Singapore '7th highest in Asia-Pacific' for social media scams

CYBERCRIME is leap-frogging traditional crime and constantly taking on new forms, say analysts.

Digital extortion grew globally in the last year and is shifting from e-mail to social media scams, with Singapore ranked the seventh highest in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of volume of such cases, according to the latest Symantec Internet Security Threat Report.

Released yesterday on the opening day of biennial security trade event Interpol World, the annual report culled information from more than 57.6 million attack sensors monitoring threat activity in some 160 countries and territories.

Singapore came in 33rd globally and seventh regionally in social media scams.

"Instead of doing the dirty work themselves, cyber criminals are taking advantage of unwitting users to proliferate their scams," said Symantec's senior director of cyber security services (Asia Pacific and Japan), Mr Peter Sparkes.

"Interestingly, the majority of such scams, up to 87 per cent, were shared manually as attackers took advantage of the trust that people have in content shared by their friends."

Another common type of cyber attack in Singapore is known as ransomware - malware which restricts access to the infected computer system, then demands a ransom be paid to the malware's creators before access can be regained.

Some 24,000 ransomware attacks were recorded daily around the world last year, a 113 per cent jump from the 11,000 in 2013, the report said.

The United States retained its top spot as the country with the largest source of cyberthreats, but Asian countries are slowly creeping up the rankings, Mr Sparkes noted.

While the energy sector has traditionally been the biggest target of cyber criminals out to cripple critical infrastructure and steal valuable forecasting data, information in healthcare is progressively being sought after, he added.

Combating cybercrime has to be a joint effort between the public and private sectors, said Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran yesterday at the opening of the event.

"Criminals and law enforcement agencies are locked in a competitive cycle of co-evolvement, where we fight for technological competitive advantage," he said.

"There is thus an urgent need for law enforcement agencies to leverage latest technologies and adopt innovation as a key enabler of policing work."

Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade and Industry, added that it is crucial for stakeholders to collaborate, tap on each other's resources and develop deep expertise.

Interpol president Mireille Ballestrazzi and secretary-general Jurgen Stock also spoke on the need for government and businesses to collaborate.

The three-day Interpol World, held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, ends tomorrow. The event drew some 8,000 participants and more than 200 companies from 30 countries.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Mr Eugene Kaspersky, chief executive and chairman of cyber security company Kaspersky Lab, said the company will be moving its Asia-Pacific headquarters from Hong Kong to Singapore.

The firm has a security researcher helping the global police with cyber investigations at its Interpol Global Complex for Innovation in Napier Road.

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