Australian companies are world's second most-attacked: Fortinet

Customers in Australia comprised a third of all malware victims reported to security research facility FortiGuard Labs during 2013, according to new figures in Fortinet's 2014 Threat Landscape Report.

With 33.19 per cent of all incidents handled by the research team, Australia appeared to be punching well above its weight in terms of population.

That percentage put it second behind the United States, which accounted for 55.69 per cent of incidents – but well ahead of third-place UK (4.70 per cent), Israel (2.02 per cent), and Japan (1.95 per cent). France, Puerto Rico, Turkey, Mexico and Kazakhstan rounded out the top ten countries in the report.

Fortinet's wrap of the 2013 scene included an assessment of the relative impact of different families of malware, with Zeus and Tepfer standouts in a field that included five other strains that each generated between 5 million and 10 million incidents. The Zeus Trojan alone attempted to infect Fortinet customers' networks over 20 million times during 2013.

One of numerous anti-malware research organisations now run by security vendors and building off edof cloud-based incident reporting capabilities, FortiGuard Labs discovered and disclosed to vendors some 18 new vulnerabilities during 2013, while noting the rise of virulent code such as CryptoLocker ransomware and the ZeroAccess botnet.

This last botnet accounted for 88.65 per cent of detected botnet activity in 2013 and was taken down by Microsoft – but could, Fortinet noted, be revived as "there is little effort required to bring the beast back to life. With millions of dollars being made by ZeroAccess's owners, we suspect we haven't seen the last of ZeroAccess and its kind".

Mobile malware was a particular focus for Fortinet, which noted an "explosion of growth" in mobile malware during 2013.

"More and more people around the world have embraced new devices," the report's authors note. "Many have never been online before. Malware authors have used this growth in new devices to expand their wares into a new world, and the rampant growth shown proves it."

The company's security operations detected over 1800 new mobile virus families during 2013, with the majority attacking Google's Android operating system. By the end of the year, the labs were collecting around 450,000 variants of Android malware per day – up from around 50,000 samples per day when the year began. Android/NewYearL.B was by far the most common Android malware.

Apple's iOS operating system, by contrast, represented a "virtually non-existent" threat in the mobile malware race, putting the widely-used operating system alongside the "infinitesimal" number of incidents recorded against Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and Palm OS-based devices.

Despite its near chart-topping performance in the malware stakes, Australia was nowhere to be seen in the top-ten mobile malware targets; rather, the USA (31.26 per cent), Germany (28.25 per cent), and Israel (26.89 per cent) led a field that also included Turkey (8.05 per cent), South Africa (1.29 per cent), and Romania, Japan, Indonesia, Poland, and Lithuania.

With 2014 already well underway, the authors of the Fortinet report believe things are only going to get worse: "There is much to be concerned about going into 2014," they write.

"The growth shows no signs of slowing; in fact, the growth seems to be accelerating. As more and more Android-based devices are purchased and taken online, the opportunities for attackers to infect increases as well. As these new users embrace their phone or tablet, we expect a surge in new infections and incidents."

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