Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Hackers Target Consumers

Two new studies show consumers still clueless about computer security, and hungry attackers putting them high on the menu

It's duck-hunting season, and consumers are the ducks.

That's the conclusion of two separate studies published in the last few days by security researchers studying end-user behavior and computer crime trends.

In a study of banking customers released last Friday, the Association of Payment and Clearing Services (APACS) -- which represents most of the major banks in the U.K. -- found that many online consumers still don't follow even the most basic security practices.

And in its latest Internet Security Threat Report, released today, Symantec found that consumers are increasingly being targeted by attackers for identity theft, fraud, and other financially-motivated crimes.

"Attackers see end users as the weakest link in the security chain and are constantly targeting them in an effort to profit," says Arthur Wong, senior vice president for Symantec's Security Response and Managed Services unit.

Despite warnings from all over the industry, consumers continue to practice unsafe computing, according to the APACS report. In a study of 1,835 people who regularly use the Internet to access their current savings and credit card accounts, some 3.8 percent said they would still respond to an unsolicited email asking them to follow a link and re-enter personal security details.

Less than half of those surveyed regularly update their anti-virus software. Two-thirds have not installed a firewall, the study says. Only one-tenth are using anti-spam software. And more than a third of respondents store their passwords by writing them down or storing them somewhere on their computers.

As with many diseases, the most at risk are the oldest and the youngest, according to the APACS report. Nearly 70 percent of people 55 and older never change their passwords, and only half of them memorize their passwords without writing them down. By contrast, 12 percent of respondents under age 24 would click on the link to divulge account details -- three times higher than the national average.

Meanwhile, home users have become the most targeted attack sector, accounting for 86 percent of all targeted attacks, according to the Symantec study. Financial services businesses were a distant second. Symantec researchers have identified increased attacks aimed at client-side applications, increased use of evasive tactics to avoid detection, and a higher percentage of targeted attacks.

And more vulnerabilities are turning up on desktop devices, Symantec says. Web applications accounted for 69 percent of all vulnerabilities documented by the security software company in the first half of 2006, and the number of vulnerabilities found in Web browsers has also increased, the researchers say.

The APACS study supports the Symantec data. The number of separate phishing attacks increased by more than 800 percent between August of 2005 and August 2006, according to the banking organization. Total online banking losses in the U.K. last year were about $44.1 million; credit card fraud losses were about $417 million, with Internet fraud accounting for about one-quarter of the total, APACS says.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC) 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

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    Navigating Security in the Cloud
    Diya Jolly, Chief Product Officer, Okta,  12/4/2019
    SOC 2s & Third-Party Assessments: How to Prevent Them from Being Used in a Data Breach Lawsuit
    Beth Burgin Waller, Chair, Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Practice , Woods Rogers PLC,  12/5/2019
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Cartoon Contest
    Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
    Latest Comment: Our Endpoint Protection system is a little outdated... 
    Current Issue
    Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
    In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
    Flash Poll
    Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
    Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
    Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
    IBM Cloud Pak System 2.3 is vulnerable to cross-site request forgery which could allow an attacker to execute malicious and unauthorized actions transmitted from a user that the website trusts. IBM X-Force ID: 158015.
    PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
    IBM SmartCloud Analytics 1.3.1 through 1.3.5 could allow a remote attacker to gain unauthorized information and unrestricted control over Zookeeper installations due to missing authentication. IBM X-Force ID: 159518.
    PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
    Platform System Manager in IBM Cloud Pak System 2.3 is potentially vulnerable to CVS Injection. A remote attacker could execute arbitrary commands on the system, caused by improper validation of csv file contents. IBM X-Force ID: 165179.
    PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
    IBM WebSphere Application Server - Liberty is vulnerable to cross-site scripting. This vulnerability allows users to embed arbitrary JavaScript code in the Web UI thus altering the intended functionality potentially leading to credentials disclosure within a trusted session. IBM X-Force ID: 171245...
    PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
    The Last.fm desktop app (Last.fm Scrobbler) through 2.1.39 on macOS makes HTTP requests that include an API key without the use of SSL/TLS. Although there is an Enable SSL option, it is disabled by default, and cleartext requests are made as soon as the app starts.