Cyber experts advise users to be cautious while using mobile apps

This June 16, 2017, file photo shows social media app icons on a smartphone held by an Associated Press reporter in San Francisco. (AP)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Cyber experts advise users to be cautious while using mobile apps

  • The countries attacked most often were Egypt, accounting for 31 percent, Saudi Arabia with 18 percent and the UAE with 17 percent of all attacks in the region, Kaspersky’s analysis said

RIYADH: Choosing the right partner is important, but there is a need to be careful while using apps for this as Saudi Arabia is the second most-affected country in the Middle East from cyberattacks disguised as dating apps.
An analysis by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity and anti-virus provider, has shown that in 2019 the region saw a circulation of 658 threats under the guise of over 20 popular dating applications, with 2,082 attacks on 1,352 users detected.
The countries attacked most often were Egypt, accounting for 31 percent, Saudi Arabia with 18 percent and the UAE with 17 percent of all attacks in the region, Kaspersky’s analysis said.
It added that popular dating services used worldwide, such as Tinder, Bumble or Zoosk, often become bait used to spread mobile malware, or to retrieve personal data to later bombard users with unwanted ads or even spend their money on expensive subscriptions.
Such files have nothing to do with legitimate apps, as they only use a name and sometimes copy a design of authentic dating services, it said.
It added that cybercriminals would most often choose Tinder to cover their files: The app’s name was used in nearly a third of all cases (693 attacks detected in the region).
However, the researchers noticed that around 13 percent of attacks came from apps disguised as local services solely for
Arab matchmaking.
The danger these malicious files bring varies from file to file, ranging from Trojans that can download other malware, to ones that send expensive
SMS messages, to adware.
It further revealed that cybercriminals who specialize in phishing also do not miss the chance to feed on those seeking to find love. Fake copies of popular dating applications and websites, such as Match.com and Tinder, flood the internet.

BACKGROUND

Popular dating services used worldwide, such as Tinder, Bumble or Zoosk, often become a bait used to spread mobile malware.

Users are required to leave their personal data or connect to the applications via their social media account. The result is not surprising: The data will later be used or sold by cybercriminals, while the user will be left with nothing.
Muhammad Khurram Khan, professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University, told Arab News: “As the use of dating and social media apps continues to rise and gain popularity, cybercriminals continue to promulgate and leverage fake malicious apps to steal users’ personal data. This technique is called social engineering, which exploits human psychology and weaknesses to trap innocent netizens.”
Khan, who is the founder CEO of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research, Washington D.C, added that fake apps masquerade as legitimate applications to trick users to install them and once installed, these applications could perform a variety of malicious actions through ‘honey traps’ e.g. access the device’s camera, microphone, calendar, GPS location, personal data, contact list and financial information.
“Cybersecurity awareness and hygiene could help to protect from these risks by practicing simple sets of actions,” he said.
As an expert he advised that users should always stay attentive and download original versions of applications that are available in the official app stores.
“It is imperative to keep checking the apps permissions to know about their rights to access the devices resources e.g microphone, camera and photos,” he said, adding: “Users should also use and update their antivirus and other malware protection tools.”
 
Vladimir Kuskov, head of advanced threat research and software classification at Kaspersky, said: “Love is one of those topics that interests people universally, and, of course, that means that cybercriminals are also there. Online dating has made our lives easier and yet uncovered new risks on the path to love. We advise users to stay attentive and use legal versions of applications that are available in official application stores.”


Local newspapers are facing their own coronavirus crisis

A man reads a full-page advertisment on the backpage of a newspaper, in Ripon, England on March 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 04 April 2020

Local newspapers are facing their own coronavirus crisis

  • More than 2,100 cities and towns have lost a paper in the past 15 years, mostly weeklies, and newsroom employment has shrunk by half since 2004

NEW YORK: Just when Americans need it most, a US newspaper industry already under stress is facing an unprecedented new challenge.
Readers desperate for information are more reliant than ever on local media as the coronavirus spreads across the US They want to know about cases in their area, where testing centers are, what the economic impact is. Papers say online traffic and subscriptions have risen — the latter even when they’ve lowered paywalls for pandemic-related stories.
But newspapers and other publications are under pressure as advertising craters. They are cutting jobs, staff hours and pay, dropping print editions — and in some cases shutting down entirely.
Circulation and web traffic are up at the Sun Chronicle, a daily in Attleboro, Massachusetts, as it scrambles to cover the coronavirus pandemic. It’s “all we do,” said Craig Borges, executive editor and general manager. But with many local restaurants, gyms, colleges and other businesses closed, the paper has laid off a handful of sales and mailroom employees and a political reporter. It has about a dozen newsroom employees left.
“Hopefully we can work this out and make it through,” Borges said.
Researchers have long worried that the next recession — which economists say is already upon us — “could be an extinction-level event for newspapers,” said Penelope Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies the news industry.
More than 2,100 cities and towns have lost a paper in the past 15 years, mostly weeklies, and newsroom employment has shrunk by half since 2004. Many publications struggled as consumers turned to the Internet for news, battered by the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the rise of giants like Google and Facebook that dominated the market for digital ads.
More recently, big national newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have diversified revenue by adding millions of digital subscribers. Many others, however, remain heavily dependent on advertising.
Twenty global news publishers recently surveyed by the International News Media Association expect a median 23% decline in 2020 ad sales. In the US, newspaper ad revenues have dropped 20% to 30% in the last few weeks compared with a year ago, FTI Consulting’s Ken Harding wrote in another INMA report.
On Monday, the largest US newspaper chain, Gannett, announced 15-day furloughs and pay cuts for many employees. On Tuesday, another major chain, Lee Enterprises, also announced salary reductions and furloughs. The Tampa Bay Times, owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute, cut five days of its print edition and announced furloughs for non-newsroom staff.
Further down the food chain, many smaller publishers — particularly local alt-weeklies with a heavy focus on dining, arts and entertainment — are making even harder decisions.
In rural Nevada, Battle Born Media is scaling back or ceasing publication of six rural weekly newspapers. The Reno News & Review, an alternative weekly, suspended operations and laid off all staffers. C&G Newspapers, which publishes 19 weekly newspapers near Detroit, suspended print publication. Alternative paper Pittsburgh Current went online-only.
Report for America, which subsidizes journalists in local newsrooms and at The Associated Press, says some of its local-media partners report such deteriorating finances that they may not be able to pay their half of these reporters’ salaries.
In suburban St. Louis last week, businesses were calling and canceling ads as fast as editor Don Corrigan and his staff could write articles to fill the empty space left behind. A local hospital wanted to run a full-page ad offering tips to fight the virus in the three community weeklies he runs — but wanted it for free. A softhearted Corrigan agreed.
He announced this week that the Webster-Kirkwood Times, South County Time and West End World will stop publishing, although he’s keeping the website running. “I don’t think people realize how much it costs to put out a newspaper,” he said, noting that some readers are belatedly suggesting a GoFundMe page or a paywall for the web site.
A $2.2 trillion relief act signed Friday by President Donald Trump could provide loans or grants to smaller local publishers who maintain their payrolls. Industry executives are also discussing future government bailout requests that would preserve the independence of news organizations, two newspaper-industry trade groups wrote in a Monday letter to Trump and congressional leaders.
One proposal under discussion would recommend creating a federal fund to pay for government newspaper ads that offer health advice. Another possibility might be to offer people tax credits for subscriptions.
The Shepherd Express newspaper, which took its name from an Allen Ginsberg poem, has for 38 years told residents of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about up-and-coming musicians, hot restaurants, crooked politicians and where to find hemp-related products. Last week, it suspended publication and laid off staff.
Editor, publisher and owner Louis Fortis is keeping the website operating and promises to resume printing at some point, in some form. Yet he’s feeling the same uncertainty as millions of other Americans. “I’m very disappointed,” he said. “On the other hand, you have to look at the big picture. People are dying.”