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Analysis: the changing face of internet security

Symantec's Zulfikar Ramzan looks at emerging trends

We've all been affected by malicious internet activity, and advances in the web's technology means cyber criminals, hackers and spammers are rapidly adopting new and varied attack vectors. We look at whether predictions made by Symantec last year regarding internet security have come true and what the rest of the year will hold.

If the internet is to become a safer place, it is imperative to understand the trends and developments taking place in the internet threat landscape and maintain online security best practices.

In December 2008, Symantec researchers predicted a number of security trends to watch out for in 2009.

Now that we are into the second half of the year, it's time to check in on those predictions to see not only how they have panned out, but also what other developments have occurred.

What follows is an update on the predictions Symantec made late last year, as well as a few new trends that our analysts have seen develop in the first half of 2009.

A predictions check-up

The global economic recession has been one of the most noticeably exploited bases for attack in 2009. Its impact has been far-reaching and the computer industry is far from immune to its affects. Schemes and scams targeting victims of the recession and touting solutions to its problems are prevalent. Some of the threats are new and some have been around for awhile. These scams include:

  • Home repossession scams
  • Scams targeting people seeking mortgages or refinancing
  • Scams exploiting the US economic stimulus packages
  • Scams targeting the unemployed with offers almost too good to resist
  • Attacks seeking to exploit users of classifieds and online job placement boards
  • 'Work at home' schemes

Social networking becomes an even more popular attack vector
There's no question that online social networking continues to rise in popularity due to the numerous conveniences and opportunities it provides.

There's also no question that social networking provides phishers with a lot more bait than they used to have. Threats can come from all sorts of avenues within a social networking site.

Games, links and notifications are the low-hanging fruit for phishers to use as they lead people into dangerous territory. As society picks up one end of the social networking stick, it finds that it inevitably picks up the security problems on the other end.

Spam levels continue to rise
We may not want it, but it still keeps coming. In July 2009, an average of 89 percent of all email messages were spam. The overall amount does fluctuate, and a fight is underway to ward off or close down as many spammers as possible, but on average, the levels of spam have primarily risen rather than fallen.

Big headlines almost always lead to more spam, and major headlines from 2009, such as the death of Michael Jackson, the H1N1 flu outbreak and the Italian earthquake are obvious examples of this.

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NEXT PAGE: Web threats grow in complexity and sophistication

  1. Symantec's Zulfikar Ramzan looks at emerging trends in security
  2. Web threats grow in complexity and sophistication
  3. New and developing trends


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