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Symantec: 2010 saw three million malware attacks

260,000 identities exposed for every data breach

More than three million malware attacks were reported in 2010, says Symantec.

According to the security firm's annual Norton Security Threat Report, that's 93 percent up on 2009. Furthermore, Norton said 286 new strains of malware were discovered in 2010 and on average 260,000 identities were exposed for every data breach that occurred.

The popularity of social networking sites, such as Facebook, as a way of distributing attacks, continues to grow, according to Norton. Cybercriminals are mainly using shortened URLs which hide malicious code to help spread their attacks. In fact, of the malicious URLs found on social networking sites, 73 percent were clicked 11 times or more, while a third were clicked between 11 and 50 times, proving that cybercriminals have hit on an effective method to distribute malware.

According to the report, attackers have changed their infection tactics, increasingly targeting vulnerabilities in Java to break into traditional computer systems, while mobile phone security has also become an issue as hackers have been increasingly encouraging smartphone owners to download malicious apps on their handsets.

The report also reveals the average price for stolen credit details was just 4p. Factors influencing prices include the rarity of the card and discounts offered for bulk purchases.

"During 2010 two major cybercrime events occurred: Stuxnet, which was a targeted attack on industrial targets including those in Iran, and Hydraq, which attacked employees at Google. These two events have fundamentally changed the threat landscape," said Con Mallon, Norton's internet security expert.

"We now see cybercriminals expanding their targets from beyond-straightforward mass-targeting of individuals' personal information, such as bank accounts, to specific and complicated threats which can target the information and physical infrastructure of nation states."

See also: Govt startup website featured link to malware site

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