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APAC topped the world in number of cyber attacks in 2016

The prevalent use of pirated software is one of the possible reasons for the APAC region’s poor showing in Trend Micro’s annual study on the state of cyber security

Asia-Pacific (APAC) was a hotbed for cyber attacks in 2016, with the number of cases of ransomware, banking malware and exploit kits surpassing that of other parts of the world.

According to Trend Micro’s 2016 Global Roundup Report, 27% of ransomware attacks were aimed at enterprises and individuals in APAC – the highest of all regions. This was followed by Europe, Middle East and Africa (25%) and Latin America (22%).

The findings were not surprising, given that 2016 was a record year for online extortion, with ransomware families growing by 752% and netting $1bn in monetary gains. The national computer emergency response teams in both Singapore and Malaysia had also noted an increase in the number of ransomware attacks in 2016.

In 2017, ransomware threats will continue to intensify due to the wider availability of open source ransomware and ransomware as a service (RaaS) to cyber criminals. As such, Trend Micro advised enterprises in the region to deploy multi-layered security solutions incorporating machine learning capabilities to counter ransomware infections.

More than 310,000 banking malware were also detected in APAC. This was three times more than in North America and six times more than in Latin America.

The malware, comprising Trojans and skimmers, mostly targeted ATM cash machines powered by outdated systems such as Microsoft’s Windows XP Embedded, for which security support is no longer available.

Exploit kits, or toolkits used by cyber criminals to take advantage of unpatched and zero-day vulnerabilities, were also popular in APAC.

During the fourth quarter of 2016, Trend Micro blocked more than 430,000 exploit kits in APAC, the most of all regions. The most popular exploit kit in the region was RIG, followed by Magnitude and Sundown. Today, 18% of all known ransomware are delivered through exploit kits.

More victims in APAC, especially those in Hong Kong, India and Japan, fell prey to so-called business email compromise attacks, where hacked email accounts of corporate executives were used to send out messages with malicious intent. The average loss resulting from such attacks is around $140,000, according to Trend Micro.

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High-profile distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks came under the spotlight in APAC as well. The Mirai botnet, in particular, comprised some 100,000 connected objects, most of which were unsecured or did not use efficient security protocols. According to Akamai, around a quarter of DDoS traffic during the Mirai attacks came from the APAC region.

Wong Onn Chee, director of Singapore web security company Infotect, told Computer Weekly that the prevalent use of pirated software and indifferent attitudes towards cyber security were potential reasons for the region’s poor showing in Trend Micro’s study.

“Some governments in countries such as Indonesia and Thailand are nonchalant when their websites get hacked,” said Wong. “Most of their critical systems are not online, so even if their sites are hacked, they can still operate as usual or fall back on paper-based processes. It’s not a big fuss to them.”

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