When a big hacking attack makes the news, the U.S. and China are often in the spotlight. Yet a report that ranks the countries where users' computers are targeted the most reflects a far different reality.
The findings by Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, one of the top makers of antivirus software, show that developing nations in Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere are the most vulnerable to online assaults, illustrating how global the threat is even though the world's two biggest economies dominate the headlines.
At the top of the list is Russia, which isn't surprising given the country's reputation for having some of the world's most sophisticated hackers. Kaspersky detected attacks on 59 percent of its users there in 2012. The country was also No. 1 in 2011.
What is surprising are the countries that come next: Tajikistan (also 59 percent), Azerbaijan (57 percent), Armenia (56 percent), Kazakhstan (56 percent) and Belarus (52 percent). The list continues with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and Sudan.
What's going on?
When it comes to mass attacks against consumers, criminals are likely to go where there are fewer defenses. Developing markets provide such an opportunity, with millions of new Internet users every year and fewer resources to devote to security.
Affluent countries have more countermeasures. The U.S. was No. 2 in Kaspersky's list in 2011, but fell 17 spots in large part because of efforts by law enforcement to break up "botnets" of infected computers. Russia remains a problem, as a rise in online banking has led to an increase in criminal activity, according to Kaspersky.
For Kaspersky's list of the 20 most dangerous countries for PC attacks, see our slideshow.