India is among the leading countries in the Asian-Pacific (APAC) region in terms of the vulnerability to cryptocurrency mining and attacks.
Cryptocurrency users in India are exposed and more vulnerable to the crypto-related cyber attacks than their neighbors, Microsoft announced in its annual Microsoft Security Endpoint Threat Report dedicated to India.
The world’s fifth-biggest economy counts the 4.6 higher rates of cryptocurrency mining malware attacks compared to the global and regional average. Furthermore, the drive-by download attack volume in India increased by 140% within a year, bringing the country up from the 11th to the 2nd highest attack volume rate in the region.
The global tech giant conducted the research by analyzing over 8 trillion threat signals on various sources from the first to the last day of 2019.
High cryptojacking rate
India is the second biggest country in the Asia Pacific region after Sri Lanka in terms of the highest crypto mining malware encounter rate. According to Microsoft’s cybersecurity report, the cryptojacking attack rate decreased by 35% compared with 2018, bringing India down from the leading position, however, the rate remains still 4.6 times higher compared to the regional and global average.
Cryptojacking or the unauthorized use of a computer, mobile phone, or connected home device allows cybercriminals to use it for cryptocurrency mining. This is done by illegally infecting devices with the crypto mining malware and later exploiting its computing power without the owner’s knowledge.
According to the report, the main reasons why these rates are still high in particular countries are lower levels of cyber awareness, high usage of unlicensed software, and free downloadable illegal content. Microsoft also cited Keshav Dhakad, the Head of External & Legal Affairs in Microsoft India, claiming the volatility in crypto prices is the reason behind attacks on countries with lower cyber awareness:
While recent fluctuations in cryptocurrency value and the increased time required to generate cryptocurrency have resulted in attackers refocusing their efforts, they continue to exploit markets with low cyber awareness.
In the meantime, the lowest rates of cryptocurrency mining malware encounters were recorded in Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Drive-by download attacks grow
The report further revealed, India is also among the top-3 countries in the region, that count the highest volumes of drive-by download attacks.
Drive-by download malware refers to the unintentional download of the malicious code to the device by visiting various websites, opening email attachments, or clicking a link in a pop-up window. The illegal malware aims to exploit the vulnerabilities in browsers, applications, or operating systems. According to Microsoft, by carrying out the attacks cybercriminals remain focused on stealing financial data or intellectual property.
Reportedly, the number of such cyber-attacks increased by 140% within a year, bringing India from 11th to the 2nd highest position across the Asia Pacific. The number 3 times higher in contrast to the regional and global average.
The other leading countries in terms of the highest drive-by download attack volume are Singapore (#1) and Hong Kong (#3). Meanwhile, New Zealand, Korea, and the Philippines remain the ones with the lowest rates.
The report further revealed that the coronavirus pandemic changed the global landscape as every country in the world has been affected by increased volumes of Covid-related cyber-attacks. Cybercriminals exploiting the fear of the virus and the desire for information successfully targeted millions of users worldwide by malicious links and attachments or phishing messages impersonating authorities.