A day doesn’t go by with a new report that suggests the internet is rife with hackers and cyber criminals out to steal your identity, money or disable your computer.
Internet users are becoming more savvy to the risks of viruses and malicious attacks, simply because they are on the rise, and the attack mechanisms or threat vectors are proliferating into mobile devices and social networks.
Kaspersky Lab’s research and analysis team have reported that there are 30,000 new threats per day, and there are 2.9 million malware signatures in existence. That is, there are nearly three million viruses that have been developed for malicious intent. Companies such as Kaspersky store malicious software samples in their databases as part of a pro-active systems that block viruses before they can attack your computer.
Reports of cybercrime are hard to quantify, and the thieves often go un-punished. But they are certainly making money from the online scams. One cyber criminal arrested in Moscow was caught driving a late model BMW. It’s hard to quantify the size of profits made in the illegal internet underworld, because organisations such as banks don’t often report the size of their losses from Internet scams.
The numbers are rising. In 2008, there were 275,000 reports of cybercrime in the US alone, up from 207,000 in previous year. Estimated losses last year in the US amounted to US$265 million.
The cyber criminals are not only developing new algorithms and more sophisticated tricks – they are also increasing their computing power. By deploying software robots that run automatically, the bad guys can set up malicious software attacks that hit computer networks continuously and with venom.
Botnets can take control of your computer, undertake drive-by download attacks by exploiting web browser vulnerabilities, and use worms, Trojan viruses and backdoor means to invade and damage computer networks. In addition, today’s botnets have more computing power than the largest civilian supercomputer.
The most famous of the botnet attacks is the Conficker or Kido worm, which was created via a powerful botnet of infected machines. Conficker exploited a patch in the Microsoft operating system and was initially spread via local networks and removable storage and ended up infecting millions of computers around the world.
The next frontier for the online crooks is the mobile device, online social networks, and gaming platforms. Our Kaspersky team have identified 17,000 new gaming Trojans while mobile malware is on the rise in Asia. The Kaspersky Lab research team, in its latest report, discovered that mobile malware is the fastest growing form of malicious software, with cyber crooks spotting a big opportunity to hack the smartphone market for monetary gain. Competition is actually increasing among the online criminals to get into this market, and the number of threats has doubled in the last three years.
The main form of attack on the mobile user has been to send expensive SMS messages from the phone, to premium calling numbers, without the user’s knowledge. Most SMS viruses, or Trojans, are disguised as applications offering free SMS service or web access, or as adult content.
The bad guys are also continually seeking to get inside your computer via applications such as Adobe that are frequently used, putting the onus on users to update their systems with new security patches.
Needless to say, Kaspersky Lab continues to launch new products aimed at keeping consumers and businesses safe from the underground hackers and criminals.
They include new mobile software security offerings, and our new 2010 Internet Security product suite includes a Safe Run feature that allows users to browse, open, or run any email attachment, or unknown program with confidence that no harm will be done to their computer. In effect, the user can run any application in a completely protected virtual environment that is walled-off from the computer’s applications and machine settings.
Software programs aimed at shutting down and limiting the cyber crooks will become even more advanced and Kaspersky Lab aims to be at the forefront of that innovation.
– Alexey Gromyko is the managing director of Kaspersky Lab, Australia and New Zealand (www.kasperskyanz.com.au)