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Spear phishers target gullible Brits more than anyone else – survey

Ransomware, 0days, malware, scams... all are up, says Symantec

London - Iconic Red telephone box with Big Ben at the background and blue sky - UK, England. Photo by Shutterstock

There’s been a sharp (35 per cent) increase in crypto ransomware attacks, with the UK ranked as the nation third most targeted with ransomware.

The UK is also ranked as the most targeted nation for spear phishing attacks and the second most hit-upon country with social media scams, according to other findings from Symantec's latest annual Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR).

The report makes grim reading for anyone concerned about privacy or corporate security. An estimated half a billion records were lost as a result of data breaches last year. And the number of zero-day vulnerabilities discovered last year more than doubled to a record-breaking 54, a 125 per cent increase from the previous year, underlining the critical role unmatched vulnerable can play in targeted attacks.

Advanced professional attack groups are the first to leverage zero-day vulnerabilities, using them for their own advantage or selling them to lower-level criminals on the open market where they are quickly commoditised, according to Symantec.

Meanwhile, fake technical support scams trebled last year, with the UK the second most targeted nation globally, suffering 7m attacks in 2015. The type of fraud is evolving beyond purely targeting PCs with scammers sending fake warning messages to devices like smartphones, driving users to attacker-run call centres in order to dupe them into buying useless services.

Finally, 430 million new malware variants were discovered in 2015. Virus creators routinely vary their wares in a bid to outfox security defences. This process is done automatically and is one the main reasons that security vendors have moved away from traditional signature detection, which these days, only has a support role in security software suites. At half a billion, the number of malware variants has almost become irrelevant, akin to asking how many grains of sand there are on a beach.

More details on the study, as well as top tips from Symantec on improving security, and infographics, can be found via a micro-site here. ®

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