Sunday, January 29, 2006

Cyber Crime Strides In Lockstep With Security


Information Security made great strides last year.

Sadly, so did cyber crime.

In the U.S. ? according to a recent FBI study ? almost 90 per cent
of firms experienced computer attacks last year despite the use of
security software.

So what happened in 2005?

In a year when rootkits went mainstream and malware went criminal,
information security improved.

There was no global pandemic like the Slammer or Blaster worm
juggernaut. There was no malware with a replication magnitude of the
order of Code Red, Slammer, Nimda, or the Iloveyou virus. With the
notable exception of PHP worms, even the Linux side had fewer popular
viruses and worms.

Patching got easier. Not only did more and more sophisticated patch
management tools arrive from every sector, but there were fewer patches
to deploy. Administrators got better at blocking hackers and malware.
And end users don't click on every file attachment they receive.

But security onslaughts attain greater significance as the year saw the
metamorphosis of cyber malice into a highly organized and sophisticated
international crime syndicate, where the likes of ?phishing? and
?spamming? have gone through drastic evolution.

Eighty-seven per cent of the more than 2,000 public and private
enterprises that took part in the FBI survey said that they had
undergone one or the other kind of security attack. Virus, spyware and
adware top the list where a significant amount of businesses faced
systems and data sabotage. One third of the companies detected port
scans of their systems, a method used by attackers to identify
vulnerable PCs to sneak in, the survey said.

A staggering 98 per cent of survey respondents said they used antivirus
software, of which nearly 84 per cent still suffered a virus attack.

According to U.S.?based security and communications software vendor
MicroWorld Technologies Inc. in Farmington Hills, Mich., many antivirus
software products fail to prevent virus attacks because they work in a
reactive way with known virus signatures, and hence cannot take on
newer threats. Enterprises must revaluate the kind of technology and
effectiveness of many leading antivirus and security software they use.

The stuff that is getting by our defenses is more dangerous: Malware
went criminal. Most of today's malware exists to steal confidential
information, send spam, or steal identities. Now, malware is getting
harder to remove, hiding better, and contains more tricks and exploits
than ever.

IT managers and system administrators reported spyware and viruses were
the most common problem, followed by port scans, sabotage of data or
networks, and adult pornography. While not necessarily illegal, adult
pornography is against the policy of most organizations, the study
noted.

More than 50 per cent of hacking attempts came from within the U.S. and
from China, as many organizations were able to trace where intrusion
attempts originated. But hackers are using computers that are under
their control but located in other countries, combined with the use of
proxies to make detection more difficult.

The FBI said a Romanian hacker could use a proxy computer in China to
gain access to a compromised computer in the U.S., leading to a false
conclusion that the attack originated in the U.S.

Antivirus software is widely used, and most organizations also have
firewalls in place, the survey said. But 44 per cent reported that
intrusions came from within their own organizations, and "this is a
strong indicator that internal controls are extremely important and
should not be underemphasized while concentrating efforts on deterring
outside hackers," the FBI said.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed had implemented event logging on
their network, a measure the FBI said is a crucial element in tracking
crime. And half of those stored the logs on a remote protected server.

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