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Singapore: An emerging target for cyber threats and banking Trojans

Limor Kessem, Senior Cyber Security Evangelist at Trusteer (IBM Security) | March 28, 2016
Limor Kessem of Trusteer discusses why Singapore is a target for financial cyber attacks, and what organisations can do to fight back against such attacks.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

IBM X-Force researchers continuously monitor and track the activity and migration of malicious banking Trojans around the world, and recently observed that Singapore is becoming a rising target for cybercriminals. Due to the country's unique demographics, which include a mix of Chinese speaking and English speaking businesses, many of the attacks seen in western countries, as well as malware traditionally aimed at Asian targets, have increasingly turned their sights to Singapore.

The trends that affect the country nowadays range from traditional site redirection and content overlay to the more advanced PC and mobile malware that intercept out of band authentication elements such as texted verification codes. In fact, just a few months ago, the Association of Banks in Singapore warned Singaporean mobile phone users against mobile malware posing as a "software update" for the popular messaging app WhatsApp.

Why Singapore?

 It is no coincidence that threats increasingly target Singapore, which is one of Asia's most advanced countries in digital banking, and has the highest variety of digital offerings. In the global arena, Singapore has the second highest inclination for digital banking, according to an A.T. Kearney and EFMA global retail banking study.

Furthermore, the perpetual growth of high-value accounts and multinational corporations conducting business in Singapore makes the region even riper for financial cyber-attacks. Most of the organizations in Singapore communicate in English, which also pairs with the fact that most malware campaigns are launched in English. However, IBM X-Force researchers are also seeing an increase of Chinese language based activity on the Dark Web in the region. This is yet another contributing factor to the increase of fraud directed at entities and individuals in Singapore as Chinese is also considered an official language of the country. It is rather clear that Singapore is proving to be a valuable target for cybercriminals.

Here are some of the recent top malware campaigns targeting Singapore, based on IBM X-Force data and intelligence findings.

The Dridex Trojan - a Bugat Descendent

The Dridex banking Trojan, which was built on the Bugat code base, has been identified as the top malware family targeting Singaporean banks in 2016 so far. Moreover, Dridex represents 84 percent of attacks in the country over the past year. X-Force research suggests that the organized cybercrime gang behind this malware is mimicking advanced attack methods, such as Dyre's trademark "redirection" attack technique, as it continues to intensify its focus on high-value business accounts in the region.


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