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Millions of Malaysian smartphone users at risk from banking malware Zeus, say Malaysian police

AvantiKumar | Sept. 26, 2014
Malaysia's Federal commercial crimes department: The phishing malware Zeus, which emerged three years ago, has seen eight police reports in the last month.

Raimund Genes, CTO, Trend Micro modified 

Photo - Raimund Genes, CTO, Trend Micro.


Malaysians who bank on their Android, Symbian, and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets are most vulnerabe to the Zeus Trojan malware, according to Federal police commercial crimes department.

During a media conference in Kuala Lumpur, Federal police commercial crimes department deputy director DCP Datuk Hamza Taib said that eight reports have so far been  received from victims who lost about  RM60,000 [US$18,504] this month to cyber criminals in Ukraine.

Hamza Taib said one victim lost RM10,000 [US$3,084] while the most recent case was reported in Bukit Merah, Perak, earlier this week. He added that Zeus could be a significant threat as millions of Malaysians perform ebanking on their smartphones.

He said the virus is delivered to smartphones or tablets via a link or attachment in a phishing message through a text messaging channel such as WhatsApp, SMS, or Twitter. When the user connects to a fake bank page, the credentials are used to steal funds, which are transferred to local criminal bank accounts, which are then send to accounts in the Ukraine.

Hamza Taib repeated the warning to Malaysians to be alert for phishing links and to use good anti-phishing software. However, several recent studies in the technology sector have pointed out the difficulty of recognising phishing attacks such as McAfee's August 2014 Lab Threats Report, which included the finding that 90 percent of Southeast Asia business users were not able to detect scams.

 Malaysia in top 10

Trend Micro was one of several security solutions providers and service vendors to note the increase of online banking malware infections in the region. Its Q2 2014 findings listed Malaysia as among the top 10 countries most affected by online banking malware

Raimund Genes, Trend Micro chief technology officer, said that the number of online banking malware infections in Malaysia made up 26 percent of the total infections in Southeast Asia, behind Vietnam with 49 percent.

However, from April 2014 to June 2014, there has been a 26 percent decrease in online banking malware infections, said Genes. "Nonetheless the threat is still prevalent, especially because of the country's growth of the online banking penetration. Botnet activity in the country has increased in Q2. From April to June this year, Trend Micro has detected an increase of 68 percent in botnet C&C servers hosted in Malaysia, and an increase of 230 percent in the number of victims infected by botnets."

Genes said organisations must also continue to be on the alert.  "Organisations must treat information security as a primary component of a long-term business strategy rather than handling security issues as tertiary, minor setbacks."

"Similar to having a business strategy to improve efficiency, a well-thought-out security strategy should also improve current protection practices that achieve long-term benefits," said Genes. "The incidents observed during this quarter further establish the need for a more comprehensive approach to security."


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