PH leads Asean region in ‘advanced persistent threat,’ firm says

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The Philippines is the most exposed country in South East Asia (SEA) in terms of advanced persistent threat (APT) activities, a sophisticated cyberattack that is at the cybercrime level.

This was revealed by tech security solutions vendor FireEye based on their latest Advanced Threat Report for Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) that identified malicious activities captured by the FireEye security platform covering January to June of 2014.

FireEye Philippines country manager Thomas Acero
FireEye Philippines country manager Thomas Acero

Unlike other cyberattacks, APT bypass traditional defenses like firewalls, next-generation firewalls, IPS, anti-virus, and security gateways.

Although the Philippines topped the SEA region in having APT activities, it only ranked fifth among the ten APJ countries included in the report.

The Philippines, however, had the highest APJ regional average of 49 percent in APT exposure, posting 56 percent average in the first six months of 2014.

FireEye Philippines country manager Thomas Acero noted that the country edged Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia for having more APT activities, such as malware families “Hussarini” and “Page”.

The FireEye report also found the APJ region 35-percent more likely to be targeted by advanced cyberattacks than the global average.

Among the top five industries mostly targeted by APT attacks in 2013 are: services/consulting/VAR (19.8 percent), government (13.5 percent), high-tech (13 percent), entertainment/media/hospitality (10.2 percent), and telecom (9.2 percent).
Among the 10 listed countries mostly vulnerable to APT, according to their ranks are as follows:

  • South Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Japan
  • Philippines
  • India
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • Thailand
  • Malaysia

In SEA and APJ, the top malware used for attacks is GhOstRat (41.67 percent), and DarkComet (25 percent). Both have been used as crimeware to steal banking credentials. The freely available tools are reportedly easily accessible and could also help mask origins of attackers.

Frequent attacks were consistently seen in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.

Vivek Chudgar, FireEye’s managing director of security consulting services in APJ, said a single breach had an average cost of three to four million dollars and continues to increase.

“Back in 2004, companies have much lower expenses but now the breaches are spreading much faster, Internet, networks are faster, and bad guys are able to do much more damage now,” Chudgar said. “But the cost in every country is the same since all use the same Windows, Unix Web server, database server.”

In dealing with cyberattacks, Chudgar reminded companies that the worst thing to do is to not respond correctly in such situations.

“It’s like treating cancer or other illness. You should get the right treatment,” Chudgar said. “Around 90 percent of networks are hacked and you need someone with the expertise to tell you on how to eradicate malware.”

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