Symantec: Malicious Internet Attacks Jumped 81% in 2011

There were more than 5.5 billion malicious malware attacks on computer systems in 2011, an increase of more than 81 percent from the previous year, according to a new report by the computer security firm Symantec.
The increase was mostly a result of surging “polymorphic” malware attacks, particularly using email-borne malware.
Polymorphic malware is harmful or intrusive computer software such as a virus, worm, Trojan or spyware that constantly changes, or “morphs,” making it difficult to detect with anti-malware programs.
Targeted malware were potentially the most insidious of these attacks, Symantec said. Politically motivated “hacktivist” attacks, data breaches and attacks on Certificate Authorities made the headlines in 2011.
“Greater numbers of more widespread attacks employed advanced techniques, such as server-side polymorphism to colossal effect,” Symantec’s report said.
This server technique enables attackers to generate a nearly unique version of their malware for each potential victim.
On the more positive said, spam levels fell considerably and Symantec’s report shows a decrease in total new vulnerabilities discovered, down 20 percent.
However, the drop in spam can be tied to the rise in online social networks and their vulnerability to attacks.
“Today these sites attract millions of users and provide fertile ground for cyber criminals,” Symantec’s report said. “The very nature of social networks makes users feel that they are among friends and perhaps not at risk.  Unfortunately, it’s exactly the opposite and attackers are turning to these sites to target new victims.”
See Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report.

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