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Cyber attacks down, but vulns soar

Symantec survey

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The level of cyber attacks decreased for the first time in the second half of 2002, dropping six per cent.

That's according to Symantec's Internet Threat Report, published today, which bring together data gleaned from the security firm's acquisition of SecurityFocus and RipTech with its other sources for the first time.

The report found that damage caused by recent blended threats, such as Opaserv, was less than that caused by older threats, such as Code Red.

Symantec reports that although cyber attacks decreased the number of vulnerabilities shot up. It documented 2,524 new vulnerabilities in 2002, up 81.5 per cent from 2001.

Richard Archdeacon, director of technical services for Symantec UK and Ireland, said that the report shows a decrease in the time between when an exploit is acknowledged and when an attack begins. Closer monitoring of networks for security problems is needed because of this, he suggests.

Symantec doesn't break down its figures for vulnerabilities between open source and proprietary technology, not does it have to offer much by way of future predictions of possible attacks scenarios.

"There are a lot of telephone surveys that say the world is falling down," Archdeacon said. "We tried to stick to reporting on real data identifying the nature and types of attack."

Eighty five per cent of all the attacks reported to Symantec were classed as pre-attack reconnaissance, while the remaining 15 per cent were put down to various exploitation attempts.

Symantec didn't try to analyse the motives of attackers, so whether these assaults are down to the usual s'kiddie activity or more pernicious forces at play is hard to say.

Companies averaged 30 attacks per company per week over the last six months of 2002, according to the report, compared to 32 attacks per company per week over the first six months of last year. Hacking incidents from South Korea grew 62 per cent between July and December last year.

The rise in attacks emanating from South Korea is likely due to the increased use of the country (which boasts significant broadband penetration) as a hop-off point for hackers, rather than up upswing in hacking activity in the country itself.

Meanwhile power and energy companies witnessed the highest rate of attack activity and "severe event incident" over the last six months of 2002. Would-be crackers also frequently attacked financial services firms. ®

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