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Internet security threat report identifies shift toward focused attacks on desktops

The eighth volume of the Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec Corp. has identified new methods of using ma...

September 19, 2005  

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The eighth volume of the Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec Corp. has identified new methods of using malicious code for financial gain with increasing frequency to target desktops rather than enterprise perimeters.

The report, which covers the six-month period from January 1 to June 30, 2005, also found a rise in the exposure of confidential information.

Such threats can result in significant financial loss, particularly if credit card information or banking details are exposed.

During the first half of this year, malicious code that exposed confidential information represented 74% of the top 50 malicious code samples reported to Symantec, up from 54%t in the previous six months.

“Attackers are moving away from large, multipurpose attacks on network perimeters and toward smaller, more targeted attacks directed at Web and client-side applications,” said Arthur Wong, vice president of Symantec Security Response and Managed Security Services.

“As the threat landscape continues to change, users need to be diligent in keeping systems up-to-date with security patches and security solutions.”

The report, which was released today, found that modular malicious code — malicious code that has limited functionality initially but then downloads additional functionality once a system has been infected — is also increasing.

The shift toward modular malicious code is significant as it indicates that attackers may be attempting to avoid detection and attempting to compromise a system further by opening back doors on an infected system or visiting Web sites where further malicious code can be retrieved and placed on the target system.

The report also found that phishing attacks continue to proliferate. The volume of phishing messages grew from an average of 2.99 million messages a day to 5.70 million.

One out of every 125 e-mail messages scanned by Symantec Brightmail AntiSpam was a phishing attempt, an increase of 100% from the last half of 2004.

Symantec Brightmail AntiSpam antifraud filters were blocking more than 40 million phishing attempts per week on average, up from approximately 21 million per week at the beginning of January.