The report from FaceTime Security Labs found the number of attacks affecting IM and P2P networks increased 2200 percent in 2005 compared to 2004. Also, the frequency of attacks appeared to be accelerating with almost 800 incidents recorded in the last three months of 2005 alone.
The research also reported a quarter-on-quarter increase of 90 percent in the number of security incidents. In 2005, there was a dramatic change in hacker attacks across multiple networks, where in 2004 security incidents spread via one network only. Researchers also discovered that individual viruses or security breaches were 19 times more likely to use two or more public networks in the last three months of 2005 compared with the first three months of that year.
The MSN network experienced the largest number of incidents in both 2004 and 2005. For 2005, 57 percent of IM incidents targeted MSN, compared to 37 percent targeting AOL and 6 percent targeting Yahoo!.
Year-on-year growth rates were largest on the AOL network with a 1300 percent increase of security incidents. Attacks on P2P file-sharing networks, while constituting only seven percent of all incidents in 2005, grew at the aggressive pace of over 5000 percent compared to the previous year.
Michael Osterman, founder of Osterman Research said it was "important for end users and IT managers to understand the business risks associated with the unprecedented growth of IM and P2P threats."
"IM and P2P threats have reached critical levels, but it is the sophistication of these attacks that is even more alarming," said Kailash Ambwani, President and CEO of FaceTime Communications. "As we move into a new year we anticipate greynet security incidents to increase in number and sophistication."