Cyberattacks surge 12pc in first six months of 2013

Number of hacking and 'robot' network cases nearly doubles amid call for beefed-up security

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 August, 2013, 4:45am

Hong Kong has seen a marked rise in malicious cyberattacks in the first six months of this year, according to a report by the city's information security watchdog.

The Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team (HKCert) reported 622 security incidents from January to June, a 12 per cent rise on the same period last year.

The number of security incidents handled during the whole of last year was 1,189, up 30 per cent from 2011.

About 320, or roughly half, of the attacks in the first half of this year came from hacking and botnets - networks of infected computers turned into controllable "robots". That was nearly double the number for the same period last year.

Other types of cyber attacks came in the form of phishing, web defacement, viruses and spyware.

Although smartphone-related hacks only accounted for just one per cent of attacks, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks were on the rise, targeting mainly mobile and cloud computing. That was due to a rise in the use of mobile payment and an "increased awareness of cyber espionage", the report said.

"Enterprises and internet users should make it a habit to maintain the security patches on their personal computers, keep servers up to date and adopt firewalls and anti-malware software," said Leung Siu-cheong, a senior consultant at the HKCert's Co-ordination Centre.

"Businesses, in particular, should establish policies on the classification and protection of sensitive data [and] manage both mobile devices at work and the service level of cloud service providers. In short; they should be well-prepared for large-scale attacks."

Leung urged users of mobile devices to turn off WiFi or Bluetooth when not using them to reduce the risk of information leakage and to refrain from "jailbreaking" mobile devices.

The HKCert was set up in 2001 and is managed by the Hong Kong Productivity Council. Its main role is to collect information on cyberattacks and work with the police and internet service providers.

The centre will be holding a drill in November to "strengthen the readiness of critical internet infrastructure providers against cyber attacks", the report said.

In June, Hong Kong was found to have been home to two computers servers spreading a virus known as Citadel Botnets - malware that monitors keystrokes on infected computers and relays information such as account names and passwords to hackers and cybercriminals.

Hong Kong was one of the places with the most Citadel infections out of 90 jurisdictions that were hit.

Also that month, National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden told the Post that the United States had been hacking computers in China and Hong Kong since 2009.

He said the institutions targeted included the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The campus is home to the Hong Kong Internet Exchange, the network backbone for the city's internet traffic.