Unless you add extra layers of security to ensure that it remains private, email is an incredibly vulnerable form of communication, especially on a mobile device. As more and more people realize that sensitive information sent through emails is vulnerable to spying, cybercriminals and corporate espionage, they are looking for better ways to communicate safely.
The other day, I had a very confusing day, thanks to my laptop going nuts on me. I thought for sure that I got infected by a virus or some malware. No matter what search I did on Google, I always got redirected to search results for “biometrics”.
It didn’t stop there. When creating a new post, the title field and time stamp kept reverting to specific data. It.drove.me.nuts.
And I panicked. I immediately downloaded Avast for Mac and did a full system scan, but everything was clean.
How worried are you about your security when you go online? AVG, one of the most recognized names in anti-virus protection and Internet security in general, recently conducted a study on the state of online security in various countries. Involved in the study were 144 countries and 127 million systems. AVG collected data relating to virus and malware attacks on these computers and collated their findings.
African countries did very well in the survey – seven of the 10 safest countries hail from the continent. Sierra Leone tops this list with an average of one attack per 692 users who surf the Web. Next in line is Niger, with one attack per 442 users who surf the Web. Other countries in the top 10 are Togo and Japan. Here are the details for each continent (attack per number of users)
- North America: 1 in 51
- Europe: 1 in 72
- Asia: 1 in 102
- Africa: 1 in 108
- South America: 1 in 164.
Basically, South America is the safest while North America is the most dangerous.
However, if the stats are broken down per country, the most dangerous countries are (first one being the most dangerous):
- Turkey (1 in 10)
- Russia (1 in 15)
- Armenia (1 in 24)
- Azerbaijan (1 in 39)
- Bangaladesh ( 1 in 41)
Roger Thompson from AVG is quick to point out, however, that this data does not exactly pinpoint which regions are completely safe from virus and malware attacks due to their nature – they are not really hindered by geographic boundaries. He also notes that the results of the study may not be applicable in the near future as viruses and attacks do change over time.
One interesting thing that Thompson mentioned is how this data can be of use to travelers:
However, our research should also serve as a warning to all travelling abroad and using the internet. If you are travelling without your computer and use a public machine or borrow a friend or colleagues, ensure that when accessing web -based services like email, that you log out and close the browser when you have finished your session and that you don’t agree to store any passwords or log-in information on that machine.
If you are taking your laptop with you ensure you have backed up your data and removed any sensitive information from your machine.
If you don’t want the hassle of worrying about security, just take a vacation in Sierra Leone. 😉
Photo credit: highwaycharlie
As I have been dealing with Internet security issues for the last two or three months, I decided to look for and write about possible security issues for this year. So to kick this three-part series off, let’s start with some good news.
We will be missing the three most evident malicious programs this 2008, namely viruses, Trojan horses, and worms. Why? Because programmers of such have taken another virtual road: proliferation of refined and highly developed Internet threats.
For the past three years, malicious e-mail-attached programs received a bunch of refinements and development, allowing them to evolve to trickier forms that “escaped” the bounds of e-mail and spread through other outlets. Seemingly though, even if the three malicious programs were very prevalent last year, their programmers have outgrown the usual, email-born programs and shifted to a higher gear.
Feebs, The Self-Breeding Worm
Feebs, for example, is a self-reproducing worm that connects infected computers to the propagator’s computer, allowing remote access and acquisition of the victim’s private information. Its spreading process is amazing for it can observe your system’s connections and, while in the background of your system, inject an infected .zip file to one of your system’s outgoing message. This manages to abuse the trust a person has towards another, since the source of the message is a trusted source and, at the same time, an innocent suspect.
Once opened, the Feebs worm will then watch incoming connections, detect stimulus to retrieve files from the local hard disk, catch personal information from them, upload its copies for infection, then look for an executable file to attach itself to in order to run itself again. Everything happens so quietly that nobody notices its growth until it infected
In one distinct event, IronPort Threat Operations Center detected six outbreaks of the various Feebs version in one week of 2007, each of the worm variant spreading wildly before a complete report against the virus. Also, two strains of Feebs were released at the same time in a single day, furthering the threat to web users.
2007 actually suffered from a huge number of URL-based virus outbreaks as compared to 2006. Such change of viewpoint, according to IronPort’s “2008 Security Trends,” constituted a whopping 253 per cent increase from the outbreaks of 2006 to that of 2007. Not surprisingly, viruses taking the form of attachments have somewhat taught malicious programmer to look for a different way to spread viruses. And just by that, the attackers have evolved from singling-out-and attack types to multi-level ones, like delivering a link that can point to a malware-infested server that can further bind computers connected within its network and infect them.
E-mails are no longer the dominating source of viruses today. Unfortunately, in the conquest for spreading evil in the virtual world, malicious programmers learned to think out of the e-mail box and found other means of spreading infection. But this doesn’t mean that we should lower our e-mail guards because self-propagating viruses are still out there. What I’m trying to say is that there is a new form of Internet security threat that, although branching out from the fast-paced development of viruses, will seemingly outshine its ancestor. Watch out for it and other reports in the next three parts of this series!