Online threats: Africa lags behind, luckily

Kirsten Doyle
By Kirsten Doyle, ITWeb contributor.
Johannesburg, 13 Sept 2012

A recent analysis by Kaspersky Lab found that the computers of 33.4% of Internet users in Western Europe and North America were attacked at least once during the first six months of 2012 while users were browsing the Web.

Worst affected were Italy and Spain, which are in the high-risk group (over 40% of computers attacked while online). All the other countries in the study fall into the medium-risk group (21% to 40%), apart from Denmark, which is one of the safest countries, with less than 20% of users attacked.

Yuri Namestnikov, senior malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab, speaking of EMEA statistics, says the region is large and each part has its own specifics. “There are some super-high values on a indicator we have for Eastern European countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus - the average among these three countries is 52.6%, which means more than every second computer user during the first half of 2012 faced some kind of malware while surfing the Internet.”

According to him, some of the main problems here are the large number of infected Web sites, and the many computers with outdated or pirated software on them, making them easy prey for cyber criminals.

In other Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Romania and Czech Republic, the average is around 34.1% - similar to Western Europe.

Getting to Africa, he says the average percentage of users who were faced with some kind of malware from the Internet in SA, Ethiopia, Congo and Zimbabwe is about 20%.

“African countries are mostly in the low-risk group for online threats because of the way that files are typically shared in these countries, where the Internet is still not developed to its full potential.

“That's why users often use different types of removable media to save and share data. As a result, our radar picks up few to none online threats in these countries, yet they host an enormous number of viruses and worms that spread via flash drives and infected files.”

Speaking of the Middle East, he cites two countries with a high percentage of users who faced malware online - Iran (41.9%) and Iraq (43.2%). The UAE (38.3%), Saudi Arabia (36.5%) and Jordan (36.2%) all have higher indicators than Western Europe and North America. “However, malware spreading via flash drives, local networks and via infected files is much more common in this region than malware spreading from the Internet.”

The reasons for this is mainly that there are not many malware writers who are well acquainted with Arabic languages; their main language is English, and due to this fact, it's often hard for them to lure users to infected Web sites.

Namestnikov says, when it comes to self-propagating malware with no user interaction, the main factor is the number of well-protected computers in the country. “There are still a lot of computers with outdated software in the Middle East region and computers with no anti-virus protection installed - this is the perfect environment for self-propagating malware, which is prevalent in this region.”