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Middle East users face ‘constantly rising tide’ of cyber threats

: Monday, November 04 - 2013 @ 09:44

The UAE has the highest number of malware incidents

In the Middle East region, users face a constantly rising tide of malware and cyber threats, according to IT security experts, Kaspersky Lab.  In Q3 2013, nearly half of Egyptian users (47.8 per cent) suffered from local cyber threats that spread via offline sources, such as removable USB drives, CDs and DVDs.

In other Arab countries, between one third and one half of users faced similar problems, with the lowest figures coming from Kuwait (33.4 per cent), while Qatar (40.7 per cent) is second behind Egypt.

The company arrived at these figures after analysing the data provided by its global cloud-based Kaspersky Security Network (KSN).

“In general, the security threat landscape for the Middle East region is seeing increased activity from hacktivism groups that use DDOS and web defacement attacks to deliver their political message,” says Ghareeb Saad, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

“Although removable media and local networks are still the primary method for spreading malware in the region, there is an increase in the use of drive-by downloads, which exploit vulnerabilities in browsers and their plug-ins. Android mobile malware is rapidly becoming more widespread in the Middle East region and this is causing companies to have more concerns about adopting a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy,” he adds.

The analysis reveals the number of malware incidents in each country, with the UAE topping the table (34 per cent), followed by Saudi Arabia (22 per cent) and Turkey (14 per cent).

However, Turkey has the highest prevalence of internet-based malware incidents – slightly more than one third of users (34.4 per cent) were attacked by such threats in Q3 2013 – ahead of Qatar (29.3 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (27.4 per cent). This rating indicates users’ online security awareness – there is an obvious correlation between greater understanding of the risks of malicious sites and lower levels of internet-based malware incidents.

Local threats still dominate the Middle East region

Although internet-based malware incidents have increased in Q3 2013, local threats are still dominating in the Middle East region – and KSN statistics prove it. In turn, the region’s most widespread malware, as detected by Kaspersky Lab’s analysts, appears to be win32.Sality – a polymorphic virus that propagates using removable media and network shares.

In terms of malicious hosts, Turkey ranks number one, with more than 203,000 – approximately 90 per cent of the regional total. However, the overall regional share from the number of worldwide malicious hosts is less than 0.5 per cent.

Malware spread via social networks (especially Facebook and Twitter) has increased sharply in the region, probably due to the massive rise of social networking – at least 88 per cent use such platforms daily.

Another reason for spreading malware is to capitalise on interest in the volatile political situation in the region. By creating fake links to political news and videos, criminals can direct users to malicious websites to exploit vulnerable browsers and download malware.

Just like the rest of the world, Android has been put at risk in the Middle East region. The numbers of Android malware incidents received from Kaspersky mobile security users increased from 27,000 in Q3 2012 to more than 73,000 in Q3 2013. The growing number of Android users in the region (more than eight million) and their habit of installing software from unknown sources has caused this massive rise.

Oracle Java, VLC Media Player and Adobe reader were the most popular vulnerabilities in the region during Q3 2013 and were often used by cyber criminals to infect users’ devices.

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Monday, November 4- 2013 @ 9:44 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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