Teddy Njoroge on building the brand and revenues for ESET in East Africa 0 677

Teddy-Njoroge-ESET-Country-Manager-Kenya

For long, since the time I bought a laptop in late 2000’s that is, I used to think – and believe – that ESET was just the free anti-virus software for PCs, nothing else. At this time, I didn’t bother much about where the anti-virus came from or whether there exists a non-free (or premium) version of the same. But this notion soon changed, more so when I began to learn more about the ESET as a company from Teddy Njoroge who has been in charge of establishing and building the ESET brand in Kenya and wider East African region for the past year. Read on as Teddy shares more about his career journey as well as more about his challenges and successes in building the ESET brand in the region…

Who is Teddy Njoroge?

TEDDY NJOROGE: I’m generally a warm and reserved individual who has a zeal for success in whatever it is I do. I have a great passion in management and building companies from Startups to big enterprises. This I believe is always the best path to understanding every element of running any organization in any vertical.

Q: You’ve transitioned from working at a call centre to managing the regional operation of a multinational IT security firm in less than 10 years. Did you see this happening in say 2010?

TN: I must say this was a vision I had. Managing an enterprise has been by dream. I literally positioned everything I did to align with what I wanted to achieve. I was very interested in running a multinational company. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science which gave me an understanding of the existing technologies and the path technology is advancing to. I felt I needed business management skills so as to enhance the capabilities I had in the ICT Field. I then tackled a Masters in Business Administration. This took me to the next level of integrating ICT into business. I also felt I needed to have the skill of understanding my customers. I did a course in BPO which led me to working in a call center. With this combination, I was ready to embark on hunting for the specific opportunity to put my knowledge into practice and here I am. So yes, this is something I was looking forward to and knew would come through.

Q: You’ve been the regional ESET boss for almost a year now. During this time, what can you highlight as your greatest challenges and achievements?

TN: It’s been a steep hill for me but a lot has been learnt. I plunged into Security and did not have much expertise in the Infosec sector. I had to get back to the books and understand what this was all about. Once the good understanding of the field was done, it was time for me to come up with a good team to build this brand with. Establishing the best out of the best was one huge challenge but eventually everything fell into place.

My main challenge has been to build the brand and also bring in consistent revenue to the business. We are in a market where other brands have presence and have a chunk of the market share. I had to balance between building awareness and also bringing in revenue.

We have various achievements whereby we have managed to create good brand awareness. We have a solid solution that has prevented various ransomware attacks globally and this has given us great mileage. We have seen a shift of clients from other vendors to our product line within a short while of existence in this market.  We have always been good in support and that has cut across all continents and this has also given our clients great confidence in East Africa. Our client portfolio has tremendously grown and we look to tripling this in the next few months as the uptake is overwhelming good for our business.

Q: Related to the above question, how did you address the challenges you encountered along the way and what did you learn in the process? 

TN: We have ensured that we are often releasing information to the public in regard to securing devices used by the common wananchi as they have proved to be the main gateway for 90% of cyber-attacks in the country and the region at large. We are in the media talking on Cyber Security and what organizations should look out for to ensure their environments are secure. We have also come up with great promotions for the public and good pricing/ discounts for organizations.  This market is price sensitive and we have cut our prices to ensure we offer exactly what the clients in this region want which is simply a superior product at an affordable price and this has worked perfectly.

Q: ESET as an IT security brand is relatively new in this market. How are you working to ensure that you get a sizeable chunk of the market – what strategies, initiatives and partnerships have you put in place to attract clients?

TN: First and foremost, we had to get our pricing right. We have very affordable prices and great discounts for the various verticals that we have. We ensure we participate/sponsor in the various ICT events to create awareness and also bring out the technology we have to ensure businesses are safe. In addition, we are reaching out to the various ICT companies that are established for partnerships. We ensure that we support our partners through our various certification levels to ensure they provide the required client support. Support is key for us and we have to always ensure the client is happy at all times.

Q: Being in charge of the East Africa region gives you an opportunity to have first-hand information about IT security challenges in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. From your assessment, are the challenges the same throughout the region or are specific countries grappling with their own unique IT security issues?

TN: Cyber Security challenges cut across the region. What differentiates the severity is how technology-advanced the countries are. Currently, Kenya leads in Technology and the rest of the countries follow. Kenya has been highly hit by cyber attacks thus the big numbers in monies lost compared to the other countries. We are in the global map due to our great innovations in mobile money platforms thus the great interest of hackers to attack our systems.

Q: In mid May this year, you supported calls for a shared reporting system for cyber-security related incidents in the country. Does it mean IT security solutions vendors don’t work in collaboration with the government’s National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Centre (KE-CIRT/CC)? How is the current structure of engagement between the industry – solutions providers and their client organizations – and KE-CIRT/CC?

TN: I must admit that there is no reporting framework in place to report breaches. Vendors are not working closely with KE-CIRT/CC. This is where things need to change as KE-CIRT/CC has the platform to notify the public and the vendors have the actual data translating to crucial information that would help achieve this. We are at a time vendors are busy competing with each other on who has the solution that has done this or that and we miss the main point which is to protect our organizations. We are at a time that we should not drop boxes in the market but walk the journey with our clients. Remember most organizations don’t possess the necessary skills set to manage the IT Security divisions. Vendors should come together and provide info to the KE-CIRT/CC that will assist them in disseminating helpful information.

Q: With all the technology and knowledge possessed by the IT security industry, how is it that very few cybercrime incidents get nipped in the bud before they happen, how come the bad guys seem to be always ahead of the good guys?

TN: It’s simply because we lack Cyber Security experts in this region. We also have poor budgets for cyber security solutions. When these things are put together, then a major loop hole is created thus we are forced to be re-active than pro-active.

Q: In your view, apart from malware and ransomware, where should the IT security industry now keenly look at to avert any major breaches of a global magnitude in future? Where is cybercrime moving to next?

TN: Ransomware will be the main thing. What will change is the ways and mechanisms used to orchestrate this. Mobile ransomware is on the rise and this will be the root cause of many of our problems. Another avenue coming in is the attack on industry systems. Manufacturing plants and enterprises that utilize technology to produce their products will be highly hit.

Q: Having been in the IT industry for quite a while, who do you look up to for inspiration and motivation? Professionally, who’s your mentor?

TN: My mentor would Larry Ellison – Oracle Founder. He simply came up with a solution that is a crucial part of most financial institutions globally among other industries. He basically saw a need and tapped into it and his solution has been revolutionizing the IT world. His Consistency has made him who he is today.

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Approximately US $150,000 worth of Ethereum-based cryptocurrency stolen 0 700

Online cryptocurrency website MyEtherWallet.com has confirmed that some visitors could have been temporarily redirected to a phishing site designed to steal users’ credentials and – ultimately – empty their cryptocurrency wallets.

According to reports, whoever was behind the attack may have successfully stolen approximately US $152,000 worth of Ethereum-based cryptocurrency.

However,  MyEtherWallet may not have been at fault, as the website explained in its statement:

“This is not due to a lack of security on the [MyEtherWallet] platform. It is due to hackers finding vulnerabilities in public facing DNS servers.”

British security researcher Kevin Beaumont confirms in a blog post that some of MyEtherWallet’s traffic had been redirected to a server based in Russia after traffic intended for Amazon’s DNS resolvers was pointed to a server hosted in Chicago by Equinix.

For the scheme to succeed, someone pulled off a hijack of a crucial component of the internet known as Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), to reroute traffic intended for Amazon’s Route 53 DNS service to the server in Chicago. As a consequence, for some users, entering myetherwallet.com into their browser did not take them to the genuine site but instead to a server at an IP address chosen by the hackers.

The only obvious clue that a typical user might have spotted was that when they visited the fake MyEtherWallet site they would have seen an error message telling them that the site was using an untrustworthy SSL certificate.

It seems that the attackers made a mistake in not obtaining a valid SSL certificate.

Despite the error with their SSL certificate, the hackers haven’t done badly for themselves – both in this attack and in the past. Fascinatingly, the bogus MyEtherWallet website set up by the criminals was moving stolen cryptocurrency into a wallet which already contained some US $27 million worth of assets. Inevitably that raises questions of its own – have the hackers already made a substantial fortune through other attacks, or might their activities be supported by a nation state?

In a statement Equinix confirmed that a customer’s equipment at its Chicago data center was used in the hackers’ hijacking of Amazon’s Route 53 DNS service:

“The server used in this incident was not an Equinix server but rather customer equipment deployed at one of our Chicago IBX data centers… We generally do not have visibility or control over what our customers – or customers of our customers – do with their equipment.”

Amazon however, do not find the blame to lie on themselves, communicating the following statement:

“Neither AWS nor Amazon Route 53 were hacked or compromised. An upstream Internet Service Provider (ISP) was compromised by a malicious actor who then used that provider to announce a subset of Route 53 IP addresses to other networks with whom this ISP was peered. These peered networks, unaware of this issue, accepted these announcements and incorrectly directed a small percentage of traffic for a single customer’s domain to the malicious copy of that domain.”

Some advice from award winning security blogger, researcher and speaker, Graham Cluley – avoid putting your cryptocurrency wallet online, keep them off your smartphone or computer and perhaps instead invest in a hardware wallet.

Beware: ad slingers thinly disguised as security apps 0 741

Fake Security App

According to AV-Comparatives, an independent testing organization, there are significant differences in the level of protection provided by mobile security solutions. However, even the least secure of them are still far better than questionable apps that impersonate security applications in order to display ads to users. Thirty-five such applications have recently been discovered in the Google Play official Android app store.

These apps have Google Play statistics showing a minimum of over six million installs, cumulatively. However, not all those were necessarily real installations, it is possilbe that many were bot downloads posting fake reviews to improve the ratings for the app.

All 35 apps have been flagged by ESET and eventually removed from the store.

In addition to annoying their victims with ads, disguising these apps as security software has some serious negative side effects, too. In mimicking basic security functions – in fact, they all act as very primitive security checkers relying on a few trivial hardcoded rules – they often detect legitimate apps as malicious. And last but not least, they create a false sense of security in the victims, which might expose them to real risks from malicious apps that are not detected as such.

ESET’s analysis has shown that among these 35 apps, only a handful stand out for their specific features: one app is not completely free as it offers a paid upgrade; one app has implemented a primitive, easily bypassed, app-locker manager; another app flags other apps from this group as dangerous by default; and finally, one misuses ESET’s branding.

 

Security-mimicking functionality
In order to stay under the radar, all the shady ad-displaying apps mimic actual mobile security solutions. However, their ‘detection mechanisms’ are incomplete and very primitive, which makes them easy to bypass and prone to false positives.

Our research into these questionable apps has shown that their ‘detection mechanisms’ can be divided into four categories. These mechanisms are identical or almost identical across the whole set of apps.

1) Package name whitelist & blacklist
These whitelists features popular apps such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Skype and others. The ‘blacklists’ contains far too few items to be considered security functionality at all.

2) Permissions blacklist
All apps (including legitimate ones) are flagged if they require some of the listed permissions that are considered dangerous, such as send and receive SMS, access location data, access the camera, etc.

3) Source whitelist
All apps but those from the official Android store, Google Play, are flagged – even if they are completely benign.

4) Activities blacklist
All apps that contain any of the blacklisted activities: that is, parts of applications. This mainly concerns some ad-displaying activities.

Flagged are all apps that contain any of the blacklisted activities, i.e., packages of application that are used in an application. These packages can handle additional functionalities (mainly some ad-displaying activities).

While there is nothing wrong with the idea of activity blacklisting, the implementation in these questionable apps is rather sloppy. For example, Google Ads is included in the blacklist despite the fact that it is a legitimate service. On top of being legitimate, this service is implemented in all of the shady apps we analyzed.

Additional security “functionality”
Some of the questionable security apps are capable of protecting a user’s apps with a password or a pattern locker. The idea behind this seemingly useful feature is to provide the user with another layer of security in selected apps.

However, due to insecure implementation, this feature also fails to provide true security to the user.

The problem is that relevant information is not stored safely on the device – instead of using encryption, which is common baseline practice in cybersecurity, these apps store the names of locked apps and the passwords to unlock them as plaintext.

This means that the data can be accessed after the device is rooted.

Besides compromising the unencrypted data by rooting the phone, there is another way to bypass the app lock. An attacker with physical access to the device can change the app-locking password without knowing the old one!

Conclusion
Having a security solution installed in an Android phone is definitely a good thing. However, not all apps featuring “security” or “antivirus” in their name do what the name promises. Before installing a security solution, think twice: is it really a tool you can safely rely on?

The 35 pseudo-security apps described in this article are not, say, ransomware or other hardcore malware. The only harm they do is displaying annoying ads, making false-positive detections and giving the victim a false sense of security. However, those millions of unwary users who downloaded them could easily have ended up downloading true malware in some similar disguise.

Instead of shady apps with flashy names and icons and outlandish, unsubstantiated promises, seek a reputable security solution. And which one to choose? An independent test by a well-respected testing organization might help.