Data Dive

End-Of-Summer Edition: Malware Goes Retro, Bitcoin Splits And Apple Watch Breaks Free

eclipse

This week, Americans will have something of a rare opportunity in the digital age: The chance to all do the same thing at once. That same thing will, of course, be looking up.

Today, between 12:05 p.m. EST/9:05 a.m. PST in Oregon and 2:48 p.m. EST in South Carolina, there will be a total solar eclipse — with Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia all enjoying prime viewing slots between start and finish. And those are just the front row seats: The eclipse will also be visible from most of the continental United States.

The excitement has united Americans in other odd ways, from the frantic scramble for eclipse glasses to the construction of pinhole projects for those unsuccessful in their glasses-purchasing quests.

While PYMNTS and commerce can’t really compete with celestial events (yet), it does bear noting that the eclipse will only be two minutes long. For the remaining 23 hours and 58 minutes of the day, it might be the more prudent choice to keep one’s eyes on the terrestrial landscape — one which never fails to disappoint.

Plus, you don’t need to buy any special glasses to do so.

Kaspersky Finds Malware Hitchhiking With Ridesharing Services

According to Kaspersky Lab, an old malware has gotten a new lease on life by hijacking credentials from ridesharing services. The malware is known as the Faketoken Android Trojan, a mobile banking malware designed to steal credentials such as name, credit card number and CCV, amid other information.

According to the company, cybercriminals are using the malware to go after some of the world’s more popular services. The security firm’s research found mobile-based services that store financial data are installed on millions of Android devices worldwide, and are thus highly attractive for cybercriminals. The new iteration of the Faketoken Android Trojan performs live tracking of apps, and when a user runs a specified app, the Trojan overlays it with a phishing window to steal the victim’s bank card details, Kaspersky Lab said in the press release.

“The fact that cybercriminals have expanded their activities from financial applications to other areas, including taxi and ridesharing services, means that the developers of these services may want to start paying more attention to the protection of their users,” Viktor Chebyshev, security expert at Kaspersky Lab, said in the news release.

Chebyshev further noted the ridesharing industry needed to implement more universal security standards, protocols which financial services firms are required to implement.

“The banking industry is familiar with fraud schemes, and its solution of implementing security technologies in apps has significantly reduced the risk of theft of critical financial data,” Chebyshev said. “Perhaps now it is time for other services that are working with financial data to follow suit.”

Kaspersky Lab said the new version of Faketoken targets mostly Russian users, but previous iterations of the malware have seen it spread quickly to other nations.

Bitcoin Surges — And Faces Another Split

It has been a busy week for blockchain, particularly in the Bitcoin neighborhood.

Bitcoin spent part of the week spiking, reaching a value of $4,000 per coin last weekend. In fact, as of Aug 20, the CoinDesk price of Bitcoin was approximately$4,100. That’s a big climb, especially considering that at the beginning of the year, Bitcoin was worth less than $100 a pop.

The recent surge has been pushed by a hard fork essentially developing a new cryptocurrency, dubbed Bitcoin Cash. It seems, though, that Bitcoin may not be done splitting just yet. According to rumors, Bitcoin may spin off another next-gen cryptocurrency in coming months, tentatively called Segwit2x.

Segwit2x will feature two-megabyte blocks in the blockchain ledger, allowing it to operate faster than Bitcoin but still slower than Bitcoin Cash. Developed under the New York Agreement, Segwit2x is meant to increase transaction block sizes with various witnesses in tow. The goal, experts said, is to strike a balance between original recipe Bitcoin’s issues with speed and its inability to handle large volumes. The hope is that this new virtual currency will strike a happy medium between the two.

Segwit2x will operate under its own rules, but the main concern is that too many splits in the Bitcoin brand will confuse markets and potential users. One way or another, we will all find out soon. The current goal for Segwit2x is a November 2017 launch.

Cupertino Liberates The Apple Watch

One of the main and recurring complaints since the launch of the Apple Watch a few years ago is that it hasn’t offered much in the way of an experience separate from an iPhone, and couldn’t be used at all without one.

But that might be changing.

According to reports on CNBC, the next iteration of the Apple Watch will be able to make calls, text message and tap into the web, all without being connected to a smartphone. The newest version of the Apple Watch is supposedly getting its worldwide introduction in September, along with the three new Apple iPhone models.

Reports indicate updated Apple Watches will have built-in cellular connectivity so they can act as standalone devices and cater to more consumers. While Apple has a huge following with its iPhone, there are also scores of people who use other smartphones but may still want access to the Apple Watch.

“It is a win-win for Apple as it will drive up the average selling price of the device because they will be more expensive,” Neil Shah, research director of devices and ecosystems at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC in the report. “It will [additionally] cater to the niche market of health and fitness users who don’t want to carry their iPhone when they go for a run. It will also be good for enterprise use cases.”

Bloomberg reports earlier in the month indicated new Apple Watch versions will come embedded with LTE chips, enabling the wearable devices to do many tasks without the need to be close to, or paired with, an iPhone. Whether consumers will have to pay their carriers for yet another data plan for the devices remains to be seen.

So, what have we learned? Bitcoin continues to be the rollercoaster of the year, Kaspersky notes “beware of hitchhikers” and Apple is getting ready to get out there and make some new friends. More or less a perfect data dive for the waning days of summer vacation.

Also, protect your eyes. The eclipse is in a few minutes, and you’ll need your vision for a few decades.

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