Hackers hit SA web users

2012-07-02 13:05
South Africans are experiencing phishing attacks designed to steal user information. (News24)

South Africans are experiencing phishing attacks designed to steal user information. (News24)

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Moscow - Hackers have targeted South Africans with around three million attacks in the first three months of 2012, a security company has found.

According to research by Kaspersky Lab, South Africans were specifically targeted with both "offline" and "online" malicious software designed primarily to steal user transactional information.

"This data shows how frequently users are attacked by malware spread via removable USB drives, CDs and DVDs, and other 'offline' methods," Kaspersky Lab told News24.

While South Africa doesn't have the same exposure to hackers that users in more developed or connected societies might experience, the threat represents awareness among hackers that SA and other developing markets could become a lucrative target as more internet users come online.

According to statistics from the antivirus company, 2 908 487 local malware incidents were reported in the first three months of the year.

Vulnerabilities

"Overall, 37.4% of users from South Africa were attacked by local threats during this period. This puts South Africa in the 95th place worldwide."

The Kaspersky Security Network which links users of the program reported that the most common method of attack was exploiting the web browser vulnerabilities.

"Infection in this type of attack takes place when visiting an infected website, without any intervention from the user and without their knowledge. And this is the number one method utilised by cybercriminals; the one used in the majority of attacks," the company said.

Social engineering tricks are also common in SA. Users are duped into scams intended to steal financial information.

A common scam involves one where a bank purportedly sends an e-mail claiming that a user's information has been compromised or that a user should update details.

In both cases, this attack also known as phishing, requires a user to enter banking details on a fraudulent website and the hacker uses the information to commit the crime in a matter of minutes.

Kaspersky said that web-based attacks put South Africans in the bottom tier of global attacks. The highest priority for cybercriminals is banking details at 57% of targeted attacks, followed by other online shopping systems at 12%.

"The top three most vulnerable programs for Windows PCs are Adobe Acrobat Reader, Oracle Java and Adobe Flash," the company said.

Cost

According to statistics from Blue Magnet Digital Solutions, SA had six million desktop internet users at the end of 2011, and 12 million mobile internet users.

Broadband internet still has low penetration in the country because of the high cost as a barrier to entry. Typical South African broadband costs are estimated to be between 286% and 480% more expensive than in Egypt.

A Russian user told News24 that he paid around R300 for an 80mbps fibre line with uncapped and unshaped data.

"Overall, 27.7% of users from South Africa were attacked by web-borne threats during this [three month] period. This places South Africa in the 111th place worldwide when it comes to the dangers associated with surfing the web."

Russian users experience the highest level of malware attacks globally and Kaspersky said that users should ensure that the latest updates for browsers, plugins and popular software are installed.


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