Inquirer Libre - - FEATURES - By Daxim L. Lucas @DaxINQ

COMPANIES in fast growing economies of Southeast Asia are among the most vulnerable in the world to computer hackers, where successful attacks could spell problems for their businesses and their millions of customers.

This was the latest finding of cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, which warned that firms in the manufacturing sector were particularly exposed to threats like “ransomware” or data theft which could significantly compromise operations.

“The threats in Southeast Asia are growing and companies have to protect against that,” the firm’s founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky said during a conference late last week in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The Russian IT billionaire pointed to vulnerabilities of firms which are relying increasingly on automation for their operations, specifically so- called “industrial control systems (ICS)".

The report showed that, for the first half of the year, manufacturing companies were most susceptible, accounting for onethird of all cyberattack cases. The peak of attackers’ activity was registered in March, gradu- ally declining in April to June.

Also during the first six months, Kaspersky Lab’s products blocked attacks on 37.6 percent of several tens of thousands of ICS computers globally. This figure was marginally lower by 1.6 percentage points from the second half of 2016.

Majority of them were manufacturing companies that produce various materials, equipment and goods. Other most affected industries include engineering, education, food and beverage. ICS computers of energy companies accounted for almost 5 percent of all attacking incidents.

The top three countries most attacked remained the same from the previous period: Vietnam (71 percent), Algeria (67.1 percent) and Morocco (65.4 percent). Yet, researchers detected an increase in number of attacks in China ( 57.1 percent), which came in at fifth.

Experts also concluded that the main source of threats was the internet, specifically attempts to download malware, which were blocked on 20.4 percent of ICS computers.

“The reason for the high statistics for this type of infection lies in unrestricted access and connection of industrial networks to the internet, which threatens the entire industrial in- frastructure,” the firm said.

In the same period, it noted the world faced an epidemic of so- called “ransomware”, which locks out users from critical computers unless they pay fees to the hackers first. Kaspersky Lab said the number of unique ICS computers attacked by encryption trojans had tripled by June 2017.

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