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Asian users anxious over social networks

Some 67 percent in region want social networking sites to offer more secure identification process, compared to 48 percent in United States and Europe, survey finds.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor on

With increasing cybercriminal activities specifically targeting social networks, consumers in the region are now more wary about how these sites identify their users, according to a report released Wednesday.

In a survey conducted by security vendor RSA, 67 percent of respondents in Asia indicated the need for social networking sites to strengthen the level of security used to identify users. This number was higher than the United States and Europe, where only 48 percent in each of the two regions indicated likewise.

The RSA survey polled 4,500 respondents globally, 1,100 of whom were from five Asian markets: Singapore, Malaysia, India, China and Japan.

According to RSA, which is the security arm of EMC, 20 percent of online attacks are now targeted at social networking sites, which have become hotspots for cybercriminals looking to initiate phishing attacks, spread malware and hijack user accounts.

Not surprising then that 86 percent of survey respondents in Asia indicated they were concerned about their personal information being accessed or stolen at such sites.

Some 94 percent Asian respondents were also anxious about such security breaches on their online banking site, compared to the global average of 86 percent. This concern also extended to other portals including healthcare, highlighted by 92 percent of Asian respondents, and government (83 percent) sites.

Because of these concerns, 88 percent said their banks should apply a stronger form of security to identify users when they log into the banking site. This number is higher than the global average of 80 percent.

Some 88 percent of Asian respondents also said they expected their banks to monitor their online banking accounts to identify unusual activities

Despite their anxiety, only 75 percent of consumers in this region said their concerns over security would impact their willingness to provide personal information or interaction with such Web sites. Some 92 percent said they had conducted an online banking transaction in the last month, while 80 percent had made an online purchase.

Consumer worry intensified when services move to the mobile platform. Only 51 percent of respondents in Asia said they felt secure using mobile banking services, and 93 percent called for banks to implement stronger security measures for the platform.

In fact, 90 of respondents in the region said they were willing to use enhanced security measures if they were implemented at their online banking site.

Drawing a direct correlation between an e-tailer's security well-being and user confidence, RSA said security is most often cited as the primary reason why consumers hesitate to transact online. The IT vendor pointed to a case study of how a U.K. bank clocked a 20 percent increase in online transactions, one month after it implemented a new authentication system.

"Consumer confidence and the willingness to transact online was clearly correlated. In Asia, when consumers were asked how stronger security would impact their confidence in transacting online, 95 percent stated they would be more confident," RSA said.

Lowdown on vishing, smishing
Consumer anxiety over security breaches, however, remains high.

A whopping 97 percent of Asian respondents said they were concerned about the threat of phishing, with 30 percent admitting that they had fallen victim to phishing e-mail attacks. Half of the respondents in China acknowledged they had been a victim of a phishing attack, compared to 38 percent in India and only 6 percent in Japan.

RSA attributed the significant number of phishing victims in the region to the use of more sophisticated and targeted attacks deployed by cybercriminals. "For example, many phishing e-mail [attacks] today directly replicate the design of a legitimate communication from a bank, online retailer or other organization and lack the poor grammar that once made phishing attempts so obvious. Therefore, it is not a surprise that more consumers are falling victim to phishing scams."

In addition, the volume of such attacks has increased significantly, clocking in "record-breaking figures" for three consecutive months.

However, while respondents were highly aware of phishing attacks and Trojans, they were less knowledgeable about newer threats such as vishing and smishing, which refer to voice-based phishing and phishing via SMS or text messages, respectively. Just 31 percent of Asian consumers knew what vishing was, while 41 percent were aware of smishing.

RSA noted that the growing number of vishing attacks, which climbed fourfold over the past 12 months, alongside the apparent lack of user awareness will prove to be a cause of concern for such attacks in Asia this year.

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