Malicious activity on the internet continued to grow at a record pace in 2008, according to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report Volume XIV, with hackers employing more sophisticated techniques to steal consumer information.
According to the report, Symantec detected a 192 percent increase in spam from 119.6 billion messages in 2007 to 349.6 billion in 2008. Of these, bot networks were responsible for the distribution of approximately 90 percent of all spam e-mail.
According to Symantec spokesperson David Dzienciol, the deteriorating global economy has seen the underground economy thriving, with hackers focusing on the sale of stolen confidential data, in particular credit card and bank account credentials.
“Attackers are targeting user information for financial gain. Financial motivation continues to dominate 90 percent of attacks, with credit card information accounting for 32 percent of all stolen information for sale in 2008, up from 21 percent the previous year.”
Dzienciol said the report also uncovered the jump in malicious activity has coincided with the increasing uptake of broadband, because of the “always on” nature of broadband and the speed, which “attracts the hacker community.”
In order to protect themselves against malicious activity, Dzienciol said that businesses and consumers need to employ up-to-date security software systems with the appropriate defense mechanisms in place including up-to-date anti-virus software, back-up and data recovery systems. He believes it is important for businesses to “patch up their systems” as “number one priority.”
Marc Fossi, executive editor, Symantec Internet Security Threat Report XIV echoes these sentiments.
“The unfortunate reality is that innocent Web surfers can visit a compromised website and unknowingly place their personal and financial information at risk.
“Computer users have to be extra vigilant about their security practices.”