As the most up and coming Internet and financial super-power in the world, it should hardly come as a surprise that China has become the latest target for cyber-criminals. In recent attacks some 45 million people have had their personal details stolen and now the BBC is reporting that the ten largest search engines in the country have signed an anti-phishing scheme to help combat this new wave of online crime.
What the BBC isn’t saying though is that, according to Microsoft’s own figures on the IE6Countdown website China is the only country left in the world where the horribly buggy and insecure 6th version of Microsoft’s web browser is still in common use. As of today the figure for China sits at 27.9% of all browser usage in the country.
By comparison to this the next most exposed countries which include South Korea, Japan and India sit at 8.9%, 6.5% and 6% respectively. Western countries are faring batter with the USA at just 1%, the UK at 1.8% and Germany at just 1.1%. The Scandinavian countries are definitely faring best though with 0.5% of browsers in Denmark being IE6, 0.4% in Finland and Sweden and just 0.2% in Norway.
While the worldwide usage of Internet Explorer 6 has dropped massively in the last two years, it is in far eastern countries where its fared poorly. In China, the government of which doesn’t approve of Microsoft’s globalist tendencies, the latest versions of Windows have failed to make significant inroads and much of the country still uses older, pirated copies of Windows XP.
The software piracy market in China and surrounding countries is huge and opens up all manner of other problems including pirated and cracked operating systems and software coming pre-loaded with malware. China presents a particular problem with that one country accounting for more than 50% of all IE6 usage worldwide.
The Chinese government are working with search engines and banks to do what they can to limit the spread of malware and provide better security online, but this will involve a great deal of public education. Of course there are many free alternatives to IE6 but people in the country just don’t seem to be using them.
The problem doesn’t just end at the desktop however as company servers, presumably also running older and possibly pirated software are major targets for criminals. The BBC reported that “On Christmas day, the hugely popular Tianya chat site revealed that the login names and passwords from 40 million of its users had been stolen. All risk being plundered by attackers as the information was held in plain text.”
China currently has around 485 million web users and the number is growing exponentially. Microsoft previously released cheaper versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 for emerging economies including China but with wages in the country a tiny fraction of what they are in the rest of the world the company isn’t willing to even release sales figures.
The problem continues to be exacerbated as newer versions of web browsers and other software won’t install or run on Windows XP, despite mainly being free products that the people in these countries can use to protect themselves.