Lockdown escalated phishing activities among cybercriminals especially in the APAC region

From detecting and analyzing 350,000 unique malware samples a day pre-COVID, we currently see a total of 428,000 new samples per 24-hour window, says Kaspersky

According to a latest report from Statista, East Asia logs the most number of virtual network users at over 1 billion as of 2020, with Southeast Asia and South Asia both trailing behind with over 400 million users, respectively.

As the region first hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, different forms of lockdowns have been implemented, eased, and re-issued across APAC, putting forward the uncharted opportunities of the internet and social media. The rapid rise of use and the ever evolving usage of these platforms — from posting pictures, sending messages, to now being an expanding marketplace — makes it essential to examine this new economic frontier.

With the theme “Secure Your Digital Reputation”, global cybersecurity company Kaspersky aims to deep dive on how the information shared online becomes one’s reputation and how this can have a huge impact in the real world.

Vitaly Kamluk, Director of Global Research and Analysis (GReAT) for APAC at Kaspersky, said “One of the most visible effects of this pandemic is how it forced everyone, from individuals to the biggest companies, to shift a lot of their activities online. This dependence, triggered by our need to secure our physical health, also pushed us to increase our social media use, either to connect with our distant loved ones, to give support to our community, to entertain ourselves, or to get hold of products and services that we need. Parallel to this trend is the opening of wider doors for cybercriminals to exploit.”

Aside from the heavier reliance on the internet, the pandemic situation also provided an effective tool for cybercriminals – a “hook” that could make one click a phishing email, share a malicious link, forward an infected image, and more. In fact, as early as April, many companies moved employees from working in the office to working from their homes — and cybercriminals found new ways to exploit the situation:

  • Brute-force attacks on database servers in April 2020 were up 23%
  • Malicious files planted on websites increased by 8% in April
  • Network attacks and phishing emails rose

“From detecting and analyzing 350,000 unique malware samples a day pre-COVID, we currently see a total of 428,000 new samples per 24-hour window. Add the geopolitical events across APAC, the uptick on e-commerce and e-wallet adoption, the continuous remote work set-up and online learning, and the emotional and psychological stresses of the situation, the 2020 threat landscape seems to favor cybercriminals. However, hope is in our hands as we are the controller of our online activities. Improved vigilance to protect our digital identities and assets is necessary,” adds Kamluk.

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