Bangalore: Hackers have kept pace with India`s leap into the internet world, making the country number one in Asia for originating the highest number of spams and phishing, says a study by global security solutions provider Symantec.
"India ranked first in the Asia-Pacific and Japan region and third highest in the world as the originating country of spam and phishing," said the IT major’s latest internet security threat report.
India also ranked second for the origin of web-based attacks in the region, contributing 16 percent, after China, which accounted for 37 percent of the total attacks.
Spam is an unsolicited message hackers post on the internet and mail to unknown recipients who would not otherwise choose to receive it.
Phishing is a fraudulent process used by cyber criminals to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details online by posing as a trustworthy entity in the electronic communication.
The report, based on a survey conducted during 2009, found that 21 percent of the spam in the region originated from India, accounting for four percent of the worldwide spam volume.
Spam made up 88 percent of all e-mail in 2009.
Similarly, 28 percent of spam zombies (bots) in the region or six percent of the world reside in India while seven percent of the regional phishing hosts are located in the Indian sub-continent.
Bots are a type of malware or malicious software code, which allows an attacker to gain complete control over the infected computer. Some of the notorious codes are viruses, worms, Trojan horses and backdoors.
"The scale of these web-based attacks originating from India and other countries makes security in the virtual world a major challenge requiring global cooperation between vendors, intermediaries and users," Symantec India managing director Vishal Dhupar said here.
Hackers have turned their attention to enterprises with an eye on monetary gains from compromised corporate intellectual property.
"Hackers have evolved from simple scams to sophisticated and focused campaigns to fuel the underground economy. Cyber criminals are not just content stealing hard-earned money from ordinary users but focusing on high-end crime," Dhupar noted.
Abundance of personal information available on social networking sites has come in handy to synthesize socially engineered attacks on key individuals within targeted companies.
"Web-based attacks are growing unabated by luring unsuspecting users to malicious websites, which in turn hack the victim’s web browser and vulnerable plug-ins used to view video or document files," Dhupar said.
Though the US ranks top globally in origin of web-based attacks due to factors such as high broadband penetration, the quantum jump of 16 percent in India is alarming, as the country accounted for less than one percent of such attacks in the region in 2008.
In a bid to make a fast buck, cyber criminals use stolen credit card information quickly to purchase goods online where minimal card details are required to authorise transactions.
"Besides physical goods purchased online for subsequent delivery, hackers buy digital goods such as domain registrations, music, software and gift certificates from online stores," the survey revealed.
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI), Internet usage across the country shot up 20 percent in 2009, with netizens spending more time online.
As a result, India surged to fifth spot in malicious activity in 2009 from 11th spot in 2008.
"We have identified over 240 million distinct new malicious programmes in 2009, a 100 percent jump over 2008, with Sality.AE virus, Brisv Trojan and SillyFDC worm as the most frequent threats," Dhupar added.
With the highest density of netizens, Mumbai figured at the top, with 50 percent of the country’s bot-infected computers, followed by Delhi at 13 percent, Hyderabad seven percent, Bangalore six percent, Kochi five percent, Chennai four percent, Pune three percent and Ahmedabad two percent.