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Web server attacks and website defacements rose 36 per cent last year, according to an independent report. zone-h, the Estonian security firm best known for its defacement archive, recorded 392,545 web attacks globally in 2004, up from 251,000 in 2003.

Mass defacements (322,188) were by far the largest category in 2004. More targeted cyber graffiti attacks numbered 70,357. zone-h also recorded 186 attacks on US governmental servers out of 3,918 attacks on government domains worldwide. Separately the security consultancy recorded 49 assaults on US military servers.

zone-h estimates that 2,500 web servers are successfully hacked each day out of a total population of 45m servers. Roberto Preatoni, founder of zone-h, told El Reg that PHP bugs and SQL injection attacks were the most common tricks used by hackers in order to access to vulnerable systems. In previous years, zone-h noted whether Windows or *nix systems were likely to be attacked. Preatoni said such comparisons have become pointless because 70 per cent of attacks are based on exploiting application vulnerabilities, which often exist across different OS platforms.

Preatoni said the increased population of web servers was largely responsible for the rise in the number of attacks zone-h noted last year. The increased complexity of software plays an important but lesser role, he said. zone-h speculates the number of attacks will skyrocket once VoiP/3G phones become commonplace even though such devilish exploits are yet to be developed.

Cyber activists carrying out hacks for political purposes and (more commonly) attention seekers are among those who deface websites. But gangs competing among themselves cause the most amount of damage. "Some have even developed automatic tools to notify us on the defacement so they don't have to bother," Preatoni said. ®

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