P2P attacks multiplying

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A report that studied instant messenger (IM) and peer-to-peer (P2P) security attacks showed that while incidents targeting public IM channels stabilized last quarter, the number of P2P and multi-channel attacks are rapidly increasing.

Yesterday, FaceTime Communications released its Q1 2006 IMPact Report, detailing trends in greynet security since the New Year began. Defined as those applications not officially supported or sanctioned by IT, greynet applications include - but are not limited to - IM, P2P and spyware programs. FaceTime Labs analyzed security incidents in these real-time communications channels for the report. 

FaceTime researchers said that the number of security incidents was 723 percent higher last quarter than during the same period last year.

Attacks on public IM channels did not increase substantially, but the complexity of incidents did. And though IRC and other chat channels continue to be the main threat vector, intruders were less likely to use them instead of P2P attacks. This year's number of attacks using P2P has already surpassed the number of those that occurred during all of 2005.

FaceTime stressed that multi-channel propagation was 23 times more common during the first quarter of 2006 than it was during the same quarter of 2005. 

"The number of threats across multiple P2P and IM channels demonstrates the need for a comprehensive approach to managing threats," said Tyler Wells, research director at FaceTime. "As malware creators increasingly attack these mainstream applications, administrators should ensure they have the ability to control and manage them."  

Don Montgomery, vice president of marketing at IM security vendor Akonix, said companies gradually are recognizing the need for IM security – although he estimated only about ten percent of PCs in mid-size and large enterprises are secured against IM threats.

"We're starting to see a shift," he said. "The momentum's there."

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