A total of 5,544,299 malware attacks were recorded in GCC last year, making the region the fifth most-hit by malware in Asia, and 14th in the world, a new report has shown.

Qatar endured 439,638 attacks, Trend Micro said in its 2019 security roundup report.

Ransomware continued to be a mainstay cyber threat last year, it said.

Overall, Trend Micro discovered a 10% increase in ransomware detections, despite a 57% decrease in the number of new ransomware families.

The healthcare sector remained the most targeted industry, with more than 700 providers affected in 2019.

In the GCC region, malware attacks were one of the biggest cyber threats.

The GCC region was also home to 9,047 banking malware attacks in 2019, coming in eighth in Asia and ninth in the world for such attacks.

“Despite the prevalent ideals of digital transformation, lack of basic security hygiene, legacy systems with outdated operating systems and unpatched vulnerabilities are still a reality,” said Assad Arabi, country manager (Qatar) Trend Micro. “As long as the ransom scheme continues to be profitable, criminals will continue to leverage it.”

In 2019, Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) disclosed 171% more high severity vulnerabilities than in 2018. The criticality score reflects the likelihood of these flaws being leveraged by attackers, so high severity bugs are more likely to be weaponised and the patches should be prioritised.

To protect against today’s threat landscape, Trend Micro recommends a connected threat defence across gateways, networks, servers, and endpoints.