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How to store cryptocurrencies, keep funds safe, and spot scams

Given its growing popularity, experts at Avast have provided advice on how to store cryptocurrencies, keep funds safe, and spot scams.

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Avast, a global leader in digital security and privacy, has observed in the first six months of 2021 that cryptocurrency-focused phishing scams are more likely to appear in countries where cryptocurrency is rising in popularity.

Avast’s threat labs researchers have intercepted and protected users against a rise in crypto-related phishing sites since the start of the year, with the majority posing as legitimate custodial wallets. The rise of these sites is higher in countries where cryptocurrency adoption is most prevalent1. The United States, Brazil and Nigeria are the biggest targets for these crypto-scams, with notable levels of scams also in the UK, France, Russia and India. In this research, Avast Threat Labs monitored a selection of 37 samples. The global heatmap below shows where around the world users visited crypto-related phishing in the first six months of 2021:

Peter Kovac, senior researcher at Avast, said, “The crypto market is surging right now. Bitcoin has been given a boost following recent news from El Salvador that it will be recognized as legal tender in the country – with other countries in the region tipped to follow suit.”

“This surge in Bitcoin is having a knock-on effect across the wider crypto space and some analysts are even predicting that 2021 will be a record-breaking year for cryptocurrencies. However, as it has grown in popularity, it has also grown as a more lucrative target for hackers – and our researchers have found the levels of crypto-related scams are most prevalent in regions where cryptocurrencies are gaining popularity.”

Given its growing popularity, experts at Avast have provided advice on how to store cryptocurrencies, keep funds safe, and spot scams.

How to store cryptocurrency

There are several methods and crypto wallets that cryptocurrency owners can deploy to store their cryptocurrency. Each has its own advantages and potential security pitfalls.

Custodial wallets

With a custodial wallet, coins (cryptocurrencies) are managed by some other entity, like a cryptocurrency exchange such as Binance, or similar service. It works like a traditional bank account, where users can log in and manage their funds.

  • The advantages: The burden of securing funds is partially offloaded to the service provider, users have guarantees and insurance to a certain extent.
  • The risks: If the service goes bankrupt or is fraudulent it could lose some or all funds. If this happens, users are at the mercy of the service provider, and they may limit people’s access to their money.
  • Relevant threats: It’s vital that users view their crypto account like any other form of online banking, with the same threats and vulnerabilities facing it, without the same protections and insurances that they have with traditional banks. Phishing is one of the biggest threats facing custodial wallets, with fake websites impersonating exchanges and services designed to steal people’s credentials and funds popping up all the time.

Software wallets

Software wallets are applications that manage cryptocurrency owners’ private keys and allow them to make transactions directly.

  • The advantages: Software wallets are designed to be very convenient and easy to use. As a non-custodial wallet, people have complete control over their funds.
  • The risks: The device the software wallet is stored on will be the single point of failure. If a device with the app is hacked, stolen or even damaged, then the user could lose access to their funds forever. 
  • Relevant threats: Besides the physical risks, ransomware encrypting the device and data stored on it, and demanding a ransom payment to unlock said device and data, pose a major threat. Trojans spying on the user’s data, and backdoors letting intruders into the device, also pose a huge risk to software wallets.

Paper & brain wallets

These are the most simple solution but also the most error prone – simply having the private key written down or memorized.

  • The advantages: Put simply, the advantage is its simplicity, lack of cost and will not be susceptible to hacking or other computer threats.
  • The risks: If something happens to the paper such as damage or theft, or the user has a lapse in memory, they risk losing all of their funds. 
  • Relevant threats: There will be no backup in case of loss of paper or memory. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

Hardware wallets

Hardware wallets are an actual separate device, such as a USB, that acts as the wallet. These wallets also come with a “recovery sheet” with the private key written on a piece of paper (or carved into steel to withstand fire and other forms of physical damage).

  • The advantages: Hardware wallets are especially designed to prevent hacking. Only very select, skilled individuals have shown the ability to crack a hardware wallet after having long-term physical access to it.
  • The risks: As with any physical device, losing it would be one of the biggest risks. However, providing a crypto owner is using it according to the best practices by having a secure safety pin/password, it is rather secure. While not necessarily a risk, hardware wallets can be expensive, with associated safekeeping costs.
  • Relevant threats: Providing a user follows best practices, the threats are minimal. Most hardware wallets require several checks before they allow people to send money. These happen on the device and private keys never leave that device.

How to keep cryptocurrency safe

Users should be wary of scams: Scams can come in many forms online, from “crypto giveaways by Elon Musk” to “we will invest your money for you with XYZ% gains every month”. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Crypto owners should:

  • Watch out for unsolicited private messages: Whether that’s on WhatsApp/Telegram or any other social media forum, people should immediately block any unsolicited message that may be fraud. For example, if a message comes from an unknown number, or if it comes from a contact but is an unusual, and possibly urgent message coming from the contact, the contact’s phone might have been hacked. It is recommendable to reach out to a contact, for example via phone call, and verify if they really sent this message before taking any further action. Even if the message is unrelated to crypto, the intention can be phishing, to ultimately spy on the user’s data.
  • Be aware of mobile phishing: Hackers are increasingly targeting people on their mobile devices in order to steal crypto credentials. These social engineering attacks can come from anywhere on a mobile device, including texts, social media, third-party messaging platforms or email. Beyond phishing, malicious mobile apps are also on the rise that have the hidden ability to log keystrokes and spy the activity on people’s screens. To prevent mobile phishing attacks, users can use Avast Secure Browser, which offers an anti-phishing feature that blocks dangerous websites on Android devices. The browser’s anti-phishing feature also works on Windows and Mac devices.
  • Rely on services that use strong security measures: When choosing a custodial or software wallet, people should be assured to choose a provider that offers strong security measures including two-factor-authentication methods. For more security, there are also platforms that encourage the user to set up separate passwords to log in to the platform, and to do a transfer. People who want to stay entirely private may decide for a platform that does not require them to submit an ID, but oftentimes these platforms provide poor security measures. There are platforms that can offer this as they allow crypto trading only instead of trading with Fiat money such as Euro or US-Dollar, which is why they are not obliged to stick to anti-money laundering and know your customer (KYC) rules.
  • Install an antivirus: Crypto owners should ensure that they have strong antivirus protection across all of their devices. For example, many people will have an antivirus on their PC but not on their mobile devices or tablets – which is why malicious mobile phishing and malware campaigns have been so effective for hackers. Crypto accounts can be worth a very significant amount of money, so for users it’s essential to ensure robust internet security on any device on which crypto information is stored or from which accounts are accessed.

Tech & Innovation

Social media can be a lifesaver for international new ventures

Newly established international firms and start-ups with limited resources can effectively use social media to learn about their new foreign markets and customers in a fast and inexpensive way.

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The use of social media can be beneficial to international new ventures and help them to survive. This is according to a study – Early Internationalization in the Digital Context: A Capabilities-based Approachfrom the University of Vaasa, Finland, which also showed that newly established international firms and start-ups with limited resources can effectively use social media to learn about their new foreign markets and customers in a fast and inexpensive way.

For any international new venture, acquiring enough foreign market knowledge can be a matter of life and death. According to Emmanuel Kusi Appiah’s doctoral dissertation, an international new venture can use social media, and then employ ambidextrous learning in its knowledge development process. Ambidextrous learning means using two diverse ways of learning: exploratory learning and exploitative learning.

Exploratory learning helps the company to discover new threats and opportunities in its environment. Exploitative learning, on the other hand, utilises the current market information the firm already has.

“A company can use social media for exploitative learning, but also for exploratory learning to survive in foreign markets. The company can also switch between these two approaches,  according to the situation and company strategy. The use of social media has a positive impact on ambidextrous learning,” says Emmanuel Kusi Appiah.

Firms can benefit from social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook in their networking efforts. In addition, social media tools such as Buzzsumo, Tagboard and AgoraPulse can provide the necessary knowledge about customers, competitors, and existing and new markets, thereby reducing the difficulties a new firm would otherwise face in foreign markets. Acquiring knowledge is usually more difficult when a firm is new, especially if it is new and foreign.

Ambidextrous learning can help firms to combine new external knowledge with existing knowledge and prevent inefficiency and short-sightedness. It can also help firms to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Emmanuel Kusi Appiah reminds us that applying ambidextrous learning is not straightforward. Entrepreneurs and companies that are planning to move into a new market internationally need to understand the drivers and mechanisms that support ambidexterity. The dissertation provides valuable information regarding this aspect.

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Tech & Innovation

Eastern Communications announces holiday deals

Bounce back and spur productivity with Eastern Communications’ special limited-time offers, featuring its reliable Fiber1 and Internet Direct Service (IDS) connectivity solutions paired with exclusive promos and freebies for new subscribers.

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The holiday season is right around the corner and it is the busiest time for many enterprises, catching up with the demand of customers. While there have been ups and downs that helped strengthen various sectors, businesses have gradually returned to normalcy in their day-to-day operations.

With the steady demand for connectivity and ICT solutions in the new normal, premier telecommunications company Eastern Communications treats SMEs with its latest holiday deals to help them further emerge in the most anticipated season of the year.

Bounce back and spur productivity with Eastern Communications’ special limited-time offers, featuring its reliable Fiber1 and Internet Direct Service (IDS) connectivity solutions paired with exclusive promos and freebies for new subscribers.

Business Boosters

Recommended for retail and e-commerce start-ups and SMEs, Eastern Communications offers Business Boosters to new subscribers of the Eastern Fiber1 or IDS Select plan until December 31, 2022. Aside from the high-speed internet service, businesses are eligible for up to Php3,000 worth of Lazada Gift Cards. With these gift vouchers, you can now check out the business devices on your wish lists!

Festive Freebies

They say great things come in threes! For businesses in Metro Manila, new Eastern Fiber1 subscribers can choose this promo to receive exclusive freebies such as three months of free monthly service fee, a Microsoft Surface Laptop, and a Sophos Intercept X Endpoint Security License.

This promo is recommended for emerging companies that have plans for expansion. With integrated ZTNA and a world-class next-generation endpoint product, the free Sophos Intercept X Endpoint Security Solution is perfect for remote working setups. Don’t miss out on this exclusive holiday promo until December 31, 2022 only.

Empowering business to emerge from the pandemic, Eastern Communications has been reaching out to support SMEs throughout the year with its expansion efforts, promotions, and award-winning E-Huddle webinars, and aims to continue doing so in 2023.

For more information about Eastern Communications’ products and services as well as promos, visit www.eastern.com.ph/ or call 5300-7000 (Metro Manila) or 0919-081-7788 & 0917-300-7788 (Regional).

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Tech & Innovation

Food advertisements on Twitch can lead to cravings, purchases

Fifteen percent of study participants reported experiencing cravings of products they saw advertised on Twitch, and 8% reported buying the advertised products.

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Food advertisements on social media are pervasive, but research has not yet comprehensively documented the effects of these ads on adolescents and young adults. A new study by researchers at Penn State and Dartmouth College found that advertisements on the social media platform Twitch can lead to cravings for and purchasing of nutrient-poor foods like candy and energy drinks among some adolescents and young adults.

Twitch is a streaming platform that allows viewers to have conversations while sharing a common video feed. It offers channels across a broad range of topics including travel, sports, food, art and music. But videogame play is the original — and by far most common — use of the platform.

The use of Twitch is growing rapidly, with over six billion hours of content viewed on the platform during the first three months of 2021. This represented a 97% increase over the same period in 2020.

“People can be baffled by Twitch, but anyone old enough to have played home videogames as a teenager likely had a similar experience,” said Travis Masterson, assistant professor of nutrition, Broadhurst Career Development Professor for the Study of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, and co-author of the research. “You would go over to a friend’s house after school, or on Saturday morning, and if they were trying to get through a particularly tough part of a videogame, you might sit and watch them play. The videogame was an excuse for a conversation. This was certainly true for me. Twitch offers the same opportunity to hang out in a community with your friends, but now it is all online.

“Endorsement deals on Twitch can be worth many millions of dollars, and younger people — who are always attractive to advertisers — are moving their eyeballs away from television into these more interactive forms of entertainment, often to Twitch specifically,” added Masterson.

The researchers noted that, as the popularity of Twitch increased, advertising for nutrient-poor foods like candy and energy drinks became more common on the platform. The research team, which included Jennifer Emond, associate professor of biomedical data science and pediatrics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, and Catherine Pollack, Emond’s former graduate student, wanted to understand how advertising on Twitch affected the cravings and purchasing habits of viewers.

The team recruited 568 Twitch users through Reddit. Participants were predominantly male and either non-Hispanic White or Asian. Using three existing instruments for measuring food cravings, the researchers sought to understand whether they could predict which people were more susceptible to food advertising.  

In a publication in the journal Public Health Nutrition, the researchers demonstrated that some Twitch viewers are more likely than others to remember, crave and purchase brands that they see advertised on the streaming platform. The researchers also found that three questions from an instrument called the External Food Cue Responsiveness inventory could help identify members of this “highly susceptible” group. Highly susceptible viewers endorsed the statements, “I want food or drinks that I see others eating,” “I want to eat when people talk about food” and “I notice restaurant signs/logos.” 

Fifteen percent of study participants reported experiencing cravings of products they saw advertised on Twitch, and 8% reported buying the advertised products. Masterson said that the researchers were concerned that people who are highly susceptible to advertising and who spend multiple hours per day on Twitch could be prone to buying foods that undermine their health.

“In academic research, we are playing catch up with food advertisers,” Masterson explained. “Advertising is pervasive for a reason: It works, and companies understand how it works. People tend to understand that children are susceptible to advertising messages, but we often like to think that once we grow up and start making our own decisions, adults are immune to advertising’s power. But advertising didn’t grow to be a $100 billion-plus industry in the United States because it is ineffective. Advertising works on us, and on a subset of us, it is especially effective.”

Masterson added that academic researchers need to understand consumer behavior as well as advertisers, so that society can determine what advertising is or is not safe in different environments.

“This is a single study, and these results cannot be generalized to everyone, but the study still has broad implications,” said Masterson. “This research shows that some people are highly susceptible to advertising and that the External Food Cue Responsiveness inventory can help researchers identify those vulnerable people.

“I am a gamer. I am on Twitch and am part of these communities,” Masterson continued. “It bothers me when I am watching League of Legends, for example, and I see a branded candy ad in the middle of the game. It bothers me because I know that these ads affect people, including me. This work provides researchers with one tool for understanding who is most affected, and in the long run, that could promote greater health for gamers and everyone who is exposed to food advertising.”

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