safety studies assess the latest online risks
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
July 31-August 6, 2007; Issue 927
High Tech Office column
column has recently been looking at a series of gadgets to help users
get through the summer holiday season. But the summer isn’t just
gadgets and fun in the sun. In June, security company McAfee revisited
its Internet security forecast for 2007 to see how the year was shaping
There’s good news and not so good news.
vice-president Jeff Green noted: “As we predicted, professional and
organized criminals continue to drive a lot of the malicious activity
on the Net. However, we were surprised that mobile malware and image
spam tapered off.”
According to McAfee, the trends to watch include:
A large rise in password-stealing phishing websites, up 784% in 2007
Q1. McAfee predicts this threat will spread from sites mimicking
financial institutions and online auction and payment sites to popular
collaboration websites such as wikis.
• The total amount of spam
has stayed steady so far this year, but more and more spam messages are
using images in place of text; this makes it harder to detect with
traditional spam filters and increases the bandwidth wasted
transmitting and storing the spam messages. A year ago, image spam
accounted for 10% of the total spam. In November 2006, that had risen
to 40%. Early in 2007, that had risen to 65%.
• Mobile attacks
have been lower than predicted and are lower than last year, though a
dozen new varieties of malicious software targeting mobile phones were
found in the first quarter of the year.
• Adware bundled with
software downloads has gotten a (justifiably) bad reputation. As a
result, mainstream companies trying to target consumers are looking
elsewhere, for example at ad-supported video downloads.
of digitized records containing personal information is up, often
through loss or theft of portable storage devices and notebooks.
According to Attrition.org, more than 13.7 million personal records
have been lost in the first half of 2007, compared with 1.8 million in
the same period of 2006.
• “Parasitic malware” – viruses that
modify existing files on your system – are making a comeback this year;
McAfee’s Avert Labs’ virus tracking system has found over 150 new
variants thus far this year.
In a separate report, the company
looked at the continued growth of cybercrime. It reported that 1.1
billion people worldwide are online, creating a huge global opportunity
for crime. An FBI estimate put the 2005 losses to cybercrime in the
U.S. at US$67 billion; a 2006 study of Canadian business found that
almost two-thirds had lost income, customers or productivity as a
result of cybercrime, with many businesses reporting higher losses to
cybercrime than to traditional physical theft.
Stay safe this summer.•