IBM reported that virus-laden emails and criminal driven security attacks increased by 50 percent in the first half of 2005 - underscored by a significant rise in 'customized' attacks on the government, financial services, manufacturing and healthcare industries.
This substantial increase, along with a decrease in less profitable threats, such as spam and simple computer viruses, indicates a growth in targeted attacks against specific organizations and industries -- apparently created with the purpose of stealing critical data, identities or extorting money.
The Global Business Security Index, a worldwide barometer of security trends collected and analyzed by IBM's Global Security Intelligence team and its partners, indicates that such customized, 'for profit' attacks have been predominantly directed at government agencies, financial services companies, healthcare organizations and large multinational corporations, particularly within the aerospace, petroleum, and manufacturing industries.
According to the report, there were more than 237 million overall security attacks in the first half of the year. The government was the most targeted industry, with more than 54 million attacks, while manufacturing ranked second with 36 million attacks, financial services was third with approximately 34 million, and healthcare was hit with more than 17 million attacks - accounting for more than 137 million of all attacks this year.
IBM has seen a resurgence of targeted phishing attacks for money laundering and identity fraud purposes, believed to be largely driven by criminal gangs that have become more astute in the creation and delivery of such attacks. According to its latest Global Business Security Index, in the first half of the year, there were more than 35 million phishing attacks launched to steal critical data and personal information for financial gains.
Spawns of phishing threats such as 'spear phishing' - highly targeted and coordinated attacks at a specific organization or individual designed to extract critical data - increased more than ten-fold since January of this year alone. Unlike in previous years, when viruses were mainly created and launched to slow down and cripple IT systems, these types of 'customized' attacks have shown their potential to defraud businesses, steal identities and intellectual property and extort money, while damaging the brand and eroding customer trust.
The ratio of spam to legitimate email continuously decreased over the course of the last six months, from 83 percent in January to 67 percent in June 2005, while virus-laden email increased fifty percent over the same period. At first glance what appears to be good news - the leveling off of massive outbreaks that cripple IT environments on a regional or global basis in the past six months - seemingly indicates that hijacking computers to send spam is no longer the network disruption of choice.
Hackers have turned toward more criminal and lucrative areas of directing attacks to specific individuals or organizations, often financially, competitively, politically or socially motivated. IBM's Global Business Security Index shows that in December of 2004, one in every 52 emails was infected by some sort of malicious security threat; by January it was one in every 35 emails, and by June, that ratio increased to one in every 28 emails - signifying a fifty percent increase from last year - a disturbing trend for businesses and consumers alike.
"IBM advises its clients to rapidly adopt a holistic, enterprise-wide approach to security and risk management," said John Lutz, general manager, Financial Services Sector, IBM. "To protect their critical data, infrastructure, brands, and money, IBM advises businesses to rethink how they protect their operations, business processes and governance structures. Companies can employ the latest protective technology, while ensuring that their own customers get highest level of protection available."
Additional key findings from IBM's First Half 2005 Global Business Security Index:
Top 10 malware (malicious software) detected, by family, included: W32.Mytob; W32.Agobot; W32.Opaserv; W32.Sober; Ranky and Sdbot Dropper; W32.Backdoor; W32.Ranky; W32.Mydoom; W32.Sdbot and W32.Maslan
New threats emerged:
In March 2005, the emergence of a potential new threat affecting the Internet - pervasive Domain Name Service (DNS) cache poisoning was discovered. DNS cache poisoning is the act of corrupting a DNS server's ability to map machine host names to its proper IP address and would hijack visitors to an advertisement or inappropriate web site instead. While these types of threats have been seen for a few years, the new version uses two new technologies and any DNS server that is not configured properly may be susceptible to this type of attack
In May 2005, a malware business was uncovered operating from iframeDOLLARS.biz. This Web site attempted to recruit partner Web sites to host a variety of malicious code to exploit Internet Explorer browsers, which paved the way for numerous trojans, backdoors and spyware installed on a computer .
The IBM Global Business Security Index Report is a monthly report that assesses, measures and analyzes potential network security threats based on the data and information collected by IBM's 3,000 worldwide information security professionals and thousands of monitored devices.
For more information, please visit: www-1.ibm.com/services/us/index.wss/offering/bcrs/a1008776 .
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