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Cybercrime’s Financial and Geographic Growth Shows No Slowdown during the Global Economic Crisis

Symantec blocks an average of 100 potential attacks per second in 2009

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – April 20, 2010 – Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC) today released its new Internet Security Threat Report volume XV, which highlights key trends in cybercrime from Jan.1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2009.  In a year bookended by two very prominent Cyber attacks – Conficker in the opening months of the year and Hydraq at the very end – Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report reveals continued growth in both the volume and sophistication of cybercrime attacks.
“Attackers have evolved from simple scams to highly sophisticated espionage campaigns targeting some of the world’s largest corporations and government entities,” said Stephen Trilling, senior vice president, Security Technology and Response, Symantec. “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.”
Notable trends highlighted in this year’s report include:

  • An increase in the number of targeted threats focused on enterprises. Given the potential for monetary gain from compromised corporate intellectual property (IP), cybercriminals have turned their attention toward enterprises. The report found that attackers are leveraging the abundance of personal information openly available on social networking sites to synthesize socially engineered attacks on key individuals within targeted companies.  Hydraq gained a great deal of notoriety at the beginning of 2010, but was only the latest in a long line of such targeted attacks including Shadow Network in 2009 and Ghostnet in 2008. 

  • Attack toolkits make cybercrime easier than ever. Cybercrime attack toolkits have lowered the bar to entry for new cybercriminals, making it easy for unskilled attackers to compromise computers and steal information. One such toolkit called Zeus (Zbot), which can be purchased for as little as $700, automates the process of creating customized malware capable of stealing personal information. Using kits like Zeus, attackers created literally millions of new malicious code variants in an effort to evade detection by security software.

  • Web-based attacks continued to grow unabated. Today’s attackers leverage social engineering techniques to lure unsuspecting users to malicious websites.  These websites then attack the victim’s Web browser and vulnerable plug-ins normally used to view video or document files.  In particular, 2009 saw dramatic growth in the number of Web-based attacks targeted at PDF viewers; this accounted for 49 percent of observed Web-based attacks. This is a sizeable increase from the 11 percent reported in 2008. 

  • Malicious activity takes root in emerging countries. The report saw firm signs that malicious activity is now taking root in countries with an emerging broadband infrastructure, such as Brazil, India, Poland, Vietnam and Russia. In 2009, these countries moved up the rankings as a source and target of malicious activity by cybercriminals. The findings from the report suggest that government crackdowns in developed countries have led cybercriminals to launch their attacks from the developing world, where they are less likely to be prosecuted.

Other ISTR Highlights:

  • Malicious code is more rampant than ever.  In 2009, Symantec identified more than 240 million distinct new malicious programs, a 100 percent increase over 2008.  

  • Top threats.  The Sality.AE virus, the Brisv Trojan and the SillyFDC worm were the threats most frequently blocked by Symantec security software in 2009.

  • Downadup (Conficker) still very prevalent. It was estimated that Downadup was on more than 6.5 million PCs worldwide at the end of 2009. Thus far, machines still infected with Downadup/Conficker have not been utilized for any significant criminal activity, but the threat remains a viable one.

  • Compromised identity information continues to grow.  Sixty percent of all data breaches that exposed identities were the result of hacking. In a sign that this issue is not limited to a few larger enterprises, the Symantec State of Enterprise Security Report 2010 reported that 75 percent of enterprises surveyed experienced some form of cyber attack in 2009.

  • Another turbulent year for spam. In 2009, spam made up 88 percent of all e-mail observed by Symantec, with a high of 90.4 percent in May and a low of 73.7 percent in February.  Of the 107 billion spam messages distributed globally per day on average, 85 percent were from botnets.  The 10 major bot networks, including Cutwail, Rustock and Mega-D now control at least 5 million compromised computers.  Throughout 2009, Symantec saw botnet infected computers being advertised in the underground economy for as little as 3 cents per computer.

  • Applying security patches continues to be a challenge for many users. The report found that maintaining a secure, patched system became more challenging than ever in 2009.  Moreover, many users are failing to patch even very old vulnerabilities.  For example, the Microsoft Internet Explorer ADODB.Stream Object File Installation Weakness was published on August 23, 2003, and fixes have been available since July 2, 2004, yet it was the second-most attacked Web-based vulnerability in 2009.

Click to Tweet

  • In 2009, Symantec blocks an average of 100 potential attacks per second http://bit.ly/b6sp23

  • Symantec releases new Threat Report: Cybercrime’s Growth Shows No Slowdown during Economic Crisis http://bit.ly/b6sp23

  • Growth in threats focused on enterprises. Symantec finds attackers use personal info found on social sites http://bit.ly/b6sp23

  • Toolkits make cybercrime easier than ever for unskilled cybercriminals to compromise PCs and steal info http://bit.ly/b6sp23

  • Today’s attackers use social engineering techniques to lure users to malicious websites http://bit.ly/b6sp23

  • Dramatic growth in targeted at PDF viewers, accounting for 49 percent of Web-based attacks in 2009 http://bit.ly/b6sp23

  • Malicious activity takes root in countries w/ emerging broadband infrastructure http://bit.ly/b6sp23 

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About the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report
The Internet Security Threat Report is derived from data collected by tens of millions of Internet sensors, first-hand research, and active monitoring of hacker communications, and it provides a global view of the state of Internet Security.  The study period for the Internet Security Threat Report XV covers January 2009 to December 2009.

About Security Technology and Response
The Symantec Internet Security Threat Report is created by the Security Technology and Response (STAR) organization.  STAR, which includes Security Response, is a worldwide team of security engineers, threat analysts, and researchers that provides the underlying functionality, content, and support for all Symantec corporate and consumer security products.  With Response centers located throughout the world, STAR monitors malicious code reports from more than 133 million systems across the Internet, received data from 240,000 network sensors in more than 200 countries, and tracks more than 35,000 vulnerabilities affecting more than 80,000 technologies from more than 11,000 vendors.  The team uses this vast intelligence to develop and deliver the world’s most comprehensive security protection.

About Symantec
Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world.  Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at http://www.symantec.com/.
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