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How Different Color Schemes Can Impact Sales on Your Website

While most people may not realize it, marketing and psychology are closely related.

The most successful marketing campaigns apply customer psychology.

On the surface, it’s a simple concept.

If you understand how the customer’s mind works, you can use certain triggers to help you generate a profit.

One of the most important psychological factors you need to consider is color.

Keep it in mind when you’re:

  • branding your company logo
  • designing your website
  • building a mobile application
  • creating a call-to-action button
  • sending an email
  • coming up with a marketing campaign.

The list goes on and on.

Basically, anything visual your company produces needs to have appropriate color schemes.

The right colors can lead to a conversion, while the wrong colors can leave a customer with a negative impression of your company (which you obviously want to avoid).

Let’s take a look at something as simple as gender as it relates to favorite colors:

image1 4

Blue is for men and pink is for women, right?

Think again.

According to a recent study (image above), both men and women said blue was their favorite color.

Clearly, just because newborn babies are typically put in either blue or pink doesn’t mean grown adults feel the same way.

Here’s more from that same study that shows the least popular colors based on gender:

image2 4

Both men and women dislike brown and orange.

But why?

I’ll explain the psychology behind different colors so you can adjust your marketing tactics accordingly.

Changing a website’s colors can help you increase sales for your business.


Let’s start off by discussing the color blue since we already established it’s the favorite color for both men and women.

It represents security, trust, and dependability.

Blues also signify spirituality and calmness.

With so many different shades of blue out there, which one should you choose for your website?

Light blue shades work best for friendly websites that have a social and calm concept.

Use dark blue hues for corporations and businesses.

Here’s a visual representation of the top 10 most valuable brands in the world:


Do you notice a pattern here?

Half of these businesses have a shade of blue in their logos.

Based on everything we just discussed, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Depending on your company, blue may be a top choice for your website.


We associate green with the word “go”.

It represents life, nature, wealth, and harmony.

Green colors also symbolize freshness, the environment, and something new.

With that said, these associations are not universal across the globe.

Keep that in mind when you’re designing a website.

Here’s how people in different geographic locations perceive the color green:

image4 4

Look at some of the polar opposite representations here.

In Japan, green represents life.

But in South America, it signifies death.

Make sure you understand your primary target audience and what colors mean to their culture.

Here’s a great example of how Animal Planet incorporates greens into their website design:



Like I said before, in our culture, green symbolizes nature and the environment, so it works well with the overall theme of their brand.


Even though pink wasn’t every woman’s favorite color, it still represents femininity.

For those of you running a business primarily geared toward men, I’d recommend staying away from pink tones.

Pink stands for love, sexuality, nurture, sweetness, and warmth.

Look at how a gender specific brand like Victoria’s Secret uses pink on their website:

image11 1

The company sells strictly women’s apparel, so they don’t need to worry about turning away men from their brand.

When a woman shops at Victoria’s Secret, the pink tones make her feel welcome.


Stop at a stop sign. Stop at a red light.

These are some of the things we think of when we see the color red.

It’s muscle memory and instinct.

But red represents more than that.

From a marketing perspective, red creates a sense of urgency.

That’s why you’ll often see red sales tags on discounted items.

Red tones appeal to impulse shoppers because the color can increase their heart rates.

Restaurants use this color to fuel a customer’s appetite.

McDonald’s has been using this strategy for years to lure hungry people into their restaurants.


From an emotional and personality viewpoint, red roses are a symbol of love.

Red evokes passion as well as intensity.

You can strategically use this color based on your industry.

If you want to increase conversion rates and deliver an urgent message, use red to draw the viewer’s attention to that area.


If you’re using yellow on your website, it’s important to use it subtly and sparingly.

Don’t use it for text because it’s hard on the eyes and tough for people to read.

Yellow represents happiness, joy, and cheer.

It’s a warm and happy color with an energizing effect.

There’s a difference between different shades of yellow and the way they represent age.

Bright yellow is used to represent children and their youth, while darker yellow designs signify a more mature age.

Here’s how yellow affects personality and emotion:

image9 3

Overall, using yellow on your website will create a positive and appealing vibe.

However, it can also stand for caution or act as a warning sign.

Make sure your message is clear whenever you’re using yellow.

It works well to complement logos but doesn’t stand well on its own.


Orange isn’t a commonly used color.

Earlier we saw that 33% of women and 22% of men said this was their least favorite color.

However, because companies use it so sparingly, it typically stands out when you see it.

That means it’s a great color for your CTA buttons.

Orange is a comforting color.

It’s got some of the same qualities as both yellow and red.

It’s sociable, energetic, and sunny.

Similar to red, it can often stimulate appetite.

Orange can also stand for affordability, which may be the reason why The Home Depot uses it in their logo:

image6 4

Orange is friendly and energetic, but it’s not as overwhelming and hard on the eyes as yellow.


Purple ranked high in terms of women’s favorite color.

It’s a beautiful shade that stands for royalty:

image3 4

It’s a noble and romantic color as well.

Purple is luxurious and gives people the feeling of nostalgia, power, and glamour.

This color is also used to stimulate curiosity because it represents a mystery.

If you’re running some sort of surprise promotion in which a website user or email subscriber needs to click to reveal an offer, consider using a purple CTA button.

Purple tones are often associated with a ceremony as well.

They represent creativity and exclusivity.

If you’re trying to target a group of people who see themselves as high-class, you may want to consider incorporating purple somewhere on your website.


People often overlook white, but yes, it’s still an important color to consider in your website design.

Although it may appear plain, white represents simplicity and purity.

It’s a clean design allowing a brand to signal perfection.

White logos are often used in health care industries.

It’s also associated with luxury brands and designs.

That’s why Apple uses a white logo in their website color scheme.

image7 4

If you’re using white on your website, you can also use grey tones to compliment it, just like Apple does with the light grey background and dark grey text.

White is used to show high-tech products.

When associated with cuisine, white represents foods that have low fat.

To add sophistication or strength to your website, consider using a simple white and grey design.

Don’t use white for any buttons.

Instead, you can use a darker colored button with white font if you want to go that route.


Black establishes authority.

image5 4

Similarly to white, it can represent sophistication, luxury, and elegance.

Products and brands that are black can be viewed as expensive—the opposite of orange.

So if your website is supposed to be for people who want a bargain, I’d recommend staying away from black.

Black is serious and can also be considered very somber.

I wouldn’t recommend using black if your company represents new life or rejuvenation because black is often associated with death.


Brown is commonly used in the following industries:

  • Food
  • Agriculture
  • Environment

It’s an earthy tone that represents durability and simplicity.

Brown is a natural color that stands for dependability.

If you want to add a dark color to your website but don’t want to use black, consider using brown as a warmer alternative.

When a company uses brown in their logo, it shows customers that they are reliable:

image12 1

That’s why the slogan for UPS is “What can brown do for you?”

It’s a nice customer service color.

What color should I use for my website?

If you’re torn between a couple of different color choices, you can run an A/B test to determine which one gives you a higher conversion rate.

Keep everything on your website the same, but change the background color, an accent color, or a CTA button color.


But don’t change the content or layout.

Here’s an example of a test for the CTA button color choice:

image10 3

Everything on the website remains the same.

The only thing that changed was a green CTA button vs. a red CTA button.

Based on what we talked about earlier, green means go and red means stop.

So a hypothesis would be that the green button would outperform the red button.

However, the results of this test told a different story.

The red button saw a 21% higher conversion rate than green.

It’s surprising, but it’s good to know.

Just because you think you understand how people perceive certain colors doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run any tests.

The difference of 21% is so significant that it can drastically impact how much money your website makes.

Look, I’m not telling you this so you automatically choose red over green each time.

It depends on your brand, industry, and customer base.

I used this example to show why you should never assume anything and always run an A/B test to make sure you’re making the right decision.

Where to find the best color scheme for your website

Like I said before, it’s important to use different tones.

Don’t just pick blue and make your entire website the same shade of blue.

Using a blue color palette is much more appealing.

I like to use to find color schemes that work well with each other.

image8 4

If you wanted to use purple tones on your website, this service helps generate a palette of purple colors.

You’ll get all different shades of purple from light to dark.

Pick and choose which ones you want to use for different parts of your website.

Consider using a lighter shade as the background and darker tones for text.


The color choices on your website appeal to the psychology of your customer.

Don’t pick a color at random.

Make sure the colors you choose reflect your brand and company message.

It can impact your sales.

Think back to the example we used for A/B testing a CTA button.

A simple color change boosted conversions by over 20%.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity like that by not taking the time to carefully select the right colors for your website.

Look at your target audience.

If you’re trying to appeal to a certain gender, use colors like blue or pink.

For those of you who want to create a sense of urgency or an alert, red would work well.

Black and white colors symbolize authority, simplicity, and cleanliness.

Purple is a color of royalty, social status, and curiosity.

Follow the tips I outlined above to come up with a killer color scheme for your website to boost sales.

What feeling are you trying to evoke from your customers with your website colors?


4 Fundamental Mistakes That Are Killing Your Digital Agency’s Growth

The 4 P’s Killing Your Agency's Growth

You’re great at what you do, that’s why you built a digital agency around it.

But whether you niched out on social media, graphic design, website building, or software coding, we all run into similar fundamental problems.

These problems tend to look the same but the solutions all look different. Therein lies the problem.

These aren’t the 4 P’s you learned about in your Intro to Marketing class back in the day, and there is no textbook answer to turn to.

However, with a little guidance and knowledge you can avoid the school of hard knocks.

When reading the 4 P’s below, be open and honest with yourself… are you guilty of making these mistakes or letting important concepts fall by the wayside?

Even if your systems and processes are good, you should strive to make them great. We live in a world where consumers expect excellence, so if you don’t shine brighter and do better than all of your competitors then you’ll be left in the dust.

Being aware of the following factors will enable you to make the necessary strides to achieve greatness with your agency and its growth.

Click Here to get Lee’s Agency Success Toolkit. It includes a free proposal template, our 9 Steps to a Multi-Million Dollar Agency guidebook, and more…

1. Proposals

If you had a nickel for every hour you spent writing, revising, presenting, and worrying about a proposal you’d have enough money to retire early.

Instead, you’re sitting here working 80-hour work weeks and worrying about making payroll.

The worst part is when you spend all of that time and effort just to lose those deals to a competitor. Now you’ve wasted all of those precious resources with little to nothing to show for it. It happens time and time again unless you lowball on the price.

Why do your proposals keep flopping? What are your competitors doing that you’re not? You have countless people revise them and give feedback, so what is the issue?

One word: Value.

If your proposals aren’t building value every step of the way, they’re guaranteed to be a swing and a miss.

You need to slap the client across the face with how awesome your agency is and stun them with everything you can do for them. You need to remove barriers to entry and common objections before they ever arise. You need to leave no doubt in your prospects’ minds that your agency is the one for them.

Your competitors are giving that prospect a million reasons to purchase from them, so you need to give them a million and one. Instead, you’re sending over a glorified service description with a price tag and calling it a day. Of course you’re not winning the deals you want!

Think of all of those failed proposals that you slaved over. Did they have ROI projections? FAQs? Definitions? If you skip those sections, it doesn’t matter how great your grammar was or even how low your price was, all a client will see is a big line item with little justification.

Build value every step of the way. When the client sees the dollar sign, they won’t hesitate because they’ll know they’re making an investment in their business’s future.

2. Project Management

The digital space is full of so many business opportunities because so few people truly understand how to utilize it to its fullest potential. That’s why they’re hiring you!

However, this means clients don’t quite understand everything you do. So, during the course of the project, they have no issues asking for more, more, more because in their minds it’s just a “quick thing” or “small adjustment.” But to you it could mean an extra two hours of work. Suddenly a few “quick things” later and you’ve put in an additional 10 hours of work with no additional pay.

Let’s say you were a home builder and you got hired to build a house. Your client wanted a basic 2 bedroom home because they were on a tight budget. So construction began and halfway through, they decided they wanted 4 bedrooms, a home movie theater, hot tub, fountain, and helicopter landing pad and they expect you stay within budget and on time.

Project management image

No client in their right mind would ask for that! People understand that would mean more plumbing, electrical work, concrete, drywall, insulation… the list goes on.

Yet your agency’s clients seem to have no problem asking you to make one more graphic, to rework the design, or to create another landing page. Then you give it to them because you have a hard time saying no or because you don’t want to cause friction in the relationship, or whatever flawed logic you use to rationalize it. This little devil is called scope creep.

Scope creep is anything, and I mean anything, that falls outside of the predefined and agreed upon project scope. If you don’t strictly inform and enforce scope creep policies, it will take over your service bandwidth and your time will get absorbed in unprofitable projects.

Easier said than done, right? Especially when saying no to a client and keeping them happy seems a bit like mixing oil and vinegar.

To avoid disgruntled clients, you must tell them before the project begins that anything extra they want done outside of the original scope will cost them extra time and money. Then as soon as something pops up, you must enforce it. This will teach the client that you take the budget and timeline very seriously. They may get a bit peeved that they have to pay for the services they’re asking you to perform (sounds like a “duh” moment when you hear it like that) but good clients will understand they get what they pay for.

When a project gets delivered on time and on budget they’ll forget about that “just one more revision” they asked for weeks ago.

3. Pricing

There are dozens of pricing models, strategies, and techniques. Some agencies see great success with one, while others see the same one fail. So what’s the perfectly competitive price for your services?

High prices can make you seem elite, but if you set your prices too high you’ll scare people off. Low prices can attract more people, but if you set them too low you’ll be jeopardizing your profit margins.

The thing about setting low prices is that you’re automatically attracting a certain caliber of client. The bottom of the barrel client that expect you to jump through hoops at no additional cost. Then when a cheaper option comes along they won’t hesitate to leave your agency in the dust. Unless you’re the lowest price in the industry, you might as well be one of the highest. Nobody goes for the second cheapest option.

Can your agency truly sustain being the cheapest option?

Raising your prices will have its consequences too, and you will inevitably scare some people off. But think of it like this: You could be charging $100 and have 1,000 clients ,or you could be charging $1,000 and have 100 clients. Which strategy means less work for you? Which one will likely result in happier clients? Which one is more sustainable?

Underpricing your services won’t attract more people, and it certainly won’t attract the ones you want to work with. If you keep getting stuck working with bad clients it’s probably because your pricing model is attracting them. Stop doing yourself a disservice by charging too little. If you have a world class agency, you need to charge world class prices. The best clients will understand and accept it. The cheapskate clients will run away, but it was only a matter of time before they did that anyway.

4. Positioning

Brand positioning is like a vortex and your agency is the eye of the storm. When you first begin your agency, you’re a small vortex with a little pull, maybe causing some ripples in the market but certainly not making any waves. The bigger and stronger your agency and positioning gets, the more powerful you become.

Incorrectly positioning or failing to have a positioning strategy can be a detrimental mistake and wasted opportunity. Brand positioning is where your agency sits in the mind of the consumer. Regardless of the efforts you make, every single person that encounters your brand will form some kind of emotion or association with it. Having a strategy and defined brand positioning statement will help ensure that those emotions and associations are positive. This is especially important in the early stages of your agency.

Defining and establishing a clear brand position will allow you to do more with less. Positioning will do the heavy lifting and nurturing so when a lead is ready to buy, your agency will already be established in their mind as the trustworthy and superior option. Sounds pretty great right? So why is it that only 50% of employees believe their leadership team uses brand positioning to guide their decisions?

Are you guilty of this? Perhaps one of the reasons your brand positioning isn’t guiding your marketing initiatives is because your positioning statement was thrown together with little research and thought. Your positioning statement, if done correctly, should filter through to every single campaign, promotion, design, and decision. If it aligns with your positioning statement, you know it will reach and appeal to your target audience. If you’re not filtering every decision then you could potentially be putting out materials and making calls that will confuse or turn away your target audience. Not a wise move when every lead counts.

Wrapping up

These 4 P’s should have shed some light on the way your agency is running. Moving forward, you’ll be aware of the consequences that could ensue if you don’t give these factors the attention they need.

Remember: there is always room for improvement. So you should constantly be changing and improving. The 4 P’s aren’t something you should look at when you “have time.” The time is now. Your agency’s growth depends on it.

Click Here to get Lee’s Agency Success Toolkit. It includes a free proposal template, our 9 Steps to a Multi-Million Dollar Agency guidebook, and more…

Guest Author: Lee Goff is a serial entrepreneur who built, retired from, and sold his first multi-million dollar digital agency before the age of 43. He now coaches other digital agency owners on how to work less and make more time for their families without sacrificing quality of life. He is the CEO/Founder of Digital Business Architects, a company dedicated to providing world class coaching resources to other digital agency owners.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Digital Business Architects, but as always I am dedicated to providing content that is helpful and valuable to the reading audience.

The post 4 Fundamental Mistakes That Are Killing Your Digital Agency’s Growth appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.


How to get the best visibility for your PPC ads in the run-up to Black Friday

In the run-up to Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, retailers are competing like crazy to attract the eyeballs of as many paying consumers as possible through paid search advertising.

But how well is it paying off? To find out, search intelligence platform Adthena has analyzed the paid search landscape in the run-up to Black Friday 2017, indexing more than 15,000 ads and 214 million impressions across 161 sellers of consumer electronics.

The study, shared exclusively with Search Engine Watch, was conducted between November 1st and 13th 2017, and sheds some light on the kinds of PPC ad subjects and messaging that are getting the best response from consumers ahead of the holidays.

iPhone dominates mobile… on mobile

In a not-so-surprising discovery, product ads containing the term “iPhone” out-performed other types of consumer goods – particularly on mobile. Paid search ads with “iPhone” pulled in 8.88% of all impressions on desktop, and gained a hefty 14.89% of all impressions on mobile.

“Phone” was the second-best-performing product ad keyword, with 4.61% of impressions on desktop and 11.55% on mobile, followed by “TV”, which pulled in 3.54% of desktop impressions and 4.22% of mobile impressions.

When it came to the messaging that performed best in Black Friday PPC ads, deal-related ad copy featuring the word “save” was the clear winner, driving close to a fifth (18.79%) of impressions on desktop, and more than a quarter (27.47%) on mobile.

“% off” was the next-best-performing deal messaging on desktop, with 10.03% of impressions, while on mobile, “discount” came in second place at 9.03%. “Sale” took 5.6% of impressions on desktop, while “% off” won third place on mobile with 3.91%.

Ashley Fletcher, Director of Product Marketing at Adthena, says that these differences in the data prove just how vital the language used in ad copy is to the overall success of a paid search ad.

“We can see in the analyzed data that phrase ‘Save’ delivered huge impression share on both desktop and mobile, in comparison to ‘Discount’ or ‘% off’,” he said. “Making this single change in an advertiser’s ad text copy can make all the difference in having a winning search strategy for this fiercely competitive time of year.

“The devil is in the detail, and marginal gains mean success.”

If you’re wondering what kind of discount is the most effective at attracting consumer attention, well, surprise surprise, it’s a big one. Offers for “70% off” gathered the most impressions PPC ad on both desktop (6.89%) and mobile (1.31%).

“30% off” was the next-most-popular discount, though it attracted less than 1% of overall impressions on both desktop (0.84%) and mobile (0.35%). In third place was “40% off”, with 0.58% of impressions on desktop, and 0.23% on mobile.

Black Friday outpaces Cyber Monday, Amazon pushes Amazon

In spite of the juggernaut rise of online shopping, Black Friday still carries more weight than its newer, online-focused sibling, Cyber Monday – even in the electronics industry. According to the data from Adthena, “Black Friday” pulled in 2.99% of all PPC ad impressions on desktop (with 2.41% on mobile), while “Cyber Monday” managed only a paltry 0.12% of all impressions on desktop (0.09% on mobile).

Meanwhile, Amazon is taking advantage of one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year to push its Prime memberships. Across 71,414 Amazon ads with a total of 78,097,823 impressions, the top two-performing phrases by an overwhelming margin were “Amazon”, which took 98.32% of impressions on desktop and 99.79% on mobile, and “Prime”, which attracted 84.71% of impressions on desktop and 97.64% on mobile.

This was bad news for ads with more generic terms like “Shop” or “Low prices”, which attracted just 10.27% of impressions on desktop and 1.79% on mobile (“Shop”) and 8.37% of impressions on desktop and 0.44% on mobile (“Low prices”), respectively.

What do the figures from the study tell us about the types of product searches and purchases that people are carrying out on desktop versus on mobile?

Although there is some variation in the messaging that seems to resonate with users on desktop compared to mobile – mobile users are keen to “Save” but evidently don’t want to “Shop” for “Low prices” – the same leaders tend to emerge across devices, which Fletcher believes demonstrates that shopper behavior is generally device-agnostic, with consumers carrying out their product searches across multiple channels.

“In many instances, mobile is driving higher impression share than desktop, such as with the top performing product ads,” he says. “This tells us that many shoppers are doing their gift browsing on mobile, but desktop still perhaps remains a key part of the path to conversion.”

What can marketers take away from these findings that will help them get the best possible visibility for their PPC ads in the run-up to Black Friday? Fletcher says that actionable insights from data are the key to success in a rapidly shifting landscape.

“Marketers must understand how campaigns are performing and adjust accordingly as quickly as possible,” he says. “Being able to monitor what their competition is doing and changing on a daily basis will have a great impact on their PPC campaigns.

“Today’s marketer wants daily insights into an auction that’s changing rapidly. If a marketer sees that a competitor is pushing 70% discounts and garnering a majority of market share, they can quickly adjust their own strategy in order to continue to remain competitive and capture the audience.”


qkG Filecoder: Self-Replicating, Document-Encrypting Ransomware

by Jaromir Horejsi (Threat Researcher)

We encountered a few interesting samples of a file-encoding ransomware variant implemented entirely in VBA macros called qkG (detected by Trend Micro as RANSOM_CRYPTOQKG.A). It’s a classic macro malware infecting Microsoft Word’s Normal template ( template) upon which all new, blank Word documents are based.

Further scrutiny into qkG also shows it to be more of an experimental project or a proof of concept (PoC) rather than a malware actively used in the wild. This, however, doesn’t make qkG less of a threat. As the qkG samples demonstrated, its behaviors and techniques can be fine-tuned by its developer or other threat actors. When we first saw samples of it in VirusTotal last November 12, for instance, it didn’t have a Bitcoin address yet. It had one only two days later, along with a routine that encrypts a document on a specific day and time. The next day, we saw a qkG sample with a different behavior (viz., not encrypting documents with a specific file name format).

Notable Behaviors
qkG filecoder stands out as the first ransomware to scramble one file (and file type), and one of the few file-encrypting malware written entirely in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros. It’s also one of the few that uncommonly employs malicious macro codes, unlike the usual families that use macros mainly to download the ransomware.

qkG’s unusual use of malicious macros resembles one of the techniques employed by a .lukitus variant of Locky ransomware that uses the Auto Close VBA macro. In both cases, the malicious macro is executed when the user closes the document. But unlike qkG that only scrambles the document, .lukitus Locky’s macro codes retrieve and help execute the ransomware, which will then encrypt the targeted files stored on the infected machine.

Some of the notable behaviors we’ve seen in qkG include encrypting the document’s contents but leaving the file structure intact and the filename unchanged. No ransom note is added to the system as it’s prepended to the document’s content. It affects ActiveDocument, which means only the opened documents will be encrypted.

Figure 1: String within qkG’s body revealing its name and author

These samples were uploaded to VirusTotal from Vietnam and contain some comments in Vietnamese. A look into the macro malware’s body reveals its developer naming it “qkG”. There’s also the string TNA-MHT-TT2, which we construe to be the author’s moniker.

Infection Chain
When a would-be victim enables the macros, the template gets infected (viz., malicious macro is added to it). In turn, whenever an instance of Word is started, the modified template with the malicious code gets loaded and executed.

The malicious macros lower Word’s security settings first so it doesn’t ask the user to enable macros. How the security settings are reduced depends on the Office version, and entails:

  • Deactivating Protected View (PV) by modifying a few registry keys: DisableAttachmentsInPV, DisableInternetFilesInPV, DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV
  • Disabling the feature that blocks Excel files marked as from the web from executing macros (Blockcontentexecutionfrominternet)
  • Enabling programmatical access to VBA object model (AccessVBOM)
  • Setting the security level to Low (from three possibilities: High, Medium, Low)

After the aforementioned modifications are carried out, qkG infects the template. It adds a Document_Close() autostart macro and copies itself into it.

Figure 2: Malicious macro added to the template

How qkG Works
When a user opens an uninfected document, nothing happens at first. qkG will, however, encrypt the file’s contents once the user closes the document. It will also display a message with an email and Bitcoin address, along with the encrypted content. The qkG filecoder also adds Document_Open() autostart macro to the encrypted document and copies its body. This means if this document is opened on a clean machine, the infection chain will repeat.

Figure 3: The ransom note displayed to the victim after the document is encrypted

The encryption used is a very simple XOR cipher. The encryption key is always the same, and is included in each encrypted document.

Suppose we create a document containing the text “1234567890”. After closing the document on an infected machine, the odd characters get XORed with a corresponding character in the hardcoded password “I’m QkG@PTM17! by TNA@MHT-TT2”, while each even character is left intact. The resulting encrypted document containing text “1234567890” is in the screenshot above.

Here’s an example:
 1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     0
31 00 32 00 33 00 34 00 35 00 36 00 37 00 38 00 39 00 30 00
31 XOR 49 (I) = 78
32 remains
33 XOR 27 (‘) = 14
34 remains

The sample 2d20d5751ffbac9290271969860106fdd34309878a1e06f9dbcac23a7f50b571 contains a decryption routine. However, it’s not used within the malware body and accordingly doesn’t work. This can also be construed as malware still in development, as the other samples showed.

Figure 4: The decryption routine in one the samples of qkG

The sample 2e1136a2bfddb108cd3b3a60761113797265b281085ae35e185a4233d2e75d8e does not have the encryption routine implemented yet. It only has comments in the form of a to-do list. Note that the clipboard is never used in the finished variants of the filecoder.

Figure 5: Another qkG sample listing the supposed routines

The sample e6b15419059e833424e9c726e9b0b085d9f0fcb2cccbfe1025b0d0f8a1735a66 does not infect all files once they are closed. However, it adds a condition that the day of the week (e.g., 1 = Sunday, 2 = Monday, and so forth) must be equal to the current time’s minutes in modulo 10. For example: if the document is closed on Sunday (1) and time xx hours x1 minutes (with x being any number), the file will be encrypted.

Figure 6: Code snapshot showing the condition set by a qkG variant in order to encrypt the file

We looked into its Bitcoin address and found that it didn’t have any transactions yet:

Figure 7: Screenshot showing qkG’s Bitcoin transactions as of November 17, 2017

While not particularly pervasive in terms of impact, qkG’s unique use of malicious macros is still notable. And like other ransomware families, we expect this technique to be rehashed, broadened, and repurposed for other cyberattacks.

Disabling macros significantly reduces the risk of macro-based malware such as qkG. Follow cybersecurity hygiene and apply best practices against ransomware: keep the system and its applications updated, regularly back up data, and restrict the use of tools, utilities, and features that can be misused as attack vectors. And more importantly, be more cybersecurity-aware. Macro-based malware are often employed alongside files/documents with socially-engineered hooks—ultimately, technologies that deter threats are only as good as the people who use them.

Trend Micro Solutions
Trend Micro XGen™ security provides a cross-generational blend of threat defense techniques against a full range of threats for data centerscloud environmentsnetworks, and endpoints. It features high-fidelity machine learning to secure the gateway and endpoint data and applications, and protects physical, virtual, and cloud workloads. With capabilities like web/URL filtering, behavioral analysis, and custom sandboxing, XGen™ protects against today’s purpose-built threats that bypass traditional controls, exploit known, unknown, or undisclosed vulnerabilities, and either steal or encrypt personally-identifiable data. Smart, optimized, and connected, XGen™ powers Trend Micro’s suite of security solutions: Hybrid Cloud Security, User Protection, and Network Defense.

Indicators of Compromise:
Hashes detected as RANSOM_CRYPTOQKG.A (SHA-256):

  • 2d20d5751ffbac9290271969860106fdd34309878a1e06f9dbcac23a7f50b571
  • 2e1136a2bfddb108cd3b3a60761113797265b281085ae35e185a4233d2e75d8e
  • e6b15419059e833424e9c726e9b0b085d9f0fcb2cccbfe1025b0d0f8a1735a66.doc

Post from: Trendlabs Security Intelligence Blog – by Trend Micro

qkG Filecoder: Self-Replicating, Document-Encrypting Ransomware Source:

6 Influencer Marketing Mistakes That Are Crippling Your Campaigns

6 Influencer Marketing Mistakes That Are Crippling Your Campaigns

Influencer campaigns are a major trend, one which show no signs of slowing down. If you open your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or just about any social media account, you’ll see influencers from all walks of life promoting various products or services.

So what’s the secret behind successful influencer campaigns? It’s simple – the brands and businesses behind them found out how to avoid the common pitfalls when constructing their campaigns. The good news is, you can too.

Read on to learn about the most common influencers marketing mistakes and how to avoid them easily.

But first, why is influencer marketing a big deal?

If you have tried dipping your toe into influencer marketing without success, you may be a bit bitter. However, when conducted properly, it can help you improve your brand’s reputation (which is always important), generate more traffic, turn more leads into customers, and promote your business to achieve the success you deserve.

No, this is not just mumbo-jumbo! The numbers don’t lie, and the diagram presented below will tell you everything you need to know about the importance of this marketing strategy.

So even if you’ve been burnt, it’s worth trying again – and even more important to identify which mistakes you’re making so you can avoid them.

Mistake #1 – Lacking a detailed campaign plan

Having a battle plan for influencer marketing is a must! You don’t want to implement an influencer campaign just because everyone else is doing it. This is not about jumping on the bandwagon. Collaborating with any old influencer is not what it takes to succeed.

Before you conduct social media outreach and start working with an influencer, nut out a clear vision of the campaign in question. Be decisive, set up measurable and realistic goals, and list all important points to cover. Having a detailed plan will give the campaign a vital dose of purpose and navigation, and ensure that both you and the influencer can work toward achieving a scaleable goal instead of just posting aimlessly.

Mistake #2 – Focusing solely on follower counts

Social media influencers are targeted by brands and different companies primarily because of their follower count. Therefore it is easy to conclude that the more followers, the better. Not necessarily!

Of course, follower count matters, but it is not the only factor to take into account when looking for an influencer. Don’t forget that the success of your campaign depends entirely on choosing the ideal person for the job.

If you focus on the number of followers primarily, you probably ignore engagement rates. It is not enough to have a lot of followers on the influencer’s account; the ideal influencer is one who also motivates and engages their audience.

To get the most out of your campaign, don’t ever overlook the power of engagement. Occasionally, someone with a lower follower count will have more engagement than those who are followed by more people. Instagram is the perfect example of the micro-influencer effect in action.

Image Source:

Mistake #3 – Sticking to one social media platform

Even when you have a presence on all social media platforms, there’s always one where you have more followers than anywhere else. This often makes marketers feel like they need an influencer who is also popular there, which can lead to the focus falling purely on that platform. Not only does this prevent you from achieving the success you want with influencer campaigns, but it also doesn’t allow your business to reach new and different groups of people.

If you already have a strong presence on one platform, try choosing an influencer from a different platform to branch out and increase the traffic and follower count on your other social media accounts.

Mistake #4 – Making the collaboration a one-time deal

You have a successful influencer campaign with one person yet decide to find someone else for the next gig. Sounds familiar? This is a common scenario primarily because marketers and business owners tend to believe that social media websites are a buffet, and they must try every meal on the menu. While this may seem like fun, it is not overly practical.

You see, just because one campaign ends according to the expectations, there is no guarantee that some other influencer would be the right fit and help you achieve your goals again. When you find an influencer that fits all the criteria and impeccably promotes your business, focus on establishing a long-term relationship. Future influencer campaigns will feel more natural as they truly understand your brand, and less forced or fake.

Mistake #5 – Assuming you ‘own’ an influencer

The ‘I pay you, so I own you’ mentality should not exist in 2018. Under no circumstances should you ever go ahead and assume that you are more important than an influencer, or that they have no power in the equation. They do, and that’s why they’re influencers in the first place.

Influencer marketing is all about forming relationships where both sides have equal power. Remember, you need an influencer just as much he or she needs you.

If you fail to acknowledge this, then your influencer campaign will inevitably not be fruitful due to all the negative energy. There’s an easy fix to this problem: collaborate with your influencer, exchange ideas, try to get to know him or her as a person and, most importantly, trust them. Influencers need creative freedom. Bear in mind that they gained thousands of followers primarily due to their creativity, and that they already know how different people respond to different posts.

Mistake #6 – Ignoring FTC endorsement rules

The days when posting a photo or a post on social media without flagging it as a paid or sponsored post are long gone. Now, influencers have to specify endorsements and sponsored content. Although both you and the influencer may find the legalities boring, they shouldn’t be messed with.

According to the changes in the US Federal Trade Commission’s rules for endorsements, failing to identify which posts are sponsored or act as an endorsement could lead to big trouble. Make sure you give your influencer (or influencers) precise instructions on how to label content associated with your products and services. It’s your responsibility.

In conclusion

Influencer campaigns can work wonders for brands and businesses when run effectively. It’s vital to avoid the common pitfalls that can prevent you from achieving your desired results.

Now that you know the mistakes to avoid, it’s time to renew your efforts with this marketing strategy. Let me know how you go.

Guest Author: Stevan Mcgrath is a digital marketing professional who has expertise in brand design and development. He is passionate about utilizing his diverse skill set in new and innovative online marketing strategies. He has worked as a freelancer and a contributor to Provenseo, and seeks client satisfaction as his topmost priority. He writes blog posts on digital marketing trends which you can find by following him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

The post 6 Influencer Marketing Mistakes That Are Crippling Your Campaigns appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.


Top 5 Social Media Trends to Put Into Practice in 2018

The word “trend” can evoke feelings of fear and uncertainty for businesses. You want to stay ahead of the curve, but you don’t want to waste time and money on something that isn’t going to stick around (or that isn’t relevant to your business). To help set you up for success, we put together our third annual social media trends report.

This report is based on a survey of over 300 social marketing practitioners; interviews with 38 industry experts; global data on the evolution of social ROI from Altimeter and Hootsuite; and analyst reports from Edelman, Gartner, GlobalWebIndex, Forrester, and more.

Join Amber Naslund, Hootsuite’s senior director of industry leadership, and James Mulvey, senior social strategist, for a live webinar where you’ll learn the top five social media trends in 2018. Attendees will also receive a download of the report so they can apply the insights to their plans.

Register Now

3 key social media challenges organizations will face in 2018

Through our 2018 trends research and surveys, we uncovered the three biggest challenges organizations will face next year. Read on to learn more about those and what you can do to address them.

1. Finding sustainable solutions to declining organic reach

Brands must accept that organic reach is steadily declining and stop relying on short-term tactics that used to work.

Instead, businesses need to start building sustainable strategies. This means being more selective when it comes to the networks you post content on, and investing more in social ads as well as influencer and/or advocacy strategies.

In our social media trends webinar, we’ll show you how to start building effective strategies.

2. Social video surges ahead—but we’re approaching saturation

Spending on social video advertising grew 130 percent this year with no sign of stopping.

While social video is effective, businesses need to make sure they’re creating content that actually reflects their business objectives. If the social video your organization produces can’t be tied to any real metric or measurable business value, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

3. Brands fatigue from new tools and tactics

During our research, we heard a common complaint from our customers: They’re fatigued with the endless list of new tactics, tools, and content formats.

In 2018, implementation and effective measurement of existing strategies will be more important than the introduction of new tactics.

While social networks continue to innovate and build new ways to reach audiences, marketers are under pressure to prove that their existing social strategies merit continued investment. Future investments need to have a demonstrable business impact beyond classic vanity metrics.

Watch our webinar to discover how to measure and track ROI so you can invest more into what’s working—and improve on tactics that aren’t delivering real value.

Wondering how the top five social trends of 2018 will solve these challenges and produce tangible business results? Register for our webinar to find out.

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The post Top 5 Social Media Trends to Put Into Practice in 2018 appeared first on Hootsuite Social Media Management.


Correcting the Record on vDOS Prosecutions

KrebsOnSecurity recently featured a story about a New Mexico man who stands accused of using the now-defunct vDOS attack-for-hire service to hobble the Web sites of several former employers. That piece stated that I wasn’t aware of any other prosecutions related to vDOS customers, but as it happens there was a prosecution in the United Kingdom earlier this year of a man who’s admitted to both using and helping to administer vDOS. Here’s a look at some open-source clues that may have led to the U.K. man’s arrest.

Jack Chappell, outside of a court hearing in the U.K. earlier this year.

In early July 2017, the West Midlands Police in the U.K. arrested 19-year-old Stockport resident Jack Chappell and charged him with aiding the vDOS co-founders — two Israeli men who were arrested late year and charged with running the service.

Until its demise in September 2016, vDOS was by far the most popular and powerful attack-for-hire service, allowing even completely unskilled Internet users to launch crippling assaults capable of knocking most Web sites offline. vDOS made more than $600,000 in just two of the four years it was in operation, launching more than 150,000 attacks against thousands of victims (including this site).

For his part, Chappell was charged with assisting in attacks against Web sites for some of the world’s largest companies, including Amazon, BBC, BT, Netflix, T-Mobile, Virgin Media, and Vodafone, between May 1, 2015 and April 30, 2016.

At the end of July 2017, Chappell pleaded guilty to those allegations, as well as charges of helping vDOS launder money from customers wishing to pay for attacks with PayPal accounts.

A big factor in that plea was the leak of the vDOS attacks, customer support and payments databases to this author and to U.S. law enforcement officials in the fall of 2016. Those databases provided extremely detailed information about co-conspirators, paying customers and victims.

But as with many other cybercrime investigations, the perpetrator in this case appears to have been caught thanks to a combination of several all-too-common factors, including password re-use, an active presence on the sprawling English-language hacking community Hackforums, and domain names registered in his real name. In combination, these clues provide a crucial bridge between Chappell’s online and real-world identities.

A simple search at for the name Jack Chappell and “UK” returns a handful of results, including the domain fractal[dot]hf. That domain was registered in June 2015 to a Jack Chappell in Stockport, using the email address[dot]uk [full disclosure: Domaintools is an advertiser on this site].

Neither domain is online anymore, but a Google search on fractal[dot]hf reveals several mentions of this site on Hackforums — a sprawling English-language forum that until very recently hosted the most bustling open-air market for competing attack-for-hire services.

According to a review of those Hackforums postings, fractal[dot]hf was a free service that allowed users to test the size and impact of any DDoS attack tool — displaying detailed graphs showing how much data a given attack tool could hurl at an intended target. Multiple forum members told interested users that fractal[dot]hf was owned and operated by a friendly and helpful Hackforums user named Fractal.

A screenshot of the user Fractal advertising his service for measuring the size of attacks. Fractal posted this graphic to illustrate the power of an IRC-based botnet that was being sold on Hackforums in mid-2015.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a very active user on vDOS who went by the same Fractal nickname, using the password “HelloWorld1998” and email address

The above-mentioned domain[dot]uk appears in the leaked vDOS payments database, which states that a PayPal account tied to the email address “[dot]uk” was one of several PayPal accounts used to launder customer payments for online attacks.

As noted in my June 2017 piece Following the Money Hobbled vDOS Attack-for-Hire Service, vDOS was forced to round-robin customer PayPal payments through a series of accounts after academic researchers began signing up for a variety of attack-for-hire services (including vDOS) and then reporting to PayPal the email addresses tied to accounts being used to receive payments.

The[dot]uk address was linked to a vDOS user account called “portalKiller” which used the password “HelloWorld8991.” Note that this password is very similar to the one used by the vDOS user Fractal — only the numbers at the end of the password have been reversed (1998/8991).

Portalkiller changed his password several times during his time on vDOS, and one of the passwords he used was “Smith8991.” An Internet search on this password turns up an account in the user database that was hacked and posted online from a similar attack-for-hire service previously run by a hacker group known as the Lizard Squad. The email address tied to that account?

From reviewing Fractal’s posts and reputation on Hackforums it appears that on Dec. 28, 2015 his account received praise and positive reputation points (similar to eBay’s user “feedback” system) from M30w and AppleJ4ck, the nicknames used by the alleged co-founders of vDOS.

Positive reputation points awarded to Chappell by the co-owners of vDOS, who used the aliases “M30W” and “AppleJ4ck.”

Comments in the leaked vDOS databases also suggest Chappell was for a time one of several trusted administrators and/or support personnel of the service. vDOS routinely banned accounts for members who shared their logins, or who logged on via virtual private network (VPN) services to anonymize their connections, but many members ignored this advice.

For example, in one support ticket dated March 13, 2016, a vDOS subscriber named “Bears” who had his account banned pleaded with the administrators to reactivate (or “unban”) his account.

“Hi jeremy pls unban hi p1st i love you hi AJ i love you hi fractal i love you hi whoever else is support is swagdaddy still support?” Bears pleads.

Ironically, both of Chappell’s accounts on vDOS — Fractal and portalKiller — were ultimately banned, the latter supposedly for flouting vDOS’s no-VPN restrictions. In one customer support ticket, portalKiller explains the reason for his use of a VPN: He routinely used a VPN so that he could tunnel his connection to the United States and watch the U.S. catalog of Netflix videos.

“Account Banned’,85801,’portalKiller’,’Hi, My account was banned a couple of days ago for logging in from a VPN. Let me explain, the IP is not a VPN it is my mobile provider (O2), which is not a proxy/VPN. The second IP was a mistake I made, I logged out and logged back in from my normal IP ( after I noticed my VPN was on (I use it for Netflix). I really want you to re-consider my ban. Thanks, portalKiller.”

Fractal also was eventually banned from using vDOS, although it’s less clear why that account was banished. Perhaps Chappell no longer offered the ability to help the other vDOS administrators launder funds, or maybe he had a falling out with M30W/p1st and AppleJ4ck.

Chappell did not respond to requests for comment. His sentencing has been delayed several times since his guilty plea; it is currently slated for December 2017.

Chappell’s guilty plea reminds me that there are many others who helped launder funds for vDOS that are in all likelihood similarly exposed. Stay tuned for more updates on that front. Source:

How a Customer Data Platform can improve AdWords performance

According to Hochman Consultants (2017), the average cost of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is increasing – with the average cost-per-click in 2016 being nearly double that of 2013.

When you consider the fact that Google processes over 2.3 million searches per minute (Business Insider, 2016), this is hardly surprising.

But what can marketers do to ensure that they can attract customers on this increasingly competitive channel, while avoiding these burgeoning costs?

In my previous two articles, I looked at how to stop Google AdWords campaigns from failing by using a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to gain a holistic overview of customer behavior, and how data-driven attribution with a CDP can supercharge your paid search.

In this article, I’ll outline five ways that a Customer Data Platform can improve your AdWords performance and ROI by keeping costs down and attracting new business.

Content produced in partnership with Fospha.

1. Data accuracy

Many businesses continue to struggle with optimizing their keyword bids. The simple reason for this is the fact that, regardless of how modern and advanced your bid management platform is, inputting inaccurate data can hinder success – and be costly to your business.

A Customer Data Platform gathers, integrates and centralizes customer data from various sources to give marketers more control of, and visibility over, their data. This data-driven approach stitches together the customer journey, and uses attribution to accurately assign credit to various marketing channels based on their importance in the path to conversion.

Without this true view of their data, businesses are missing the accurate value of their different channels. They also risk making poor decisions about which marketing channels are beneficial, and which are not, which might result in budget being taken away from a channel which has a huge role in the path to conversion.

With more accurate data, Customer Data Platforms are able to highlight the true value of keywords – allowing your business to pinpoint high and low performing keywords and campaigns, and optimize their spend on paid search.

For instance, with a more accurate data source, Fospha were able to help a client identify that 50% of their keywords weren’t contributing to any conversions. Check out the full case study here.

2. Optimize

Manual bid management can be a laborious task, but with the help of a bid management platform to automate the process, this becomes a quick, effortless and efficient process. The next step lies in super-charging the capabilities of this platform. And the answer lies in an accurate data source.

Combining the power of the Customer Data Platform to discover high and low performing keywords across all channels through this data, with the automation of a bid management platform, enables spend on poorly performing keywords to be quickly reallocated – resulting in an improvement in ROI.

3. Real-time access

Unlike most other Customer Data Platforms, Fospha facilitates real-time interactions for bidding, helping reduce and eliminate the amount of wasted clicks on incorrect audiences. A Customer Data Platform integrates seamlessly with bid management platforms like Kenshoo and Marin to support these real-time interactions, such as bidding on ad clicks.

Real-time access through a Customer Data Platform also enables marketers to automate their bid management through advanced machine learning.

4. Personalization

Marketers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of moving away from keyword-based marketing, and towards audience-based marketing. However, they can go one step further – making a move towards people-based marketing.

This is no less of a necessity with your bidding strategies. Understanding your audience is crucial, and by utilizing a data-driven attribution model, a Customer Data Platform provides you with a granular understanding of a single customer. From here, you are able to use your data to optimize your targeting and increase conversions by offering more relevant content to your customers.

In addition to this, keyword performance is largely dependent on types of devices used. It is important to boost keywords that do better on mobile and to suppress those that do not. Marin found that by adjusting bids for mobile, their clients enjoyed 10% higher CTR and 2.5% lower CPC than those that failed to do so.

A Customer Data Platform is able to detect these optimized conditions and adjust your bid management strategy accordingly.

5. Bidding strategies

Defining your bidding strategy can drastically improve the performance of your paid search campaigns. However, in order to reach a truly optimized level, different keywords, audiences and goals will require different bidding strategies.

A Customer Data Platform gives you a granular view of all your marketing channels to ensure the strategy deployed is custom to each specific need.


Content produced in partnership with Fospha. Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Search Engine Watch.


October macOS Patch Fixes FAT/USB Vulnerability

October’s macOS security update contained a fix for a vulnerability that Trend Micro privately disclosed to Apple earlier this year. The vulnerability (designated as CVE-2017-13811), was in the fsck_msdos system tool. This tool checks for and fixes errors in devices formatted with the FAT filesystem, and is automatically invoked by macOS when a device using FAT (such as a USB disk or an SD card) is inserted.

The vulnerability allows arbitrary code to be executed with system-level privileges, which potentially lets a malicious device (such as the mentioned flash disks or SD cards) take over the entire system when the said device is inserted into the vulnerable system. We do not believe that this attack has been used in the wild. We strongly recommend that users update their software to address this flaw, as well as the others that were part of this update cycle.

Figure 1. Error message when a malicious USB device is inserted (Click to enlarge)

The bug lies in the following code, which we’ve taken from Android’s source code repository:

for (k = 7; k >= 0 &&[k] == ‘ ‘; k–)[k] = ‘\0’;

The variable k has a value of -1.

if ([k] != ‘\0’)

Here[-1] is the last byte of the pointer called child as a member of the structure dosDirEntry. In little endian systems, this byte contains the high bits of a memory address, which is often equal to ‘\0’. In such a situation, the variable k will not be subject to the “++” operation, and its value remains -1.

if (p[8] != ‘ ‘)[k++] = ‘.’;
for (j = 0; j < 3; j++)[k++] = p[j+8];

The high byte of the child pointer can be written with an arbitrary value and modified to point to another address. If the target address is sprayed with a malformed dosDirEntry structure, arbitrary code execution is now possible. This can potentially allow an attacker to take over the vulnerable device.

The same tool is used in other BSD-based operating systems, as well as Android. While we disclosed this vulnerability to other vendors, we have not received a reply as of this time. Google has marked this bug as one they will not fix in Android, as “fsck_msdos runs under a very restricted SELinux domain.” They are currently investigating how to address this issue in a future version of the operating system. IT administrators may want to consider restricting USB access to devices, as this method is frequently used to allow malware to enter systems. Physical controls may be considered for especially sensitive devices.

Post from: Trendlabs Security Intelligence Blog – by Trend Micro

October macOS Patch Fixes FAT/USB Vulnerability Source:

Threat Predictions for Connected Life in 2018

 Download the Kaspersky Security Bulletin: Threat Predictions for Connected Life in 2018

Introduction: To be awake is to be online

The average home now has around three connected computers and four smart mobile devices. Hardly surprising, considering that 86 per cent of us check the Internet several times a day or more, and that’s outside of work. Chatting, shopping, banking, playing games, listening to music, booking travel and managing our increasingly connected homes. The risk of cyberattack can be the furthest thing from our mind.

Every year, Kaspersky Lab’s experts look at the main cyberthreats facing connected businesses over the coming 12 months, based on the trends seen during the year. For 2018, we decided to extract some top predictions that also have big implications for everyday connected life.

So what could the hackers be after in 2018?

  • Security gaps in your connected car. Earlier this year, researchers showed how a hack could shut down all safety features in a car, including airbags. Such attacks will become easier as connected cars contain more and more components that could be accessed digitally. For example: mobile phones can be paired with a vehicle’s head unit via Bluetooth; and Bluetooth was recently found to have more than 8 serious software A hacker only has to use one and they will have an access to car systems to conduct further attacks. Some cars have cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity and almost any modern car has a USB-port – all of these can be used in order to deliver infected code to the car’s systems.

    The data exchange between the internal systems of a car has been proven to be vulnerable to external interference, both by external researchers and Kaspersky Lab own findings. Given the fact that car industry is planning the development and production cycles years ahead, it is unlikely that all reported issues will be fixed in new connected cars coming on the market in 2018. Most of these cars were designed before cybersecurity became an issue for the automotive industry. That said, we expect that cars coming off the production line after that will have the most critical cybersecurity features implemented and will therefore be safer.

  • Vulnerable car apps. Most leading car manufacturers now offer apps to make life easier for drivers – they can locate, lock/unlock your car, check tire pressure, request assistance, schedule maintenance and more. Researchers have already shown how many such apps can be hacked to partly take over a car. 2018 could see the first appearance of an infected app that can manage a car or spy on its owner by tracking their location, or collecting authentication data. This data could then be sold on the underground market. Kaspersky Lab researchers have seen signs that authentication data to access connected car apps is already in demand on underground markets. As the number of connected cars increases, this trend will become a bigger problem.
  • Security gaps in wearable medical devices/implants, for data theft or sabotage. In 2018, there will be an estimated 19 million connected medical wearables, such as insulin pumps, pacemakers, monitors etc. in use, up from 12.8 million today. Companies are already issuing warnings about security gaps, knowing that, in an extreme case hackers could tamper with devices, set them to administer a fatal dose or to otherwise malfunction. This threat will rise in 2018 and probably keep on rising.
  • Still everywhere. The global pandemic that is ransomware shows no signs of abating. Our data shows that just under a million of our users were attacked with ransomware in 2017, only slightly less than in 2016 – but the actual number of those attacked in 2017 will be much higher. For example, the WannaCry ransomware victim count may exceed 700,000 thousand. With malware and distribution tools freely available on the web, attackers have discovered that locking or encrypting people’s data and devices – and those belonging to big companies, hospitals and smart city networks – is an easy and effective way of making money. In 2018 expect more of the same.
  • Malware, ditto – particularly that targeting Android mobile devices. We live in an increasingly mobile-driven world and hackers have upped their game. In 2017, we saw Android malware poisoning hotel booking, taxi service and ride-sharing apps, targeting mobile payments (SMS- and WAP billing), and using new techniques to bypass OS security. In 2018 we expect to see even more innovation.
  • Getting you to mine for cryptocurrency coins or stealing your coins. Cryptocurrencies are becoming more popular, so experts predict hackers will tap into people wanting to get a share of the action. In 2018, this could see more people going over to mining cryptocurrencies on their work-computers. We’ll certainly see more attacks designed to steal crypto coins from users, or install hidden mining tools on machines, particularly mobiles. Kaspersky Lab research shows that the number of people hit by such attacks have already exceeded two million in 2017. On the other hand, if handled properly and with the user’s consent, some forms of cryptocurrency mining may become a legal way of monetization for websites and/or apps.
  • Taking control of your connected stuff to create big botnets. Your home routers, connected webcams and smart thermostats are all great, but they’re likely full of software bugs and if you don’t set a proper password, hackers can pull them into a huge zombie botnet.  The infamous ‘Mirai’ botnet that nearly broke the Internet in 2016 was largely made up of CCTV cameras and connected printers – and in 2017 researchers found attackers improving Mirai’s tools. Proven as reliable and effective denial-of-service tools, new botnets built out of insecure devices may emerge in 2018.

  • Taking control of the world’s connected stuff for large scale disruption. Speaking of smart city technology such as CCTV cameras, what would happen if there was an attack on a city’s light control systems, causing not just blackouts but stroboscopic effects? Over the next year, smart city technologies such as traffic control, lighting, speed cameras, public transport and power supplies, as well as air traffic control infrastructure and more, will be a growing target for hackers. It’s estimated that by 2020 there will be 9.6 billion connected things used in smart cities around the world. Many of them just as buggy and vulnerable as your home router. Disruption to and disabling of these vast connected systems could do untold damage.

Conclusion: Stay awake when online

So there’s some scary stuff and a few not very nice people out there.  That shouldn’t stop you from making the most of what connected devices and systems have to offer over the next year and beyond. Fortunately, there are a lot of simple things that you can to stay safe.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Make use of the security features that come with your devices: set a decent password and keep the software updated. Not just phones and computers, but everything that is connected.
  • Be selective when choosing a smart device. Ask yourself: Does this really need an internet connection? If the answer is yes, then take the time to understand the device options before buying. If you discover that it has hard-coded passwords, choose a different model.
  • Consider cryptocurrencies as another way of saving and treat them accordingly. Just like you treat your ‘regular’ money.
  • Only install apps from reputable stores like Google Play, created by reputable developers.
  • Last but not least, consider supplementing the OS/device security with some additional software – particularly to keep your family and finances safe. A free version of Kaspersky Lab’s security software is available here.

For more information and advice on staying safe online please see the Kaspersky Daily blog. Source: