Malicious code threats celebrate bumper 2003

Privacy under backdoors and blended assault

Malicious code threats to privacy and confidentiality increased rapidly in the final six months of last year - up 148 per cent on the first half of 2003.

Virus writers increasingly targeted backdoors left by other attackers and worms in their attempts to spread malicious code, according to the latest edition of Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report. Blended threats - like Blaster, Welchia and SoBig-F - make up 54 per cent of Symantec’s top ten risks for 2H2003. More recently, the Doomjuice and Deadhat blended threats both exploited the backdoor left by MyDoom in January this year.

Older threats compromised confidentiality by exporting random documents. More recent viruses and blended threats also extract passwords, decryption keys and logged keystrokes.

Symantec chronicled 2,636 new vulnerabilities during 2003 - an average of seven new flaws a day – 70 per cent of which it categorises as easily exploitable. The number of vulnerabilities logged in 2003 is up just two per cent from 2002 compared to a leap of 81 per cent between 2001 and 2002.

Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report (published today) reveals that almost one third of all attacking systems targeted the vulnerability exploited by Blaster and its successors. Older worms also continue to spread thanks to the continued availability of unpatched systems needed to sustain them.

"Attackers require no specialised knowledge to gain unauthorised access to a network when vulnerabilities are easy to exploit," said Symantec's Technical Services Director, Richard Archdeacon.

"And, as the time between disclosure and exploitation of vulnerabilities continues to shrink, zero-day threats that target vulnerabilities before they are known, are expected. Patch management continues to be critical, but companies are struggling to manage it themselves." ®

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