Asia Pacific a hotbed for Android malware, botnets and banking trojans

Ransomware, ad fraud and botnets have risen to prominence in the current threat landscape, according to Malwarebytes‘ inaugural Asia Pacific State of Malware Report 2017.

Particularly in Asia Pacific, botnets reigned supreme with the region accounting for more than 50% of botnet incidences globally. Furthermore, Android malware was also present in significant numbers in the region, with the top three countries accounting for 15% of detections globally. Banking Trojans were also rampant – the region comprised more than a quarter (27%) of detections across the globe.

The study examined data from more than one billion malware detections/incidences, covered more than 100 million devices over 200 countries, in both corporate and consumer environments. Data was also obtained from Malwarebytes’ internal honeypots and collection efforts to identify malware distribution, not just infections.

Jeff Hurmuses, Area Vice President and Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Malwarebytes said, “To protect users in Asia Pacific from cyber criminals, we must possess an intimate understanding of their methodologies and tactics.�?

He added, “In Asia Pacific, we are seeing that botnets are particularly rampant. A particularly sneaky malware – botnets can remain undetected for long periods of time and expose users to other malware threats and infections. As individuals and businesses become more reliant on computing in their professional and daily life, it is imperative they remain aware of new cyber attack methodologies and how they can impact them.�?

Total Malware Detections

Asia Pacific contributed significantly to the total number of malware infections detected globally, with 3 countries amongst the top 10 countries with most malware infections globally. This includes Indonesia, India and the Philippines, which ranked fourth, seventh and eighth on the global rankings respectively.

Emerging markets in Asia Pacific such as Indonesia, India, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia proved to be more susceptible to malware infections than their counterparts. Whilst there are several factors that could be responsible for this distribution, this finding may also partially be due to the large number of third party app stores utilized by consumers as well as the presence of pirated software within the markets.

Asia Pacific is relatively safe from Ad Fraud, Adware and Ransomware

The Asia Pacific is relatively untouched by ad fraud, adware and ransomware. With no individual Asia Pacific country accounting for more than 2.5% of detections globally in these categories.

However, we have noticed that cyber criminals are extensively targeting developed markets in Europe and the US with ransomware, ad fraud and adware. As these malware provide a source of direct profit  these cybercriminals are likely to turn their attention towards developed markets in the Asia Pacific once Europe and the US begin deploying counter measures more actively.

The Philippines is a Botnet Haven

Asia Pacific topped the chart of botnet detections globally, accounting for more than 50% of botnet detections. Emerging markets in the region responsible for the majority of botnet detections, with developed countries accounting for less than 0.5% of global botnet detections.

There are three APAC countries among the top five countries for botnet detections globally, with five among the top ten. The countries listed in order from most incidences to least are the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Thailand and Malaysia.

The Philippines was the top country globally for botnet detections, with nearly 4 times as many detections as the second ranked country, Indonesia.

The five APAC countries ranked in the top 10 accounted for nearly half of botnet detections overall.

Mobile malware is getting smarter

The study also observed increased use of randomization utilized by malware authors to evade detection by mobile security engines, leading to increased malware infection rates amongst android devices globally.

Android malware is particularly rampant in Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Three Asia countries (Indonesia, India and Philippines) made the top 10 for Android malware detections globally, accounting for more than 15% of Android malware detections in total.

The high prevalence of Android malware detections in these countries can be attributed to the extensive use of relatively unsecured third-party app stores amongst consumers.

Risky online banking

The Philippines and Thailand accounted for a disproportionately large amount of banking Trojan malware detections. The two countries combined accounted for more than 20% of global banking Trojan detections. The Philippines in particular boasted nearly twice as many detections as the second ranked country, Thailand.

Malware distribution

In examining malware distribution over the years, we have observed only one stable truth of malware development: distribution through email. Phishing attacks, including malicious attachments, had a big comeback in the second half of 2016. However, we predict that exploit kits (RIG specifically) are likely to become the standard for malware distribution again in the very near future.

We will not see malicious phishing attacks disappear. Due to the new developments in the download and installation of malware originating from phishing emails, as well as the use of macro scripts in Microsoft Office documents, this method of attack will continue at steady levels throughout the rest of the year, likely with increased sophistication

Hurmuses said, “Whilst our findings illustrate that in general, Asia is not the top continent for cybercriminal attack, we see that the emerging markets in Asia are generally more vulnerable to malware. However, it is likely that as developed markets in Europe and the US begin to take cyber security more seriously we will see cyber criminals looking for new targets amongst Asia Pacific’s developed economies.  As now we have a footprint in Asia, we are excited to be able to go faster and further in supporting all consumers and businesses in the region, helping them better protect their online activities. At Malwarebytes, we believe strongly that everyone deserves a malware free existence.�?