India is among the countries most vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Data-mining experts from the University of Maryland and Virginia Tech recently co-authored a book that ranked the vulnerability of 44 nations to cyber attacks.
Lead author VS Subrahmanian discussed this research on 9 March at a panel discussion hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, DC.
The United States ranked the 11th safest, while several Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Finland) ranked the safest. China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea ranked among the most vulnerable.
Subrahmanian noted that the goal was to characterise how vulnerable different countries were, identify their current cyber security policies and determine how those policies might need to change in response to this new information.
The book's authors conducted a two-year study that analysed more than 20 billion automatically generated reports, collected from 4 million machines per year worldwide. The researchers based their rankings, in part, on the number of machines attacked in a given country and the number of times each machine was attacked.
Machines using Symantec anti-virus software automatically generated these reports, but only when a machine's user opted in to provide the data.
Trojans, followed by viruses and worms, posed the principal threats to machines in the United States. However, misleading software (i.e., fake anti-virus programs and disk cleanup utilities) is far more prevalent in the US compared with other nations that have a similar gross domestic product. These results suggest that US efforts to reduce cyberthreats should focus on education to recognise and avoid misleading software.
In a foreword to the book, Isaac Ben-Israel, chair of the Israeli Space Agency and former head of that nation's National Cyber Bureau, wrote "People, even experts, often have gross misconceptions about the relative vulnerability [to cyber attack] of certain countries. The authors of this book succeed in empirically refuting many of those wrong beliefs."
The book's findings include economic and educational data gathered by UMD's Center for Digital International Government, for which Subrahmanian serves as director.
The researchers integrated all of the data to help shape specific policy recommendations for each of the countries studied, including strategic investments in education, research and public-private partnerships.