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Kiwi consumers urged to stay vigilant amid online threats

12 Feb 2015

While New Zealanders are doing well in the cyber war compared to other countries, Trend Micro is urging consumers to remain vigilant with online security despite decrease in cybersecurity threats.

Last year, New Zealand saw an overall decrease in the number of online security threats when compared with 2013, according to the latest research from security software providers Trend Micro. Despite decreases of online threats, New Zealanders are being urged to take a vigilant approach to cybersecurity this year.  

Key New Zealand findings include:

•    Malicious URLs accessed: During 2014, New Zealand saw almost 3.5 million less hits to malicious URLs than in 2013, which is in line with the decreasing global trend.

•    Malware: There were 3 million less malware detections during 2014 when compared with 2013. Trend Micro warns that in order to ensure this trend continues throughout 2015, New Zealanders must take appropriate cyber security measures such as a comprehensive, multi-layer protection. 

•    Spam: During 2014, New Zealand saw 2.6 million less spam sending emails than in 2013, as spam is invading new venues such as social media. This decrease is in line with the decreasing global trend, as users are more aware of spam being sent via spear-phishing emails. However, consumers need to be conscious of targeted attacks on social media, which are likely to occur this year.  

•    Malicious URLs hosted: One troublesome area for New Zealand’s online security during 2014 was the amount of malicious URLs it hosted, with almost 500,000 hits. This was a significant increase from 2013, which saw 329,000 hits. Trend Micro predicts this is likely to happen again in 2015, stressing the importance of users securing their networks. 

•    Social engineering lures: These remained the most effective way for cybercriminals to get victims to click a malicious link or download malware during 2014. Lures that most often trick consumers include breaking news, celebrity, new tech, and sporting events.

Globally in 2014, some of the top social engineering lures were on events such as the Soccer World Cup, MH 17 and MH 370 airplane crashes and the iPhone 6 launch. 

“It’s great to see particular threat areas decreasing in the New Zealand market. There may be many factors driving these decreases, but New Zealanders are obviously taking cybersecurity seriously,” says Tim Falinski, consumer director, ANZ, Trend Micro. 

“Even though prevalence of some threats has dropped, consumers still need to be aware of the potential for further security breaches, especially with today’s interconnected technology,” he says. 

“Malware is constantly being delivered in new ways, and if a hacker can’t access what they need via one method, they’ll find another way to do it. This means that even though malware may have decreased, the criminals using malware in the past have probably moved on to a different form of online attack.  

“The key to continuing to reduce the number of threats is to remain vigilant throughout 2015,” Falinski adds. 

Other findings include: 
•    Globally, the amount of mobile malware more than doubled in the second half of 2014, just six months after hitting the 2 million milestone. There are now 4.37 million malicious and high-risk apps threatening mobile devices. 
•    New mobile payment methods are likely to introduce new threats in the form of device vulnerabilities and social engineering scams, enabling cybercriminals to take advantage of users’ unsafe online shopping habits. With the majority of New Zealanders being smartphones owners, they are vulnerable to new threats targeting mobile devices, so should take extra precautions across multiple devices during 2015. 

“Malware creators are following the money trail. Given the complexity of mobile threats, users need to develop safer mobile habits this year,” says Falinski. “These include the use of secure password managers, the installation of a security app to scan for mobile malware and a personal effort to remain aware of the latest in mobile threats.” 

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