Malware attacks in META region double in Q1 2019

Kaspersky Lab report shows ransomware attacks shrank as hackers diverted attention elsewhere

Financial threats facing personal and organisation targets growing unabated, Hasbini warns.
Financial threats facing personal and organisation targets growing unabated, Hasbini warns.

Kaspersky Lab has reported more than 150 million malware attacks in Q1 of 2019 in the META region, representing an average of 1.6 million attacks per day, and an alarming 108% increase over Q1 2018.

With some of the highest mobile phone penetration rates in the world, it is no surprise that the META region also attracts a significant share of malware attacks targeted at mobiles. Mobile malware attacks in META in Q1 2019 numbered more than 368,000, an average of 4,098 per day, and a spike of 118% when compared to Q1 2018.

The cybersecurity firm shared its review on the digital threat landscape in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) and worldwide during its annual Cyber Security Weekend, which took place in Cape Town, South Africa.

The META region also faced consistent attacks during Q1 2019 in areas such as crypto-mining malware which increased by 146% over Q1 2018 to 3.16m attacks with a daily average of 35k; phishing attacks totalled 5.83m attacks with a daily average of 64,000 and a 334% increase over Q1 2018.

Ransomware bucked the trend, reducing by 18% over the first quarter of 2018 to total 193, 000 in Q1 of 2019, or a daily average of 2,100 attacks.

“A drop in ransomware incidents is a great showcase of the security consciousness that is growing in the META region. At the same time, we have to realise that if there are less ransomware attacks, malicious attention is being diverted elsewhere. Personal and organisation-facing financial threats seem to be growing unabated, and we are using Cyber Security Weekend as a platform to strengthen awareness of new and emerging areas of vulnerability”, said Amin Hasbini, senior security researcher, Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky Lab.

The Kaspersky Security Network cloud service statistics showed that an average of 27.3% of all users in the META region were affected by web threat incidents during Q1 2019. Saudi Arabia had the highest number of users (35.9%), while Namibia had the lowest (18.5%). Nearly half of all users (average 49.3%) in the META region have reported local threats (such as those spread in local networks, via USB/CD/DVD), with the highest concentration in Kenya (56.8%), and the lowest in South Africa (43.6%).

At a more granular level, Kaspersky Lab revealed the threats faced by individual countries within the META region. This ‘street-level’ view shows that the threat landscape is not always uniform, and that some countries tend to experience more of certain types of threats than others. For instance, the UAE, with a population of 9 million, has experienced 1.1 million instances of phishing and 23 million instances of malware. Even so, from a numbers standpoint, Turkey takes pole position for incidents of phishing (1.24m), malware (39m), and mobile malware (87k).

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