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‘Captain Cool’ M.S Dhoni Becomes The Riskiest Celebrity To Search For Online: McAfee

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni, captain of India’s World Cup winning team, and one of the country’s most celebrated sportsmen, has topped the McAfee Most Dangerous Celebrity™ list 2019. In its thirteenth edition, McAfee’s research identified popular celebrities generating the riskiest search results that could potentially expose their fans to malicious websites and viruses.

Dhoni led the team to the 2011 World Cup title after 28 years, and is seen as an iconic figure in the country. In India, where cricket is a religion, MS Dhoni is a legend and is renowned across the world for his cool demeanour and resilience. With a biopic “Dhoni – The untold story”, and a docu-series “Roar of the Lion”, to honour the superstar, Dhoni’s fame entices entertainment, sports, and cinema buffs alike. His immense popularity has created a field day for cybercriminals to lure unsuspecting consumers to malicious websites, that may install malware or steal personal information and passwords.

Emerging second on the list, was another Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, followed by Gautam Gulati, winner of the reality TV show – Bigg Boss. Following them closely was Bollywood sensation Sunny Leone, and pop icon Badshah. Next on this list was Radhika Apte (6), Shraddha Kapoor (7), Harmanpreet Kaur (8), P.V. Sindhu (9) and Cristiano Ronaldo (10).

“The significant ease of internet access, through a host of connected devices has made it increasingly viable for users to avail content from all over the world. As subscription-based content platforms continue to grow in India, netizens often look for free and pirated content such as major sports events, movies, TV shows, and images of their favourite superstars. Unfortunately, they may not be fully aware of the risks that malicious websites providing such content can pose in exchange for this access.” said Venkat Krishnapur, Vice-President of Engineering and Managing Director, McAfee India.

He further added, “Cybercriminals leverage this opportunity and prey on consumer vulnerabilities when they compromise on security in favour of convenience. It is essential for consumers to recognize these threats, think before they click and avoid suspicious links that promise free content.”

In summary, consumers are faced with endless options to feed their obsession with their favourite celebrities. They are interacting with content across multiple devices and conducting potentially dangerous searches across the internet to find the latest information or gossip without fear of consequence. For cybercriminals, this creates a field day to lure unsuspecting consumers to malicious websites that may install malware or steal personal information and passwords.

The top 10 celebrities for India from this year’s study are:

Position Celebrity
1 M. S. Dhoni
2 Sachin Tendulkar
3 Gautam Gulati
4 Sunny Leone
5 Badshah
6 Radhika Apte
7 Shraddha Kapoor
8 Harmanpreet Kaur
9 P.V. Sindhu
10 Cristiano Ronaldo

In the quest for freebies

Cricketers are larger than life personalities in India, who not only resonate with sports, but also with the entertainment and lifestyle audiences. Free content related to the top two personalities, M. S. Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, is highly sought after, as India just witnessed the World Cup 2019 that saw active and passive participation from both these legends.

Demographically, India is a young country where almost a third of its population is comprised of millennials with more than 50% of its population below the age of 25. By 2020, the average age of an Indian is expected to be approximately 29 years, making it one of the youngest countries in the world. As this digital native population continues to spend more time online owing to cheaper data and proliferation of smart devices, they will continue to remain soft targets for cybercriminals who thrive on such user behaviour. It’s important for them to understand the risks associated with torrent or pirated downloads and avoid being exploited by savvy cybercriminals.

Tips to Help Consumers Stay Safe Online:

  • Be careful what you click.Users looking to avail free content related to MS Dhoni should be cautious and only stream and download directly from a reliable source. The safest thing to do is to wait for the official release instead of visiting a third-party website that could contain malware.
  • Refrain from using illegal streaming sites.When it comes to dangerous online behaviour, using illegal streaming sites is the equivalent of spreading wildfire to your device. Many illegal streaming sites are riddled with malware or adware disguised as pirated video files. Do yourself a favour and stream the show from a reputable source.
  • Protect your online realm with a cybersecurity solution.Send your regards to malicious actors with a comprehensive security solution like McAfee Total Protection. This can help protect you from malware, phishing attacks, and other threats.
  • Use a Web Reputation tool.Using a Web reputation tool such as freely available McAfee WebAdvisor which alerts users when they are about to go to a malicious website.
  • Use parental control software. Kids are fans of celebrities too, so ensure that limits are set for your child on the devices they use and use parental control software to help minimize exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites.

Rajeev has witnessed the growth of technology across all verticals since he started his career in journalism. With a vast experience of almost 11 years in the technology market in India, he has worked closely with the industry leaders and has been part of this revolution in IT & communication market in India. He started his career as an entrepreneur in 2009 in the technology world. Currently, he is Director of News Dot Media Pvt. Ltd., Chief Editor for Digital Terminal (Magazine & Online) & Telecomtoday.in  

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Airtel Payments Bank Rolls Out ‘Airtel Safe Pay’

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To protect Airtel customers from the growing incidents of online payment frauds, Airtel Payments Bank launched ‘Airtel Safe Pay’ – India’s safest mode for making digital payments.

With ‘Airtel Safe Pay’, Airtel customers making UPI or Netbanking based payments through Airtel Payments Bank, no longer have to worry about money leaving their accounts without their explicit consent.

An India-First innovation, ‘Airtel Safe Pay’ leverages Airtel’s ‘telco exclusive’ strength of network intelligence to provide an additional layer of payment validation compared to the industry norm of two-factor authentication. This offers the highest level of protection from potential frauds such as phishing, stolen credentials or passwords, and even phone cloning that catches customers unaware.

Anubrata Biswas, MD & CEO, Airtel Payments Bank says, “As digital payments become the norm, especially in the post-pandemic world, we also have to solve for the challenge of frauds that are growing rapidly. We are happy to leverage Airtel’s core telco strengths to bring to market this unique capability that ensures that our customers have full control over their transactions. This sets a new benchmark in the Indian digital payments space by making security paramount.”

Using ‘Airtel Safe Pay’, Airtel Payments Bank customers can make secure digital payments across millions of merchants, online retailers and utilities, and even send money. Customers can open an Airtel Payments Bank account within few minutes with just a video call from the Airtel Thanks app and enjoy a range of benefits while they make fully secure digital payments.

Says Adarsh Nair, Chief Product Officer, Bharti Airtel: “Airtel Safe Pay is yet another innovation where our secure network and world-class digital platforms combine to solve a unique market problem. At Airtel, we are taking the lead in offering the most secure digital payments platforms to our users and making sure that the customer is always in control without a worry about rogue transactions.”  

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ESET Rolls Out Latest Version of Its Windows Security Products

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ESET has launched new versions of its Windows security products for consumers. The new versions upgrade the protection in ESET Internet Security, ESET NOD32 Antivirus and ESET Smart Security Premium. 

The wide range of security improvements cover malware detection, online banking, password security and smart home support – in line with ESET’s goal to create a safer digital world for everyone to enjoy. With the ever-increasing volume of reported cyberattacks, it is vital that users are secured in their online activities. These product updates address key issues, including online payments and banking-related threats, identity theft and leaking of personal information, stolen passwords and connected device security. 

ESET is continuously improving its solutions to ensure that users are equipped with the very latest technologies in cybersecurity while keeping a low system footprint. The updates bring fine-tuning of the Host-Based Intrusion Prevention System and Advanced Machine Learning modules, along with a significant reduction in the size of the Machine Learning module. 

Other key updates include the new Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and System Registry scanners capable of detecting malware that uses the WMI or the registry maliciously. The Connected Home module is also improved with better connected device detection and security issue troubleshooting.

Financial security is a top priority, and the upgraded Banking & Payment Protection features a special secured browser mode through which users can safely pay online. The new feature allows users to run any supported browser in secured mode by default. With secured mode on, the communication of the keyboard and mouse with the browser is encrypted to guard against keylogging. In addition, Banking & Payment Protection now also notifies users when Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is turned on to alert them about the danger of malware abusing RDP. 

Finally, ESET Password Manager has been completely rebuilt with new functionalities such as remote logout from websites and remote clearing of browser history, and is available via both browser extensions and native mobile apps.

Commenting on the updates, Matej Krištofík, product manager at ESET, said, “As cyberthreats continue to evolve in sophistication and frequency, it is vital that consumers and their devices are protected on every level. Technology is at the center of our lives, from online banking to connected homes, so it is more important than ever that our personal technology is safe and secure. We are proud to offer our latest Windows security product updates to consumers, reflecting our dedication to consistently improve and innovate in order to provide a safe digital experience for all.”

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Critical Vulnerability Discovered in Instagram App by Researchers

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Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms globally, with over 100+ million photos uploaded every day, and nearly 1 billion monthly active users. Individuals and companies share photos and messages about their lives and products to their followers globally.  So imagine what could happen if a hacker was able to completely take over Instagram accounts, and access all the messages and photos in those accounts, post new photos or delete or manipulate existing photos.  What could that do to a person’s or company’s reputation? 

Earlier this year, Check Point researchers found a critical vulnerability in the Instagram app that would have given an attacker the ability to take over a victim’s Instagram account, and turn their phone into a spying tool, simply by sending them a malicious image file. When the image is saved and opened in the Instagram app, the exploit would give the hacker full access to the victim’s Instagram messages and images, allowing them to post or delete images at will, as well as giving access to the phone’s contacts, camera and location data. 

Here’s how we found the vulnerability, and worked with Facebook and Instagram to close it to keep users safe.

What are the apps on your phone permitted to do?
Wherever we go, our mobile phones usually go with us, to keep us in touch with families, loved ones and our work, too. Of course, this is also why mobiles are an attractive target for hackers.  Not only can they steal data and credentials from our phones, but they can also use them for spying on us: tracking our location, listening to conversations, and accessing our data and messages.

Fortunately, all modern mobile operating systems include several layers of protection against this type of malicious activity. These protections usually rely on the basic concept of ‘application isolation’ – even if someone was able to hack a specific application, they would still be confined to that application alone, along with its strict permissions, and would not be able to extend their hacking attempt any further.

The key term here is “strict permissions” – for example, a map application should be able to access your location, but should not have access to your microphone; a dating app should be able to access your camera and nothing else, and so on.

But what happens when we`re talking about an application that has extensive permissions on your device?  If the application is hacked, the hacker will have easy access to your GPS data, camera, microphone, contacts, and more. 

Fortunately, there isn’t a huge list of apps that have such extensive permissions on users’ devices.   One example is Instagram. Given its popularity and wide-ranging permissions, we decided to review the security of Instagram’s mobile app for both Android and iOS operating systems.

What did we find?
Our research revealed a critical vulnerability that might allow the attackers what is technically referred to as – remote code execution (RCE). This vulnerability can allow an attacker to perform any action they wish in the Instagram app (yes, even if it is not actually a part of the application logic or features). Since the Instagram app has very extensive permissions, this may allow an attacker to instantly turn the targeted phone into a perfect spying tool – putting the privacy of millions of users at serious risk.

Modus operandi

So how does such a popular application include vulnerabilities, when huge amounts of time and resources are invested in developing it?
The answer is that most modern app developers do not actually write the entire application on their own: if they did so it would take years to write an application. Instead, they use 3rd party libraries to handle common (and often complicated) tasks such as image processing, sound processing, network connectivity, and so on. This frees the developers to handle only the coding tasks, which represent the apps core business logic. However, this relies on those 3rd party libraries being completely trustworthy and secure.

Our modus operandi for this research was to examine the 3rd party libraries used by Instagram, And the vulnerability we found was in the way that Instagram used Mozjpeg- an open source project used by Instagram as its JPEG format image decoder for images uploaded to the service.

A bad image: hacking and taking over the user’s mobile Instagram account
In the attack scenario we describe in our research, an attacker can simply send an image to their target victim via email, WhatsApp or another media exchange platform. The target user saves the image on their handset, and when they open the Instagram app, the exploitation takes place, allowing the attacker full access to any resource in the phone that is pre-allowed by Instagram.

These resources include contacts, device storage, location services and the device camera. In effect, the attacker gets full control over the app and can create actions on behalf of the user, including reading all of their personal messages in their Instagram account and deleting or posting photos at will.  This turns the device into a tool for spying on targeted users without their knowledge, as well as enabling malicious manipulation of their Instagram profile. In either case, the attack could lead to a massive invasion of users’ privacy and could affect reputations – or lead to security risks that are even more serious.

At a basic level, this exploit can be used to crash a user’s Instagram app, effectively denying them access to the app until they delete it from their device and re-install it, causing inconvenience and possible loss of data. 

Responsible disclosure & Protection

We have responsibly disclosed our findings to Facebook and the Instagram team. Facebook’s advisory was very responsive and helpful, they have described this vulnerability as an “Integer Overflow leading to Heap Buffer Overflow” and issued a patch to remediate the issue on the newer versions of the Instagram application on all platforms.

The patch for this vulnerability has already been available for 6 months prior to this publication, giving time to the majority of users to update their Instagram applications, thus mitigating the risk of this vulnerability being exploited. We strongly encourage all Instagram users to ensure they are using the latest Instagram app version and to update if any new version is available.

Check Point’s SandBlast Mobile (SBM) provides full visibility into mobile risks, with advanced threat prevention capabilities. With the market’s highest threat catch rate, users of SBM stay protected from malware, phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, OS exploits, and more. Intuitive to use, users only hear from SandBlast Mobile if they are under attack.

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