Cybercriminals
India's neighbours among most targeted by malware: Microsoft Security Intelligence Report. In representational picture: People pose in front of a display showing the word 'cyber' in binary code.Reuters

India, which was once considered the spam capital of the world, is now gaining notoriety as a country that has become home to a significant number of malicious entities (digital world). At the same time, the country is also the target of cyberattacks, according to a report published on Thursday by Symantec, an online security company.

Cybercriminals launch 15 India-targeted ransomeware attacks every hour, according to Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report. The report, which summarises global cybersecurity trends in 2015, also notes that India is not only the third-top source of malicious activity, it is also a prime target for these acts. Although Symantec now ranks India at No. 18 for spam attacks, it still keeps India high on the rankings for overall malicious activity, including phishing, spreading malware and spamming other users, ranking it at No. 3. Symantec also adds that India has the third highest financial Trojan infection rate as well. Financial Trojans are Trojan horse viruses that pretend to be a legitimate piece of software, but secretly steam users' financial information.

"India is the second most favoured destination for ransomware in Asia," says Tarun Kaura, director of solution product management for Asia Pacific and Japan at Symantec.

Size doesn't matter

Indian enterprises are also the sixth most targeted in Asia, being at the receiving end of about two attacks a year on an average. The report also adds that large organisations weren't the sole targets of these attacks and that smaller organisations were equally vulnerable.

"Advanced criminal attack groups now echo the skill sets of nation-state attackers. They have extensive resources and a highly-skilled technical staff that operate with such efficiency that they maintain normal business hours and even take the weekends and holidays off," said Tarun Kaura, director of solution product management for Asia Pacific and Japan at Symantec.

"We are even seeing low-level criminal attackers create call center operations to increase the impact of their scams."

Trust issues

With about 142 million Indians on Facebook, it's no surprise that Indian users are a prime target of social media scams. The report states that one in six such scams affect an Indian globally, and that India has witnessed a 156 percent increase in the number of these scams.

The standard scams work by promising people more followers or asking users to install applications that would improve their online experience. Symantec reports that 94 percent of these scams are spread through manual sharing, with scammers leveraging the power of users' social circles.

Held to ransom

According to Kaura, instances of ransomware attacks have grown 114 percent in India, translating to roughly 15 attacks an hour. Almost 10 percent of these attacks were crypto-ransomware, which pose a threat to consumers and enterprises alike, Kaura says.

Crypto-ransomware, which encrypts user data and demands payment in exchange for their retrieval, much like KeRanger, grew by 35 percent globally, according to the report.

It also points out that the attacks have spread beyond systems that operate on Windows PC and have targeted smartphones, Mac and Linux systems as well.

Better safe than sorry

Symantec, in the report, urges users to use stronger passwords and change them every three months. It also urges users not to click on attachments sent by strangers, and to use firewalls and antivirus program.

It also points out that scammers may use scareware tactics to trick users into believing that their devices are infected. Installing any program or clicking on any link suggested through these means could also lead to infections.

"Limit the amount of personal information you share on social networks and online, including login information, birth dates and pet names," the report recommends.

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