Mass-mailers decline but mobile threats and phishing rise

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Mass-mailer viruses tapered off in the first quarter of this year but mobile viruses, phishing attacks, and exploits of software vulnerabilities emerged as top threats, according to a report by McAfee's AVERT research unit.

"Although we saw a steady decline in the rate of viruses produced from 2000 to 2004 ... we've seen a 20 percent increase of malware-related threats between 2004 and 2005 and anticipate that these numbers will stay at the higher rate of growth for the immediate future," Vincent Gullotto, vice president of McAfee AVERT, said in a statement.

Phishing attacks have become more targeted and use spyware and password stealers to target specific banks, researchers said.

Also, attackers are increasingly targeting reported vulnerabilities and focusing on systems that are not patched or updated. AVERT estimates that about 50 percent of systems on the internet are not properly patched.

Researchers said there were 1,000 vulnerabilities discovered in the first quarter of this year, up six percent from the year-ago quarter.

Virus writers also are focusing on the mobile platform: "There has been a very dramatic increase in Symbian malware targeting smart phones and mobile phones from 2004 Q4 to today. AVERT researchers tracked five in Q4 and now there are as many as 50 mobile malware threats in the wild."

As reported in SC Magazine here a study by Kaspersky labs found that instant messenging worms are on the increase.

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