MANAMA: Malware attacks in Bahrain continued to surge this year, with more than five million cases recorded in just the first six months, a new study warns.
Research by Russian cybersecurity and anti-virus provider Kaspersky found that at 45 per cent, the kingdom saw the third-highest growth in the region in terms of malicious software infections.
The firm notes that malware is widespread across the Middle East, accounting for 161m of attacks and growing by 17pc when compared with the last year figure – 138m.
The growth in each country in the region varies.
Oman has seen the largest spike in malware attacks, increasing by 67pc, followed by Kuwait (64pc), Bahrain (45pc) and Egypt (32pc).
Qatar and the UAE show lower increases of 16pc and 7pc – however increases none the less. Experts say cybercriminals are taking advantage of the increasing use of electronic devices for work, study, shopping and banking during the ongoing pandemic as businesses and people had to switch to the way of life.
“Even though the scourge of malware has always been of concern, the past 12 months have highlighted how hackers are refocusing their efforts to compromise consumer and corporate systems and gain access to critical data and information,” says Kaspersky senior security researcher for Middle East, Turkey and Africa Maher Yamout.
“Given the growth in digital transformation since last year and considering the increase in remote working resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, countries of the Middle East have become an attractive target for those looking to exploit a lack of user education or cybersecurity understanding.”
Interestingly, in the region, Turkey was also the only country that saw a slight decrease of 4.4pc in all malware attacks in H1-2021 when compared with H1-2020.
Turkey accounted for around a quarter of malware attacks in the region (44m), followed by Egypt (42m), the UAE (34m), Oman (14m), Kuwait (11m) and Bahrain (5m).
“We believe that this only emphasises how hackers have become more targeted with their attack strategies, focusing on advanced persistent threat (APT) type attacks aimed to stealing sensitive data. When looking at the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) region, Turkey still places first when it comes to the number of overall malware attacks detected by Kaspersky,” adds Mr Yamout.
The expert explains that with so many people working remotely and accessing corporate networks from their personal devices, companies must contend with a rapidly expanding attack surface.
These devices might not have an adequate level of protection meaning that once they are compromised and an employee logs into the network, hackers can potentially get access to sensitive data and cripple the organisation.
“Malware can get onto a device in several ways. For example, clicking on an infected link or advert, opening an attachment in a spam email, or downloading a malicious app. This means proactive malware protection is essential to safeguard individual users and corporates against these threats,” he states.