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Friday June 14, 2024

Pakistan sees 17pc rise in cyberattacks in 2023, but still low in region: Kaspersky

By Jawwad Rizvi
February 20, 2024

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakistan faced a 17 percent increase in cyberattacks in 2023, compared with the previous year, according to data released by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity company, on Monday.

This representational image shows a laptop screen from glasses. — Unsplash/File
This representational image shows a laptop screen from glasses. — Unsplash/File

The data, which was shared at the company’s ninth annual Cyber Security Weekend for the Middle East, Africa and Asia, showed that nearly a quarter of Pakistani users were affected by online threats in 2023, mostly in the banking sector.

Despite the rise in cyberthreats, Pakistan remained the second-lowest country in the region in terms of the percentage of users affected by online threats, after Oman, which had 23.4 percent.

The data revealed that almost one fourth of Pakistani users were affected by the cyber-attacks during 2023. The cyberattacks on the banking sector users were the highest, where more than 50 percent were targeted by the cyber criminals for ransom through malware, trojans and other viruses.

The focal point of the discussions was the security of emerging technology trends such as AI, that are influencing the scale of modern threats. In parallel, threats targeting industrial control systems within critical infrastructure, in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia were also discussed. Kaspersky's Cyber Immunity approach took center stage as a way to create solutions that are virtually impossible to compromise and that minimize the number of potential vulnerabilities.

When looking at the threat landscape in Pakistan, Kaspersky’s telemetry showed the number of overall cyberthreats in the country increased by 17 percent in 2023 as compared to 2022, while Kaspersky blocked 16 million cyber attacks in Pakistan in 2023.

According to Kaspersky's analysis, the cybersecurity threat landscape in the META region has fluctuated significantly. In the region, Turkey saw the highest number of users affected by online threats, 41.8 percent, followed by Kenya, 39.2 percent, Qatar, 38.8 percent and South Africa, 35 percent. Fewer users were affected in Oman, 23.4 percent and Egypt, 27.4 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia, 29.9 percent and Kuwait, 30.8 percent.

As per the latest research data by Kaspersky, 24.4 percent of users in Pakistan are affected by online threats in Pakistan. Dissecting the threat landscape in Pakistan further, Kaspersky experts saw attacks using banking malware increase by 59 percent. Such attacks are designed to collect online banking credentials and other sensitive information from infected machines.

The data reported an increase of 35 percent in trojan attacks that disguise themselves as legitimate computer programs but are used to run malicious code by cybercriminals. In addition, ransomware attacks designed to encrypt a victim’s data, files, or system, making them accessible in exchange for a payment, increased by 24 percent in Pakistan. Further, the attacks using spyware rose by 36 percent. Such attacks are malicious software that enters a user's computer, gathers data from the device and user, and sends it to third parties without their consent.

Director of META Research Center Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) Amin Hasbini, responding to a question of The News, said that Pakistan is an emerging country and is accelerating the adoption of the digital transformation at a good pace. Pakistan has a very important role to play in Asia. Further, Pakistan has an important geopolitical position in the region due to which the Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) actors and criminal threats are on the rise in the country.

“As the cybersecurity landscape evolves, cyber threats continue to become diverse and sophisticated. This trend is particularly evident due to the emergence of advanced technologies like AI and the escalating geopolitical and economic turbulence within the META region. These factors collectively contribute to the surge in cybercrime and the heightened complexity of cyberattacks,” he added.

Hasbini further said that attackers are adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI), yet there is no scientific measurable evidence of this adoption. The attackers adapt in accordance with the users’ patterns and adapt the new technologies and tools to attack them. Attackers are using and adopting AI and using them on special events like Black Friday, Halloween, Christmas and NewYear for phishing emails. The attackers are a clear part of the AI revolution and AI is more accessible to attackers other than other functions and they are adopting the AI for the long term.