Sunday, 9 June 2013

Malware, ransomware attacks are a growing threat to computer and mobile phone!

FORGET pickpockets or thieves. The biggest threat to your smartphone now is kidnappers cyber “kidnappers” that is, with their Ransomware.

As the name suggests, ransomware is a malware (malicious software) that will keep your phone or computer a prisoner until you pay a ransom. Only when the specified amount of money is paid will you be able to “free” your device and access data or information.

Although it is not new ransomware is said to originate from Russia in 2005 and has been attacking many computers worldwide since the Symantec Corp Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) Volume 18 revealed that ransomware is emerging as the malware of choice because of its high profitability for attackers.

Luckily, says Symantec Malaysia's senior technical consultant David Rajoo, to his knowledge, no cases have been reported here yet.

“However, as the worldwide web has no boundaries and with increasing broadband penetration and as more users are accessing the Internet, Malaysia is certainly exposed to the Ransomware threats,” he says.

Infected machines display messages which demand payment in order to restore functionality. - David Rajoo Infected machines display messages which demand payment in order to restore functionality. - David Rajoo
Rajoo points out that awareness is key to combat ransomware threat.

As the report highlights, attackers are using deceptive links and poisoned websites to infect unsuspecting users with malicious software and lock their machines.

“The attackers, many of them cybercriminal organisations, then hold users' machines for ransom. Infected machines display messages which demand payment in order to restore functionality,” he tells.

Recent attacks have also displayed images that impersonate law enforcement.

Consumers on the Android platform are most vulnerable to ransomware and mobile threats, says the report.

Last year, mobile malware increased by 58%, and 32% of all mobile threats attempted to steal information, such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

Although Android has fewer vulnerabilities, its threats are higher than any other mobile operating system. Its open platform and the multiple distribution methods available to distribute malicious apps make it the go-to platform for attackers, adds the report.

With malware growing sophisticated every day, Rajoo adds, a mix of intelligence-based technologies can provide optimal security to stop new and unknown malware.

To avoid getting infected, ensure the device's software and anti-virus definitions are up to date, and avoid suspicious sites, Rajoo advises.

“We also advise users to use more than antivirus for protection. We recommend using advanced reputation security which provides layered defence. Use more than just Antivirus use a full functionality solution which includes heuristics, reputation-based, behaviour-based and other technologies,” he says, stressing that a key strategy is to fend off threats before they infiltrate your computer system.

Symantec Malaysia's Systems Engineering director Nigel Tan agrees that stopping the threat at the gate is important as cyber criminals continue to devise new ways to steal information from organisations of all sizes.

Staying ahead of attacks

“The sophistication of attacks coupled with today's information technology complexities require organisations in Malaysia and globally to remain proactive and use “defence in depth” security measures to stay ahead of attacks,” he added.

According to the annual ISTR which analyses the year in global threat activity, Malaysia was ranked 35th on its global Internet security threat profile in 2012.

As it highlights, there was a 42% surge last year in targeted attacks globally compared with the prior year.

These targeted cyberespionage attacks, designed to steal intellectual property, are increasingly hitting the manufacturing sector as well as small businesses, which are the target of 31% of these attacks.

Small businesses are attractive targets themselves and a way in to ultimately reach larger companies via “watering hole” techniques.

In a watering hole attack scenario, attackers compromise a carefully selected website by inserting an exploit resulting in malware infection. Through the compromised website, the attackers will target victims who visit the compromised site and take advantage of their software vulnerabilities to drop malware that will allow them to access sensitive data and take control of the vulnerable system.

As Symantec alerts, 61% of malicious websites are actually legitimate websites that have been compromised and infected with malicious code.

Business, technology and shopping websites were among the top five types of websites hosting infections. The shift of focus from government websites indicates an increase in attacks targeting the supply chain cybercriminals find these contractors and subcontractors susceptible to attacks and they are often in possession of valuable intellectual property.

The attack uses the security weaknesses in the supply chain specifically the small businesses to gain access into larger and more secured companies, adds Symantec.

Case in point is that those in sales became the most commonly targeted victims last year.

Another growing source of infections on websites is malvertisements this is when criminals buy advertising space on legitimate websites and use it to hide their attack code.

Tan urges organisations to continue to take proactive initiatives to secure and manage critical information from a variety of security risks, especially targeted attacks in the manufacturing and small business sectors, mobile malware, and phishing threats.

By HARIATI AZIZAN sunday@thestar.com

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