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In August 2019, 4.3 Million WannaCry Infection Attempts Worldwide: Reports Sophos

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Sophos has published WannaCry Aftershock, a report on what happened to the infamous WannaCry malware, following the worldwide attack that began on May 12, 2017. The research by SophosLabs shows that the WannaCry threat remains rampant, with millions of infection attempts stopped every month, and that while the original malware has not been updated, many thousands of short-lived variants are in the wild.

In August 2019, 4.3 million WannaCry infection attempts were stopped worldwide by Sophos-protected endpoints – 8.8% of these stopped were located in India.*

The continued existence of the WannaCry threat is largely due to the ability of these new variants to bypass the ‘kill switch.’  However, when Sophos researchers analyzed and executed a number of variant samples, they found that their ability to encrypt data was neutralized as a result of code corruption.

Because of the way in which WannaCry infects new victims – checking to see if a computer is already infected and, if so moving on to another target – infection by an inert version of the malware effectively protects the device from being infected with the active strain. In short, new variants of the malware act as an accidental vaccine, offering still unpatched and vulnerable computers a sort of immunity from subsequent attack by the same malware.

However, the very fact that these computers could be infected in the first place suggests the patch against the main exploit used in the WannaCry attacks has not been installed – a patch that was released more than two years ago.

The original WannaCry malware was detected just 40 times and since then SophosLabs researchers have identified 12,480 variants of the original code. Closer inspection of more than 2,700 samples (accounting for 98 percent of the detections) revealed they had all evolved to bypass the ‘kill switch’ – a specific URL that, if the malware connects to it, automatically ends the infection process – and all had a corrupted ransomware component and were unable to encrypt data.

Sophos researchers have also traced the first appearance of today’s most widespread corrupted variant back to just two days after the original attack: May 14, 2017, when it was uploaded to VirusTotal, but had not yet been seen in the wild.

“The WannaCry outbreak of 2017 changed the threat landscape forever. Our research highlights how many unpatched computers are still out there, and if you haven’t installed updates that were released more than two years ago – how many other patches have you missed? In this case, some victims have been lucky because variants of the malware immunized them against newer versions. But no organization should rely on this. Instead, standard practice should be a policy of installing patches whenever they are issued, and a robust security solution in place that covers all endpoints, networks and systems,” said Peter Mackenzie, security specialist at Sophos and lead author of the research. 

How to protect against WannaCry malware and ransomware in general

  • Check that you have a full inventory of all devices connected to your network and that they are all up to date in terms of their security software
  • Always install the latest patches as soon as they are released on all the devices on your network
  • Verify if your computers are patched against the EternalBlue exploit used in WannaCry by following these instructions: How to Verify if a Machine is Vulnerable to EternalBlue – MS17-010
  • Keep regular backups of your most important and current data on an offline storage device as the best way to avoid having to pay a ransom when affected by ransomware
  • There is no silver bullet to security, and a layered security model is the best practice all businesses need to implement
  • For example, Sophos Intercept Xemploys a comprehensive defense-in-depth approach to endpoint protection, combining multiple leading next-gen techniques to deliver malware detection, exploit protection and built-in endpoint detection and response (EDR)

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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Amazon Announces The Fire TV Streaming Trends in India

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Amazon revealed how India consumed entertainment on Fire TV devices in 2020. Since launching in 2017, Amazon Fire TV has entertained millions of customers in India, transforming the way entertainment is consumed in the living room.

2020 was a year that posed extraordinary challenges. Customers adapted to the new normal, streaming more of their favourite content on Fire TV devices, making it their preferred place for all the entertainment needs. 

“With the best selection of TV shows, movies and originals from all popular content providers, Fire TV is now an integral part of the customer’s living room. In 2020, customers loved the Fire TV experience for everything from entertainment, originals, fitness, gaming, sports and much more. With Alexa, voice quickly became the simplest way to find and watch your favourite content; with Fire TV’s universal search customers do not have to switch through multiple apps.” said Parag Gupta, Head, Amazon Devices, India. “We are thrilled to see the response from customers from across India and will continue to provide an intuitive, simple and transformative Fire TV experience,” he added.

Here are some fascinating streaming trends that show how customers across India did so much more than just watch movies and TV shows on Fire TV devices in 2020.

Fire TV in Demand

  • Millions of Fire TV devices have been sold in India making it a customer favourite. In 2020, Fire TV saw more than 50 million monthly active users on its devices worldwide, indicating customers are streaming more than ever before. 
  • Fire TV sales in metros continue to grow with Delhi NCR leading the way followed by Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad.
  • More new customers joined the Fire TV family in 2020 from non-metro cities. Among them, Coimbatore accounted for the highest number of Fire TV devices sold.

Stay Home, Stay Entertained with Fire TV 

  • With people spending more time at home, total hours spent by active customers on Fire TV devices more than doubled in 2020. Moreover, customers spent more than 3 hours per day on their Fire TV devices through 2020
  • Fire TV customers welcomed the eagerly awaited season 2 of the popular Prime Video original Mirzapur, with over 50% of them completing the new season within 48 hours of its release
  • Customers from over 3900 cities and towns across the country watched their favourite content on Prime Video on Fire TV devices 
  • 2020 was a year of several direct-to-service movies. Shakuntala Devi, Gulabo Sitabo, Coolie No. 1 (Bollywood), V (Telugu), Soorarai Pottru, Ponmagal Vandhal (Tamil) were the most watched movies from Prime Video on Fire TV devices 
  • Good content transcends geographical barriers. Prime Video’s first slate of direct to service movies received close to 50% viewership on Fire TV devices for titles in regional  languages (Tamil , Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada) from customers outside the home states  
  • Customers loved to watch their cricketing heroes in action as viewership grew by 50% for Disney+ Hotstar on Fire TV devices during IPL 2020

Beyond Movies and TV shows 

  • Customers loved listening to music on their Fire TV devices with Amazon Prime Music streaming growing more than 35% in 2020. 
  • Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chhattisgarh, Manipur and Sikkim emerged as the fastest growing states for music streaming on Fire TV devices 
  • Customers did more with their Fire TV devices! Hours spent on fitness and cooking apps on Fire TV devices grew by 3X during lockdown. 
  • Customers loved playing their favourite games on Fire TV devices as gaming app hours more than doubled during the lockdown. The love for gaming continued even after the lockdown with gaming hours remaining 65% higher than pre-lockdown. 

Just #AskAlexa on Fire TV  

  • Customers using the Alexa Voice Remote to search content increased by more than 70% in 2020 versus 2019 
  • Jaipur topped the charts with most voice searches on Fire TV devices among non-metros 
  • Getting smarter with Alexa! Customers used their Fire TV devices twice as much in 2020 to control their smart home appliances using Alexa
  • ‘Wild Planet – Animal Sounds Library’ was 2020’s most popular Alexa Skill on Fire TV devices, followed by ‘Sanjeev Kapoor recipes’ Alexa Skill 
  • Ramayana and Mahabharata together saw close to 350K content searches during lockdown 
  • Aaj Tak, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah and Doraemon were the most asked terms on Alexa in Hindi 

In a challenging year, Amazon Fire TV continued to bring entertainment to customers. There are tens of millions of customers all over the globe streaming billions of hours of content every month on Fire TV.  Fire TV continues to get better with new features and functionality added regularly.

*All data and trends indicated above are for installed Fire TV devices across India for 2020. Definition of time periods: Lockdown (24th March to 30th May) | Pre-Lockdown (24th Jan to 24th March) | Recent Past (1 Nov to 31st Dec)

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79% Users Reconsidering WhatsApp Despite New Privacy Policy: CMR Study

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Amidst the raging controversy over the recently updated WhatsApp Privacy Policy announcement, Indians are reconsidering their WhatsApp usage, with some even contemplating to leave WhatsApp post-implementation of the new Terms of Service. As per new research by CyberMedia Research (CMR), 76% of those surveyed are aware of the new WhatsApp Privacy Policy. An overwhelming 79% are reconsidering using WhatsApp, with 28% of those even planning to leave WhatsApp after implementation of its new policy in May 2021.

In response to the WhatsApp ‘take it or leave it policy’, consumers ascribed a range of emotions ranging from feeling angry (49%), to not trusting WhatsApp ever again (45%), to feeling a breach of trust (35%). A mere 10% of consumers remain indifferent to the new Policy announcement.

Commenting on the study findings, Satya Mohanty, Head- Industry Consulting Group (ICG), CMR, “When it comes to messaging with loved ones, or communicating with the world, WhatsApp has been the default choice. However, as our study findings point out, the current debate goes much beyond privacy oriented consumers, with some even contemplating stopping their WhatsApp usage, and considering alternatives, such as Telegram or Signal. Consumer preference is being driven by word of mouth, as well as by the array of features the platform offers.”

For users of instant messaging apps, trust and security of instant messaging apps are absolutely critical.

According to Prabhu Ram, Head- Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, “We are at the cusp of a potential seminal shift in consumer’s understanding and perspectives around privacy, security and most importantly, brand trust. For consumers, WhatsApp was their own, free and intimate messaging platform. As WhatsApp eventually moves into a much closer integration with the Facebook ecosystem from hereon, it risks an erosion in brand trust and brand loyalty – both key determinants for enduring competitive market advantage.”

As per the study results, 41% of those surveyed indicated planning to shift to Telegram, whereas 35% preferred Signal. Telegram scores over Signal in terms of awareness (55%) and actual usage (39%). Over the past one year, 37% of users have actually used Telegram, compared to a mere 10% for Signal, a rather nascent messaging app that is enjoying a spike in downloads in recent days.

“I believe the current shift in social networking-cum-messaging platforms is not transient. Driven by network effects, the emerging privacy-focused messaging alternatives can swiftly gain enduring traction. Our research points out that Telegram, in particular, has gained traction amongst users over the past year, much before the recent WhatsApp PR fiasco. While Signal has enjoyed a recent burst in its popularity, it has not been able to scale swiftly enough, and users have faced challenges with it, ” added Prabhu.

Here are some other major highlights from the Social Safe study:

  • Majority of users on WhatsApp and FB Messenger do not feel convenient and safe while storing their chat backup on third party or non-end-to-end encrypted platforms such as Google Drive or iCloud. Among the alternatives, Telegram users retain high trust in the dedicated cloud that Telegram offers (49%).
  • 55% of WhatsApp users face the challenge of media files (photos, videos, documents, PPT) from messenger apps, eating up phone memory.
  • Almost 50% of those surveyed have received suspicious messages from unknown numbers, with potential phishing, malicious links. The occurrence of phishing is high amongst WhatsApp users (52%), and lowest amongst Telegram users (28%).
  • Three in every four IM users face challenges frequently or sometimes in re-sharing the content on Groups whenever new members join in.
  • >71% people feels safe while joining any mass Group or Channel on Telegram as they don’t need to reveal their phone number to strangers.
  • The occurrence of spam is high with incumbents, with >50% of WhatsApp and FB Messenger users facing spams daily.
  • Only one-third of IM users feel acknowledged on abusive content reporting methods of their messaging applications. For instance, 73% of WhatsApp users feel helpless to counter illegal, abusive and copyrighted content, whereas Telegram users are most acknowledged while reporting such content through in-app buttons, and an Abuse Notification Channel.

Notes for Editors

The CMR Social Safe study is based on an extensive primary consumer survey covering 1500 consumers spread across the top eight cities of India, viz., Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune.

For results based on a randomly chosen sample of this size, there is 95% confidence that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 3% of what they would be if the entire population had been surveyed.

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boAt Becomes World’s 5th Largest Wearable Device Brand

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Breaking all barriers, home-grown consumer audio & accessories brand boAt Lifestyle has placed India on the global map by becoming 5th largest wearable brand basis shipments as per the leading market research and advisory firm International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker for 3Q20 (July-September 2020). In addition to becoming the 5th largest wearable brand, boAt has also solidified its position in the Indian market by capturing 1/3rd market share.  According to IDC data, the brand sailed through the pandemic to break all records and has witnessed a growth of 4X to reach 3.3 million units shipped in the last quarter.

Rise in ‘from Home’ culture like ‘Work from Home’, ‘Study at Home’ and ‘Stadium at Home (with IPL) continues to act as a catalyst this festive season for consumers to buy boAt products that offer great sound experience. Aggressive marketing backed with strong product line-up at affordable prices, strong channel partnerships, portfolios across various price tiers, and building a strong consumer base are some of the strategies that worked for boAt.

Congratulating boAt on this historic occasion Rajesh Sharma Executive Director and Principal Advisor at Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA), “It’s indeed a matter of great satisfaction and a proud moment for us to witness an Indian brand capture the one-third of the earwear / mobile accessories market. We at ICEA have always been supportive and promoting Indian Champions and, envisage boAt to export its products globally. Indian start-ups are competitive and have the potential to become global leaders. We need to focus on building capabilities in domestic R&D and undertake vertical integration across the wearable space to establish India as a global supplier”.

On the global recognition, Aman Gupta, Co-founder, boAt said, “We are humbled overwhelmed with the confidence and support entrusted by boAtheads over the years. It is a moment of pride for all Indians as it validates the growing acceptance of home-grown brands globally. With the support of our Govt. we will aim to become a global lifestyle brand. We at boAt understand the requirement of millennials and will continue doing what we do the best to serve the community of boAtheads. “

boAt has been challenging the status quo in a sector dominated by established global brands. It has ramped up quickly in a short span of just over four years, through its core high-quality, smart, efficient, stylish, and durable line of audio products. It has already created a community of over 3 million boAtheads online (consumers) who want to be seen listening and wearing their boAt accessories to make a lifestyle statement.

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