MANAMA: More than a third of financial malware attacks in Bahrain during the first half of this year targeted corporate users, exposing vulnerabilities resulting from a distributed workforce.

Research by Kaspersky shows that while the overall number of financial malware attacks in Bahrain has decreased from last year to 523 in the first half of 2021, 36.8 per cent of the attacks recorded in the country during the period targeted corporate users.

The Russia-based cybersecurity and anti-virus provider has raised the alarm for organisations in Bahrain, saying they have become susceptible to financial malware as more employees work outside the relative safety of the corporate network.

A survey by Kaspersky last year found that nearly a quarter (23pc) of people in Bahrain faced banking fraud at least once in the first six months of 2020, while 90pc of bank fraud was done via smartphones.

“As local businesses have continued to adjust to remote work scenarios and the rest of the circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, we have continued to witness cybercriminals using this to their advantage, exploiting the situation however they can. When considering such statistics, we believe it is evident that cybercriminals are more commonly targeting unsuspecting corporate users in Bahrain as a way to compromise corporate systems,” says Oleg Kupreev, security researcher at Kaspersky.

The normalisation of a distributed workforce makes ensuring the protection of the personal endpoint devices of people, who need to access back-end systems to continue performing their job functions, that much more critical.

In addition to securing these devices, cybersecurity training of employees remains a key component to defend against the growing scourge of financial malware that uses phishing techniques to target individual users.

According to Mr Kupreev, financial phishing especially has become one of the most popular tools used by cybercriminals to make money, as it does not require much investment or technical expertise from a hacker and can be propagated quickly.

In most cases, successful scammers win access either to the victim’s money or data that can be sold or otherwise monetised.

“For any business this points to how important it is to address one of the weakest links in the cybersecurity chain – that of the individual user,” he asserts.

The expert advises the use of best practices such as having employees only install applications from reliable sources, such as official app stores; and trusted security solutions on all devices connecting to the Internet, to help safeguard against a range of financial cyber threats.

Ensuring all software have the latest security patches and updates installed is also important.

“With the landscape unlikely to change for the foreseeable future, it is best to combine sophisticated cybersecurity solutions with continuously evolving training to keep employees appraised of the latest threats especially when it comes to financial malware,” adds Mr Kupreev.

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