by Jay Wrolstad, cio-today.com
Malware practitioners are more prolific than ever these days and have
reached a level of sophistication where the viruses they produce can
spread across the Internet in minutes, according to a new report by
security specialist Sophos.
Thus far this year, Sophos has detected nearly 8,000 new viruses, up
59 percent from the first six months of last year. At the same time,
the average time from initial release to widespread infection is
According to Sophos, there now is a 50 percent chance of being
infected by an Internet worm in just 12 minutes of being online with
an unprotected Windows PC.
Money To Be Made
For users, the latest virus report should serve as an incentive to be
more diligent with security patches and other software updates, said
Gregg Mastoras, senior security analyst at Sophos.
Mastoras attributes the potential profits from spyware and other
attacks that let hackers obtain information -- such as bank-account
data or credit-card numbers -- as a primary reason for the rise in
In fact, he said, Sophos has seen a threefold increase in the number
of keylogging Trojans so far this year. Once planted, these keyloggers
run in the background and monitor a user's keystrokes, feeding
passwords and other personal information back to the Trojan writer.
Zafi, Sober Worms Top the List
The long-running Zafi-D worm accounts for more than a quarter of all
viruses reported to Sophos thus far this year. Dominating the top of
the monthly virus charts for the first four months, this worm
circulates under the guise of a Christmas greeting to trick users into
opening an infected attachment.
"Protection against this worm has been around for a while, but
infections are still being reported, which means consumers are not
protecting themselves," said Mastoras.
The Sober-N worm also is nasty. Primarily, it uses file-sharing
networks for distribution, then hides in the background of infected
PCs before upgrading itself to a newer version to churn out spam from
Sophos noted that traditional PC threats seem to be consolidating,
which makes it difficult to identify certain kinds of attacks as being
spam, spyware or virus. Some Trojans, for example, infect user
machines to engage in several kinds of malicious activities.
Moving Beyond Microsoft
While the ubiquity of Windows-based PCs makes them the preferred
target, Mastoras said virus writers seeking personal information are
showing greater interest in Linux, Unix and Mac systems.
As a result, businesses and others using alternative operating systems
-- on desktops or servers -- should not let down their guard in the
belief that they are not vulnerable to attack, he said.
"It's important for all users to update their OS with the latest
patches and to use antivirus applications," Mastoras said.
Copyright 2005 NewsFactor Network, Inc.
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new
*** FAIR USE NOTICE. This message contains copyrighted material the
use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright
owner. This Internet discussion group is making it available without
profit to group members who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information in their efforts to advance the
understanding of literary, educational, political, and economic
issues, for non-profit research and educational purposes only. I
believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material
as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish
to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go
beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright
owner, in this instance, NewsFactor Network.
For more information go to: