Users' changing habits, as well as their discipline in protecting against threats, have seen a shift in the nature and location of Internet-based attacks – a trend that will continue in 2007. 


In its Security Threat Report 2007, Sophos found that the most prolific e-mail threats during 2006 were the Mytob, Netsky, Sober and Zafi families of worms, which together accounted for more than 75% of all infected e-mail.
However, Sophos predicts that 2007 is likely to see a significant shift away from the use of e-mail security threats, with cyber criminals instead looking to exploit the continued global growth in web use, as well as user-defined web content.
E-mail will continue to be an important vector for malware authors, though the increasing adoption of email gateway security is making hackers turn to other routes for infection.
The number of websites being infected with malware is on the rise. SophosLabs is currently uncovering an average of 5 000 new URLs hosting malicious code each day.
The Internet now represents the easiest way for cyber criminals to gain entry to corporate networks, as more users are accessing unregulated sites, downloading applications and streaming audio/video, potentially jeopardising security in the process.
"Many businesses aren't geared up to gain insight into users' online behaviour, let alone control it, and it's vital that they now begin to examine ways to incorporate web security into their overall IT security strategy," says Brett Myroff, CEO of Sophos distributor NetXactics.
In addition, it would appear the trojans are taking over from spyware as the favoured way of compromising users' information or identity.
During 2006 Sophos saw a decrease in the use of traditional spyware, in favour of multiple Trojan downloaders.
The hacker sends a 'special offer' (or similar) e-mail in an attempt to dupe recipients into visiting a website containing a malicious downloader.
The executable file will attempt to download additional Trojans, a process that may be repeated multiple times to try and disable all security defences, before it downloads a spyware component – which will then have a better chance of success.
Statistics reveal that in January 2006 spyware accounted for 50.,3% of all infected email, while 40,32% were e-mails linking to websites containing Trojan downloaders.
By December 2006 the figures had been reversed, with the latter now accounting for 51,24%, and spyware-infected e-mails reduced to 41,87% This trend looks set to continue into 2007 and beyond.
Sophos notes that 30% of all malware is now written in China, most of it taking the form of Trojans used for gaining a backdoor into users' computers.
Surprisingly, 17% of malware written in China is designed for the specific purpose of stealing passwords from online gamers.
In contrast, malware authors based in Brazil are responsible for 14,2% of all malware, the majority of which is designed to steal information from online bankers.
"Malware often exploits current country-specific online trends, and identifying its source helps security experts and authorities strengthen criminal profiles and bring the perpetrators to justice," Myroff adds.
Sophos detected 41 536 new pieces of malware in 2006, bringing the total protected against to 207 684.
Of these threats, Trojans now outnumber Windows viruses and worms by 4:1. The proportion of infected e-mails was down from 1 in 44 during 2005 to just 1 in 337 during 2006.