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Kaspersky Lab: Malware Attacks On The Rise In Middle East And Africa




Mining malware became more prevalent in the region in 2018, but not necessarily for the reasons Kaspersky Lab predicted.

On December 14, security software company Kaspersky Lab published its predictions about the evolution of cyber-attacks, the outlook for blockchain technology, and the future use of cryptocurrency.

Research by Kaspersky Lab shows that cyber-attacks against institutions providing financial services have increased significantly in 2018. According to its statistics, malware attacks against financial service firms in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) region increased by 17 percent in 2018.

Fabio Assolini, a senior security researcher at Kaspersky, states:

"The META region is becoming more appealing to cybercriminals, with financial and malicious crypto-mining attacks taking center stage. We discovered six new ATM malware families in 2018. On the other hand, illegal mining of cryptocurrencies has increased dramatically to overtake the main threat of the last few years: ransomware. We believe the reason behind this is that mining is silent and cause [sic] less impact that [sic] ransomware, making it less noticeable."

In March of this year, the Turkish financial system fell victim to malware. According to a report by McAfee, the attack involved the implanting of Bankshot software, which is a tool attackers can use to remotely gain access to the infected system. According to an October report from the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), the first eight months of 2018 saw a 64 percent increase in digital banking attacks in the country, with 250 million rand ($17,365,331) stolen. More broadly, per the Cisco 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report, 94 percent of companies in the Middle East and Africa reported they had been victims of a cyber-attack in the preceding 12 months, and 48 percent of these attacks resulted in losses of over $500,000.

Worldwide, however, the news is less dire. In late November, Kaspersky's Alexey Malanov wrote that the company's prediction that "we will see targeted attacks with malicious miners" failed to materialize, perhaps because "targeted and sophisticated attacks are more about gaining persistence in the network for the purpose of espionage or the theft of money or data," making crypto-mining counterproductive. More promising, he wrote, "Companies have learned to detect miners that are run on the computers of employees/administrators."

And while Kaspersky found an early-2018 uptick in miners, it didn't last as the price of cryptocurrency declined. That may provide some semblance of hope to the financial institutions in the META region who have been fending off attacks. 

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