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Attacks/Breaches

Report: Website Infection Rate Has Tripled Since 2007

Malicious Web pages now exceed more than 16,000 per day, Sophos says

Attackers are developing new ways to crack users' systems at a breakneck pace, according to a new report.

In its latest threat report, which was issued earlier this week, security firm Sophos estimated that the total number of unique malware samples in existence now exceeds 11 million. Sophos currently receives approximately 20,000 new samples of suspicious software every single day -- one every four seconds.

The firm's report reveals that most attacks are now designed to try and out-fox traditional security systems such as email-scanning. "It's all about the money," says Graham Cluley, senior technical consultant at Sophos.

The first half of 2008 has seen an explosion in threats spread via the Web, the preferred vector of attack for financially-motivated cybercriminals, Sophos says. On average, the company detects 16,173 malicious webpages every day - or one every five seconds. This is three times faster than the rate seen during 2007.

Over 90 percent of the Webpages that are spreading Trojan horses and spyware are legitimate sites, some belonging to household brands and Fortune 500 companies, Sophos reports. Most have been hacked through SQL injection.

With the continuing popularity of Web 2.0 social networking sites -- including Facebook and LinkedIn -- among business users, cybercriminals who have already gained access to user profiles may begin to use these as corporate directories, noting new employees and launching spear-phishing attacks specifically aimed at stealing information from new and unsuspecting employees, Sophos says.

"I can get a new employee's information, and then send you a message saying that I'm from human resources and I need your bank account information for direct deposit," Cluley says. "You might give it up before you knew what was happening."

To guard against this risk, all organizations should ensure employees are fully educated about the dangers of posting too much information on these social networking sites, and of accepting unsolicited friend requests, Sophos says.

"Businesses need to bite the bullet and take better care of securing their computers, networks, and Websites," Cluley says. "But office workers must realize it's not just the business fat cats who need to worry about this. Visiting an infected Website from your work PC, or sharing too much personal or corporate information on sites like Facebook, could lead to you being the criminal's route into your company."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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