Dubai Exposure to malware in the GCC countries in the first quarter of this year is around 1.5 times higher than in European countries, an industry expert said.

“People in GCC countries are more likely to encounter malware while surfing the internet. One third of the people in GCC countries encountered malware this way. Even the lowest number for the region — Kuwait with 27 per cent — was higher than in EU countries, where the average value was 20 per cent,” David Emm, Senior Regional Researcher, Kaspersky Lab, told Gulf News.

He said, “our products blocked an average of 15 malicious programs per user: the lowest was Kuwait with 11; the highest was Oman with 19.”

The risk of infection from flash drives, local networks and the spread of malware from other files on the system is even greater than the risk of infection from the internet.

On average, he said more than 42 per cent of people in the region encountered malware this way: the lowest was Kuwait with 38 per cent; the highest was Oman with 53 per cent.

Local infections

“Self-replicating malware — viruses and worms like Kido and Sality — are responsible for most local infections, that is those that don’t infect via the internet. The threats are not new and they infect by using old vulnerabilities. This indicates that a lot of computers in the region are not properly patched and do not run anti-virus programs. This leaves them open to attack,” Emm said.

The main use of infected computers in the region by cybercriminals is as ‘zombies’ to carry out their illegal operations — for example, for spam distribution or for use in DDoS [Distributed Denial of Service] attacks.

However, the risk posed by malware “can be considerably reduced if the key rules of internet safety are followed: don’t follow links in messages received from unknown senders, always check the authenticity of a web address in the browser bar before inserting personal information and only use licensed software,” he said.

Users browsing the internet faced an average of 108,035 cyber-attacks per hour — or 1800 a minute. In total, cybercriminals used 4.07 million domains to launch web attacks last year.

Last year approximately 38 per cent of users in UAE encountered detections by antivirus software.

“The same skills and techniques that were sharpened on the PC platform are increasingly being extended to other platforms, such as mobile and Mac; and as more homes and businesses use these platforms the attacks will spread, which is why all users, no matter their platforms, should take security and online safety precautions,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president, McAfee Labs.