Cyber gangs are now targeting Apple users with the intention of stealing money, as they extend their attention beyond Windows systems.
This is according to Sophos's Security Threat Report 2008 which examines the threat landscape over the previous 12 months and predicts emerging cybercrime trends for 2008.
Sophos is warning computer users of all operating systems not to be complacent about security.
Sophos experts note that malware for Macs has been seen before, but until recently organised criminal gangs have not felt the need to target Mac users when there are so many more poorly protected Windows PCs available.
However, late 2007 saw Mac malware not just being written by researchers demonstrating vulnerabilities or showing off to their peers, but by financially-motivated hackers who have recognised there is a viable and profitable market in infecting Macs alongside Windows PCs. For example, many versions of the malicious OSX/RSPlug Trojan horse, first seen in November 2007, were planted on websites designed to infect surfing Apple Mac computers for the purposes of phishing and identity theft.
"Now is a good time for Mac users to prove their computer decision was, in fact, a smart one. If they fail to send a clear message to hackers that it is not financially rewarding to target Macs by, for example, not clicking on unsolicited weblinks or downloading unknown code from the web, there's a chance that more cybercriminals will decide it's worth their while to develop more malware for Macs during 2008,” says Brett Myroff, CEO of master Sophos distributor, NetXactics.
Sophos experts are now discovering 6000 infected webpages every day – one every 14 seconds. 83% of these webpages actually belong to innocent companies and individuals, unaware that their sites have been hacked.
Cybercriminals can target any computer user by spamming out emails containing links to the poisoned webpages, directing unsuspecting victims to the malicious code. The website can determine if the visiting computer is a Mac or a PC, and delivers malware custom-written for the surfer's operating system.
As computer users wise up to traditional malware attacks, such as email-borne worms, Sophos's Security Threat Report 2008 also reveals that the wider use of new mobile technologies and Wi-Fi enabled devices, like Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch, may be opening up new vectors of attack for hackers.
Flaws have been found in the mobile email program and Safari browser installed on such devices – but while uptake remains limited cybercriminals seeking large returns are unlikely to exploit these avenues on a major scale in the near future. However, as personal Wi-Fi devices grow in popularity, the risks will no doubt increase.
Sophos experts also note that the low cost ultra-mobile PCs are likely to gain the attention of the cyber underworld as sales continue to grow.
"The ultra-mobile ASUS EEE laptop, like many others, comes pre-installed with Unix, making it automatically immune to the vast majority of spyware and malware attacks," says Myroff. "However, it's still possible to lose money through phishing and identity theft on any device with an Internet connection.”
During 2007, it became more common for countries to openly accuse each other of engaging in cybercrime, despite the fact that it can be extraordinarily difficult to prove where an attack originated and if it is government-sponsored or purely a lone hacker acting independently.
2008 is likely to bring more accusations, but so far there has been no actual evidence of state sponsored cyberspying, according to Sophos. “There is no doubt, however, of the importance of securing critical computers inside government organisations from hackers, no matter whether they are motivated by politics, espionage or simply money,” Myroff says.
The top ten list of malware found on the web in 2007 reads as follows:
* Mal/Iframe – 53.3%
* Mal/ObfJS – 9.8%
* Troj/Decdec – 6.6%
* Troj/Psyme – 6.2%
* Troj/Fujif – 5.8%
* JS/EncIFra – 3.9%
* Troj/Ifradv – 2.4%
* Mal/Packer – 1.2%
* Troj/Unif – 1.0%
* VBS/Redlof – 0.8%
* Others – 9.0%