Filipinos aware of cyberthreats but don’t protect themselves

By Norman P. Aquino, Special Reports Editor

PHUKET, THAILAND — Filipinos are largely aware of cybersecurity threats while paying for stuff online, but rarely protect themselves by installing anti-virus software on their phones, according to Kaspersky.

Most Filipinos or 97% are aware of threats against digital payment methods, Suguru Ishimaru, Kaspersky’ senior malware researcher in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, said in an interview on the sidelines of an annual conference organized by the global cybersecurity company last month.

“About 89% of Filipinos use a digital payment system and there is awareness about threats among 97% of them,” he said, adding that 67% of Filipinos know about the importance of installing anti-virus software.

But only two of 10 Filipinos have actually installed security solutions on their devices, Mr. Ishimaru said.

Thailand and Vietnam tied at 94% on mobile phone use for digital payments, Malaysia had 86%, Singapore 85% and Indonesia 84%.

The Philippines tied with Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore for awareness about digital payment threats, while Malaysia had 98% awareness and Indonesia had 96%, Mr. Ishimaru said.

But only a little over a quarter (26%) of Southeast Asians have actually installed anti-virus software on their devices regardless of whether they were infected, the Kaspersky researcher said.

Vietnam was the leader with 40%, followed by Indonesia with 32%, Thailand with 26%, the Philippines with 21% and Malaysia with 19%. Singapore was at the bottom of the list, with only 16% of its citizens having installed security solutions on their devices.

Kaspersky last month warned of more cybersecurity attacks against Android and iOS devices, with the notorious Anubis Trojan now targeting smartphones using its banking Trojan with ransomware functionalities.

The company detected 11.5 million malicious installation packages in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region in the first half, more than three times the level for the entire 2021.

“Anubis is known for compromising hundreds of bank customers per campaign, proving that it’ among the most active malware targeting Android users right now,” Mr. Ishimaru said. “Our recent findings show that the cybercriminals behind this threat have started implementing ransom functionalities.”

Other malicious groups are expected to copy the same technique of stealing data and holding devices hostage, Mr. Ishimaru said. “I expect to see more of such attacks in APAC due to cybercriminals’ strong financial motivation.”

Mobile banking Trojans are one of the most dangerous species in the malware world, stealing money from mobile users’ bank accounts usually by disguising the Trojans as legitimate apps to lure people into installing the malware.

Mr. Ishimaru earlier said there are 6.6 billion smartphone users globally. Anubis has targeted Android phone users since 2017, mostly in Russia, Turkey, India, China, Colombia, France, Germany, the US, Denmark and Vietnam.

Another prolific threat actor targeting mobile banking users globally and in the region is Roaming Mantis. The group carries out malicious campaigns that target Android devices and spreads mobile malware initially via DNS hijacking and through smishing.

While the cybercriminal group is known for targeting Android devices, Roaming Mantis’ recent campaign has shown interest in iOS users, Mr. Ishimaru said at the Kaspersky conference.

Digital payment users should keep their phones updated and reboot daily as a basic security measure, the Japanese researcher said. They should also not trust third-party apps and “mobileconfig” files, which load settings and authorization information onto Apple devices.

“Never click on links sent through SMS and always install a security solution such as Kaspersky Total Security,” Mr. Ishimaru said.

For advanced protection, users can use a virtual private network (VPN), check live network traffic using live indicators of compromise — forensic evidence of discrepancies or unusual activities on the network that help identify security threats and data breaches before any harm occurs.

“Use Lockdown Mode for iOS 16 users,” Mr. Ishimaru said, referring to Apple’ latest security measure that severely restricts activity allowed on your device, the logic being that the damage will be limited if an intruder has gained access.

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