SA white hat hackers disable Bitcoin-mining virus

Published by ITWeb on 17 October 2017.

A dangerous Bitcoin-mining virus has been detected and disabled by two Johannesburg-based IT experts.

A potentially devastating Bitcoin-mining virus has been stopped in its tracks, thanks to the vigilance and quick actions of two local IT experts.

Although mining Bitcoin with regular computer hardware is no longer profitable, that isn’t keeping criminals from giving it a try. Over the past few years, there have been several types of Bitcoin-mining malware, infecting computers all over the world.

White hat ethical hacker William Vermaak, from PBSA’s digital arm pbDigital, and senior software developer, Morne Wilken, detected malicious activity on one of their customer’s servers last week.

The two immediately analysed the source of the virus and uninfected the server. “Unfortunately, the only trace left in the code by the originator is the Bitcoin wallet that the Bitcoins will be deposited into. To trace the Bitcoin wallet is extremely difficult and you will need a police warrant to get any information from the Bitcoin companies hosting the wallet,” says Vermaak.

According to Vermaak, the virus had gone undetected by all available virus packages. “We submitted samples to ESET the next day and [the company] immediately responded from its virus lab in Denmark, confirming the virus was wild and that detection for the threat had been added to its latest definition updates.”

Founded in 1992, ESET is a Slovakia-based IT security company that offers anti-virus and firewall products such as ESET NOD32. The security company named the virus winlog.VBS – VBS/TrojanDownloader.Agent.QE trojan winlog.bat – BAT/CoinMiner.UG Trojan.

By the time of detection, the virus had infected 0.04% of Windows computers in SA, while Russia was hardest hit, with 0.5% of all Windows computers infected. Windows is currently the most popular end-user operating system in the world.

Essentially, a Bitcoin-mining virus, the Winlog Virus downloads a Bitcoin CPU miner on the victim’s computer, and then mines Bitcoins for the virus originator. Vermaak says this type of virus is particularly evasive.

“It tries to make itself resilient and configures various system schedules to start it again if it’s stopped. The virus will also install itself on the system as a system service. It infiltrates the System Registry and changes some keys to make itself run again if it’s shut down,” Vermaak explains.

“Shortcuts on the victim’s desktop are modified to run the virus and these then run the original program, in an attempt to mask its presence. The virus also copies itself into various other files on the system – including Microsoft.exe – to ensure resilience.”

Bitcoin-mining machines

Almost three months ago, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s Internet advisor, Herman Klimenko, issued a dire public warning that 20% to 30% of all computers in Russia were infected with computer malware designed to turn devices into Bitcoin-mining machines.

At the time Klimenko told Moscow-based news broadcaster RBC that viruses that install bitcoin-mining software are the “most common and most dangerous” type of computer malware in existence.

With the surge in Bitcoin-mining viruses, Vermaak says: “You need to keep your anti-virus software updated, and your operating system on the latest updates.

“With the growing demand for Bitcoin, this is sure to escalate in the near future, but it is still very new so hopefully we’ve stopped this method of infection for now.

“These days there is no such thing as a bulletproof system. Everything has got some weakness whether it’s a known or unknown vulnerability. Someone will find a vector that no one will think of to gain access to a system and use it to their advantage. The only thing you can do is to minimise the risk by using a good anti-virus package and to do backups regularly,” Vermaak concludes.

SignFlow ties up with Accfin to digitise accounting processes

Featured

The integration of two state-of-the-art software platforms transports the accounting profession into a new world of digitisation.

Digital signature workflow solution SignFlow and accounting software firm Accfin have integrated their respective software platforms, in a move that places the accounting profession securely in a new and exciting world of digitisation.

Accfin, a local software firm leading the way in automation of back-office systems for accounting and auditing companies, grew out of an accounting firm over 20 years ago. The recent tie-up with SignFlow – a locally developed and internationally recognised digital signature solution – essentially automates the entire communication process involved in the accounting practice.

Leon van der Merwe, head of digital at SignFlow parent company PBSA, explains, “By using the SignFlow feature in Accfin software, you eliminate the need for print, courier and e-mailing of sensitive documents to customers – and then having to wait days, even weeks for a response.

“SignFlow is built on a powerful, digital workflow engine that tracks progress and instils accountability and auditability. Apart from the obvious environmental advantages the solution offers, the value of saving time through increased efficiency, is most valuable to accountants, who work under tremendous time pressure.”

Accfin MD Mark Silberman says the integration with SignFlow “changes the state of play” in the accounting market place. “It automates the communication process. Our software allows accounting firms to communicate with their clients. The integration of SignFlow with [Accfin’s] Sky Software allows the customers of the accountant to authorise the filing of tax returns and approve company resolutions.”

Accfin, which strives to provide state-of-the-art back office systems to South African accounting firms, currently provides automation software across the sector – from large international firms, to small sole practitioners.

Van der Merwe says SignFlow is proud to be associated with Accfin Software – a company that is “definitely leading the way in automating back office systems for accounting and auditing firms”.

“SignFlow is fast becoming the most trusted digital signature workflow solution in South Africa, especially within the auditing and financial sectors,” concludes Van der Merwe.

Draftworx, SignFlow integration yields SA first

Featured

A recent partnership between the two software platforms brings a cutting-edge automation solution to the accounting and auditing industry.

In a move that has seen the birth of cutting-edge technology – the first of its kind in South Africa – SignFlow has partnered with Draftworx, addressing a critical need identified among auditors and corporate companies that draft financial statements.

Draftworx provides automated drafting and working paper financial software to more than 2 500 accounting and auditing firms. The company went to market six and a half years ago, bringing the industry easy-to-learn and easy-to-use automation software, which allows  accountants and auditors to generate International Financial Reporting Standards  (IFRS)/IFRS SME compliant financial statements and ISA audit, review, and compilation engagement compliance.

According to Leon van der Merwe, head of digital at SignFlow parent company PBSA, the integration between the two software platforms came about when a massive need among auditors and corporates that prepare their own financial statements was identified – that of automating and digitising the process of getting financial statements and engagement documents signed off by company directors.

“Auditors can now automate and digitise their document delivery processes using the DigiSign module in the Draftworx platform to distribute documents electronically for customers to sign, using legally binding SignFlow digital signatures. The distribution and signing process is completely digital and auditable, entirely removing the need to print, scan and deliver paper-based financial statements and engagement contracts.”

Draftworx CEO Earl Steyn says the company, which aims to be in the cloud by year-end, sees SignFlow becoming one of its core technologies and marketing advantages. “Accountants and auditors can reduce time wastage – as well as waiting periods – by having their clients sign all their documentation offsite and at their leisure.”

Steyn adds his experience with SignFlow – a locally developed and internationally recognised digital signature and workflow solution – has been “phenomenal”. He says the team pays attention to detail and is willing to customise SignFlow to Draftworx and its clients’ requirements.

Van der Merwe says the SignFlow team is proud to be associated with Draftworx software, “which is leading the way in IFRS/IFRS SME compliant financial statements and ISA audit software in South Africa and across Africa”.

ACS partnership bolsters digital certificate security

Featured

SignFlow has teamed up with Altech Card Solutions to offer Thales hardware security modules to its digital signature customers.

In a move that will see users’ private keys and personal digital certificates receiving a serious security boost, SignFlow has partnered with Altech Card Solutions (ACS), a division of Altron TMT, to offer Thales HSMs (hardware security modules) to digital signature customers.

Using SignFlow’s PKCS#11 cryptographic interface, SignFlow uses Thales NShield Connect HSMs to perform highly specialised cryptographic operations, and to fully manage and secure private keys and personal digital certificates.

Head of digital at SignFlow’s parent company PBSA, Leon can der Merwe, says the partnership with ACS sees SignFlow extending its integration reach to include the Thales NShield range of network attached, FIPS 140-2 Level 3 HSMs.

“Apart from deploying the NShield devices in the highly-secure SignFlow Cloud, we now also offer the NShield range to corporate customers who would like to localise and manage their SignFlow private keys in private data centres.”

The SignFlow HSMs are directly integrated with multiple local and global CA’s (Certificate Authorities) to offer stringent, legally compliant Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES), Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) and Adobe Approved Trust List (AATL) certificates, which are applied to documents through its digital signature application.

A division of Altron TMT (Pty) Ltd, ACS was formed in 1993 and is today firmly established as a leading player in the secure electronic transactions market.

It is Thales’ established track record in the payments security space and global footprint in hardware and software encryption solutions that makes this partnership so advantageous, says ACS.

SignFlow, an enterprise-class digital signature and document workflow application, was born in a digital era that has seen new business opportunities emerging as paper-based systems are replaced by digital platforms.

SignFlow digital signatures are powered by robust public-key infrastructure (PKI) technology, which is recognised as best practice for ensuring digital accountability. SignFlow digital signatures offer an effective, secure and legally compliant method of providing accountability during electronic transactions.

“Our partnership with ACS will benefit customers across the spectrum – including consumers using SignFlow’s SignFREE to sign documents, businesses using the SignFlow Cloud to distribute documents and government and corporate institutions using SignFlow’s Enterprise Hybrid Servers and Private Network Servers to digitally sign and workflow documents for sign-offs,” says Van der Merwe.

Got business mail? Pressure sealers offer huge time saving benefits

Featured

As a business or institution that relies on productivity, time is valuable – let pbOffice help you maximise it. 

It has been said that time – not money – is the 21 century’s most precious commodity. It is free, yet priceless and, once spent, it can never be regained.

So it comes as no surprise that the modern-day business places so much emphasis on time saving, and productivity is measured according to stricter deadlines than ever before.

At pbOffice, a division of customer communication firm PBSA, we pride ourselves on offering state-of-the-art solutions that allow our customers to not only make the most of their valuable time – but also to experience tangible results in as little time as possible.

Epitomising this methodology, is our pressure sealer product range. Pressure sealers cut manual printing, folding and sealing time down by a massive 90%.

With exclusive distribution rights on Welltec pressure sealers in Africa, pbOffice is the number one supplier of pressure sealers and payslip sealers (also referred to as one-step mailers) in South Africa.

Welltec is the world’s number one desktop pressure sealer company, holding over 75% of the European and Asian market since its inception in 1999. The firm exports products to over 30 countries across the globe.

Largely used in South Africa for preparing salary slips, municipal bills and other mail notices such as traffic fines, pressure sealers offer a host of time-saving – and other – gains to any industry that has a business mailing component to it.

Reaping benefits

Also referred to as variable information printing, our pressure seal digital printing systems allow text and graphics to be changed from one printed document to the next, without slowing down the process.

Pressure seal technology completely does away with the need for separate folding, filling and sealing of envelopes. This alone represents huge time savings. And, because documents go directly from being printed, to pressure sealed, there is no need for handling of documents.

Apart from being massive time savers, pressure sealers give business mail an indisputable quality of professionalism and security.

Pressure sealed documents do not need envelopes – they serve as their own. This means you save on time, money and storage and handling. Our machines offer a range of solutions for different form sizes and fold types.

Pressure sealers also print addresses directly onto documents and forms, which means no more problematic window envelopes or messy alternative solutions.

Finally, in terms of security, pressure sealers complete documents with solid, consistent edges, while high-pressure sealing makes for a much more effective seal than traditional envelopes. And, because each piece of mail is individual and self-contained, there is no risk of two confidential documents being put together in the same envelope, or a document being placed in the wrong envelope.

pbOffice currently supplies pressure sealers to an extensive customer base and offers solutions to suit all industry mailing needs.

For more information, visit our Pressure Sealer product page.

To watch a short video on Welltec’s best-selling mid-range desktop pressure sealer, the Postmate III, click here.

FICA compliance made easy

Featured

SA’s leading data bureau gives businesses the key to pain-free compliance.

Although the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) came into effect almost a decade and a half ago, it is as relevant today as the day it was conceived.

Instituted in 2003 to curb financial crimes, such as money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorist financing activities, FICA is a law that all financial institutions need to comply with. This includes any business that provides credit facilities in any form – whether assets like houses and cars, or retail items like mobile phone contracts and appliance/clothing accounts – or cash in the form of loans.

FICA basically makes it incumbent on all aforementioned financial services companies to reassess their entire client list, in order to ensure that all clients’ identities and finances can be verified. Think of it as a sweeping credit check of every person in an existing database – it is a means of identifying any individual who could potentially pose a threat to your company.

As with any law governing how businesses handle customer identification and verification processes, and how they manage records, FICA is multifaceted, and comes with severe penalties for businesses that are non-compliant.

Pain-free compliance

But, as daunting as this may sound, it does not need to be – nor does FICA compliance need to be another headache you have to deal with as a credit providing company.

South Africa’s leading data bureau, pbVerify, offers a range of services to make your path as a business striving for FICA compliance as straight as possible.

A division of pbDigital, under Customer Communications firm PBSA, pbVerify is essentially a credit risk management tool for any size business in South Africa that grants credit accounts and payment terms to other businesses and/or to South African consumers.

pbVerify’s online web-based tools help companies assess credit risk by evaluating the credit history of any business and its principles and/or any consumer a company wishes to grant credit terms to. This is done via multiple credit bureaus and other business critical data providers, through one easy-to-use website.

Included in pbVerify’s suite of services, are the following consumer credit check products, which offer your business a painless means of becoming FICA compliant:

Consumer traces for address validation: facilitated by three of South Africa’s main data credit bureaus – XDS, TransUnion and Compuscan – pbVerify’s consumer trace service gives you access to consumers’ latest  contact information.

Bank account verification: pbVerify’s Bank Account Verification Service allows you to efficiently verify the bank details of a consumer, and determine the status of their account – whether the account is currently active, open or closed and whether it has been open for more than three months. The service is available for the 5 major banks in South Africa only.

CIPC Company & Director Verification: pbVerify’s CIPC Company Search Report – one of the most advanced CIPC search tools in South Africa – allows customers to easily retrieve and verify all registration information related to any registered South African business and its principles. Complementing this search too, is the CIPC Director Search Report.

ID Verification: The pbVerify Home Affairs ID Verification tool is used to determine the correct identity information on South African citizens. (This validates the consumer’s identification, but does not confirm whether or not they are credit active)

Alongside this, pbVerify’s ID verification API is used by various corporations, retailers, telecommunications companies, online service providers and system integrators to instantly verify identities for an range of different functions, including customer identification at point of sale, fraud prevention, online transaction verification, customer relations, human resource software and more.

Solar energy: How it all began

Solar energy sunflowersLong before civilization as we know it even existed, the sun was shining. This giant sphere of glowing gases is the heart of our solar system and is by far Earth’s most valuable source of energy for life.

The sun is abundant, it is continuous and it is free. It is no wonder then, that people have become so dependent on the energy generated by this celestial phenomenon – solar energy – as an unfailing source of light and heat.

Today, with the pervasive rise in electricity costs, many people have been looking to alternative sources of energy; and the sun is beyond question one of the greatest non-taxable sources of energy out there. But how did solar energy, as we now know it, come to be?

Solar energy – or more accurately, photovoltaic (PV) energy (solar cells) – has origins going as far back as 1876, when William Grylls Adams discovered that exposing selenium to light produced electricity.

Seventy eight years later, in 1954, three Bell Laboratories researchers by the names of Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson announced the discovery of the first silicon solar cell – a finding that proved to be a watershed moment in the history of solar energy.

Although too inefficient to be of much use, early solar cells produced enough electricity to run small electrical devices. This was lauded as one of the most significant breakthroughs ever in the history of solar energy. So much so, in fact, that the 25th of April – the day Bell Laboratories demonstrated to the world how silicon solar cells could produce electricity – is to this day celebrated as the anniversary of the first practical solar cell.

On 26 April 1954 the New York Times stated on its front page that the discovery of the first silicon solar cell marked “the beginning of a new era, eventually leading to the realisation of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams – the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilisation”.

From then onwards, solar energy grew more extensive, and gradually became a more affordable, viable option. In 1956 solar cells were commercially available – but at a whopping $300 (about R3 800 today) per 1 watt solar cell. At this stage, solar cells were only being used in small items like toys and radios – the first items to make solar energy available to consumers.

From these humble beginnings, solar energy snowballed, with solar power becoming the standard for powering space-bound satellites in the late 1960’s.

Soon after, in the early 1970’s, new methods were discovered to reduce the price to $20 (about R260 today) per watt, and off-shore oil rigs used solar cells to power up warning lights on top of rigs.

The rest, as they say, is history. From the 1970’s to the 1990’s, there was a huge change in the use of solar cells – from powering homes in remote areas, to fuelling telecommunication towers.

Today, solar energy touches almost every part of our lives and is becoming increasingly more affordable for everyday use. We use it to power up electric gate motors, to supply power to remote housing, and even to replace old windmills, which cost a fortune to repair.

African Advantages

In Africa in particular, solar energy is a huge godsend, because so many African countries see a lot of bright sunlight throughout the year. This is especially so in the dryer, often more remote areas, meaning solar power has the potential to bring energy to virtually any location in Africa.

In terms of the distribution of solar resources across Africa, more than 85% of the continent’s landscape gets at least 2 000 kWh/(m² year).

South Africa alone is expected to reach an installed capacity of 8 400 MW by 2030, along with 8 400 MW of wind power. The amount of exposure South Africa gets to the sun’s rays by far exceeds the average values in Europe, Russia, and most of North America.

It is this great advantage that allows pbElectrical – a division of PBSA – to seize the vast opportunities our geography affords us, and to offer a range of reliable and affordable solar power products.

Solar Borehole Water Pumps

Because solar water pumps have no running costs, our solar borehole water pumps are the most cost effective way to pump water on farms.

Being a proud agent for the renowned Pumpman™ Solar Water Pump range, pbElectrical caters for all your water needs, offering a range of pumps that will pump water at different depths. Pumpman pumps are built to withstand even the harshest local weather and water conditions.

Curious to know how solar borehole water pumps work? It all starts with solar panels, which are made up of PV cells. These cells convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity throughout the day when the sun shines.

The brains of the system – the control box – is what makes everything work. This includes the monitoring of water levels in the well and water tank, as well as switching the pump on and off, ensuring the pump only pumps water when needed.

Finally, there is the water pump. This submersible pump goes into the borehole and pumps water to the water tank. The type of system you install will depend on factors such as how much water you need, the ground level, water level, etc.

About pbElectrical

pbElectrical provides electrical contracting services and products, as well as a range of add-on services, to corporates and small and medium-sized enterprises.

The division offers existing PBSA customers complementary turnkey solutions, as well as offering new clients holistic electrical and related products and services, backed by a certified ISO 9001 quality management system.

Contact:

Website: http://www.pbsa.co.za/pbelec.php

Office: 011 516 9416

Mobile: 083 462 6518 (Helgard Joubert)

Email: helgardj@pbsa.co.za