Cyber-crooks switch to 'soft target' home users

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Cyber-crooks switch to 'soft target' home users

Poor security offers rich pickings for hackers and phishers.

Poor security offers rich pickings for hackers and phishers.

Hackers are increasingly focusing on 'soft-target' home users, a new report has found.

Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report warned that hackers are exploiting the fact that home users are less likely to have security protection in place. 

Attackers are using a variety of techniques to escape detection and prolong their presence on systems in order to gain more time to steal information.

They are also hijacking the PC for marketing purposes, or to provide remote access or otherwise compromise confidential information for profit.

Home users are now the most targeted attack sector, accounting for 86 percent of all targeted attacks, followed by financial services companies.

Symantec identified more attacks aimed at client-side applications, along with the increased use of evasive tactics to avoid detection.

The security firm pointed out that large, widespread internet worms have given way to smaller, more targeted attacks focusing on fraud, data theft and criminal activity.

"Attackers see end users as the weakest link in the security chain and are constantly targeting them in an effort to profit," said Arthur Wong, senior vice president of Symantec Security Response and Managed Services.

Symantec acknowledged that software vendors and enterprises have successfully adapted to the changing threat environment by implementing security best practices.

But attackers have begun to adopt new techniques such as aiming malicious code at client-side applications such as Web browsers, email clients and other desktop applications.

Vulnerabilities affecting Web applications accounted for 69 percent of all vulnerabilities documented by Symantec in the first half of 2006.

Such flaws have also become increasingly prominent. Symantec documented 47 vulnerabilities in Mozilla's Firefox browser (compared to 17 in the last reporting period), 38 in Microsoft's Internet Explorer (compared to 25), and 12 in Apple's Safari (compared to six).

Phishers are also attempting to bypass filtering technologies by creating multiple randomised messages and distributing them in a broad uncontrolled fashion.

During the first six months of 2006, 157,477 unique phishing messages were detected, representing an increase of 81 percent.

Spam made up 54 percent of all monitored email traffic, a slight increase from 50 percent in the previous period.

Most spammers are opting to exclude malicious code with their spam to decrease the chances of being blocked and instead include links to websites hosting malicious code.

Financial gain remains the motivation behind many of the threats, according to Symantec.

Bot networks are not only being used to spread malicious code, but to send spam or phishing messages, download adware and spyware, attack organisations and harvest confidential information.

Symantec identified more than 4.6 million distinct, active bot network computers and observed an average of 57,717 active bot network computers per day during this period.

Bot networks are also commonly used in denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, a major threat to organisations which can result in the disruption of communication, loss of revenue, damage to brand and reputation, and exposure to criminal extortion.

Symantec observed an average of 6,110 DoS attacks per day during the first half of 2006.
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