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APAC most at risk of malware threats: Microsoft report

Nurdianah Md Nur | June 8, 2016
The top three encountered malicious software in the region include Gamarue, Skeeyah and Peals.

The Asia Pacific region (APAC) is most vulnerable to malware threats, according to Microsoft's Malware Infection Index 2016 (MII2016).

Out of the top five locations across the globe that are most at risk of infection, four are from APAC. Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal, topped the rankings at first, second, fourth and fifth places respectively in terms of computers encountering malware.

Each country had an average of close to 40 percent or more computers encountering malware, compared to the worldwide average of only 20.8 percent, as of the fourth quarter of 2015, up from 17.6 percent in first quarter of 2015.

In line with this, the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Hunting team in April found that a group of cybercriminals, dubbed PLATINUM, have been actively targeting governmental organisations, defence institutes, intelligence agencies, and telecommunication providers in South and Southeast Asia since 2009.

Based on data from the Microsoft Malware Protection Centre (MMPC) and the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIRv20) which forms the MII2016, the top three most-encountered malware families in APAC were Gamarue, a worm which can give a malicious hacker control of your PC; and Trojans Skeeyah and Peals.

 Gamarue is particularly prevalent in the ASEAN region and was the third most commonly encountered malware family worldwide in the second half 2015. Certain heavily affected locations such as Indonesia reported Gamarue encounter rates of over 20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, close to the worldwide encounter rates for all threat families combined for the quarter.

Gamarue is commonly distributed via exploit kits and social engineering, and has been observed to steal information from the local computer and communicate with command-and-control servers managed by attackers. It is particularly prevalent in Mongolia, with 35 computers infected out of every 1,000 running the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) in the second half 2015.

On the other hand, trojans Peals and Skeeyah are generic detections for a variety of threats that share certain characteristics. Trojan encounters increased 57 percent from the second quarter to the third quarter of 2015, and remained at a high through the end of the year due increased encounters with Peals and Skeeyah. They have been observed to download and install other malware, use your computer for click fraud, steal information like usernames and browsing history and give your PC access to a remote malicious hacker.

Keshav Dhakad, regional director, Intellectual Property & Digital Crimes Unit, Microsoft Asia, gave four reasons why organisations are increasingly vulnerable to malware threats.

"Firstly, the usage of IT assets which are old, unprotected, or are non-genuine in nature, Secondly, unmanaged and unregulated IT assets usage, procurement and maintenance. Thirdly, poor cyberhygiene of users and negligent employee behaviour inside companies. Fourthly, the inability of the companies to timely monitor, detect and remove modern cyber threats, among others, are some of the common causes for cybercrime risks. [Today], it generally takes on average up to 200 days for organisations to find out that they have been victims of cyberattacks," he said.


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