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Symantec report reveals attacks on trusted Web sites

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Workgroup’s dedicated Symantec division has released the findings of Symantec’s most recent Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), which concludes that the Web is now the primary conduit of attack activity, as opposed to network attacks, and that online users can be infected simply by visiting everyday Web sites.

“The report, derived from data collected by millions of Internet sensors, first-hand research and active monitoring of hacker communications, provides a global view of the state of Internet security,” says Grant van Eck, Symantec product manager at Workgroup.
“In the past, users had to visit intentionally malicious sites or click on malicious email attachments to become a victim of a security threat,” he adds. “Today, hackers are compromising legitimate Web sites and using them as a distribution medium to attack home and enterprise computers with particular focus on sites that are likely to be trusted by end users, such as social networking sites.”
According to Symantec’s report, attackers are leveraging site-specific vulnerabilities that can then be used as a means for launching other attacks. During the last six months of 2007, there were 11 253 site specific cross-site scripting vulnerabilities reported on the Internet, each representing vulnerabilities in individual Web sites.
However, only 473 of them had been patched by the administrator of the affected site during the same period, representing an enormous window of opportunity for hackers looking to launch attacks.
Phishing also continue to be a problem, says Van Eck.
“During the same time period, Symantec observed 87 963 phishing hosts or computers that can host one or more phishing Web sites,” he says. “This is an increase of 167% from the first half of 2007, 68% of the most prevalent malicious threats reported to Symantec attempt to compromise confidential information.”
Finally, attackers are leveraging a maturing underground economy to buy, sell and trade stolen information. This economy is now characterised by a number of traits common in traditional economies. For example, market forces of supply and demand have a direct impact on pricing.
Credit card information, which has become plentiful in this environment, accounted for 13% of all advertised goods, down from 22% in the previous period, with the price of a credit card in this underground market is determined by factors such as the location of the issuing bank. Cards from the European Union for example, cost more than those from the United States; this is most likely due to the smaller supply of cards circulating in the EU, which makes the card more valuable to a criminal.