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'Political hacktivism' surged in 2009, says report

McAfee says US is no longer the sole target

Last year, the web saw a surge in 'political hactivism' - politically-motivated attacks on the internet - reports security software developer McAfee.

According to the security vendor's '2009 Q4 Threats Report', the US is no longer the sole target of 'political hacktivism' and nor is China the sole origin for these types of attacks.

McAfee pointed to recent political attacks targeting the Polish government, the Copenhagen Climate Conference and Latvia's Independence Day, and even the UK, the company said, highlighting an attack University of East Anglia's web servers, which with allegedly hacked by Russian freelance hackers, hired by climate change sceptics.

The report also revealed 135.5 billion spam messages were sent every day in Q4 of 2009, although the number of spam messages received was down 24 percent on Q3.

McAfee also said the UK was home to 3.2 percent of newly created zombie computers globally, making it ninth in the list of the biggest zombie-producing countries.

China came in top, and was also responsible for 54.4 percent of all SQL injection attacks.

The security vendor said spammers spent 2009 capitalising on events that hit the headlines, from Michael Jackson's death to the Air France plane crash.

The security vendor also said 2009 saw an increase in fake antivirus software that convinces web users their PC is infected and encourages them to pay for fake security software, along with attacks on social networks such as Faceboook and attacks centred on web 2.0 services.

"In Q4, we saw spam activity drop, but identified some interesting trends developing in terms of the geographic distribution of cyber threats and the types of threats executed," said Mike Gallagher from McAfee Labs.

"China emerged as the worldwide leader in both zombie production and the execution of SQL-injection attacks, while internet-based attacks played a bigger role and will continue to do so as cybercriminals target the most popular social destinations in 2010."

See also: McAfee: Illegal file-sharing sites on the rise

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