Canada well below global malware infection rate: Report

Canada is well on its way to becoming one of the safest countries when it comes to malware infection rates, according to new findings from Volume 8 of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIRv8).

Released last Monday, the newest iteration of the security report from the Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor is based on data collected from 500 million computers worldwide during the latter half of 2009.

During that time period, Canada stood at 2.5 infected computers per 1,000, a figure that has dropped steadily from 8.1 since the report began tracking the statistics two years ago.

That’s pretty impressive, considering the average global infection rate is 7.0, said Mohammad Akif, national security and privacy lead with Microsoft Canada Co. “We’re almost one-third of the worldwide average,” said Akif.

Countries that rank better than Canada include Finland, Austria and Japan.

Akif credits various technological innovations with helping lower the infection rate in Canada, including malware protection capabilities in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8. According to Akif, thousands of sites have been blocked by IE8 in the last few months alone.

That’s the good news for Canada. The bad news is that rogue security software — fake security programs that trick users into registering for a service in order to clean their PCs — is the biggest threat to Canadians.

But it’s hardly surprising that rogue security software is a threat, because the tendency to want to download a program to cleanse one’s PC is really only a natural consequence of the precautions taken by security vendors, said Akif.

The report also found that cybercrime continues to get more sophisticated as criminals mimic traditional business techniques. While enterprises regularly update software and apply patches to protect against threats, so are cybercriminals using “malware kits” to keep their own vector attacks updates. And, while enterprises use cloud computing, cybercriminals are using what one Microsoft blogger called “black clouds,” or botnets.

Akif said cybercriminals are applying the latest technologies and have the same expertise as legitimate businesses, so it’s no wonder technologies and processes are mirrored in the underworld. “People are intelligent, whether they are on the good side or the bad side,” said Akif. “It’s only a matter of how you use that intelligence and energy and where you apply it.”

Although botnets have been around for years, the name “black cloud” has now emerged due to the popularity of enterprises hosting applications in the cloud, said Candice Bacal, research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd.

“The cloud is becoming more popular so the parallel can be seen more clearly,” said Bacal.

Hackers must also employ “malware kits” to keep up with legitimate patches and updates from software and security companies, said Bacal.

But enterprises could do a better job of protecting themselves from the malware kit by setting the appropriate firewall configurations and focusing on outgoing as well as incoming traffic, said Bacal.

The issue is that organizations are vulnerable to automatic malware updates that are permitted to flow back when the malware sends an outgoing message from within the network, said Bacal.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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