Cambodia is among the most vulnerable countries in Asia when it comes to viruses, spam, spyware and other cyberthreats, according to a recent report from Microsoft.
Approximately one in four computers running Microsoft security products in Cambodia reported encountering malware in the first quarter of this year, according to the company’s global security intelligence report, released August 17. That’s more than double the global average of 9 percent, and twelve times the rate in Japan, where only 2 percent of computers reported a malware encounter.
Within Asia, only Bangladesh and Pakistan had more run-ins with malicious software, according to the report, which found that developing Asian countries were among the world’s most vulnerable.
Microsoft Asia spokesman Andrew Pickup said that was largely due to pirating software.
“There is a well-established link between software piracy and the presence of malware,” Pickup said in an email. “And piracy rates are generally higher in the emerging markets of Asia than other parts of the world.”
Phnom Penh-based cybersecurity consultant Niklas Femerstrand said that many Cambodians still have their software set up by shops, which often install pirated and outdated versions of Windows, leaving their computers vulnerable to viruses and other malware.
And internet penetration is still young, meaning many users are not experienced at learning how to handle malicious links, according to Femerstrand. “Unfortunately, learning that usually comes from experience, and developed countries are still struggling to keep up with new methods of tricking users,” he said.
In March and April this year, both opposition and ruling party politicians fell victim to hackers who exposed text messages, emails and social media accounts to the public.
Femerstrand said it is as crucial for Cambodian users to learn how to distinguish malicious links from harmless ones as it is to keep software up to date. Unfortunately, he said, purchasing a legal copy of Windows – roughly $100 – as well as quality antivirus software, is financially unfeasible for many Cambodians.
In its report, Microsoft also recommends that users avoid working in public Wi-Fi hotspots, choose strong passwords and enforce corporate security policies.
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications spokesman Meas Po declined to comment yesterday before hanging up.