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Emerging APAC markets more prone to malware

Indonesia, India and the Philippines are among the top 10 countries with the most number of malware infections, according to a Malwarebytes study

Emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region are more susceptible to malware, with Indonesia, India and the Philippines among the top 10 countries with the highest number of malware infections, a new study has found.

In the Philippines, for example, the number of botnets detected was nearly four times more than that of second-ranked Indonesia. Both countries, together with India, also made the top 10 for Android malware detections, accounting for over 15% of Android malware detections worldwide.

As online banking takes off in the region, the number of cyber threats targeting online banking customers will undoubtedly increase. Both the Philippines and Thailand accounted for over 20% of global banking Trojan detections, with the former boasting nearly twice as many detections as the second-ranked Thailand.

These findings were revealed by Malwarebytes, which analysed data from 100 million Windows and Android devices in over 200 countries between June and November 2016. The company, which has recently opened its APAC headquarters in Singapore, supplies anti-malware software that uses advanced heuristics and signature-less technologies to fend off cyber attacks.

Malwarebytes attributed the high prevalence of malware in APAC to the large number of third-party app stores used by consumers, as well as the strong presence of counterfeit software in affected markets – common risks cited by cyber security experts in the region.

This situation could be exacerbated when cyber criminals start casting their sights on new targets in APAC, as the cyber security posture of businesses and individuals in developed markets in Europe and the US improves over time.

That said, it was not all gloom and doom. When it comes to ad fraud, adware and ransomware, no country in APAC accounted for over 2.5% of detections globally. Malwarebytes, however, warned that cyber criminals may turn their attention towards developed APAC markets once Europe and the US begin boosting their cyber security measures.

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Justin Dolly, Malwarebyte’s executive vice-president, chief security officer and CIO, said the company uses a multi-layer approach to detect malicious activities across different stages of the cyber kill chain, including attacks that make use of fileless malware stored in memory.

“We can learn what capabilities certain apps have, so if we see Microsoft Word attempting to access and run PowerShell on a machine, we can stop it because that’s a bad behaviour for an application,” he said, adding that the company is tapping machine learning techniques to improve detection of such malware.

Dolly said Malwarebytes is also able to guard against hackers who switch command and control servers on the fly to stay under the radar in highly-targeted campaigns. “Because our installed base of 28 million users is so large, we’re able to get updates on command and control sites right away,” he said.

In a separate study, Trend Micro also singled out APAC as a hotbed for cyber attacks. It expects the number of ransomware threats to increase this year due to the wider availability of open source ransomware and ransomware as a service to cyber criminals. 

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