Beware! Your digital life is under threat

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Sep 29 2014, 06:21am hrs
CyberPeople are also falling prey to unsolicited SMS which carry harmful viruses and worms.
Its a dangerous place out there in the Internet world. Recently, Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel were aghast to find their State Bank of India salary accounts emptied by the cybercriminals who managed to access their accounts via Internet banking. As per initial investigations carried out by the Delhi Police, amounts withdrawn from the accounts ranged from R50,000 to R2.5 lakh, and the hackers utilised servers installed far away in Canada. IAF officers posted in New Delhi, Jaipur and Hyderabad were affected by the hacking. As mobile phone usage continues to grow in the country, people are also falling prey to unsolicited SMS which carry harmful viruses and worms created to spy on and steal passwords and other sensitive account information.

The moot point is this: phishing, spam and cyber threats are affecting Indias Internet community like never before. Cybercriminals are deploying all kinds of tricks to steal peoples identities and hack into their accounts, the most recent instance being using the Ebola virus as a social engineering theme for a phishing campaign. A Delhi High Court-commissioned report highlights that Internet frauds have cost India a whopping $4 billion in 2013 alone as cybercriminals used sophisticated means like ransomware and spear-phishing.

Before the Internet, criminals had to dig through peoples trash or intercept their mail to steal their personal information. Now that all of this information is available online, so criminals also use the Internet to steal peoples identities, hack into their accounts, trick them into revealing the information, or infect their devices with malware.

No wonder, cyber threats, data breaches and high-risk vulnerabilities have continued to dominate the first half of 2014, as seen in Trend Micros second quarter security roundup report, Turning the Tables on Cybercrime: Responding to Evolving Cybercrime Tactics. Attack trends in 2014 are shaping up to bring data breaches, vulnerabilities and online banking malware to the forefront, says Myla V Pilao, director, TrendLabs. The severity of these attacks intensified against financial and banking institutions as well as retail outlets. According to an Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) study, more than 10 million personal records have already been exposed across over 400 separate data breach events as of July 15, 2014. These attacks strongly indicate the need for organisations to adopt a more strategic approach to safeguarding digital information, she says

According to the TrendLabs director, these incident attacks in the second quarter affecting consumers personal information included theft of data such as customer names, passwords, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth. These types of personal privacy breaches have affected organisations sales and earnings while leaving customers unable to access accounts and dealing with service disruption. As a result, many countries have begun developing stricter privacy and data collection policies to begin dealing with this problem.

As of July 15, 2014, more than 400 data breach incidents have been reported in India, creating the need for organisations to identify and understand their core data in order to protect and build an effective defense strategy to keep them secure. A change in mindset, organisations initially need to determine which information they regard as core data before devising a plan on how to protect it. It is essential for Indian businesses to treat information security as a principal constituent of business strategy as time and again it has emerged as one of the top countries witnessing cybercrime. says Dhanya Thakkar, managing director, South East Asia & India, Trend Micro.

In a study carried out by Dell Software, 32% of organisations in India said that over the last 12 months, the security breaches have cost their enterprise approximately $10,000-100,000. It is surprising to discover that the organisations are not well-prepared for the various unknown security threats that can have serious implications for their business. According to our study, a majority of companies seem to be ignorant of the security hazards that are growing at an alarming rate and can easily evade detection, says Murli Mohan, general manager, Dell Software.

According to TrendLabs Pilao, India is posed for cybercriminal expansion with an average of 2.5 million malware detection in a given month. Furthermore, 33% more malicious apps were downloaded, network traffic from affected computers continued to rise and government-issued site certificates for compromised Google domains. These and many such incidents show that cybercriminals will always adapt to new trends and situations whether in the use of new malware or targeted attacks techniques to continue their attacks, she says.

The first half of 2014 also saw an increase in online attacks that lock up user data and hold it for ransom even on mobile devices. According to IT security firm F-Secure Labs threat report, rising number of attacks from malicious software known as ransomware underscores the importance of data security for home, enterprise and government users. Ransomware demands payment of a sum in exchange for unlocking a users files.

As per F-Secures research, top five most infected Indian cities in this order are Chandigarh, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and New Delhi. Furthermore, India ranks fourth in the world in mobile malware; New Delhi has the highest number of SMS sending mobile malware. Cybercriminals constantly adapt to new trends, whether by utilising new malware or targeted attack techniques to continue their attacks, says Amit Nath, country manager, India & SAARC, F-Secure.

As we prepare for the arrival of the Internet of Everything with its new threats (some of which we cant even begin to imagine) its clear that quarter by quarter, the world gets more, not less dangerous. Criminals and bad actors arent going away any time soon, but as technology firms note in their assessment, the best option for users and enterprises is to be extra cautious and adopt optimum security solutions.

That, in nutshell, is the best option for getting cybercrime off the cyber streets.

Perils of the Internet

* New Delhi has the highest number of SMS sending mobile malware in India

* Chandigarh, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai & New Delhi amongst most infected cities by mobile malware

* Tier-2 cities becoming favourite destination for mobile malware

* Internet frauds have cost India a whopping $4 billion in 2013

* Globally, total attacks have exposed more than 10 million personal records as of July 2014

* More than 400 data breach incidents have been reported in first half of 2014

* 32% of Indian firms said that over the last 12 months, the security breaches have cost them approximately $10,0001100,000

Source: TrendLabs, Dell Software, F-Secure