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IBM has identified viruses on mobile devices and IP telephony security threats as looming network security risks for 2005. Last year viruses spam and phishing attacks posed the greatest problems.

According to IBM's Global Business Security Index Report 2004, email-based worms and viruses such as Bagle, Netsky and MyDoom led the pack in their impact on information security.

IBM reports a rise in viruses in scanned email from three per cent in 2003 to 6.1 per cent in 2004. In 2002 this figure was 0.5 per cent. Spam volumes hhit 70 per cent of all email traffic in 2004. Nearly half (42 per cent of) all spam originated from the US, followed by South Korea, which accounted for 13 per cent. In 2004, more than 18m phishing emails (defined as emails containing a URL to a fraudulent website) were intercepted.

Much of this traffic can be traced back to botnets, networks of compromised computers. IBM forecasts that command and control of these infected systems is likely to move this year from IRC channels onto instant messaging networksr.

In the latter part of 2004, a growing number of viruses, such as the Cabir worm, aimed at PDAs and other mobile devices were released. IBM warns these worms are likely to be used at templates by copycats, spurring an epidemic of viruses aimed at mobile devices. Embedded computers, including car and satellite communication systems, could also be at risk.

Last year saw the emergence of vulnerabilities that affected digital picture formats such as JPEG and BMP photos. Security companies warned the flaws were likely to become the focus of virus-writing activity, but it never happened. Virus writers are an unreliable bunch, let's face it - which makes security crystal-ball gazing a hazardous profession even for IBM.

VoIP security has been in the news this week with the formation of a security alliance by networking and security vendors. IBM also reckons IP telephony systems are open to attack. "In particular, eavesdropping and denial of service attacks carried out remotely against VoIP networks could provide significant damage for enterprise organizations," it warns.

IBM's study is based on information collected by its 2,700 information security professionals worldwide and from half a million monitored devices. ®

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