We are back with the tech weekly update, bringing you a condensed version of the most important headlines in the fintech, biotech, and telecom world. What were some of the big stories this past week? There was a record-high number of cyber threats in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. The Singapore-based fintech Thunes is going at a rocket speed in its innovation efforts. Miami will pay its residents dividends in Crypto. Thousands of Binance’s ex-customers are joining the legal action against the platform. Banks are moving to the cloud. Robinhood suffers a large security breach. Nokia issues a new report in which it warns customers about mobile banking scams. A blood test could predict who is at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Siemens partners with UCSF to build a carbon-neutral imaging technology.
More Than 81 Million Cyber Threats In Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.
The new report shows a record increase in cyber attacks in several African countries in the first half of 2021. In Kenya alone, there was 32.8 million detected cyber threats, followed closely by 31.5 million in South Africa and another 16.7 million in Nigeria. That sums up to over 81 million cyber attacks in those three countries in the first six months of this year alone.
“Threats can be categorized as criminal (80% of attacks), targeted (19.9%), and advanced (0.01%). The advanced grouping is significantly more sophisticated and features increased investment from attack groups. Unfortunately, both criminal and targeted threat vectors learn from the advanced category to enhance their own attack techniques,” says Amin Hasbini, Head of Research Centre, Global Research and Analysis Team, Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Kaspersky.
Hasbini is pointing out what several experts around the globe already spoke about: the current hacks are significantly more sophisticated. Currently, the biggest threat actors in Africa are DeathStalker, CactusPete, and IAmTheKing. The report by Kaspersky also points out ransomware is becoming more and more dangerous for local organizations.
“Our research shows that the most threatened industries common across these three countries are government and telecommunications, with diplomatic, education, and healthcare also being cause for concern. We have also seen large service-oriented organisations being targeted, for instance telecommunications, because of the services they provide high-profile companies. Threat attacks are using these as platforms to gain access to other businesses,” says Hasbini. “Of course, the growth of 5G across Africa means hackers have a new platform to exploit. Furthermore, advanced threat actors will buy network access from other cybercriminals. This will also result in increased collaboration between these cybercriminals and cyber gangs as they look at more effective ways of achieving their objectives. Different gangs will also start specialising in tools and other methods to better advance penetration. As people and companies rely more on technology, the number of threats will continue to increase. People must accept the risks of living a connected lifestyle and embrace the technology and tools available to safeguard themselves,” he adds.
The Singapore-based fintech Thunas is going through fast-paced changes and upgrades. Since the beginning of November, they have already managed to secure a payment institution license in France, announced a partnership with a large software vendor Finastra, and integrated it into Finastra’s SaaS payments platform. Thunes is a perfect example of a fintech integrating with traditional banks and pureplay tech to create a unique value-added proposition and expand rapidly.
“The pace at which the cross-border payment industry is transforming and the rate at which customers’ demands are changing, coupled with the ever-increasing regulatory scrutiny, are driving us to constantly challenge ourselves, look beyond the horizon, and seek synergies with dynamic, innovative, and engaging partners. In a bid to deliver a better global payments experience for everyone, we are delighted to partner with Finastra to deepen connectivity to existing and new financial institutions on the Finastra platform,” said Dawei Wang, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Thunes.
The Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, announced on Thursday the city of Miami would be providing the residents with Bitcoin Wallets. The reason behind this? The city will pay them dividends in bitcoin for staking in Miami’s own cryptocurrency, the so-called Miami coin. “We’re going to be the very first city in America to give Bitcoin yield as a dividend directly to its residents,” Suarez said “We’re going to create digital wallets for our residents. And we’re going to give them Bitcoin directly from the yield of MiamiCoin.”
Miami Coin is the first U.S city cryptocurrency, with San Francisco being the one that is likely to follow soon. So far, the coin has earned over $21 million for the city of Miami, being launched in August of this year.
There are thousands of customers that have registered their claims against the trading platform Binance that has had several outages back in Spring of this year. The proceedings are brought in the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center and the claimants are represented by White & Case LLP.
The customers wishing to join the claim against the trading platform can register on binanceclaim.com and there are almost 2500 of the ex-customers that chose to do it so far, with the number growing every day.
Liti Capital’s executive chairman and CIO David Kay said, “last week we saw more than 1,000 claimants register, potentially making this the largest international consumer arbitration in history and a landmark case for the crypto industry.”
Earlier this year, Kay has been talking about what makes the Binance case so unique. What many fail to understand is the scope of Binance success combined with the fact the company was not really registered and did not belong to any particular country. Thus, the arbitration needs to manage the issue of a stateless company. The huge consumer group involved in the process does not help the complexity of the case either.
Kay told Finextra: “Multinationals were the first entities to live in multiple states, but they still had headquarters, they had homes and importantly they had places where they could be sued. Binance has succeeded in becoming a behemoth while being ‘nowhere’ – they have no headquarters so they are regulated by no one.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit report showed that almost 75% of bank executives believe that moving to the cloud would be helpful to their companies. As for the biggest drivers for the adoption of the cloud, the executives mentioned cost, AI adoption, better customer experience, agility, scalability, and elasticity. Moreover, the report shows that almost ⅔ of all surveyed executives believe big techs will become so crucial to the traditional banks that it will require them to gain a status of regulated institutions.
Andrew Reeves, the head at Temenos Cloud, said, “The pandemic has clearly lit a fuse under cloud adoption with banks having to deliver and scale digital services rapidly. However, the cloud is also a prerequisite for success in the world of open banking and Banking as a Service. These are megatrends, powered and enabled by the cloud, that are shaping the future of banking.”
The Robinhood shares have fallen by 3.1% after the platform confirmed a data security breach that caused the email addresses of five million customers be lifted from the server. The company said that a hacker engineered a customer support employee that was used for obtaining access to the support systems of many customers.
“At this time, we understand that the unauthorized party obtained a list of email addresses for approximately five million people, and full names for a different group of approximately two million people,” states the company in a blog post. “We also believe that for a more limited number of people—approximately 310 in total—additional personal information, including name, date of birth, and zip code, was exposed, with a subset of approximately 10 customers having more extensive account details revealed. We are in the process of making appropriate disclosures to affected people.”
In order for Robinhood to regain the stolen files, an extortion payment was demanded by the hackers. The authorities have been contacted and Robinhood assured its customers no social security numbers, bank account numbers, or debit card numbers were compromised during the breach.
“As a Safety First company, we owe it to our customers to be transparent and act with integrity,” says Robinhood chief security officer Caleb Sima. “Following a diligent review, putting the entire Robinhood community on notice of this incident now is the right thing to do.”
Nokia has published its Threat Intelligence report and one of the key elements stressed by Finish telecom is mobile banking hacking. The report points out that Trojans that are designed to obtain mobile banking credentials are becoming increasingly more popular, with an 80% increase. On Android phones, banking trojans have quickly become the third most common malware, being exceeded only by spyware and run-of-the-mill trojans.
When they are installed such trojans can perform a variety of potentially dangerous actions, depending on the permissions they have been granted. It can be everything from copying one-time login codes or installing a transparent overlay on the login screen of a banking application.
“Banking Trojans can arrive on smartphones in a variety of ways, often disguised as common and useful apps,” explained Nokia, in the report. “When run, they request a variety of permissions needed to perform their desired behavior, then often remove their icon from the application pane, effectively disappearing from the device.”
In its report, Nokia went on to warn the customers that “once a trojan is installed and running on a phone, it can be difficult to remove.”
“In these cases, the phone must first be booted in safe mode, then the app can be removed through the app manager,” the Finish vendor continued. “The easiest and most obvious form of prevention is to download apps only from official app stores.”
It is not only banking Trojans that Nokia warned its customers about, the European telecom has also explained the other cyber threats that are currently trending and must not be ignored.
“COVID-19-related malware incidents have persisted. Many of these involve phishing attacks leveraging email, social media and text messages that embed malicious links into information about COVID-19 vaccines. Ransomware attacks on the healthcare sector have also continued,” the report said.
The latest data on the C2N Diagnostics’ blood test have shown that it could predict what kind of people could have a greeted risk of Alzheimer’s disease. That test predicts that based on the amyloid proteins levels. That could previously be measured by performing a spinal tap, biopsy, or PET scan as the amyloid proteins are found in the brain. However, the study testing the C2N’s PrecivityAD blood test showed it was 81% effective in predicting the amyloid buildup levels.
“Blood-based screening is a giant leap forward in detecting changes in the brain among people who do not yet show memory loss symptoms,” Reisa Sperling, M.D., co-principal investigator for the study, said in a statement. “New blood test technology can help identify those more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease changes in their brains, which enables them to enroll in prevention or treatment trials as early as possible.”
Siemens Healthineers announced it is partnering with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) on developing carbon-neutral imaging technology that is more accessible to patients. The approach taken by Siemens and UCSF is focused on reducing the energy consumed during radiology procedures and issuing renewable energy certificates.
“Healthcare is estimated to be responsible for up to 5% of global net emissions, and imaging almost certainly contributes to an outsized share of that total,” said Christopher Hess, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of UCSF’s radiology and biomedical imaging department. “At the same time, imaging is becoming increasingly central to medical decision-making. Our goal is to find a way for radiology departments worldwide to reduce our environmental footprint.”
The research will also explore different options to upgrade MRI scanners.“The current practice of radiology requires that patients travel to advanced imaging resources like MRI scanners; now we can bring imaging closer to our patients,“ Hess said. “Mid-field MRI scanners leveraging artificial intelligence will help to expand access to advanced imaging. They use less space, less power and less helium, offering an exciting opportunity to reduce radiology‘s impact on climate change.”