Category Archives: Technology

Investors renew Econet romance

Investors and asset managers have renewed their romance with Econet shares if the sudden interest in the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) is anything to go by.

By Chris Muronzi

After Econet’s share price suffered from its controversial rights issue early this year, plunging from a high of US31c to US13c, it seems the market has renewed its love for the stock and has re-rated the counter.

The company announced plans to raise US$130 million through a rights issue in February at a severely discounted price to retire debt.

The share price was last week trading at US21 cents, which saw the group’s market cap jumping from US$387 million to US$626 million, creating value of US$239 million in capital gains.

Its valuation matrices are looking good, too. Econet’s price-earnings (P/E) multiple has gone up from 13,7 pre rights issue announcement to last week’s 17,4 times. The P/E ratio is a ratio for valuing a company that measures its current share price relative to its per-share earnings.

Econet’s price-to-book (P/B) ratio pre-rights offer of 0,75 came down to a low of 0,53 post rights issue announcement.

P/B ratio is a ratio used to compare a stock’s market value to its book value and can be used to determine if a stock is trading at its intrinsic value or is cheaper.

Essentially, Econet, which had been trading at 75% of its book value before the rights issue announcement, traded at a discount of 47% to its book value after the rights issue announcement.

On Tuesday, 322 144 Econet shares were traded with a value of US$87 000 at US27 cents up 3,8% from the day before.

On Wednesday the share firmed 2,6% to close at US27,75 cents.

Econet shares worth US$4,5 million were traded on the exchange this week, representing 65% of the total market turnover.

Valuation matrices on the same day showed Econet had a P/E ratio multiple of 22,96 and P/B ratio of 1,14 from a low of 0,53, showing the counter could be trading at premium to its book value.

On a quarter-to-date basis, Econet is up 72,9% but still down 7,5% on a year-to-date basis.

Econet’s share price had increased by 68% on a like-for-like basis since its highest valuation of US30,06 cents.

Value investors reckon the mobile phone operator is now worth a lot more after retiring debt.
In the six months to September 2016, the company had short-term interest-bearing debt of US$104 million.

The company paid US$15 million in finance charges in the same period.

This means US$15 million, which could have gone to the bottom line, instead went to banks.

Should Econet retire part of the debt, analysts reckon this will significantly alter the group’s capital structure.

Econet as at September had total assets of US$1,190 billion and total liabilities of US$526 million, implying a book value of US$664 million.

Econet owes US$13,2 million to China Development Bank, US$75 million to Ericsson Credit AB, US$15 million to African Export and Import Bank (Afrexim) and about US$6 million to the Industrial Development Corporation.

Analysts see liabilities coming off when rights issue proceeds are applied. When this happens, the stock could continue rising.

But the group’s financial statements due anytime now could accurately reveal the value of the group.

IH Securities (IH) last week recommended Econet as a buy and sees an upside in the counter. – ZimInd

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg finally graduates at Harvard and urges graduates to contemplate risk

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges a cheer from the crowd before receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, as fellow honorary degree recipient actor James Earl Jones (L) looks on, during the 366th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg returned on Thursday to Harvard University, the school he dropped out of to start the pioneering social network, to urge its graduating class to help create a new social safety net to allow creative risk-taking.

The 33-year-old tech founder of the world’s largest social networking company said he would never have been able to risk leaving the elite Ivy League school if he had not known that his family would have been able to support him if he failed.

“There is something wrong with our system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars in ten years when millions of students can’t afford to pay off their loans, let alone start a business,” Zuckerberg told the crowd on a cold, drizzly day when graduates’ dark academic robes stood in contrast to the brightly colored plastic rain ponchos scattered through the audience.

“When you don’t have the freedom to take your idea and turn it into a historic enterprise we all lose,” said Zuckerberg, who was also named an honorary doctor of laws.

He offered no specific solutions to the problems he highlighted, but urged graduates to contemplate them.

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has inspired a host of competitors, including Twitter Inc and Snapchat.

Today some 1.9 billion people use Facebook each month. Its broad reach has made the company a lightning rod for controversy, most recently for the ways that producers of fake news stories used it to influence public opinion during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and for a pair of incidents last month in which users posted videos of two murders, one of them live.

The Menlo Park, California-based company has vowed to tackle both problems and this month said it would hire 3,000 new workers to speed up the removal of videos depicting murder, suicide and other violent acts.

Earlier in the day the website of the school’s student newspaper, The Crimson, was briefly filled with satirical headlines about Zuckerberg. The newspaper on Twitter apologized to its readers for the incident.

Zuckerberg’s speech was not the first time a successful dropout returned to the campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to address graduates.

Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates spoke to graduates in 2007, shortly after saying that he would step away from his day-to-day role with the world’s largest software company to focus his time on philanthropy. – Reuters

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British firm designs world’s first $5 solar lamp

Manchester-based design consultancy Inventid has teamed up with a Chinese manufacturer to produce what is said to be the world’s first $5 (£3.85) solar light.

Retailing in African countries, the SM100 solar lamp has been developed in collaboration with China’s leading solar panel manufacturer Yingli and charity SolarAid.

The lamp stays up to eight hours when fully charged. It features strap slots so that it can be used as a head torch or strapped to a bike. Also, its flat base allows the light to be used without the stand.

Inventid co-founder Henry James told the BBC: “Kerosene keeps families locked in a cycle of extreme poverty with almost one quarter of their monthly income spent burning the fuel. To break this cycle we worked with SolarAid, the UK’s leading solar charity to design a light that the poorest families could afford. This meant designing a light that could retail for five dollars in Africa.”

“Working closely with charities in Africa we gathered local insights into family routines, the layout of dwellings and environmental conditions. We listened to the aspirations and ideas of people whose personal experiences have shaped a product that is co-created in Africa,” added James.

Currently, kerosene lamps are the only source of light for as many as 600 million people in Africa, who are without electricity.

The solar lamp was trialled with 9,000 families in countries such as Malawi, Uganda and Zambia in Africa.

“We are talking about parts of the world where people live on $350 a year,” said James.

“We have never heard of a sales trial this so far-reaching. It had to be totally right if people were going to adopt the light, and introduce it into their lives and their daily routines,” he said.

Image result for SM100 solar lamp

SM100 solar light
The solar lamp was trialled with 9,000 families in countries such as Malawi, Uganda and Zambia in

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Dog-eat-dog affair in telecoms

THE mobile telecommunications market in Zimbabwe is turning into a battle ring for the gladiators where the weak might find it difficult to survive as industry players remove all the stops in order to increase their market share.

Revenues among mobile network operators (MNOs) have come under serious pressure from an economic slowdown that has eroded subscribers’ ability to take up new lines.

MNOs are also feeling the blows from a tough regulatory environment in which the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe is not making their work any easier.

In the face of slowing consumer demand, tariff reductions and the substitution of traditional mobile services with over-the-top products (OTTs) such as WhatsApp andFacebook, revenues are coming down across the industry.
The trend has been going on for the past three years.

This has compromised MNOs’ ability to invest in the necessary network upgrade.

Competition is getting more and more intense with each passing week with consumers being the biggest winner.
The main battle is between Econet Wireless Zimbabwe-listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) — and State-controlled outfits, Telecel Zimbabwe — and NetOne.

The arrival of OTTs, that have taken the local market by storm, poses a real danger to these industry giants.
Gone are the days when mobile operators would depend on revenue from voice in the wake of the OTTs that are much, much cheaper.

OTTs now command a huge clientele, which is growing daily.

Faced with their growing popularity, the so-called ‘Big Three” are savaging each other to retain their subscribers, in a market rated among the most expensive.

Economic analyst, Evonia Muzondo, said MNOs are trying to earn every cent they can lay their hands on to escape the threat of OTTs and keep their operations afloat.

She said: “Companies are trying to stimulate demand and counter the impact of OTT services as well as counter stiff competition. These promotions are good for the consumer”.

In the first five months of the year, the three MNOs have launched a combined 15 new packages.

ICT expert, Shingi Muringi, said while Econet used to be the leading brand through various services, the other players have awoken from their deep slumber to give the ZSE-listed concern a good run for its money.

“The future of the telecoms sector signals exciting times ahead as we are likely to see more titanic tussles among operators, as they bid to satisfy the economically distressed subscriber,” he said.

NetOne, the first mobile phone network to be granted an operating licence in 1996, had until now pursued a conservative strategy, banking on support from its sole shareholder, government.

But the mounting competition has seen the parastatal becoming aggressive, and taking the battle to its biggest competitor, Econet.

Since January, NetOne has launched six new products as it seeks to transform itself from being a mobile service provider to an all round telecoms outfit that offers voice, video, internet, mobility, iptv and other applications.
This month, NetOne launched One-Fi and ONE-Cliq, described by acting chief executive officer (CEO), Brian Mutandiro, as meant to meet “the ever changing needs of our customers and the insatiable quest for innovative technologies”.

One-Fi is targeted at businesses, churches, homes, universities, schools, shopping malls, hotels and any other public places.

“We are excited that we have the capability to offer multimedia services… and the product we bring to the nation can connect up to 32 people at the same location using a NetOne SIM card,” said Mutandiro at the launch of the latest products a fortnight ago.

Last year, NetOne also introduced an integrated prepaid package called OneFusion, which gives subscribers a comprehensive communications plan, with bundles for on-net and off-net minutes, data, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter bundles and international minutes.

The parastatal recently launched News on One, to allow subscribers to listen to Radio news on their phones.
The State-owned mobile network operator has also introduced a voice call bundle,Khuluma 24 /7, allowing subscribers to make calls across networks at lower rates.

Khuluma 24 /7 (which means speak), is a voice call bundle that enables subscribers to call within and across networks with daily and weekly validity.

Econet, the country’s largest mobile network operator, is also sharpening its pencils to maintain its pole position.
Last week, the ZSE-listed concern launched Econet Zone Mobile Wi-Fi on the go, which gives internet access to commuter omnibus passengers in selected metropolitan routes.

For every purchase of a data bundle, customers get extra 100 percent Free WiFi data that they can use when riding in commuter omnibuses.

Recently, Econet’s mobile money unit, EcoCash unveiled the Chaka-Chaya promotion through which subscribers stand to win over 100 000 prices for using its multiple transacting touch-points.

Econet’s mobile platform, Ecocash this month partnered with mortgage lender, the Central Africa Building Society, to enhance customer banking and merchant services.

This partnership will allow EcoCash users to enter their mobile numbers at a retailer point of sale pin pad.
Econet has also launched a car tracking and monitoring solution, allowing customers to track and monitor their vehicles on-the-go from their smart phones and laptops.

In March, it revamped its data offering to give customers more value through a new bundle offering. The Data Double Up Campaign gives customers 100 percent Free Wi-Fi on all data bundle purchases via #143#.
“We are keenly aware of the important role that access to internet has, not only to our lifestyles but to the development of today’s society in line with our commitment to meeting Sustainable Development Goals. Through our services, we want to give our customers value, convenience, access and choice,” said Econet CEO, Douglas Mboweni.

In March, Econet unveiled EcoCash home wallet app, which allows United Kingdom-based customers to have access to the Ecocash wallet as if they were in Zimbabwe and enjoy the ability to remit funds and pay for goods and services.
The previous month, Econet had beefed up its Smart Learning platform, Ruzivo, with more subjects including Ndebele and Shona as the company steps up initiatives to complement government’s efforts in improving primary schools’ pass rates.

Ruzivo is a revolutionary online interactive digital learning platform with locally developed academic content including interactive lessons, exercises and tests.

The packages, which pupils can access through smart phones, tablets or any internet connected devices, can be used both in the classroom for lessons and at home for revisions.

Telecel, the smallest of the three, led by Angeline Vere, is also burning the midnight oil to catch up with the other two, Econet and NetOne.

Its latest product offering is a product called MegaBoost.

Head of marketing, Christopher Rubatika, said as the name suggests, MegaBoost is an all-inclusive package that gives their pre-paid customers the much-needed boost in terms of making mobile services such as data, voice, text and social media access more affordable.

“MegaBoost is a response to increasing customer requests for affordable mobile services,” he said.

This month, Telecel launched its WiFi Zone service, which allows subscribers to connect to the internet via WiFi hotspots using their mobile phones or any other WiFi compatible devices.

The previous month, Telecel had re-introduced their Mega Bonus promotion, which allows the company’s pre-paid subscribers to make local calls across all networks for double the value of the airtime they purchase.

In March, Telecel announced a new data, voice and text package for its Telecel Go pre-paid subscribers.

It is clear that the telecoms firms are battling to catch up with developments elsewhere by going beyond traditional voice, currently accounting for 50 percent of the sector’s combined revenue, to data services.

The products and packages being launched signal a revolution in the country’s mobile telecommunication industry.
It is now a battle of relevance where the operators have to be innovative to attract more subscribers taking into consideration that Zimbabwe’s mobile telecommunications industry is price sensitive due to the unstable economic environment.

TechUnzipped editor, Pardon Gatsi, said while the product and promotions were benefitting the consumers, the service providers should guard against value destructive competitive behaviour.

“Cost optimisation while at the same time delivering real value to customers is seen as a smarter strategy. Sustainable business models should therefore be premised on the bottom line. Data traffic growth alone with no supporting revenue growth is not sustainable,” he said.

In a shrinking economy, characterised by suffocating regulatory environment, the focus should be on delivering value.

The numbers that matter ultimately are not just subscribers, but revenue, market share and average revenue per user. – FinGaz

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Africom launches US$13m 4G wireless internet

Information Communication Technology minister (ICT) Supa Mandiwanzira

Internet service provider, Africom has launched a US$13 million 4G wireless internet.

Speaking at the launch ceremony held in Chitungiza today, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT), Postal and Courier Services, Mr Cosmas Chigwamba, who stood in for guest of honour, Minister Supa Mandiwanzira, said ICT is key in ensuring ease of doing business and driving economic growth.

“Zimbabwe must not be left behind in the digital drive. We need to have a knowledge based society by 2020 through ICT and all communities must be part of it,” he said.

Africom Managing Director, Mrs Rudo Mudavanhu called for cooperation in ICT sector and hailed other networks for embracing network sharing.

She added that: “We need to believe firmly that economic growth through ICT is possible.”

Africom Board Chairperson, Dr Sibusiso Moyo said his organisation is proud to be part of the drive to empower Zimbabweans through ICT, adding that they believe in competition in the sector as it ensures the provision of world class services.

He said there is demand for internet globally and even in Zimbabwe by business and individuals alike.

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North Korea ‘linked’ to global WannaCry cyberattacks by shared malware code

Pictured: North Korean leader Kim Jong UnReuters

The ‘WannaCry’ strain of ransomware that has infected hundreds of thousands of victims across 150 countries may be linked to North Korea, researchers have found. One well-known hacking team, dubbed “Lazarus Group”, was specifically name-checked.

The coding similarities were first uncovered by Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Google, who dug up links between WannaCry and strain of malware called “Contopee” – previously referenced during the probe into the massive Bangladesh Bank heist last year.

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, which previously revealed Lazarus Group was involved with the 2015 Sony Pictures hack, said on 15 May that investigators must now “investigate these similarities and attempt to discover more facts about the origin of WannaCry.”

“Looking back to the Bangladesh attack, in the early days, there were very few facts linking them to the Lazarus group,” a blog post read.

The researchers continued:”In time, more evidence appeared and allowed us, and others, to links them together with high confidence. Further research can be crucial to connecting the dots.

“We believe this might hold the key to solve some of the mysteries around this attack.

“One thing is for sure — Neel Mehta’s discovery is the most significant clue to date regarding the origins of Wannacry.”
The shared code appears to be between an February 2017 version of the ransomware and Lazarus Group malware from two years ago, experts said.
“The [February] sample appears to be a very early variant of the WannaCry encryptor. We believe a theory a false flag although possible, is improbable,” Kaspersky experts concluded. The ransomware in question was used to lock down computer systems until money is paid to the hackers.
Matthieu Suiche, a prominent researcher and founder of United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based cybersecurity firm Comae Technologies, also confirmed the find via Twitter. “There is no doubt functions are 100% the same,” Suiche claimed after analysing the malware.
“Both share similar code, one function is 100% identical,” he stated in another update, also linking to Lazarus Group research by Symantec, a US cybersecurity firm.
In May 2016, Symantec detailed how Contopee was one of three pieces of malware being used in targeted attacks against the financial sector in South-East Asia. The computer software was allegedly used by North Korean hackers to manipulate financial networks.
 Rick Ledgett, the deputy director of the US National Security Agency (NSA) said in April that evidence linking North Korea to the Bangladesh banking operation was strong. “If that’s true, then that says to me that the North Koreans are robbing banks,” he said, as reported by Reuters.
The regime in North Korea has denied orchestrating the cyberattacks, which resulted in the successful theft of roughly $81m. In this most recent case, however, attribution remains far from certain. “Attribution can be faked,” Suiche noted, adding: “But if true this is a major provocation.”
While the shared code suggests an overlap with Lazarus Group malware, much more research will need to be conducted before a full picture of the situation emerges.

In a statement to IBTimes UK, Symantec said: “Over the weekend, we began investigating connections of WannaCry to known groups we are monitoring.

“We discovered that earlier versions of WannaCry in April and early May that weren’t widely distributed unlike the recent outbreak were found on systems shortly after being compromised with known Lazarus tools.

“However, we have not yet been able to confirm the Lazarus tools deployed WannaCry on these systems. In addition, we found code in WannaCry used in SSL routines that historically was unique to Lazarus tools. While these connections exist, they so far only represent weak connections.

“We are continuing to investigate for stronger connections.”

‘Havoc and embarrassment’

Responding to the news on Twitter, Claudio Guarnieri, a senior technologist at Amnesty International and researcher at Citizen Lab, said the discovery of linked malware was “huge if true.”

He tweeted: “That could explain the general sloppiness and lack of a decryption process, if the intent is to quickly cause havoc and embarrassment. That said, we need to be cautious. We definitely need more data points before being confident about this connection.”

WannaCry was responsible for a major incident on 12 May (Friday) after it quickly infected organisations across the world, including the UK health service. It was effective due to the fact it was based on an NSA exploit leaked earlier in the year by a group called ‘Shadow Brokers’.

Law enforcements around the globe are now scrambling to investigate the computer meltdowns. Organisations, meanwhile, are rushing to patch systems before a new variant of the notorious ransomware is able to infect machines running outdated software. – IBTimes

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Hackers use stolen NSA tool in global cyber attack

SINGAPORE/LONDON – A global cyber attack leveraging hacking tools believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency has infected tens of thousands of computers in nearly 100 countries, disrupting Britain’s health system and global shipper FedEx.

Cyber extortionists tricked victims into opening malicious malware attachments to spam emails that appeared to contain invoices, job offers, security warnings and other legitimate files.

The ransomware encrypted data on the computers, demanding payments of $300 to $600 to restore access. Security researchers said they observed some victims paying via the digital currency bitcoin, though they did not know what percent had given in to the extortionists.

Researchers with security software maker Avast said they had observed 57,000 infections in 99 countries, with Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan the top targets.

Some experts said the threat had receded for now, in part because a British-based researcher, who declined to give his name, registered a domain that he noticed the malware was trying to connect to, limiting the worm’s spread.

“We are on a downward slope, the infections are extremely few, because the malware is not able to connect to the registered domain,” said Vikram Thakur, principal research manager at Symantec.

“The numbers are extremely low and coming down fast.”

But the attackers may yet tweak the code and restart the cycle. The British-based researcher who may have foiled the ransomware’s spread told Reuters he had not seen any such tweaks yet, “but they will.”

Finance chiefs from the Group of Seven rich countries will commit on Saturday to join forces to fight the growing threat of international cyber attacks, according to a draft statement of a meeting they are holding in Italy.

“Appropriate economy-wide policy responses are needed,” the ministers said in their draft statement, seen by Reuters.

HOSPITALS IN FIRING LINE

In Asia, some hospitals, schools, universities and other institutions were affected, although the full extent of the damage is not yet known because it is the weekend.

“I believe many companies have not yet noticed,” said William Saito, a cyber security adviser to Japan’s government.

“Things could likely emerge on Monday.”

China’s official Xinhua news agency said some secondary schools and universities had been affected, without specifying how many or identifying them.

In Vietnam, Vu Ngoc Son, a director of Bkav Anti Malware, said dozens of cases of infection had been reported there, but he declined to identify any of the victims.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported a university hospital had been affected, while a communications official in Indonesia said two hospitals there had been affected.

The most disruptive attacks were reported in Britain, where hospitals and clinics were forced to turn away patients after losing access to computers on Friday.

International shipper FedEx Corp said some of its Windows computers were also infected. “We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible,” it said in a statement.

Telecommunications company Telefonica was among many targets in Spain. Portugal Telecom and Telefonica Argentina both said they were also targeted.

Only a small number of U.S.-headquartered organizations were hit because the hackers appear to have begun the campaign by targeting organizations in Europe, said Thakur.

By the time they turned their attention to the United States, spam filters had identified the new threat and flagged the ransomware-laden emails as malicious, Thakur added.

MICROSOFT UPS DEFENSES

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was sharing information with domestic and foreign partners and was ready to lend technical support.

Private security firms identified the ransomware as a new variant of “WannaCry” that had the ability to automatically spread across large networks by exploiting a known bug in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

The hackers, who have not come forward to claim responsibility or otherwise been identified, likely made it a “worm”, or self spreading malware, by exploiting a piece of NSA code known as “Eternal Blue” that was released last month by a group known as the Shadow Brokers, researchers with several private cyber security firms said.

“This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cyber community has ever seen,” said Rich Barger, director of threat research with Splunk, one of the firms that linked WannaCry to the NSA.

The Shadow Brokers released Eternal Blue as part of a trove of hacking tools that they said belonged to the U.S. spy agency.

Microsoft said it was pushing out automatic Windows updates to defend clients from WannaCry. It issued a patch on March 14 to protect them from Eternal Blue.

“Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt,” Microsoft said in a statement on Friday, adding it was working with customers to provide additional assistance.

SENSITIVE TIMING

The spread of the ransomware capped a week of cyber turmoil in Europe that began the previous week when hackers posted a trove of campaign documents tied to French candidate Emmanuel Macron just before a run-off vote in which he was elected president of France.

On Wednesday, hackers disrupted the websites of several French media companies and aerospace giant Airbus.The hack happened four weeks before a British general election in which national security and the management of the state-run National Health Service are important issues.

The British government did not know who was behind the attack but its National Crime Agency was working to find out, interior minister Amber Rudd said.

Authorities in Britain have been braced for cyber attacks in the run-up to the election, as happened during last year’s U.S. election and on the eve of the French one.

But those attacks – blamed on Russia, which has repeatedly denied them – followed a different modus operandi involving penetrating the accounts of individuals and political organizations and then releasing hacked material online.

On Friday, Russia’s interior and emergencies ministries, as well as its biggest bank, Sberbank, said they were targeted. The interior ministry said about 1,000 computers had been infected but it had localized the virus.

Although cyber extortion cases have been rising for several years, they have to date affected small-to-mid sized organizations.

“Seeing a large telco like Telefonica get hit is going to get everybody worried,” said Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer with cyber security firm Veracode. – Reuters

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NetOne engaged in terror as it hires 400 Zanu PF thugs

Mobile phone operator NetOne yesterday recruited more than 400 people as part of its ambitious project to create 20 000 jobs countrywide.

The employees mainly Zanu PF youths, were dispatched to Highfield where they were selling NetOne lines, registering customers and replacing lines, among other duties.

In an interview, NetOne acting chief executive officer Mr Brian Mutandiro, said he was happy that the first batch had started work.

“We are happy the first batch has started work and I am impressed by the aggressiveness of these brand ambassadors. The future is orange and we will paint the whole country orange.

“Young men and women you see here will be educating people on the affordable and efficient products we have. It is high time Zimbabweans are aware of their right to be able to access affordable communicational solutions,” he said.

One of the brand ambassadors Miss Rudo Chifamba, said she was very happy to be employed as many people of her age were still unemployed.

“I am very happy I got this job and it’s an honour for me to be a NetOne brand ambassador. A lot of people are unemployed and I was very fortunate to get this offer. I will represent, market and sell the NetOne brand very well as I was trusted to be offered this position,”.

A vendor operating in Highfield at an area popularly known as Mastones, Mrs Alice Chibaya said; “As a vendor, I want something which my pocket can afford easily. I am very happy that NetOne has come to us. I used to hear about OneFusion and today I bought my line and at the same time maintaining my last six digits of the number of the other network I was using,” she said.

Last month, NetOne came up with the ambitious project, which will see the company employing thousands of Zimbabweans.

Thousands of youths thronged the TelOne Training Centre in Harare where the mobile operator recruited at least 2 000 brand ambassadors.

NetOne intends to recruit at least 2 000 youths aged between 19 and 35 from each of the country’s 10 provinces in the next six months. This will accumulatively result in 20 000 jobs being created.

Mr Mutandiro said the campaign was part of the parastatal’s mission to contribute towards Government’s quest to create employment.

“We seek to complement what the Government is trying to do in the country and for us it is a win-win situation,” said Mr Mutandiro.

“It is not about us getting money from the community, but it is also about us employing and giving back to the community in the spirit of employing them.

“As we employ them, they are going to go out there, market and sell our products so that people can experience our products.”

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British hospitals, Spanish firms among targets of global ‘ransomware’ attack

LONDON/MADRID – A huge cyber attack leveraging hacking tools widely believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency brought disruption to Britain’s health system on Friday and infected dozens of other countries around the world, security researchers said.

Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries in parts of England were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments after they were infected with the “ransomware”, which scrambled data on computers and demanded payments of $300 to $600 to restore access. People in affected areas were being advised to seek medical care only in emergencies.

“We are experiencing a major IT disruption and there are delays at all of our hospitals,” said the Barts Health group, which manages major London hospitals. Routine appointments had been canceled and ambulances were being diverted to neighboring hospitals.

Telecommunications giant Telefonica was among many targets in Spain, though it said the attack was limited to some computers on an internal network and had not affected clients or services.

Ransomware is malicious software that infects machines, locks them by encrypting data and then extorts money to let users back in. A Telefonica spokesman said a window appeared on screens of infected computers that demanded payment with the digital currency bitcoin in order to regain access to files.

Rich Barger, director of threat research at U.S.-based security research company Splunk, said: “This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cyber community has ever seen.”

Officials and experts identified the type of malware as ‘Wanna Cry’, also known as ‘Wanna Decryptor’. It exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows operating system that allows it to automatically spread across networks, which gives it the ability to quickly infect large numbers of machines at the same organization.

It is the first piece of self-spreading ransomware, said Adam Meyers, a research with cyber security firm CrowdStrike. “Once it gets in and starts moving across the infrastructure, there is no way to stop it.”

The Wanna Cry malware exploits a vulnerability widely believed by security researchers to have been developed by the National Security Agency that was released on the Internet last month by a group known as the Shadow Brokers.

Shadow Brokers said at the time that they obtained it from a secret trove of NSA tools and files that are part of the spy agency’s hacking program.

Microsoft issued a patch on March 14 described as critical to users of Windows to fix that vulnerability, which CrowdStrike and Splunk said should protect users from getting infected by Wanna Cry. Organisations or individual users who failed to apply that patch to Windows machines may remain vulnerable to WannaCry. The NSA and Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Andrea Zapparoli Manzoni, a senior manager in the Information Risk Management division of Kpmg Advisory in Italy, said: “The ransomware attack is happening in a haphazard fashion and is hitting every country in the world, including Italy.

“This particular ransomware contains a vulnerability, called Eternal Blue, which was developed in U.S. intelligence circles and was then stolen. That gives you an idea about why the level is risk is particularly high. The aim isn’t to hit any specific country but to strike as widely as possible to make money.”

Hospitals were a prime target, Manzoni said, because “they are very vulnerable to cyber attacks and ready to pay because they cannot afford any shutdowns.”

SENSITIVE TIMING

The chaos in Britain’s health system came less than four weeks before a parliamentary election in which national security and the management of the state-run National Health Service (NHS) are important campaign themes.

“This was not targeted at the NHS, it’s an international attack and a number of countries and organizations have been affected,” Prime Minister Theresa May said.

“We’re aware that a number of NHS organizations have reported that they’ve suffered from a ransomware attack,” May said. “We’re not aware of any evidence that patient data has been compromised.”

Authorities in Britain have been braced for possible cyberattacks in the run-up to the vote, as happened during last year’s U.S. election and on the eve of this month’s presidential vote in France.

But those attacks – blamed on Russia, which has repeatedly denied them – followed an entirely different modus operandi involving penetrating the accounts of individuals and political organizations and then releasing hacked material online.

In Spain, the attacks did not disrupt the provision of services or networks operations of the victims, the government said in a statement. Still, the news prompted security teams at large financial services firms and businesses around the world to review their plans for defending against ransomware attacks, according to executives with private cyber security firms.

A spokeswoman for Portugal Telecom said: “We were the target of an attack, like what is happening in all of Europe, a large scale-attack, but none of our services was affected.”

Although cyber extortion cases have been rising for several years, they have to date affected small-to-mid sized organizations, disrupting services provided by hospitals, police departments, public transportation systems and utilities in the United States and Europe.

“Seeing a large telco like Telefonica get hit is going to get everybody worried. Now ransomware is affecting larger companies with more sophisticated security operations,” Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer with cyber security firm Veracode, said.

The news is also likely to embolden cyber extortionists when selecting targets, Chris Camacho, chief strategy officer with cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint, said.

“Now that the cyber criminals know they can hit the big guys, they will start to target big corporations. And some of them may not be well prepared for such attacks,” Camacho said.

In Spain, some big firms took pre-emptive steps to thwart ransomware attacks following a warning from Spain’s National Cryptology Centre of “a massive ransomware attack.”

Iberdrola and Gas Natural, along with Vodafone’s unit in Spain, asked staff to turn off computers or cut off internet access in case they had been compromised, representatives from the firms said.

It was not immediately clear how many Spanish organizations had been compromised by the attacks, if any critical services had been interrupted or whether victims had paid cyber criminals to regain access to their networks. – Reuters

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Windows 10 is now running on 500 million devices, Microsoft says

Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 is now running on 500 million devices since its release in July 2015. The announcement was made by company’s chief executive officer Satya Nadella on Wednesday (10 May) at Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference in Seattle.

At the 2015 Build developer conference, Microsoft’s Windows chief Terry Myerson said the company wanted to see Windows 10 running on 1 billion devices. “Our goal is that within two to three years of Windows 10’s release there will be 1 billion devices running Windows 10,” he had said.

However, this time the company acknowledged that it would take longer time to reach that goal, although it did not set a new timetable for that.

After the Windows 8 disaster, Windows 10 represents a comeback. Windows 8’s ill-conceived design lead to a decline in PC sales and further contributed to the departure of Steve Ballmer, states an Associated Press report.

The company even tried piggyback on Windows Phone devices, but the attempt went in vain. Microsoft points out this as reason for not meeting its one billion target in time.

Gartner analyst Ed Anderson has said Microsoft is building its products with business and government agencies in mind.

Microsoft is quite hopeful to win over consumers with Cortana voice assistant to rival Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. It recently unveiled an internet connected speaker featuring Cortana.

The company announced on Wednesday both Intel and HP plan to pack Cortana in their upcoming devices. It also encouraged programmers to design applications that help Cortana perform the tasks the consumers want.

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