Blacks hats winning, says Symantec

Traditional security technologies are losing the battle against the black hats and malicious code writers, says the security firm Symantec.

In a mid-year review of its IT security risks and predictions made early in 2010, Symantec has warned that there are simply too many new cyber threats out there for traditional automated systems to catch.

The review found that Symantec created 2,895,802 new malicious code signatures last year alone, a 71% increase over 2008 and representing more than half of all malicious code signatures ever created by the security firm. Symantec said they identified more than 240 million distinct new malicious programs, a 100% increase over 2008.

"In just the first half of the year, we have created 1.8 million new malicious code signatures and identified more than 124 million distinct new malicious programs." the report said. "This means it is becoming less likely that traditional security technologies will catch every new threat out there; there are simply too many of them, even with automated systems in place.

Not just capture and analysis

"Technology that does not rely on capturing and analysing a threat in order to protect against it, like Symantec's Reputation-Based Security, is indeed becoming imperative. Other methods that are also playing a key role in combating today's most pervasive threats are heuristic, behavioural and intrusion prevention technologies."

Symantec's country manager, Singapore, Tan Yuh Woei, said other predicted digital security threat strategies on the rise included:

Phishing attacks: Through the first half of this year, about one in every 476 e-mails included a phishing attack.

"What makes these attacks even more dangerous is that they are completely operating system agnostic," said Tan. "In a world that is becoming less centralised around the PC, phishing allows cyber criminals to take advantage of computer users regardless of what platform they are operating on."

Shortened URLs: At its peak in July 2009, 9.3% of spam included some form of shortened hyperlink provided by one of the many free online shortening services; this is equivalent to more than 10 billion spam e-mails each day, worldwide.

Historical peak in spam

"In April of 2010, however, this peak figure nearly doubled to 18% of spam, the current historical peak," Tan said.

Social networking apps: This is difficult to track directly, but anecdotal feedback and analysis of URLs from Symantec Hosted Services' Web Security Service both suggest that social networking sites are triggering more blocks in 2010 for malicious content than they did in 2009.

"On average in 2009, one in 451 Web Security Service blocks related to a social networking site. However, in 2010, this number rose to one in just 301," Tan said.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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