Social, mobile influence cyber threats

Asian consumers show great "digital appetite" for online content and services and their online usage patterns determine threats popular in different markets, Trend Micro exec says.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor on

SINGAPORE--Increasing "digital appetite" for content and services via mobile and social platforms have widened the attack platform for cybercriminals and, in turn, increased consumer risks, said Trend Micro executives.

According to Myla Pilao, director of core technology marketing at Trend Micro's TrendLabs, technology has become a heavily integrated aspect of people's daily lives, regardless of whether they reside in highly urbanized cities or rural villages. Smartphones and social networking sites, in particular, have helped accelerate this development, she noted.

With this in mind, cybercriminals are also now looking to take advantage of this global trend by exploiting the information shared and stored digitally, the executive said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

Tech landscape influences threats
Citing statistics from internal research, Pilao said the different technological landscape from the various markets in Asia-Pacific influences the types of threats that are produced.

China, for example, has the world's largest mobile network and customer base, noted the director. This, in turn, has given rise to mobile malware threats such as those seen targeting Android users, she added.

Google's Android mobile operating system and Nokia's Symbian were identified as China's top malware platforms in an earlier report.

As for online games, China's base of game players exceeded 120 million users in 2010, and this paved the way for malware such as the XWM Trojan kit to be introduced, Pilao noted.

The main highlight of the XWM kit is that it not only has Trojan generators, which helps cybercrooks steal online games accounts, it also has a backend server that it uses to receive and sort stolen information, according to a blog post written by Trend Micro's senior threat researcher, Lion Gu. He said this makes its operation "really convenient for cybercriminals".

In South Korea, high Internet penetration for online activities such as social networking, banking and games have led to phishing threats, Pilao noted, adding that the SK Telecom data breach which affected 35 million users is an example of such threats.

Social media still cybercriminals' "favorite"
With regard to IT arenas with the highest risk, Pilao said mobile and social media were the "most severe" threat segments.

Android, she said, is currently a "big playground" for cybercriminals as seen in China's example.

Terrance Tang, head of Trend Micro Southeast Asia's consumer business, chimed in saying that beyond criminal activities, customers' concerns also revolve around losing their phones, which also means losing sensitive personal information, as well as safe use by children using their parents' handsets.

Meanwhile, social media remain a "favorite" among online crooks although the trend is toward "business scams" in that malicious links are injected in promotions offering discounts and coupons, Pilao stated.

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