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Troubling cyber threat growth in Malaysia: F-Secure study

AvantiKumar | Oct. 23, 2014
F-Secure’s latest Threat Report reveals the latest threats and developments and points to Malaysia as a hotspot for cyber threats.

F-Secure - Threat Report in Malaysia MOD 

Photo - (From left) Goh Su Gim, Security Advisor, F-Secure Labs; and Paul Palmer, Vice President, F-Secure APAC.


According to Helsinki-headquartered security solutions firm F-Secure's Threat Report H1 2014, the first half of 2014 saw a global increase in online attacks on various platforms and devices, and included a significant increase of cyber-attacks in Malaysia.

During a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur, F-Secure Labs security advisor Goh Su Gim said that cyber treat growth is increasing in tandem with the growing economy as Malaysia is a developing country.

"Eighty-one [81] percent of all threats detected in H1 2014 globally were found to be in Malaysia as well," said Goh. "These threats include Downadup/Conficker worms, redirect malware and the Sality virus."

"[However] what we are witnessing in Malaysia is troubling, and requires immediate attention," he said. Today, cyber criminals are targeting far more than credit cards towards the cyber front, plying their moves on the mobile platform."

Goh said that F-Secure's report showed that users should take more note of "the ever-growing threats on the mobile platform, with the likes of Smssend, GinMaster, Fakeinst and Trojans in Android via sms, heading the list."

"However, an interesting finding is that these threats affect Malaysian mobile device users through mobile viruses that send 'premium SMS'. Digging deeper, the top five cities of mobile malware infection in Malaysia were Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Georgetown, Kota Kinabalu and Shah Alam," he said.

Goh said one significant conclusion was the users' lack of knowledge of how best to protect themselves from cyber threats. "It is vital for parties like us to work closely with the authorities to stop this issue from continuing, and provide the necessary education to users to help them protect themselves from the bad guys out there."
 SME perspectives

In addition, the threat report concluded that Malaysian business operators of all sizes, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been susceptible to an increase of botnet-related viruses such as Sality and Ramnit affecting users in Malaysia, said Goh. 

He said that Botnets posed the most threat to businesses. "When business PCs are infected and become part of a botnet, they can send massive amounts of spam or contribute to Denial of service (DDOS) attacks on other web servers."

"Generally, most of these threats today affect industries across the board," he said. "However, SMEs are usually the main target. While large enterprises are generally well protected by a team of IT security specialists trained in preventing targeted attacks, SME IT personnel tend to focus more on keeping services operating rather than on security. Thus the SME is the easier target."

Goh said SMEs needed to take better steps to secure their customers information. "Keeping patches up to date is important - as many as 60 percent of attacks in Malaysia could be avoided with properly patched operating systems, browsers and plug-ins. Also, as mobile malware are on the rise in mobile devices, ensure these mobile devices are managed properly in the corporate environment where employees are free to bring in their own choice of mobile devices (BYOD)."

Other findings from the threat report include:
- On the mobile front, in Q2 of 2014, 295 new threat families and variants were discovered - 294 on Android and one on iOS. This is an increase from the first quarter, during which 277 threats were discovered, 275 targeting Android. The top Android threats in Q2 were Trojans that either send SMS messages to premium numbers, or harvest data from a device and forward it on to a remote server. The Slocker malware reported in June, which pretends to be a legitimate app, was the first ransomware to appear on the mobile platform.

- As for personal computer (PC) threats, of the Top 10 detections, the largest share (31 percent) was the six-year-old Downadup/Conficker worm. The worm has infected millions of computers in over 200 countries. This worm's long life is mostly due to computers that run old software - illustrating the importance of keeping a computer's software up-to-date, so that old security flaws will be patched.

- New Mac malware continued to surface, with 25 new Mac threat variants discovered, some of which were used in targeted attacks against organisations. This is an increase from the 18 discovered in July-December of last year, but lower than the 33 discovered in H1 last year.


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