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A new year, a new security threat landscape

07 февраля 2007
2006 was the year of the botnet. From January onwards, there was a huge increase in the size and use of botnets. It is now reported that botnets are controlling more than two million compromised PCs. With more than 25% of malicious attacks being attributed to botnet related activity, what does this mean for computer security in 2007?

Network Box, an international threat management service, expects that with advancement in Trojan software, the threat from botnets will be reduced. But something needs to be done fast. In 2006, a 200% increase in spam attacks occurred, a large percentage of which were recognised as a result of botnet activity. In December, seven out of the top ten threats were Trojan horses, designed to gain unauthorised access to infected machines in pursuit of criminal activity.

Using Trojans, attackers have been able to develop increasingly sophisticated data-stealing malware. Simon Heron, technical director of Network Box is confident that despite the progression of Trojans, defences will be stronger. “Trojan software is now getting sophisticated enough to look for updates to remove these bugs. These campaigns will become much more successful in 2007”, he says.

In 2006, there was a noticeable reduction in new viruses emerging, although worm variants were on the increase. New versions of the Warezov worm, designed to carry and install Trojans, emerged in the last few months of the year and was named, amongst others, as aiding the rise of the botnets.

But how is the security threat landscape set to change in 2007?

The uptake of VoIP is expected to become a victim of attack for 2007. Heron says: “VoIP is an ideal target for hackers in 2007. It’s a new protocol and is quite complicated. It has not been integrated well into firewalls”.

WiFi attacks are also set to increase. Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for F-Secure predicts that vulnerabilities in WiFi drivers will be exploited in 2007. Hypponen also expects an increase in MMS and SMS spam in the new year, and predicts a rise in spyware on smartphones, used to monitor calls and messages.

Phishing is forecast to remain a growing problem, although the target for attackers is expected to change. Phishers will target smaller banks and major brand names, such as Flickr and MySpace. Hypponen says: “[phishing] is a perfected crime: the money is good and nobody is getting caught.”

And finally, the launch of Microsoft's Vista is expected to impact largely on the changes in the malware and security world in 2007. Writers will be forced to re-compose malware to get through Vista’s rules, but attackers are already racing to develop ‘Visa-compliant’ malware.

Patchlink announced findings from a customer survey that revealed that IT professionals are aware of the security threats expected in 2007, and are taking necessary precaution. Sixty six per cent of IT professionals plan to spend more on security in 2007 than they did in 2006. Happy new year!

Eleanor Dallaway, Infosecurity Today

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