TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Nasty Virus Writers Get Even Nastier

Nasty Virus Writers Get Even Nastier

Lisa Minter (
Tue, 5 Jul 2005 11:30:51 -0500

by Jay Wrolstad,

Malware practitioners are more prolific than ever these days and have
reached a level of sophistication where the viruses they produce can
spread across the Internet in minutes, according to a new report by
security specialist Sophos.

Thus far this year, Sophos has detected nearly 8,000 new viruses, up
59 percent from the first six months of last year. At the same time,
the average time from initial release to widespread infection is
decreasing rapidly.

According to Sophos, there now is a 50 percent chance of being
infected by an Internet worm in just 12 minutes of being online with
an unprotected Windows PC.

Money To Be Made

For users, the latest virus report should serve as an incentive to be
more diligent with security patches and other software updates, said
Gregg Mastoras, senior security analyst at Sophos.

Mastoras attributes the potential profits from spyware and other
attacks that let hackers obtain information -- such as bank-account
data or credit-card numbers -- as a primary reason for the rise in
virus activity.

In fact, he said, Sophos has seen a threefold increase in the number
of keylogging Trojans so far this year. Once planted, these keyloggers
run in the background and monitor a user's keystrokes, feeding
passwords and other personal information back to the Trojan writer.

Zafi, Sober Worms Top the List

The long-running Zafi-D worm accounts for more than a quarter of all
viruses reported to Sophos thus far this year. Dominating the top of
the monthly virus charts for the first four months, this worm
circulates under the guise of a Christmas greeting to trick users into
opening an infected attachment.

"Protection against this worm has been around for a while, but
infections are still being reported, which means consumers are not
protecting themselves," said Mastoras.

The Sober-N worm also is nasty. Primarily, it uses file-sharing
networks for distribution, then hides in the background of infected
PCs before upgrading itself to a newer version to churn out spam from
compromised machines.

Sophos noted that traditional PC threats seem to be consolidating,
which makes it difficult to identify certain kinds of attacks as being
spam, spyware or virus. Some Trojans, for example, infect user
machines to engage in several kinds of malicious activities.

Moving Beyond Microsoft

While the ubiquity of Windows-based PCs makes them the preferred
target, Mastoras said virus writers seeking personal information are
showing greater interest in Linux, Unix and Mac systems.

As a result, businesses and others using alternative operating systems
-- on desktops or servers -- should not let down their guard in the
belief that they are not vulnerable to attack, he said.

"It's important for all users to update their OS with the latest
patches and to use antivirus applications," Mastoras said.

Copyright 2005 NewsFactor Network, Inc.

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