Australia is very popular right now, but with the wrong kind of people. Cybercriminals see Australia as a goldmine and are sending waves of ransomware to our shores to extort victims into handing over money to unencrypt precious files. This is just one of the insights from Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report, which analyses security threats from around the world in 2015. We take a closer look at the findings that directly impact Australia.
Ransomware image from Shutterstock
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia is the most targeted country when it comes to ransomware and is ranked fairly high globally as well. There has been a 141 per cent increase in ransomware attacks in Australia in 2015 and this growth is expected to continue well into 2016.
Why is Australia such a popular target for ransomware? Symantec security expert Nick Savvides speculates that it's because of our quality of life and our general laidback attitude.
"Australians have a high disposable incomes and a 'she'll be alright' attitude towards things," Savvides told Lifehacker Australia. "Ransomware is a lucrative business and we're a highly attractive target."
That doesn't mean we're necessarily easy to dupe. Even the most discerning internet user could potentially fall for the tricks of cybercriminals looking to load malware onto their computer. The quality of attacks have significantly improved and attackers are constantly finding new ways to get ransomware onto a victim's computer undetected.
"The careless do fall victim to these things, but so do people who are normally cautious; it’s to do with human nature, not how smart you are or what station in life you are in," Savvides said. “This is about the bad guys exploiting human nature. They are more sophisticated and some even have toolkits to profile users quickly to send in-context emails with malware."
Another worrying trend for Australia that came out of the report is that cybercriminals are now looking for ways to launch attacks on devices that have traditionally been relatively safe from malware.
"There's been an increase in crypto malware targeting mobile devices," Savvides said. "We're also seeing the bad guys trying their luck with other devices. We've seen proof-of-concepts of crypto malware attacks on connected devices such as smart TVs.
"When was the last time someone went into their TV settings to update the software or firmware?"
Given Australia has one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world and Australians are known to have a penchant for adopting new technologies, this trend could have wider implications locally.
Another key finding from the report is that 16 per cent of websites globally have at least one critical vulnerability.
"That's a very dangerous vector to infect people with crypto malware," Savvides said. "Users may be doing all the right things and will still get done; that' the unfortunate reality.
"Users need to be more need to be cautious no matter which website they're visiting."