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Tue 16 Dec 2008 04:36 PM

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Malware infection rates in the Middle East among highest worldwide

The Middle East shows some of the highest rates of malware infection in the world says Microsoft

The Middle East is suffering from much higher rates of malware infection than other regions in the world, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft’s latest Security Intelligence Report, which covers the first half of this year, shows that countries in the region have infection rates between two to three times that of the global average.

The report features a number of countries in the region, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, and the UAE in the worst 25 countries for malware infection as covered by the report.

Roger Halbheer, chief security advisor for Microsoft EMEA said that while there had been an improvement in some markets in the region, it was still a cause for concern. Referring to the UAE, which went from a rate of 18.3 infections per 1,000, down to 17.3, Halbheer said: “Worldwide it is one of the few countries where the infection rate came down, but it is still on a pretty high level, 90th out of 114 countries.”

The Security Intelligence Report measures malware infection by recording the amount of times that malware is detected in every thousand uses of the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), a free tool that is designed to remove the most common or damaging malware. The tool is run on average 400 million times per month, and collects non-personal data on infections.

The total amount of malware removed by the tool increased by 50% from the second half of 2007 to the first half of 2008.

Bahrain was the worst Middle East country in the report, second only to Afghanistan, with 29.2 infections per thousand, followed by Iraq with 23.6 and Egypt with 22.5.

The report also identifies some of the most common families of malware present in the GCC. Most common was Win32/Zlob, which is typically poses as a media codec that a user must download to watch video content downloaded or streamed from the Internet; the Win32/Taterf family of worms that spread via mapped drives to steal login ,and account details for popular online games; and Win32/RJump, which attempts to spread by copying itself to newly attached media, such as USB memory devices or network drives, and also contains backdoor functionality that allows an attacker unauthorized access to an affected computer.

Khalid Majid Lootah, regional technology officer for Microsoft Gulf said that report results were important in helping to drive local efforts to deal with malware.

“We have started to work with entities in the Gulf, including the Federal Government in the UAE and Q-CERT in Qatar, to take our programs across the Gulf to raise awareness in both governments and the public,” Lootah said.

The Microsoft report can can be downloaded here.

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