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Increased malware and crypto mining threats in Saudi Arabia in 2020: Kaspersky

Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) statistics around cybersecurity threats in Saudi Arabia indicates that all malware infections have increased by 17% in 2020 as compared to 2019.
Since the start of this pandemic, cybercriminals have found new ways of exploiting users, resulting in spikes across different kinds of malware in the GCC. As people work, study, shop, and bank from home, attackers appear to have shifted their focus to the devices they use. Tactics are also evolving to include malicious email attachments and links, downloadable malware, and more. Left unchecked, malware can cause the infected device to slow down or stop working entirely. Malware can also delete or steal data, putting the users’ privacy in jeopardy.

Saudi Arabia also saw a slight increase of 2.5% in crypto-mining malware. This increase is a marked contrast with the global trend, which saw a 24% decrease in crypto-miner infections.
In recent months, there has been a spike in the prices of cryptocurrencies, driving significant interest in a valuable, digital asset class. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have met this heightened interest with equal force, creativity, and malicious intent.

By their very nature, crypto-miners aim to stay hidden — the longer they wait, the greater the profit potential. As a result, victims may not even notice them for a long time, until they are defrauded or they feel system resources exhaustion. The statistics show a 34% decrease in banking trojan attacks in Saudi Arabia in 2020, despite a global increase of 29% in the same type of attacks. This probably points to the success of a strong regulatory environment that is focused on generating awareness, and individual prioritization of security and privacy. This heightened awareness and preparedness have also reduced the instances – and impact – of ransomware, which fell by 7% during 2020.

Maher Yamout, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky, said: “The cybersecurity threat environment is dynamic, evolving, and topical, making it more challenging to keep pace with the cybersecurity threats. Particularly, when accessing shopping deals, personal finances, and
investment opportunities, it pays to be more careful.

In contrast to other major countries in the region, Bahrain Saudi Arabia showed the steepest drop in banking Trojan attacks, probably reflecting a strong regulatory environment and heightened awareness and preparedness in the country.”

Dr. Fadi Aloul, CISSP, Professor & Department Head of Computer Science & Engineering at American University Sharjah said, “Since the start of the pandemic cybercriminals have always found new ways of exploiting users which have resulted in the GCC seeing its fair share of cyber threats
over the last year. While adjusting to this new normal it is also important to keep in mind the importance of staying vigilant and informed about various cyber threats.”

The Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) is a specialized infrastructure designed to process threat information anonymously and transforms them into actionable insights. In the year 2020, the KSN global cyber threats statistics revealed a 29% increase in banking Trojans or financial malware, a 40% drop in ransomware infections, and a 24% decrease in crypto-miner infections.

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