Cyber crime attacks increase as malware trends plateaued in the last 12 months

News by Dan Raywood

Adobe PDF flaws led to almost half of all attack vectors over the past year.

Adobe PDF flaws led to almost half of all attack vectors over the past year.

Kevin Hogan, director of Symantec's response centre, claimed that the latest in its annual internet security threat report series features largely similar trends, as global threats are generally unchanged.

He pointed to malicious activity in developing countries as a key trend, particularly with India rising from 11th to fifth place in the course of a year, and the danger of outsourcing where full control cannot be placed on data.

He said: “This tends to throw up a window of opportunity for attack, and many end up getting infected. This is something that the report throws up. In regards to new threats, we are seeing a trend in Moscow, Bangalore, but it is important for organisations to know that things being updated and having policies in place is not enough if they are outsourcing.”

The report also focussed on attack vectors, with ‘PDF Suspicious File Download' the top web-based attack with a rise from 11 per cent to 49 per cent in uses over the past year. Hogan admitted that this probably combines many repeated attack issues.

Of the ten most commonly seen web-based attacks, eight regard Internet Explorer. Hogan commented that this is a narrower attack surface and most Internet Explorer attack vectors come from older versions, such as IE6. He said: “There would be more PDF vulnerabilities if it was spaced out.”

Symantec's internet security threat report for 2009 also revealed that there is a continued growth in both the volume and sophistication of cyber crime attacks. The main focus of the report is in the increase in the number of targeted threats focused on enterprises.

The report found that attackers are leveraging the abundance of personal information openly available on social networking sites to synthesise socially engineered attacks on key individuals within targeted companies.

Stephen Trilling, senior vice president, security technology and response at Symantec, said: “Attackers have evolved from simple scams to highly sophisticated espionage campaigns targeting some of the world's largest corporations and government entities.

“The scale of these attacks, and the fact that they originate from across the world, makes this a truly international problem requiring the cooperation of both the private sector and world governments.”

Commenting on the future and how we can expect threats to change, Hogan said: “I believe it will stay largely static. We look at malware as much of a 'muchness' and this is because it is successful, and even with vulnerabilities, this is another technology that often changes but not very often. Attacks are not hugely changed and I think it will stay the same.”

David Divitt, fraud and risk Solutions consultant at ACI Worldwide, said: “The latest Symantec report suggests that the number of worldwide malware samples increased by an astonishing 71 per cent in 2009 compared to the previous year.

“According to the report, this increase stems from the growing popularity of easy to use toolkits that novice cyber criminals are using to turn out their own malware. In our experience, banks and their customers are one of the key targets for this new breed of criminal.  While customers need to be more aware of online security risks, banks are also doing their bit to protect their customers. The challenge for banks, however, is to remain one step ahead of the criminals.

“The findings from Symantec's latest report, highlight the importance for banks of taking a layered fraud prevention approach - one that analyses the log-in, the transactions, and risky sequences of events – to give banks the best chance of minimising online banking fraud, thwarting attacks and ensuring the industry doesn't continue to contribute to the rising malware attack figures.”

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