Southeast Asia’s Cyber Threat Landscape in 2022 by Kaspersky

Published January 14, 2022, 8:39 AM

by Robert D. Reyes

Kaspersky SEA cyberthreat Landscape 2022

Southeast Asia (SEA), like the rest of the world, is gearing up for a year of recovery in 2022. Companies and individuals of all ages are ready to revert to regain the sense of normalcy, with back-to-office, back-to-school, and back-to-travel policies currently being put in place.

But as witnessed this year, cybercriminals can target a variety of industries, from airlines, hospitals, government websites, banks, telecom companies, universities, e-commerce, and even social media giants through different sophisticated means.

Experts from Kaspersky’s Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) revealed the four (04) top trends to look out for this year, aimed at giving organizations and individuals a compass to help navigate the shifting cyber threat landscape and secure the recovery phase of countries in the region.

Decrease of Targeted Ransomware Attacks

Some companies from SEA were among the victims of targeted ransomware attacks worldwide focusing on the most valuable targets as well as interruption-sensitive businesses. However, with strong international cooperation and multiple task forces to trace ransomware gangs, Kaspersky experts believe that the number of such attacks will decrease during 2022.

“The initial call was made by the US government, involving the FBI, and even offensive capabilities of the US Cyber Command. We anticipate that the attacks may resurface later, focusing on hitting developing countries with poor cyber-investigative capabilities or countries that are not allies of the US,” according to Vitaly Kamluk, Director of Global Research & Analysis Team (GReAT) for Asia Pacific at Kaspersky.

Given the geopolitical stance of some countries in Southeast Asia, it’s likely that there will be less or even no such attacks in certain countries from the region in 2022. Yet, broadly available hosting services offered by countries like Singapore and Malaysia, data center services, and infrastructure can still be abused by the targeted ransomware gangs.

Advanced Scam & Social Engineering

One of the distinctive features of citizens of developed countries is an elevated feeling of safety. Higher expenditure on technology, including cybersecurity, generates a long-term feeling of safety online as well.

As a result, the general population is less exposed to traditional cyber threats — it’s just harder to find unprotected infrastructure or infect users. This is why the attackers focus on non-technology-focused attacks, exploiting human vulnerabilities, involving all sorts of scams via SMS, automated phone calls, popular messengers, social networks, etc.

The number of scam reports keeps increasing year over year, according to Singapore Police Force: +16% (2021), +108.8%(2020), +27.1% (2019), +19.5% (2018).

In Thailand, nearly 40,000 people were scammed with their bank accounts and credit cards showing inexplicable transactions. Scammers also used fake bank websites to steal the banking details of Malaysians last year. Impersonations against top e-commerce platforms in Vietnam were also used to trick users to send money.

More Data Breaches by Unidentified Attackers

With the decrease of targeted ransomware attacks openly exposing stolen data and taking the responsibility for a breach, we will see the rise of stolen data being offered on the black markets.

Experts from Kaspersky believe it is not only a symptom of serious challenges that cyber defenders face but also a motivational factor and a signal for other passive cybercriminals to rush into the field of data theft and illegal trading.

As a result, we shall observe more stolen databases, internal communications, and personal details stolen from various companies and traded on the black market.

Cryptocurrency & NFT Industry Attacks

By observing the cutting edge attackers with large human resources, such as the Lazarus group and its sub-group, BlueNoroff, Kaspersky researchers concluded that we shall expect an even more significant wave of attacks on cryptocurrency businesses.

Even the growing industry of NFT (non-fungible token) will be targeted by cybercriminals. This is because countries in SEA are leading in terms of NFT ownership, with the Philippines topping the list at 32% saying they own such digital assets.

Among the 20 countries surveyed, Thailand (26.2%) ranked second followed closely by Malaysia (23.9%). Vietnam landed on the 5th spot (17.4%) and Singapore was 14th (6.8%).

In addition, experts from the global cybersecurity company expect that these attacks will not only affect the global cryptocurrency markets but also the share price of individual companies, which will also be monetized by the attackers via stock market illegal insights trading.