Computer Crime Research Center


Russian Business Network was also heavily linked to distribution of malicious code

Date: May 05, 2008
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: According to premier

T security providers Symantec, the number of computer viruses in circulation has passed well-beyond one million for the first time, and shows no sign of abating anytime soon. Symantec claims over 700,000 new viruses were identified in 2007, an increase of almost 500% over the number identified last year. Symantec reported this in its twice-yearly Global Internet Security Threat Report.

Most viruses originate from the US, accounting for 25% of all malware. Madrid, Spain is the city with the largest number of so-called 'zombie' computers, being machines co-opted into performing illegal tasks remotely by criminals based elsewhere. Overall, there are an average of 62,000 zombie computers operating every day around the globe, up 17% over last year.

While never has the need to trust one's Government ever been greater, it is from the government sector that most "identity exposure" come in the way of theft or loss of personal information from compromised databases, totaling 60% of the sum of the last half year. Educational institutes are also prime spots to steal ID's and the like, as 24% were lost from there, while healthcare was the third greatest source, losing 16%.

Criminals using unique phishing messages, being e-mails crafted to fool bank customers into entering fake websites where they unwittingly are made to hand over personal details grew by 5% to over the 200,000 of last year. There were, on average, 1,134 new messages sent out each day and 66% of all phishing websites were fake financial sector businesses. Social networking sites have also been invaded by phishers. Symantec said, "The report also found that attackers are seeking confidential end-user information that can be fraudulently used for financial gain and are less focused on the computer or device containing the information."

China is now right behind the U.S. as the second-ranked state for phishing websites, possibly related to an attempt to exploit the upcoming Olympic Games, being held in Beijing in August. The Russian Business Network (RBN) was also heavily linked to distribution of malicious code, but they suddenly disappeared overnight in November after the company had become synonymous with graft and corruption.

On how to stay safer when online, Stephen Trilling, vice president of Symantec Security Technology and Response, said "Avoiding the dark alleys of the Internet was sufficient advice in years past. Today's criminal is focused on compromising legitimate Web sites to launch attacks on end-users, which underscores the importance of maintaining a strong security posture no matter where you go and what you do on the Internet."

Overall, it is clear that a robust, large and financially strong underground economy has grown up to buy, sell and trade in stolen ID's and information. Just like any other developing economy, this underground colossus is characterized by a number of common traits. Just as Adam Smith would point out, the old definers of marketplace price -- supply and demand, decide how much the market grows and in which direction, as well. Stolen information, such as credit card numbers, which is now commonplace, made up for 13% of all advertised stolen items, with the price slumping 22% from the period previous, selling for as little as $0.40. The location of the associated bank of a stolen credit card also influences price. Credit cards from banks in the EU are worth more than those emanating from the United States; due to the smaller supply of E.U. credit cards in circulation, meaning the card is more valuable to criminals. Bank account credentials are now the most frequently advertised stolen item, composing 225 of all stolen goods, listed for as little as $10 a piece.

On how to view the coming need for IT security, Adriano Diaz, VP and information security manager of BankUnited, said, "Remaining vigilant and informed on the latest evolutions in the threat landscape is critical to maintaining a strong security posture."

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