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Australians clicked on almost 27 million malicious links in the first quarter of this year, ranking the country sixth in the world for users who accessed the links. In New Zealand, more than 2.3 million malicious URLs were clicked in the quarter.

The latest security report from Trend Micro also reveals that malware continued its prevalence in the first three months of the year, with the number of malware detections in Australia hitting more than 10.5 million, and 1.2 million malware detections in New Zealand for the same period.

According to Trend Micro threat researchers, online banking malware continued to thrive with the emergence and modification of new malware families, each with different targets and varying anti-detection techniques.

And, Australia was ranked one of the ten countries most affected by online banking malware, with 3% of the world’s online banking malware.

Continuing to grow globally for the past five years is the number of mobile malware and high-risk apps, which has hit 2 million since the introduction of the Android platform.

“This year’s first quarterly report sheds light into the cyber underground where creative cybercriminals continue to find new opportunities to commit crime,” said Sanjay Mehta, Managing Director,  Trend Micro Australia and New Zealand.

“To remain protected against these ever-evolving cyber threats, Australians and New Zealanders must be diligent in using best practices when surfing the Web, especially when conducting online financial transactions.”

Mehta said Australia was fifth in the top 10 malicious URL sources by country, with nearly 4 million malicious URLs found hosted throughout the quarter, and tenth on the list of countries with the most number of botnet C&C servers identified in Q1.

According to Mehta, cybercriminals continuously discover more ways to successfully target new outlets for financial theft.

“Greed is motivating cybercriminals to take a non-traditional approach in the selection of unlikely targets, such as advanced threats to Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminals and the exploitation of disasters. Though well protected, these new targets are in the crosshairs of emboldened cybercriminals around the world.

“Organisations continued to struggle with attacks that were targeted in nature, which could be directly aimed at the energy, financial, healthcare, and retail industries or critical infrastructure,” continued Mehta.

“It came down to a simple equation—high-value targets that promised massive payouts were compromised despite the determined efforts of organisations to protect their valuable information.”

Key first quarter findings of Trend Micro’s global security report include:

•    Mobile threats: The mobile threat landscape continues to grow at an even faster pace than last year as the total number of mobile malware and high-risk apps grew to 2 million this quarter. The explosion of repackaged apps—those that have been maliciously tampered with to pass Android’s’ security features—also contributed to the huge spike in mobile malware and high-risk app volume growth

•    Cybercrime and the cybercriminal underground: This quarter’s online banking malware volume significantly dropped from the end of 2013. This year’s first quarter number did not differ much from the same timeframe one year ago, and the high numbers at the close of last year could be attributed to the holiday season when cybercriminals pursue online shoppers

•    Targeted attack campaigns and cyber attacks: Reports of PoS system infiltration in the United States, particularly in retail and hospitality, as well as insider threats targeting South Korean credit card companies highlighted the need for customised defense strategies both overseas and locally in Australia and New Zealand

•    Digital life and the Internet of Everything: A new-generation of exploits took the app ecosystem by storm this quarter. These apps cater to users’ desire to anonymously share content, send off-the-record messages, and share media. Along with observing more social engineering scams, several devices in the Internet of Everything (IoE) market were scrutinised, as security researchers exposed gaping vulnerabilities.

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Peter Dinham

 

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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