Workers download malware in SA companies

2014-05-15 13:00
Employees are responsible for downloading malware on to company computers. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Employees are responsible for downloading malware on to company computers. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Malware designed to steal sensitive data is on the increase and employees in 84% of South African companies download the software once every 10 minutes.

This is the startling result is from the Check Point Software Technologies2014 Security Report, which found that there was a prevalence of malware stalking the internet that companies were mostly unprepared to deal with.

Check Point said that the increase in malware has led to a corresponding increase in computer users unwittingly or otherwise downloading the software.

"In fact, 14% of organisations experienced a user downloading malware every two hours or less in 2012. This year, that number increased by over three-fold to 58% of organisations," the company said.

New threats affecting South African businesses include the emergence of unknown threats. These are particularly dangerous because of the way that antivirus software works.

High profile arrests

If the malware is unknown, in many cases, antivirus software is not able to detect and prevent it from harming computer systems.

"Check Point's Threat Emulation sensors revealed that 33% of organisations downloaded at least one infected file with unknown malware for the period between June and December 2013. Of those infected files, 35% were PDFs. New obfuscation tools called 'crypters' enabled malware writers to bypass detection by anti-malware software," said Check Point.

The presence of malware of private networks also means that the compromised computers, known as bots, can be used as part of a botnet. Criminal groups are known to use botnets to launch attacks on company servers in elaborate extortion rackets.

These criminal groups operate across international borders and high profile arrests are rare.

Late in 2013, six people were arrested in New York in connection with the theft of $45m from a number of Middle East banks. Hackers were able to compromise banks' computer systems and worked in conjunction with accomplices in 20 countries.

The FBI also arrested cybercriminals in 2012 who used the Butterfly botnet to steal more than $850m.

"Bot infections continued in prevalence, with a host infected by a bot every 24 hours. In 2013, at least one bot was detected in 73% of our surveyed organisations, an increase from 63% in 2012," said Check Point, adding that 77% of compromised machines were active for more than a month.

"We found that organisations are often surprised by the severity of bot infections and the various threats that lurk on their networks," said Amnon Bar-Lev, president of Check Point Software Technologies.

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