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Cyber security: The Malware threat

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury   | Published: February 19, 2019 20:49:08 | Updated: February 20, 2019 20:10:23


A UK-based research body, Comparitech, has published the findings of their study on cyber security of 60 countries. In Comparitech's Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), Bangladesh was ranked as the sixth least cyber secure country in the world.

Given the government's vision to achieve a 'Digital Bangladesh' by the year 2021, this is rather alarming. The nitty-gritty of the study needs to be examined by policy-makers related to the Information and Communication Technology ministry of the country as well as general users and take steps to address the situation.

Comparitech ranked the countries based on their overall score in seven categories. The categories are the percentage of mobiles infected with malware (software designed to gain unauthorised access to, destroy, or disrupt a device's system), percentage of computers infected with malware, number of financial malware attacks, percentage of telnet attacks and percentage of attacks by cryptominers.

The total score for each country was achieved by averaging its score across the seven categories. Bangladesh was ranked sixth least cyber secure as 35.91 per cent of mobile users in the country faced mobile malware infection. Bangladesh thus faces the highest percentage of mobile malware infection. There were other issues as well including telnet attacks (0.38 per cent), computers infected with malware (19.7 per cent) and financial malware attacks (1.3 per cent).

Bangladesh is only behind Algeria (least cyber-secure country in the world), Indonesia, Vietnam, Tanzania, and Uzbekistan.

In Bangladesh, malware attacks have been on the rise as around 25-30 per cent of Bangladesh's 90 million active mobile handset users use android handsets. The study has pinpointed on this fact.

Malware or malicious softwares are very small softwares that can invade, damage and disable computers, mobile phones, networks, tablets etc, often by taking partial control over the said device's operations. Malware can come in various sizes and type. They can be adware, spyware, virus, worms, rootkit, keylogger, malicious cryptomining and more. Each has a different purpose.

Viruses and worms are bad for safety of any device and its content. Far more dangerous are spyware (malware that can secretly observe users activities and report to its developer) and trojans (malware that hides inside other software to infect devices).

Keyloggers can record the user's keystrokes and store sensitive information like username, password etc., and send these to the developer of the malware. Malicious crypto-mining malware use the resources of a system to mine crypto-currencies without the permission and usually the knowledge of the user.

Ransomeware is the most dangerous. It is used by hacker/s to lock a company, organisation or individual out of their computers and network and provide access to these only after a ransom is paid. Ransomware attacks have become notorious in some of the developed and developing countries, pushing corporations to invest heavily on cyber security.

Malware attacks can occur once any user clicks on a website on the internet or an email that has malware attached to it.

Anyone who uses computers and mobile phones will realise the dangerous position that Bangladesh is in as most companies and device users here do not purchase and use legal anti-virus and malware resistant software. Legally purchased anti-virus software get regular updates making it stronger against new viruses and malware.

There is also the concern that most users now use mobile banking apps. Confidential information like username, passwords and other information of the user on these apps can be hacked by malware unknowingly installed in a mobile handset. There is also the fear of files, data and content like photographs and other items being accessible by criminal hacker groups.

The GCI study has recommended "room for improvement" by strengthening "legislation or users need help putting better protections in place on their computers and mobiles".

In Bangladesh's case, mobile and computer users need to get better protection for their devices. Some users, who are well aware of the threats, buy Google Play store gift cards to purchase anti-virus software for their mobile phones. Others renew purchased anti-virus software for the computers and network systems annually.

Users will also stay a step ahead of malicious software and their developers if they set up '2-factor authorisation' on their devices. Browsing questionable websites and clicking links on emails from strangers are also not advised by cyber security experts.

tashfinster@gmail.com

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