Malware, ransomware and drive-by download attacks pose biggest cyberthreats in India: Report

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Microsoft has released the India findings from the latest edition of its Security Endpoint Threat Report 2019. The report places placed India among the countries with the highest cryptocurrency mining encounters and drive-by download attacks in 2019. Findings are derived from an analysis of diverse Microsoft data sources, including 8 trillion threat signals received and analyzed by Microsoft every day, covering a 12-month period, from January to December 2019. “The Microsoft Security Endpoint Threat report aims to create a better understanding of the evolving threat landscape and help organizations improve their cybersecurity posture by mitigating the effects of increasingly sophisticated attacks,” said Mary Jo Schrade, Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, Microsoft Asia. According to the report, Asia Pacific continued to experience a higher-than-average encounter rate for malware and ransomware attacks – 1.6 and 1.7 times higher than the rest of the world, respectively. India witnessed the seventh highest malware encounter rate across the region, at 5.89 percent in the past year. This was 1.1 times higher than the regional average. The report also found that India recorded the third-highest ransomware encounter rate across the region, which was two times higher than the regional average. This was despite a 35 percent and 29 percent decrease in malware and ransomware encounters respectively over the past year. Keshav Dhakad, Group Head & Assistant General Counsel – Corporate, External & Legal Affairs, Microsoft India, said, “While overall cyber hygiene in India has improved, we believe there is more to be done. Typically, high malware encounters are a result of excessive usage of unlicensed and/or pirated software, and proliferation of sites that illegitimately offer free software or content, such as video streaming. Consumer education is important – users should regularly patch and update programs and devices and be able to identify unsafe websites and illegitimate software.” India’s cryptocurrency mining encounter rate showed a 35% decrease from 2018 but was still 4.6 times higher than the regional and global average, and India recorded the second-highest encounter rate in Asia Pacific after Sri Lanka, according to the report. During such attacks, victims’ computers are infected with cryptocurrency mining malware, allowing criminals to leverage the computing power of their computers without their knowledge. “While recent fluctuations in cryptocurrency value and the increased time required to generate cryptocurrency have resulted in attackers refocusing their efforts, they continue to exploit markets with low cyber awareness” explained Dhakad. India, together with Hong Kong and Singapore, continued to face high drive-by download attack volume. The drive-by download attack volume in Asia Pacific declined 27 percent from 2018. These attacks involve downloading malicious code onto an unsuspecting user’s computer when they visit a website or fill up a form. The malicious code that is downloaded is then used by an attacker to steal passwords or financial information. Despite the general decline across the region, the report found that India recorded a 140 percent increase in attack volume. Together with key financial hubs, Singapore and Hong Kong, India experienced an attack volume that was three times higher than the regional and global average. “Cybercriminals capitalize on drive-by download technique to target the organizations and end-users with the objective to steal valuable financial information or intellectual property. This is a likely reason for regional business hubs recording the highest volume of these threats,” explained Dhakad. “We’d like to emphasize that the high encounter rate does not necessarily translate into a high infection rate as the level of cyber hygiene and usage of genuine software prevents the systems from getting compromised.”

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