By Poly Pantelides
CYPRUS has seen “dramatic improvement” in the rate of malicious software or malware infections, indicating that there are fewer attacks on systems to gather sensitive information or gain access to private computers.
But the island still falls behind the global average in its concentrations of malicious websites, one of the authors of a recent security report has said.
“The malware infection rate in Cyprus went from 15.1 in Q1 of 2011 – the first quarter of 2011 – to 6.3 in Q2 of 2012,” said Tim Rains, director of Trustworthy Computing Communications.
The rates show how much malware is cleaned per 1,000 rounds of Microsoft’s malicious software removal tool. For Cyprus, the figures dropped even further to 5.4 by the end of last year, according to the latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report. The data was harnessed by reports from administrators or participating users from Microsoft security programs and services running on computers in Cyprus.
Rains, one of the authors of the security report, has been writing about EU threats from malicious software on his blog on www.microsoft.eu
Cyprus has been having less malware to deal with, and, at a rate of 5.4, was below the worldwide average infection rate of 6.0 in the last quarter of 2012. By contrast, Romania’s rate was placed at 12.4 at the end of last year.
Nonetheless, Cyprus continues having “concentrations of malicious websites well above the global average,” Rains said. At the end of last year, Cyprus had 15.16 phishing sites per 1,000 hosts, the highest levels in the EU and well above the global average of 5.10. “Phishing sites are hosted all over the world on free hosting sites, on compromised web servers, and in numerous other contexts,” Rains said.
The security intelligence report warned that such websites can appear legitimate and “often provide no outward indicators of their malicious nature, even to experienced computer users”. A common tactic for attackers is to use legitimate websites “to take advantage of the trust users have invested in them,” the report said.
Cyprus also ranked high in terms of malware distribution sites per internet 1,000 hosts with a rate of 15.72, third behind Romania with 16.5 and Luxembourg with 19.33. The worldwide average was 10.85, with Finland boasting the lowest rate in Europe with 3.88, followed by Slovenia with 4.02 and Belgium with 4.39, Rains said.
In Cyprus, the most common category of malware at the end of last year were potentially unwanted software, affecting 41.8 per cent of all computers with detections, up from 34.1 per cent in Q3 of 2012. The most common malware were tools generating product keys for software products at 16.8 per cent at the end of last year.
This was followed by adware that displayed dynamic toolbars and targeted pop-up ads based on monitoring web-browsing activities affecting 9.2 per cent of computers with detections, the security report said. Some 8.6 per cent of computers had malware that could spread to networks or removable computer drives. And a total of 7.5 per cent of computers with detections in Cyprus were infected with a program modifying web browser settings to visit particular websites.
Experts advise people to keep software up to date, look for security-minded security software and consider switching to safer operating systems and browsers and customising security settings to suit your needs. Debate rages on this with people feeling passionate about their selected systems, but Linux and other Unix-like systems are generally considered secure operating systems, whereas Google Chrome is also thought to be one of the better browsers, security-wise.
By Poly Pantelides