Fifty seven percent of South African Internet users encountered malicious software during the past year and, in 77% of these cases, the exposure had a negative impact on both users and their devices.
This is according to an international study conducted by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International, which adds that malware was most commonly encountered on Windows computers – with 83% of all Windows users stating that they had been affected in the last 12 months. However, Android and Mac OS X users were not immune, with 13% and 6% citing infections on their devices, respectively.
Locally, 14% of users believe their device was infected after visiting a suspicious website, 19% stated they become infected because they used someone else’s USB flash drive, and 8% believe a malicious app disguised as a legitimate program was installed. Yet another 8% of South African’s surveyed said their devices were infected after opening an email attachment. The greater part of those polled -19% – could not explain how malware ended up on their device.
Significantly, four out of five infections caused problems for those affected. Most often (46% of cases) users noticed computer performance slowed down, 43% of respondents experienced obtrusive advertising (e.g. the browser redirected them to unwanted websites) and 32% of those surveyed found unsolicited programmes on their devices.
Overall, (33%) of local user’s experienced financial losses as a result of malware infection. As well as having to pay a ransom to criminals, victims spent money on restoring a device or data, on software to eliminate the effects of an infection, and some even had to buy a replacement device. When financial losses were incurred, the average cost of an attack amounted to R130.
“The costs and unpleasant effects of a malware infection can be avoided with a little prudence,” says Elena Kharchenko, head of Consumer Product Management at Kaspersky Lab. “For instance, do not insert unverified USB sticks in a device, only use official app stores, keep the operating system and applications up to date, and scan files with a security solution before opening them. The ability to foresee potential problems and take precautions is the key to staying safe.”