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Computer hackers

China now the largest source of internet threats thanks to rise of zombie computers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 April, 2016, 2:13am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2016, 12:24am

China has edged out the United States as the world’s prime source of internet-related security threats, according to a report by cyber security software provider Symantec Corp.

More than 23 per cent of global threat incidents came from the mainland last year, up from around 10 per cent the year before, said its Internet Security Threat Report released this week.

The sharp growth of zombie computers, systems taken control by hackers, spurred the overall increase, the company said.

Theses zombie computers in China launch cyber attacks without the owners knowing, but the criminals behind them are hard to track down and can be from anywhere in the world, the company said.

The number of bots, or malicious software resulting in zombie computers increased more than 80 per cent last year and China accounted for almost half of the world’s bots, Symantec found.

It believes the rapidly expanding broadband internet and the relatively low internet prices have increased the number of internet-connected computers greatly and made China an “attractive target” for cybercriminals looking for computers to hack.

The increase indicates China’s lack of strength and awareness in dealing with the increasing internet threats from around the world, said an executive.

“Chinese [companies and organisations] mainly use security software from Chinese companies,” said Victor Law, greater China regional director of system engineering, product and consulting services and enterprise security.

“They are very good at defending against local cyber threats but may not be enough to deal with those coming from the outside world,” Law said.

“China needs to raise awareness about international threats,” he added.

Having the biggest sources of threats in 2014 and 2013, the US reduced bot activity by 67 per cent last year thanks to successful law enforcement against cybercriminals, the report said.

“(The) Chinese government needs to take part in a liaison against cybercrimes,” Law said.

“Individuals cannot do it alone.”

According to Symantec, Hong Kong ranked 17th in the global threat incidents last year, up from 23rd place in 2014. The city accounted for 1.2 per cent of detected incidents in the world in 2015.