Failing to update Java ranks as top cause of security breaches in Australia

Cybercrime is costing Australian economy more than $1.65 billion a year, with old versions of Java software coming as the number one cause of security breaches in A/NZ.

That's according to new research from cybersecurity firm F-Secure which has revealed that nearly half of all malware in Australia occurred in old versions of Java or unpatched software.

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Majava, a type of malware that is the most prevalent in both Australia and New Zealand, results in around 400 infections per 10,000 people. The research has also identified that one of the ten most prevalent malware families in Australia is called Sinowal, which targets the user names and passwords of online banking accounts. F-Secure chief research officer, Mikko Hypponen, said that now, more than ever, individuals and businesses needed to be more cautious about securing sensitive information stored online, as malware threats have grown dramatically.

"Protecting your privacy online is critical, not only for individuals who are entitled to privacy as a human right, but also for businesses who store sensitive customer and employee information, as well as other commercially valuable data," he said.

Internationally, the company has seen a concerning rise in malware growth on the Android platform, from about 100 new families of mobile malware per quarter in 2013, to about 300 per quarter in 2014. The global surge in cybercrime, the Australian government's recent decision to review its current cyber-security strategy for the first time in six years, and the leaking of politically sensitive emails around the time of the New Zealand election, have all heightened concerns about the internet security environment in the Trans-Tasman region. "Without proper education about smart online habits, people and businesses face enormous risks, with the annual cost of cybercrime in Australia alone estimated at a staggering $1.65 billion." Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the Government estimates the cost of cybercrime to be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars. F-Secure has outlined the top five measures everyone should be taking to prevent cybercrime and protect sensitive online information. The first is keeping software updated.

In Australia, 48 per cent of malware occurred in old versions of Java and unpatched software. The research found most users know to update their operating systems and browsers, however, are not updating plug-ins, such as Java and Adobe Flash in browsers, putting privacy at serious risk. Ensuring security passwords do not include information such as any family names, birthdays and addresses, as well as regularly updating passwords, is considered best practice for online privacy. For even better security, F-Secure recommends using a password manager application. The research showed USBs and removable drives as common vectors for spreading malware.

However, simple precautionary measures such as not sharing portable devices between computers and running regular anti-virus software scans can help mitigate these risks. Further, one of the most important ways to protect your privacy online is to ensure all mobile and PC devices are fitted with adequate and up-to-date security software. As well as old techniques of sending malicious software via email through phishing links and attachments, hackers are now embedding malicious vectors through camouflaged links into users' social media news feeds.


Brian Karlovsky

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