Freeman Cebu Business

Kaspersky: Cyber threats to worsen in 2024

Ehda M. Dagooc - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Global cybersecurity and digital privacy company Kaspersky warned of more aggressive cybersecurity threats in 2024, driven by the Asia Pacific (APAC) rapid digitalization movement and known geopolitical frictions.

Experts at Kaspersky revealed that the dangers of phishing, scams, data breaches, and geo-politically-motivated cyberattacks are seen to continue targeting organizations and individuals from the region, including the Philippines.

“Asia Pacific’s digital economy continues to grow exponentially and is expected to keep its momentum in the next five years. With digitalization efforts including the adoption of technologies like digital payments, Super Apps, IoT [Internet of Things], smart cities, and now generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), cybersecurity will be key to ensuring the resilience of the region’s overall defenses against potentially damaging cyberattacks,” said Vitaly Kamluk, Head of Research Center for Asia Pacific, Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) at Kaspersky.

“When it comes to sophisticated Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), we have seen that cyber espionage remains to be the main objective of Asian groups. We expect this trend to continue in 2024 due to the existing geopolitical tensions in the region,” Kamluk added.

Kaspersky’s GReAT researchers have also specified the key cyberthreat predictions in 2024 for the key countries and territories in APAC.

The scale of scams in Southeast Asia

According to a report by the UN (United Nations), hundreds of thousands of people from Southeast Asia (SEA) were recruited to join online-scam operations such as romance investment scams, crypto fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling. Recruitment to these criminal operations is mostly done via advertised professional roles such as programmers, marketers or human resource specialists, through what appear to be legitimate and even elaborate procedures.

Increased usage and trust in digital payment methods, lack of regulations protecting the rights of users online and large numbers of people forced into joining online-scam operations add complexity to this major issue in SEA and in resolving it.

“Law enforcement is working on many of those cases, involving scam and phishing attacks and we have seen successful operations in 2023, such as a joint operation of Australian

Federal Police (AFP), and United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Malaysian

Police which led to the arrest of 8 individuals behind a syndicate running a phishing-as-a-service campaign online,” said Kamluk.

“Nevertheless, we think that the scale of online scams and phishing attacks in Southeast Asia will only continue growing in the coming years due to the technical and legal illiteracy of many people involved in such attacks from operators to victims,” he added.

In Singapore, major technology safety and security highlights in Singapore in 2023 were related to data breaches and outages.

In October 2023, DBS, one of the largest Singapore banks, experienced an operational failure due to datacenter outage, which resulted in 2.5 million failed transactions. Although the reason for failure was not to be associated with a cyberattack at the time, given a prior history of outages, it will have implications on the bank’s strategies and priorities among which shall be increased reliability and safety of the services.

As reported by the media, Citibank operations were also affected. While we embrace attention to improving the reliability and security of the infrastructure, it’s still a time of changes, which always opens a window of opportunities for attackers.

Another highlight was related to web service outages of several public hospitals and polyclinics due to a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack: the attackers flooded servers with internet traffic to prevent users from accessing online services. The disruption did not result in a compromise of data or internal networks according to publicly known information.

In the upcoming year of 2024, South Korea is poised to hold a significant general election.

Historically, major political events such as this have consistently attracted the attention of threat actors, who view them as prime opportunities for launching direct cyberattacks with the intent of disrupting political proceedings. Furthermore, these threat actors often employ sophisticated social engineering techniques to achieve their goals. Thus, it is our firm belief that this impending major event will serve as a catalyst, intensifying the frequency and complexity of cyberattacks.

Over the past several years, alleged state-sponsored threat actors have systematically infiltrated numerous entities within South Korea, employing widely adopted software solutions that are integral to the country’s IT infrastructure. These adversaries adeptly exploited vulnerabilities specific to the local, well-known software and IT ecosystem, thereby facilitating the successful dissemination of their malicious software to their unsuspecting targets. This nefarious activity wreaked havoc across various industries, causing extensive damage.

“As we look ahead to the year 2024, it is evident that these customized threats, meticulously tailored to exploit South Korea’s unique software landscape and IT environment, are poised to persist and pose an ongoing challenge,” explained Kamluk.

According to Kaspersky, telecom fraud activity will decrease, but phishing attacks may increase.

In the past year, the Chinese government has been trying to find ways and even seek international cooperation to combat telecom fraud. In this high-pressure environment, the telecom fraud groups, known to be located in northern Myanmar, may soon collapse.

However, Kaspersky researchers still have seen a wave of phishing attacks from unidentified groups over the past year launching frantic QR code phishing attacks on Chinese citizens, targeting personal credit card information. This group’s operations do not appear to be affected by the situation in northern Myanmar, and based on Kaspersky statistics and observed behavioral patterns, attacks may peak again at the end of the year and early next year.

Likewise, India has been traditionally suffering from a number of low skill but high scale scam and fraud cases. Typical threats include the following: Illegal or fake digital loan apps; Income tax refund services; Real estate fraud; Investment scam; Ponzi schemes online; Job fraud and Sextortion.

“The rise of technologies and digitalization of the Indian economy, such as increased use of the sophisticated Unified Payments Interface (UPI), the software from the National Payments Corporation of India, will lead to a wave of related scams. Another opportunity for scammers is the ever-rising popularity of cryptocurrencies, which may lead to a new generation of scam apps,” Kamluk further explained.

Also, the growing popularity of micro-loan apps has resulted in new schemes to target users in India through unexpectedly inflated premiums and personal threats.

In addition, with India’s move towards smart cities, IoT (Internet of Things) vulnerabilities pose serious security challenges for the country.

For organizations in APAC, Kaspersky shared the tips below to keep safe from these upcoming threats in 2024: Always keep software updated on all the devices you use to prevent attackers from infiltrating your network by exploiting vulnerabilities; Establish the practice of using strong passwords to access corporate services; Use multi-factor authentication for access to remote services; Choose a proven endpoint security solution such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business that is equipped with behavior-based detection and anomaly control capabilities for effective protection against known and unknown threats; and use a dedicated set for effective endpoint protection, threat detection, and response products to timely detect and remediate even new and evasive threats.

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