameDrop as “hysteria” and “nonsense.” He suggests that Apple has implemented safeguards to prevent inadvertent information sharing.

One key aspect that should offer reassurance is the need for mutual consent and the deliberate physical proximity required for the feature to activate. The intentionality of this process is to eliminate the risk of accidental data exchanges, putting control firmly in the hands of the users.

As with any technological advancement, understanding and awareness play pivotal roles in ensuring a positive user experience. Educating users, especially parents and guardians, about the intricacies of NameDrop can empower them to make informed decisions about its use. Apple, being at the forefront of user privacy and security, is likely to continue refining and enhancing the feature based on user feedback and evolving security standards.

While the warnings from law enforcement underscore the importance of vigilance, it is crucial to approach the situation with a balanced perspective. The benefits of a feature like NameDrop, enabling seamless contact sharing in a world where connectivity is key, should not be overshadowed by fear.

Apple’s NameDrop feature introduces a novel way of sharing contact information, but its success hinges on user awareness and responsible usage. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the safeguards and features aimed at ensuring a secure and positive user experience. By staying informed and engaged, users can navigate the landscape of advancements like NameDrop with confidence.

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Password Management: Creating, Storing, and Managing Secure Passwords

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Navigating the complexities of online security begins with effective password management. This article aims to provide practical advice on creating, storing, and managing passwords, ensuring your digital safety with an approach that is both informative and user-friendly.

Crafting Unbreakable Passwords: A Practical Approach
Creating a strong password is more than a security step; it’s a necessity in today’s digital world. Follow these guidelines to enhance your security:

  • Length Matters: Passwords should be at least 16 characters long. A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that longer passwords significantly reduce the risk of hacking.
  • Complexity is Key: Combine different character types for a robust password. Use a blend of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Memorable Phrases: Create passwords using unusual phrases or sentences. Think “VanGoghStarry1Night!” instead of “Password123”.

The Importance of Diversifying Passwords
Using the same password for multiple accounts is like having one key for every lock. Diversify your passwords to ensure that a breach in one account doesn’t jeopardize others. According to a report by Verizon, 80% of hacking-related breaches are due to weak or stolen passwords.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Your Safety Net
Incorporating MFA can significantly increase your account security. This method, which often involves receiving a code on your mobile device, adds an extra layer of protection.

Personal Information: The Password Pitfall
Avoid using easily guessable personal information in your passwords. Cybersecurity experts warn that personal details are often exploited by hackers.

Password Managers: The Organizational Tool
A password manager is a secure and practical way to store and manage passwords. These tools also help in generating strong passwords. Consider options like LastPass, KeePass, or Keeper, based on your personal preference and needs.

Regular Updates: Key to Continuous Protection
Regularly updating your passwords can dramatically reduce your vulnerability to cyber attacks. Cybersecurity experts recommend changing passwords every three to six months.

Stay Informed: Your Best Defense
Staying updated with the latest cybersecurity trends and threats is essential. Never share your passwords, and always be alert to phishing attempts.

Embracing Secure Password Recovery Methods
Secure Password Recovery: It’s essential to establish secure methods for password recovery. Cybersecurity experts advise against using easily guessable security questions. Instead, opt for two-factor authentication or a secondary email for recovery. According to a report by Google, this simple step can prevent 100% of automated attacks.

The Role of Biometrics in Password Security
Biometrics Integration: The use of biometrics (like fingerprint or facial recognition) in conjunction with traditional passwords is becoming increasingly popular. This method, known as biometric authentication, adds an extra layer of security. A study by the University of Michigan showed that biometrics could reduce the time spent on password entry by 78%, enhancing both security and convenience.

Navigating Public Wi-Fi and Password Safety
Public Wi-Fi Risks: Be cautious when entering passwords on public Wi-Fi networks. These networks are often unsecured, making them hotspots for cybercriminals. The Federal Trade Commission suggests using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your internet connection in such scenarios. Additionally, services like Cisco Umbrella can provide an extra layer of security by offering internet gateway protection. This service not only secures your connection but also helps in blocking malicious sites and phishing attempts, making it a valuable tool for anyone frequently using public Wi-Fi.

The Evolution of Passwords: Future Trends
Future of Passwords: Stay abreast of evolving technologies in password security. Innovations like single sign-on (SSO) systems and blockchain-based passwords are shaping the future of digital identity management. A survey by TechCrunch indicated that 65% of tech professionals believe traditional passwords will be obsolete in the next five years.

Educating Others: Spreading Password Safety Awareness
Spreading Awareness: Educate family, friends, and colleagues about password safety. Sharing knowledge and best practices can dramatically reduce the collective risk of data breaches. The National Cyber Security Centre reported that promoting basic password hygiene could prevent up to 80% of common cyber attacks.

Tailoring Your Password Strategy
Remember, password management is not one-size-fits-all. Consider your unique digital habits and needs when implementing these strategies. Personalization is key to effective password management.

Conclusion
In the intricate web of digital security, password management plays a vital role. By embracing advanced recovery options, considering biometric solutions, exercising caution on public networks, keeping pace with technological trends, and sharing knowledge, we can fortify our digital defences. Effective password management is not just about creating strong passwords; it’s about adopting a comprehensive approach to digital safety, tailored to our unique needs and the evolving cyber landscape.

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Levelling Up Your PC Game Marketing to Capitalise on the MENA’s Gaming Boom

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By Adam Smart, Director of Product – Gaming, AppsFlyer

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is home to the world’s fastest-growing gaming market — an estimated 377 million players, which is more than all of Europe combined (386 million) and considerably more than the US (210 million). Gamers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) combined have topped 65 million by 2021 and this number is predicted to reach almost 86 million by 2025. MENA gaming revenue is set to reach more than US$5 billion by 2025. In the UAE, where nine in every 10 adults say they play video games, the country’s gaming market is expected to reach more than $306 million this year.

One segment that has been growing consistently is PC and console gaming. As the growth has occurred, the PC gamer has evolved. No longer exclusively the domain of World of Warcraft aficionados brandishing their “l33t” statuses in front of hordes of “noobs”, the PC market is more diverse, and therein lies the opportunity. First, we have to temper the excitement by reminding you that enthusiasm is no substitute for strategy. Paid and organic moves must combine in a journey of iteration and learning. Hype must be built patiently, in four steps.

Pick Your Genre
You start out with a dream. You want to learn. You want your game to be played. So, the first thing you will do is determine — through research on marketplaces like Steam — what your best positioning is. What genre should your game inhabit to give you the best chance of momentum? Your genre will determine your competition and revenue potential. Each genre releases different numbers of games and has different sales volumes and average revenues per user (ARPU).

Consider a less competitive genre to start with, so you can build some revenue before embarking on more ambitious projects. Consider what kind of streamers play in this genre and how your game’s art style and vibe may fit their tastes. And get to know where your audience consumes content — Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, or others.

Get to Know Steam
Steam is the largest gaming marketplace, where visibility and downloads play out a little differently to Google Play or the App Store. Standing out among 50,000 other games and drawing players from among 130 million monthly active users is a daunting goal. Make sure you pay attention to your capsule (the hero image that represents you in the store). An attractive, professional design is more likely to pique interest. Next, craft your landing page to be a polished artefact that intrigues and inspires browsing — great imagery, short trailers, and lots of gameplay footage. And tag your game to ensure discovery. Steam is known for its window shoppers, so make sure they can add your game to their wish lists. This is a great marketing tool, an effective social wedge, and a sustainable driver of sales.

Leverage UA Channels
As an indie developer, signing with a publisher can help a lot with marketing, especially if your budget is tight. You can also get the word out through alpha and beta releases. Apart from hype, this is a way to keep your most loyal players engaged. Use tools like Sullygnome, Playboard, or HYPR to find well-known gamers/streamers. Many streamers made the difference for games once they started playing them on Twitch. Also check out online festivals like GDC, PAX, Tiny Teams, and Summer Game Fest to further build awareness. And if you have the budget, look into Meta ads, Twitch ads, and YouTube ads.

Find out which platforms host your potential gamers. Engage with them wherever they are. Run your campaigns on channels with which you are familiar, such as mobile and Web. Do not rule out CTV (connected TV) ads or offline ads to capture interest at bus stops and metro stations.

Measure and Optimise
By this point, you will have built a hype train. Now, you must measure its efficiency. You need to know your most profitable campaigns and channels and to do this, you need to measure and attribute conversions accurately. This is not easy in the multichannel haze in which the modern consumer dwells. A gamer could have spotted a Tweet, then watched a CTV ad, then a mobile ad, and then been confronted with a billboard. Which drove their conversion? Today’s marketing measurement and analytics solutions, backed by the right partner, can help organisations connect these dots to the purchase of your game. These platforms even offer a real-time view of campaigns’ performances across multiple channels and devices — a critical capability for branching out to sell games on consoles.

You Just Levelled Up
PC and console gaming sales are a world apart from mobile markets. But provided you understand the target genre and make the right moves on Steam (including wish lists), you should be in the necessary visibility bracket to take your campaign to the next level. Get social, plug yourself into the channels where your target gamers can be found. Enlist a publisher, dole out alpha and beta launches, and cosy up to celebrity gamers/streamers. Be seen at online festivals, spend (if possible) on Meta Ads, Twitch, and YouTube, and consider cross-platform campaigns across mobile, CTV, offline, and Web. But most importantly, measure. And through measurement, as the gamers say, “GiT GuD”.

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