PH is 8th most vulnerable to malware in Asia Pacific: report

The Asia Pacific office of software giant Microsoft has released the result of its Security Intelligence Report (SIR), Volume 22, which found that emerging markets such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam are among the top five most exposed countries in Asia Pacific to malicious programs.

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The Philippines reported a malware encounter rate of 19.2% as of March 2017, the eighth highest in the Asia-Pacific region.

This was gathered from telemetry data from computers whose administrators or users choose to opt in to provide data to Microsoft. Microsoft learns about the most prevalent threats on both global and per country bases.

The country has an above-average exposure to drive-by download sites (websites that host one or more exploits that target vulnerabilities in web browser and browser add-ons), with the Philippines at 0.05 to 0.1 per 1,000 URLs). It also has ransomware encounter rates (0.08%-0.12%).

Microsoft’s bi-annual Security Intelligence Report (SIR) report tracked endpoint as well as cloud threat data and profiles more than 100 individual markets.

“As the intelligent cloud becomes pervasive in the digital transformation age, we are empowered by technology to pursue endless opportunities with greater impact,” said Antony Cook, associate general counsel at Microsoft Asia Pacific for Japan and Australia.

“We will not, however, be able to remain safe and reach our full potential in this ever-connected world, without also understanding the cybersecurity threat environment and building our awareness around the growth in cybercrime.”

Within Asia Pacific, the report found that approximately one in four computers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Indonesia running Microsoft real-time security products in these countries reported a malware encounter between January to March 2017.

Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Nepal, and Thailand each reported an average malware encounter rate of more than 20 percent in the first quarter of 2017. This is more than double the global average of nine percent.

On the other hand, countries in Asia Pacific with higher levels of IT maturity, namely New Zealand and Singapore, performed better than the worldwide average.

Ransomware is one of the most infamous malware families in 2017. In the first half of this year, two waves of ransomware attacks, WannaCrypt and Petya, exploited vulnerabilities in outdated Windows operating systems worldwide and disabled thousands of devices by illegitimately restricting access to data through encryption.

Most of the attacks have disproportionately concentrated in Europe and many of the Asia Pacific countries have not been heavily impacted. However, Korea is one of the few exceptions in the region, with the second highest ransomware occurrences worldwide.

The report observed that attackers evaluate several factors when determining what regions to target, such as a country’s GDP, average age of computer users and available payment methods.

Language can also be a key contributing factor as a successful attack often depends on an attacker’s ability to personalize a message to convince a user to execute the malicious file.

As cloud migration increases, the cloud has become the central data hub for a majority of organizations. This also translates into more valuable data and digital assets being stored in the cloud, making it a growing target for cybercriminals, the report noted.

A large majority of the attacks on consumer and enterprise accounts managed in the cloud are the result of weak, guessable passwords and poor password management, followed by targeted phishing attacks and breaches of third-party services.

As the frequency and sophistication of attacks on user accounts in the cloud accelerates, there is an increased emphasis on the need to move beyond passwords for authentication, the study added.

“As the threat landscape continues to evolve and grow, organizations need to ensure they have a solid cybersecurity architecture and robust cyber hygiene best practices to better protect their digital environment, detect threats, and respond to attacks,” it said.

Microsoft cited four best practices that individuals and organizations can consider to minimize their cyber risk exposures and stay resilient in an ever-changing threat landscape:

• Do not work in public Wi-Fi hotspots where attackers could eavesdrop on digital communications, capture logins and passwords, and access personal data.

• Regularly update the operating system and other software programs to ensure the latest patches are installed. This reduces the risk of vulnerability exploitation.

• Reduce risk of credential compromise by educating users on why they should avoid simple passwords and enforcing multi-factor authentication methods, such as the one from Azure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).

• Enforce security policies that control access to sensitive data and limit corporate network access to appropriate users, locations, devices, and operating systems. These policies can automatically block the user without the proper authorization or offer suggestions that include password resets and multi-factor authentication enforcement.

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