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Nations ranked on their vulnerability to cyberattacks

Damaging cyberattacks on a global scale continue to surface every day. Some nations are better prepared than others to deal with online threats from criminals, terrorists and rogue nations.

Data-mining experts from the University of Maryland and Virginia Tech recently co-authored a book that ranked the vulnerability of 44 nations to cyberattacks. Lead author V.S. Subrahmanian discussed this research on Wednesday, March 9th at a panel discussion hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.

The United States ranked 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.

"Our goal was to characterize how vulnerable different countries were, identify their current cybersecurity policies and determine how those policies might need to change in response to this new information," said Subrahmanian, a UMD professor of computer science with an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS).

The book's authors conducted a two-year study that analyzed 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 cyber threats should focus on education to recognize 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, ‘The Global Cyber Vulnerability Report,’ V.S. Subrahmanian, Michael Ovelgonne, Tudor Dumitras and B. Aditya Prakash, was published by Springer.

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