Sophos discovers customized malware for specific countries

Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos, a network and endpoint organisation. Photo/COURTESY
Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos, a network and endpoint organisation. Photo/COURTESY

A study has revealed a growing trend where cyber criminals use local languages to carry out computer virus attacks.

The research by Sophos, a network and endpoint organization, indicates that the criminals can now target specific countries when designing such malware.

To lure more victims with their attacks, the cyber attackers use local brands and payment methods - for better cultural compatibility.

Ransomware cleverly disguised as authentic email notifications, complete with counterfeit local logos, is more believable, highly clickable and therefore more financially rewarding to the criminal.

To be as effective as possible, these scam emails now impersonate local postal companies, tax and law enforcement agencies and utility firms, including phony shipping notices, refunds, speeding tickets and electricity bills. SophosLabs has seen a rise in spam where the grammar is more often properly written and perfectly punctuated.

“You have to look harder to spot fake emails from real ones,” said Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos. “Being aware of the tactics used in your region is becoming an important aspect of security,” he added.

Researchers also saw historic trends of different ransomware strains that targeted specific locations.

The analysis also shows Threat Exposure Rates (TER) for countries during the first three months of 2016.

Although western economies are more highly targeted, they typically have a lower TER.

In Africa,

Tanzania reported the lowest TER at – 11.1 per cent whereby Kenya had 11.5 per cent occurences.

South Africa had 11.6 per cent; Egypt – 12.4 per cent; Angola – 15.7 per cent Nigeria – 15.7 per cent; Tunisia – 16.4 per cent.

Morocco reported 16.6 per cent while Uganda had 24.9 per cent, Ghana – 25.5 per cent, Mozambique – 28.3 per cent.

Algeria, Zambia

and Malawi recorded the highest rates at 30.7, 35.5 and 39.4 per cent respectively.

It shouldn’t be difficult to protect against the activities of this group. Applying the patches for Microsoft Office could disarm any attack aimed at your device.