The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report lists cyber attacks and malware as a major technological risk of 2016, and likely to result in large-scale economic damage and “widespread loss of trust in the Internet”. IT industry data reports that 33% of the world’s computers are infected with some form of malware, with Asia ranking as the highest region for malware infections. A review of countries with the highest rate of infection in the first quarter of 2016, ranks two Asian countries in the top ten: China at #1 and Taiwan at #3.
Your computer is not only a window into a world of information and entertainment, it can also become a window into your home and even your bedroom should you inadvertently download RAT ‘spyware’. Remote Access Trojans (RAT) can be designed to remotely activate a victim’s webcam and audio functionality as well as browse through a victims private pictures or videos, and download and publicly share (or sell) the images and videos of their choosing. The primary intent of these perpetrators is to taunt, toy and publicly humiliate their victims – although this nefarious activity can also lead to extortion. Feeling terrorized must be an accurate description for this gross breach of privacy. Imagine the shattering realization that your house, your bedroom, your most personal conversations and private moments have been invaded and shared with a stranger who then shares with tens of thousands of other strangers on forums or social media.
With the digital and offline world converging at an accelerated rate and peoples lives becoming more digitally focused, important documents and data are being stored on computers and devices rather than in physical form. Illegally accessing this data and then using encryption as a weapon, preventing a victim from accessing this data until ‘ransom money’ is paid has become an extremely profitable cyber-crime. Last year global infections of the Ransomware Trojan increased by 35% and are expected to increase further this year.
Online advertising is big business. Approximately 90% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising – the combined earnings of all of their other products only accounts for 10% of its annual earnings. Online advertising is also big business for crime syndicates peddling malware. Malvertising found on counterfeit and content theft sites present serious risks to online consumers who are often in search of a price tag ‘too good to be true’ or something for free. Such consumers may indeed end up getting ‘something for nothing’…however that something often has a cost.
The Asia Digital Alliance (ADA), who advocate for a safe and accessible Internet environment, recognize that it is important for industry and government to make Internet users aware of such online risks and empower the less experienced members of the digital community to make informed decisions and be able to safeguard themselves from the dark underbelly of the Internet.