Report: Bangladesh, Pakistan highly susceptible to malware
A handful of emerging economies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region are also some of the world’s most vulnerable when it comes to potentially crippling malware attacks, according to a recent report.
Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report (SIR) of August 2017 said Bangladesh and Pakistan top the global list of countries at greatest risk for malware attacks. The report provided data on a host of software vulnerabilities, malware encounters and other web-based attacks for the first quarter of 2017. Malware, short for malicious software, is a term used for many forms of intrusive software, including computer viruses, spyware and ransomware.
Microsoft gauged a country’s risk by calculating how frequently computers running Microsoft security products encountered malware. In addition to Bangladesh and Pakistan, Cambodia and Indonesia were at greatest risk. About one in four computers in those countries reported a malware encounter. Also, Burma, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam had encounter rates of about 20 percent, which is twice the global average of 9 percent.
“In today’s digital age, security cannot be an afterthought. It must be built-in, all-inclusive and intelligent,” Keshav Dhakad, assistant general counsel and regional director of Microsoft Asia’s Digital Crimes Unit, said on the company’s website.
While many Indo-Asia-Pacific countries topped the most-vulnerable list, other nations in the region received recognition as some of the most secure. Countries described as having higher levels of information technology maturity — Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore — performed better than the worldwide average. Japan ranked the safest country in the world with only 2 percent of its computers encountering a malicious program. (Pictured: Employees in a security center at Telstra, an Australian telecommunications firm, detect and respond to cyber security threats.)
The release of the Microsoft report came only a month after a digital security company alerted its customers in the region to a cyber espionage effort. Symantec Corp. said it identified a cyber-spying campaign against entities involved in regional security in India and Pakistan, Reuters reported. In a report sent to clients in July 2017, Symantec said the online espionage effort dated back to October 2016. The campaign appeared to be the work of several groups, but tactics and techniques used suggest the groups were operating with “similar goals or under the same sponsor,” probably a nation state, Reuters reported.
Symantec did not identify the likely sponsor. It did say, however, that governments and militaries with operations in South Asia and interests in regional security were at risk.
With cyber crimes on the rise, Microsoft and other cyber security experts urge individuals, governments and private companies to minimize risk by committing to basic security procedures. Among them:
- Do not work in public Wi-Fi hot spots where cyber criminals can eavesdrop on digital communications or capture log-ins and passwords.
- Regularly update operating systems and software programs to make sure the latest patches are installed.
- Avoid simple passwords and enforce authentication methods that include multiple layers of verification.
- Enforce corporate security policies that control access to sensitive data.