Hackers more active in 2004
Internet attacks on businesses and other organizations increased by about 28 percent in the second half of 2004 compared with the first six months of the year, a report on Internet security warned.
And hackers are setting their sights on the rapidly-emerging mobile-computing market, it added.
On average, businesses and other organizations received 13.6 attacks on their computer systems every day in the second half of 2004.
That�s up from 10.6 attacks in the first half of the year, says the report by Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec Corp., which makes the popular Norton anti-virus software and other security products.
�There�s all sorts of malicious code out there increasing in frequency and severity,� said Dean Turner, executive editor of the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, which was set for release today.
�Users have to make themselves aware.�
The burst in activity follows a shift in the motivations of attackers. Where the hacker community once sought notoriety, today it is largely a vast network of crooks going after other people�s money, experts say.
The favourite tools of online attackers include phishing, spyware, and adware. Phishing scams involve e-mails appearing to come from legitimate companies that direct people to divulge credit card numbers and other data.
Spyware is hidden software that captures information about a user�s web-surfing habits. Adware is a type of spyware that collects data to target users with e-mail marketing campaigns or pop-up ads.
Symantec says its anti-spam filters blocked an average of 33 million phishing messages a week in December�up from just nine million a week in the first half of the year.
The trend will continue upward this year.
�Phishing attacks are difficult to defend against. As the sophistication of spoofed e-mail and Internet sites increases, it will become more difficult for users to determine what is legitimate and what is not,� the report said.
Industry estimates of what phishing scams alone cost U.S. companies in 2004 range from $1.2-billion (U.S.) to $2.4-billion.
The recent proliferation of mobile devices is seeding a whole new category of viruses. At the end of December, there were 21 known samples of malicious code for mobile devices�up from just one at the end of last June, the report said.
Turner said those numbers will keep rising as the popularity of mobile computing grows. A short-range wireless connection standard called Blue Tooth is proving to be the conduit for most attacks.
Users may forget to turn off the connection feature as they move around public spaces, leaving themselves open to viruses, he noted.
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