Singapore among Asian countries with lowest malware encounter rates, despite high concentration of malware hosting sites - Microsoft Report

Singapore among Asian countries with lowest malware encounter rates, despite high concentration of malware hosting sites - Microsoft Report
The latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, Volume 22, revealed that emerging countries in Asia still among the most vulnerable to malware attacks in the first quarter of 2017

SINGAPORE, 5 September 2017 – Microsoft released findings from the global Security Intelligence Report (SIR), Volume 22, which placed Singapore among the Asian countries with the lowest malware encounter rates for the period of January to March 2017. The report also found that Singapore has a high concentration of malware hosting sites during the same period, with 21.6 malware-hosting sites for every 1,000 websites screened by Microsoft real-time security products.

Microsoft’s bi-annual Security Intelligence Report (SIR) provides in-depth data and insights into the global threat landscape, particularly in software vulnerabilities, exploits, malware and web-based attacks. In this latest version, the report tracked endpoint[1] and cloud threat data and profiled more than 100 individual markets. It also shared best practices and solutions that can help organisations better protect, detect and respond to threats.

“Technological advancements bring a host of cyberthreats that have the potential to shake the trust people have in technology. By sharing security intelligence in a timely manner to provide visibility for individuals and organisations to understand the cyberthreat landscape, Microsoft can empower them with the ability to protect, detect and respond to cyberthreats faster. As Singapore accelerates the building of a Smart Nation, insights such as these will become increasingly important to our customers and partners, who will be playing integral roles in making the Smart Nation vision a reality,” said Richard Koh, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Singapore.  

Asian countries among the most vulnerable to malware

The SIR Volume 22 report found that emerging Asian economies such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia have the highest malware encounter rates in the world. Approximately one in four computers running Microsoft real-time security products in these countries reported a malware encounter during January to March 2017.

Singapore registers fourth lowest malware encounter rate in Asia

Together with other markets in the region with higher levels of IT maturity such as Australia, Japan and New Zealand, Singapore registered malware encounter rates that are lower than the worldwide average.

Ranked 18 out of 21 countries, Singapore registered the fourth lowest malware encounter rates in Asia. Singapore also made improvements with lower malware encounter rates of between 5.3 percent and 7.9 percent recorded in January to March 2017, versus rates of 20.2 percent recorded during the same period in 2016.

Malware encounter rates for markets in Asia in Q1 2017 (from highest to lowest):
1.     Bangladesh
2.     Pakistan
3.     Cambodia
4.     Indonesia
5.     Mongolia
6.     Myanmar
7.     Vietnam

8.     Nepal
9.     Thailand
10.  Philippines
11.  Sri Lanka
12.  China
13.  India
14.  Malaysia

15.  Taiwan
16.  Korea
17.  Hong Kong
18.  Singapore
19.  Australia
20.  New Zealand
21.  Japan

Ransomware attacks on the rise 
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. This not only disrupted individuals’ daily lives but also crippled many enterprises’ operations.

The attacks are disproportionately concentrated in Europe while most of the Asia markets have not been too heavily impacted. In fact, Japan and China have been listed as the two top countries with the lowest ransomware encounter rate. One of the few exceptions in the region is Korea where it has the second highest ransomware occurrences worldwide.

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

Global encounter rates for ransomware families in March 2017
Globally, Win32/Spora  has rapidly become one of the most widespread ransomware families and it was the most commonly encountered ransomware family in March 2017. Spora encrypts files with several popular extensions, including .doc, .docx, .jpg, .pdf, .xls, .xlsx, and .zip. This ransomware also has worm capability, making it capable of spreading to other computers in the network. 

Cloud accounts and services under cyber siege
As cloud migration increases, the cloud has become the central data hub for a majority of organisations. This also translates into more valuable data and digital assets being stored the cloud, making it a growing target for cybercriminals. SIR Volume 22 highlighted a 300 percent increase in consumer and enterprise accounts managed in the cloud being attacked globally over the past year while the number of logins attempted from malicious IP addresses has increased by 44 percent year over year.

In addition, a large majority of these compromises 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.

Building trust in the digital world by strengthening cybersecurity posture
As the threat landscape continues to evolve and grow, organisations need to ensure they have a solid cybersecurity architecture and robust cyber hygiene best practices. This will enable them to better protect their digital environment, detect threats and respond to attacks.

Here are four best practices that individuals and organisations can consider to minimise their cyber risk exposures and stay resilient in an everchanging 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. Users should also install the most recent release of Windows 10 to take advantage of its improved hardening and security mitigations.
  • Reduce risk of credential compromise by educating users on why they should avoid simple passwords and enforcing multi-factor authentication methods. For example, the Azure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) provides organisations with a two-step verification solution that helps safeguard access to data and applications while meeting user demand for a simple sign-in process by delivering strong authentication via a range of easy verification options.
  • Enforce security policies that control access to sensitive data and limit corporate network access to appropriate users, locations, devices, and operating systems. For example, Microsoft Azure Active Directory Identity Protection enables enterprises to configure risk-based policies to automatically protect the identities across their organisation. These policies can automatically block the user without the proper authorisation or offer suggestions that include password resets and multi-factor authentication enforcement.

“As technology continues to permeate every part of our work and personal lives, security cannot be an afterthought. At Microsoft, our products and services are designed and built with security in mind. By making a security a priority in all that we do, we can help build greater trust in technology and pave the way for everyone to harness its fullest potential,” said Richard Koh, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Singapore.

To download and learn more about the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report findings, visit and the Microsoft Secure Blog.

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