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Ruthless and sophisticated: How hackers exploit new tech | News

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Whether you’re a homemaker or a CEO – you are a possible target of an increasingly sophisticated and indiscriminate breed of cybercriminals.

That’s the message from the head of a company advising prominent firms in Asia on how to protect themselves from online attacks. The warning by the Kuala Lumpur-based Asia Cybersecurity Exchange coincides with the release of a global report on Wednesday by Aon, a large risk consultancy firm, showing how emerging technologies such as the so-called Internet of Things and even a company’s own employees are proving to be vulnerabilities around the world.

Analysts say Asia is particularly prone to attacks and stands to lose hundreds of billions of dollars.

“In 2019, the greatest challenge organisations will face is simply keeping up with and staying informed about the evolving cyber risk landscape,” Aon said in its report.

“Organised crime now uses former intelligence members for more sophisticated attacks and state actors are both broadening the nature of their attacks and increasing their frequency,” it added.

Massive attacks

The scale of damage that cybercriminals can inflict is also growing. A study by computer giant IBM, conducted by the Ponemon Institute, found the average cost of a data breach in 2018 was $3.86m, a 6.4 percent increase from 2017.

In some cases, cybertheft can be many times more costly. Internet giant Yahoo had to shave $350m off the offer price of its core business when it sold the venture to Verizon in 2017. After the deal was first announced, Yahoo disclosed that it had discovered data breaches in 2013 and 2014 affecting billions of user accounts.





Yahoo had to reduce the sale price of its Internet business by $350m after cyberattack [File: Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

The perpetrators of the attacks on Yahoo sent users emails encouraging them to click on links that opened the door to names, dates of birth, passwords and other confidential data. Such so-called phishing attacks have successfully targeted online users for more than a decade, and continue to be used.

Your money or your data

The nature of cybercrime is changing, as well.

High-profile attacks using the WannaCry and NotPetya viruses in 2017 resulted in hundreds of thousands of users being locked out of their own computers. The perpetrators demanded financial payments in return for unscrambling hard drives. Organisations like the UK’s National Health Service and US logistics group FedEx reported hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity or damages as a result of the attacks.

But accurately quantifying the full impact of such events can be hard.

“I’d say we’re moving to a place where more companies are aware that they can be hit and accept the risk but find it difficult to quantify what that risk means to them,” Andrew Mahony, Aon’s Asia regional director for commercial risk solutions, told Al Jazeera.

Often companies lose business because potential customers worry about the safety of their data after an attack, something analysts call reputational damage.

Fong Choong Fook, CEO of the Asia Cybersecurity Exchange, an incubator for startups in the specialised field, says many firms underreport the full impact of cyberattacks.

“A lot of the time, the client’s main concern is not so much on just financial losses,” Fong told Al Jazeera. “If they make certain announcements about their losses, they incur more losses in terms of their image and trust from their customers.”

And he says cybercriminals are becoming indiscriminate.

“Hackers used to be very targeted. But today hackers are just basically leveraging off ransomware, and from housewives to corporate CEOs, all of them are just targets,” Fong said.

Aon’s report says the growth in the number of connected conferencing systems, printers, security cameras and other objects – the Internet of Things –  has created more ways for hackers to access sensitive data. These devices tend to be less secure than the servers and computers that form the backbone of a firm’s IT infrastructure.





Aon says a firm’s own employees could be a growing threat to data security (File: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

Another weakness can be a company’s own employees. Aon cites a recent survey of cybersecurity professionals which found that 53 percent reported their organisation had experienced an insider-related attack within the past year, either accidentally by clicking on phishing links or through malevolent behaviour.

Asian hotspots

Companies and governments in the US and Europe have spent billions of dollars on boosting their cyber defences. But analysts say Asia remains a global weak spot in terms of implementing and coordinating legislation among countries. Corporate investment is also below Western levels.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, a supplier of chips for Apple’s iPhones, suffered an attack in August by a variant of the WannaCry virus, while dozens of Asian hospitals were also hit.

A survey of 1,300 businesses across Asia last year by consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan for Microsoft suggested that the potential losses from cybersecurity breaches could reach $1.75 trillion, or around seven percent of the total size of the region’s economy.

Even critical infrastructure such as power plants, transport and water systems in parts of Southeast Asia could be vulnerable to cyberattacks, according to one study.

But Asia is also increasingly being used to launch attacks elsewhere. A report by US consulting firm AT Kearney points to Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam as global hotspots.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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