Computer Crime Research Center

Digital attacks decline worldwide while attacks on USA rise

November has seen a decline of 8% in the number of overt digital attacks worldwide to 14,812 - after four consecutive record-breaking months including October - when the highest number ever was recorded at 16,167. Attacks on the US, however, have continued to rise by a further 13% during November.

Europe’s sharp plunge accounted for a large portion of the overall decline seen in November. This was principally due to the UK, where attacks fell sharply by nearly 70% from 2,253 in October to 679 in November. There was a concerted effort on the part of UK bodies such as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC) to alert small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as large businesses respectively to the escalating threat from hacker attacks early in November.

The most attacked countries in November were the US (6,642), Brazil (1,365), UK (679), Canada (651) and Slovenia (514). In 2002, the most attacked country in the world remained the US with 26,792 overt digital attacks, followed by Brazil at 5,568, UK at 4,950, Germany at 4,621 and Italy at 2,652. The attacks on the US in 2002 exceeded those on the next four biggest victim countries combined.

“The main reasons behind the escalating attacks on US targets have been the rising penetration of 24/7 Internet connectivity within the American business, government and domestic environment coupled with criminal opportunism and some antagonism towards US foreign policy,” said DK Matai, Chairman and CEO of mi2g. “In 2002, we have seen major hacker groups coalesce to harm and profit from Western commercial targets motivated by pro-Islamic and anti-capitalist agendas as well as criminal activity such as identity theft, credit card fraud, software and data piracy.”

Successful overt digital attacks - as opposed to attempts, scans or covert attacks - on Government systems worldwide rose slightly from 143 to 153 in November, showing a tendency amongst hackers to gravitate towards relatively easy to penetrate commercial targets - small to medium size entities in particular - who may not have the budgets at their disposal to protect themselves adequately. The most attacked Government systems in November were those of Australia (32) followed by the US (25), China (13), Taiwan (12) and El Salvador (10).

Based on CERT vulnerabilities data, 29% of new software vulnerabilities - announced in November - impact Linux, followed by 21.4% which impact the Apple Mac OS and 14.3% each of vulnerabilities impact AIX, Solaris and Windows respectively. Apple Mac OS demonstrated a rising trend in reported vulnerabilities in November and Microsoft Windows demonstrated a falling trend. However, the most attacked operating system in November remained Microsoft Windows with 67%, ie, 9,945 of all attacks, followed by Linux with 15% (2,240), Solaris with 8.6% (1,273), BSD with 3.04% (451) and Mac OS with 0.27% (41)


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