The latest assessment by software giant Microsoft shows that malicious software (malware) prevalence in the country was by mid last year above global average ratios.
The company’s infection rate statistics for Tanzania show that in quarter two of 2016 (2Q16), 38 per cent of computers in the country encountered malware, compared to the 2Q16 worldwide encounter rate of 20.8 per cent.
ER & CCM
Microsoft uses two different metrics to measure malware prevalence, which are encounter rate (ER) and computers cleaned per mille, or CCM.
“Encounter rate is simply the percentage of computers running Microsoft real-time security products that report a malware encounter, whether the infection attempt succeeds or not,” it notes in the assessment report titled: Microsoft Security Intelligence Report Volume 21 | January through June, 2016 – Tanzania.
“Computers cleaned per mile, or CCM, is an infection rate metric that is defined as the number of computers cleaned for every 1,000 unique computers executing the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), a free tool distributed through Microsoft update services that removes more than 200 highly prevalent or serious threats from computers,” the report reads.
According to it, the MSRT detected and removed malware from 33.1 of every 1,000 unique computers scanned in Tanzania in 2Q16 (a CCM score of 33.1, compared to the 2Q16 worldwide CCM of 16.9).
In the first quarter of 2016, the country’s encounter rate was 41.5 per cent against the global ratio of 18.3 per cent. The CCM for Tanzania during the period was measured at 32.5 per cent compared to the global rate of 8.4 per cent.
During quarter three in 2015, the encounter rate was 43.8 per cent compared to the globe’s encounter ratio of 17.8 per cent. The CCM’ rates were 28.7 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively.
Experts attribute the country’s malware vulnerability to unrestricted distribution of unlicensed software, which are cheaper compared to genuine computer operating systems. However, the problem of pirated software is global phenomenon that is costing enterprises and economies dearly.
According to the 2016 Global Software Survey, computer users around the globe still use unlicensed software at an alarming rate, despite being well aware of the associated cyber security dangers. Among key findings of the study released mid last year was that 39 per cent of software installed on computers around the world in 2015 was not properly licensed.
The report also has it that even in certain critical industries, where much tighter control of the digital environment would be expected, unlicensed use was surprisingly high. The survey found the worldwide rate is 25 per cent for the banking, insurance and securities industries.
“As the report underscores, it is critically important for a company to be aware of what software is on the company network,” said BSA |The Software Alliance President and CEO Victoria Espinel. “Many CIOs don’t know the full extent of software deployed on their systems or if that software is legitimate.”
BSA says that individuals and companies are playing with fire when they use unlicensed software. This is due to the strong connection between cyber attacks and the use of unlicensed software.
“Where unlicensed software is in use, the likelihood of encountering malware dramatically goes up. And the cost of dealing with malware incidents can be staggering. In 2015 alone, for example, cyber attacks cost businesses over US$400 billion (about 880trn/-).
Banks top risk sectors
According to another related report, African countries lost at least US$2 billion in cyber attacks in 2016. That amounts to about 4.4trn/- at the current market exchange rate, which is not very simple money in this part of the world where majority people can hardly afford to decent meals in a day.
The report by Serianu, an information technology services and business consulting firm, ranks banking as the leading risk sector in the continent. Other sectors that have attracted criminals are the government, telecommunications, mobile money services, Saccos, microfinance and co-operatives, e-commerce and online markets, utilities, manufacturing, hospitality and other financial services such as insurance, investment and brokerage.
In Tanzania, Serianu says the mobile money docket is the most vulnerable and highly attached area by the cybercriminals.
“Mobile money in Tanzania has experienced numerous attacks through social engineering, use of malware and account impersonifcations. As one of the alternative channels for most banks, hackers are now exploiting the weak security controls around the mobile money platform to steal millions of dollars,” William Makatiani, the CEO of Serianu Limited notes.
Awareness and budget allocation
According to Robert Matafu of Kabolik Company Limited, technology adoption is driving business innovation and growth in Tanzania while at the same time exposing the country to new and emerging threats.
He says that one of the most critical challenges facing the country is the lack of awareness amongst technology users with most of them - mostly customers and employees – having little knowledge of the level of risk they are exposed to.
The experts adds that more alarming is the disparity between the cost of cybercrime and budget allocation to cyber security related products. Matafu explains that while there are high levels of investment in technologies and automation across governments and the private sector, not much is invested in cyber threat prevention tools
Microsoft says that attackers often use websites to conduct phishing attacks or distribute malware. According to it, malicious websites typically appear completely legitimate and often provide no outward indicators of their malicious nature, even to experienced computer users.
“In many cases, these sites are legitimate websites that have been compromised by malware, SQL injection, or other techniques, in an effort by attackers to take advantage of the trust users have invested in them,” the company notes in the report.
“To help protect users from malicious webpages, Microsoft and other browser vendors have developed filters that keep track of sites that host malware and phishing attacks and display prominent warnings when users try to navigate to them,” it adds.
Malicious software categories
The most common malicious software category in Tanzania in 2Q16 was worms. It was encountered by 34.2 per cent of all computers there, down from 42.1 per cent in 1Q16.
The second most common malicious software category in the country during the period was Trojans. This was encountered by 32.7 per cent of all computers, up from 28.4 percent in 1Q16.
The third most common malicious software category in Tanzania in 2Q16 was Viruses, which was encountered by 6.3 per cent of all computers there, down from 6.5 per cent in 1Q16
Unwanted software categories
The report also has it that the most common unwanted software category in Tanzania in 2Q16 was Software Bundlers. It was encountered by 6.9 per cent of all computers, down from 11.2 per cent in 1Q16.
The second most common unwanted software category was Browser Modifiers. It was encountered by 6.5 per cent of all computers, down from 8.3 per cent in 1Q16.
Next was Adware, which was encountered by 0.8 per cent of all computers.
Top malicious software families by encounter rate
In terms of the most common malicious software family encountered in the country during the review period, Win32/Gamarue topped the chart. It was encountered by 9.2 per cent of all reporting computers.