Eighty-one per cent: that’s the increase in malicious attacks against the computers in your home and business in 2011. Symantec’s Internet Threat Report
also found that targeted attacks are spreading to organizations of all sizes, so small and medium-sized businesses now have the same security concerns as large enterprises.
Two findings in the report may be considered good news for Canadians, at least in comparison to others around the world. One, the global spam rate is 71.5 per cent of all mail, and we suffer through slightly less of it. And two, our overall threat level ranked 16th on a global scale, where the USA ranked first. At the same time, Canada’s virus rate is one in 243.7, slightly higher than the global average.
Overall, the report depicts a changing landscape, in which some numbers have increased—the number of unique malware variants climbed to 403 million while the number of Web attacks blocked per day increased by 36 per cent—while others decreased: spam levels fell considerably and new vulnerabilities decreased by 20 per cent.
Symantec concluded there are three large trends at work. The first is that attackers have embraced easy-to-use toolkits to target existing vulnerabilities. This indicates that patching holes and staying current on emerging risks may prove an effective defense. The second trend is that criminals are increasingly attracted to social networks. As Symantec wrote, “the very nature of these networks makes users incorrectly assume they are not at risk and attackers are using these sites to target new victims.” The third trend is the move away from blunt-force tactics—hoping one per cent of 10,000 spam messages work—and toward targeted attacks, which employ social engineering and customized malware against a pre-selected target. The number of targeted attacks increased from 77 per day to 82 per day by the end of 2011. And smaller companies are being hit.
“In 2011, cybercriminals greatly expanded their reach, with nearly 20 per cent of targeted attacks now directed at companies with fewer than 250 employees,” said Stephen Trilling, Symantec chief technology officer, in a statement. “Organizations of all sizes need to be vigilant about protecting their information.”
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