By Renai LeMay
01 July 2005
There is a 50 percent chance your unprotected Windows PC will be
compromised within 12 minutes of going online, says security vendor
Highlighting the increasing speed of online attacks in research
covering the last six months of virus activity, the vendor said the
news was mostly grim.
Authors of malware such as spam, viruses, phishing scams and spyware
increased both the volume and sophistication of their assaults,
releasing almost 8,000 new viruses in the first half of 2005 and
increasingly teaming up in joint ventures to make money. The new-virus
figure is up 59 percent on the same period last year.
"With financial gain rather than notoriety becoming more of a
motivation, spammers and virus writers have been drawn together with
more traditional criminal elements," said Sophos Australia and New
Zealand senior technical consultant Sean Richmond.
While the usual virus culprits like Zafi-D, Netsky-P and Sober-N came
under the spotlight, Sophos said growth in Trojan attacks -- where
malicious software allows a remote attacker to gain backdoor access to
a PC -- was perhaps the most significant development in the
"Sophos has seen a three-fold increase in the number of key-logging
Trojans so far this year," the company said. "Trojans are delivered to
target organisations via e-mail attachments or links to Web sites.
They are often used by remote hackers to steal priviledged
information, and very often to launch further attacks."
But Sophos made it clear the news wasn't all bad. "Businesses in
Australia and New Zealand mostly have it right when it comes to
protecting their desktops, servers and gateways," said Richmond. "On
the other hand, we've seen significant numbers of unprotected home
computers become zombies for spammers,"
Richmond praised the Australian telecomms regulator for its recent
move to press charges against Perth-based alleged spammer Wayne
Mansfield. Mansfield is one of Australia's most notorious Internet
marketeers and stands accused of sending at least 56 million -- mostly
unsolicited -- e-mails in the period after the Spam Act was enacted in
Events further afield also caught Sophos' attention, as it highlighted
several recent prosecutions of virus and privacy-related Internet
One dealt with the impending trial of German teenager Sven Jaschan,
who has admitted writing the Netsky and Sasser worms, while another
involved the arrest of a Cypriot man who was spying on a 17-year-old
girl via her own Webcam.
"Four United Kingdom phishers were also jailed this week," said the
Attend the Black Hat Briefings and
Training, Las Vegas July 23-28 -
2,000+ international security experts,
10 tracks, no vendor pitches.