Monday, May 26, 2014

Microsoft reveals shift in cybercrime tactics

Microsoft Corp has released new data indicating that as attacks against software targets are becoming more difficult and expensive cybercriminals are increasingly turning to deceptive tactics for malicious purposes such as stealing people’s personal and financial information. In the last quarter of 2013, the number of computers that had to be disinfected as a result of deceptive tactics more than tripled from a similar period the previous year. This increase in deceptive tactics corresponds with a 70 percent decline in the number of severe vulnerabilities exploited in Microsoft products between 2010 and 2013. Additionally, the increased adoption of key security mitigations across the industry are making it more difficult and expensive for cybercriminals to develop software exploits. Microsoft Corp director for Trustworthy Computing, Tim Rains said: “Keeping cybercriminals on the run requires a robust security strategy,” elaborating that “the safest houses don’t just have locked doors. They have well-lit entry points and advanced security systems. It’s the same with computer security - the more we layer our defenses the better we are at thwarting attacks.” According to Microsoft’s new data, one of the most common tactics used was deceptive downloads. These downloads were identified as a top threat in 95 percent of the 110 countries/regions that Microsoft data examined.  Rains also said that cybercriminals lure their victims with deceptive downloads by bundling malware with legitimate downloadable content such as software, music or videos found online. While the threat of deceptive downloads is on the rise, their impact is often not seen right away. “Infected machines often continue to function, and the only observable signs of the malicious download might be a slower computer or unexpected search results popping up in a browser. Over time, fraudulent activity like click fraud generated from the infected computer can tarnish an individual’s online reputation,” he said. “Of serious concern in Africa is the threat posed from illicit software downloaded from the internet, which is infected with malware deliberately bundled by cybercriminals,” says Daniel Kamau of the Anti-Piracy Lead for sub-Saharan Africa.   “With the internet population on the continent fast growing, downloading software online is a popular alternative but can have serious consequences if it’s not legitimate,” he said. While deceptive downloads were identified as one of the most prevalent tactics used worldwide, ransom ware is another deceptive practice that continues to affect people and can be devastating for those victimized by it.  Ransom ware often pretends to be an official-looking warning from a well-known law enforcement agency. It accuses its victim of committing a computer-related crime and demands they pay a fine to regain control of the computer.  Ransom ware is geographically concentrated, but for cybercriminals looking to make a quick profit, the data shows it is an increasingly alluring tactic.  In fact, the top ransom ware threat encountered globally increased by 45 percent between the first half and the second half of 2013.  In light of this new information on cyber threats, Microsoft advises customers take a few actions to help keep themselves protected, including using newer software whenever possible and keeping it up to date, only downloading from trusted sources, running antivirus, and backing up files. “Migrating to Windows 8.1 gives users a chance to modernize their business, and prevent their systems from being attacked by malicious software. The end of support service is an opportunity for users to build a secure and robust working ecosystem to avoid any software compliance issues,” said Hasmukh Chudasama, Microsoft Solutions Business Manager at Dimension Data, E.A.  “Most customers who have upgraded so far have reported that they are seeing reduced malware activity in their networks,” he asserted.  Microsoft releases its cyber security report twice a year, which culminates data from more than a billion systems users worldwide and some of the busiest online services.  The report provides an in-depth analysis on the latest threat trends for 110 countries/regions worldwide and is designed to help inform people about the most prevalent global and regional threat trends so that they can better protect themselves and their organizations.

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