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New Malicious Web Links Up More Than 500 Percent In First Half 2009

Vulnerabilities level off, phishing is down, IBM XForce report says
There has been a 508 percent increase in the number of new malicious Web links discovered in the first half of 2009, according to a security research report issued earlier today.

According to the IBM X-Force 2009 Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report, the malware problem is no longer limited to malicious domains or untrusted Web sites. The X-Force report notes an increase in the presence of malicious content on trusted sites, including popular search engines, blogs, bulletin boards, personal Web sites, online magazines, and mainstream news sites.

The X-Force report also reveals that the level of veiled Web exploits, especially PDF files, are at an all-time high, pointing to increased sophistication of attackers, according to IBM. PDF vulnerabilities disclosed in the first half of 2009 surpassed disclosures from all of 2008.

"From Q1 to Q2 alone, the amount of suspicious, obfuscated, or concealed content monitored by the IBM ISS Managed Security Services team nearly doubled," the report says.

"The trends highlighted by the report seem to indicate that the Internet has finally taken on the characteristics of the Wild West, where no one is to be trusted," says X-Force Director Kris Lamb. "There is no such thing as safe browsing today...we've reached a tipping point where every Website should be viewed as suspicious, and every user is at risk."

The X-Force report found a significant rise in Web application attacks with the intent to steal and manipulate data and take command and control of infected computers. For example, SQL injection attacks -- attacks where criminals inject malicious code into legitimate Web sites -- rose 50 percent from Q4 2008 to Q1 2009 and then nearly doubled from Q1 to Q2.

The report also says that vulnerabilities have reached a plateau. There were 3,240 new vulnerabilities discovered in the first half of 2009 -- an 8 percent decrease over the first half of 2008. The annual disclosure rate appears to be fluctuating between 6,000 and 7,000 new disclosures each year, IBM says.

Phishing has decreased dramatically, the report says. Analysts believe that banking Trojans are taking the place of phishing attacks geared toward financial targets. In the first half of 2009, 66 percent of phishing was targeted at the financial industry, down from 90 percent in 2008. Online payment targets make up 31 percent of the share.

Nearly half of all vulnerabilities remain unpatched, IBM says. Similar to the end of 2008, nearly half (49 percent) of all vulnerabilities disclosed in the first half of 2009 had no vendor-supplied patch at the end of the period.

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