Cyber thieves get clever

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am


Network safety has become the top priority for companies as cyber theft has increased markedly over the years. Despite firewalls, cyber criminals have penetrated well-protected websites.

A recent study conducted by Websense Security Labs outlines the reasons. The 'Websense 2012 Threat Report' says the main threats are extremely effective social media lures, evasive and hard-to-detect infiltration of malware and sophisticated exfiltration of confidential data. The report provides real-world examples and offers practical advice to IT security practitioners.

'Traditional defences just aren't working any more. Organisations need real-time defences with multiple detection points that deeply analyse both the inbound content of each website and e-mail, as well as the outbound transmission of sensitive data,' says Charles Renert, vice-president of research and development for Websense.

'Nearly all data-stealing attacks today involve the web and/or e-mail. And many increasingly use social engineering to take advantage of the human element as the weakest link.

'Since the current generation of attackers use multiple data points and threat vectors to target their victims, only a solution that understands the entire threat lifecycle and combines data from each phase can protect against them.'

One key finding of the research was that 82 per cent of malicious websites are hosted on compromised hosts. If compromised hosts are the norm, cloud and hosting services cannot be trusted. This threatens to put a damper on the global economy, which is tapping the cloud as a backbone for commerce, communications and culture. Also, 43 per cent of Facebook activity is streaming media, including viral videos. That's more than five times the next largest category of news and media within Facebook.

The streaming media percentage is important because web lures, such as videos, fake gift offers, surveys and scams, prey on human curiosity and have moved onto the social network.

Websense has partnered Facebook to scan all clicked Facebook web links so that Websense researchers have unprecedented visibility into the social network's content. About half of malware redirects lead to the United States, followed by Canada, while 60 per cent of phishing attacks are hosted in the US, trailed by Canada. The US is also the top host of malware (36 per cent), followed by Russia.

The research by Websense also showed that 74 per cent of e-mail is spam, compared with 84 per cent in last year's survey. It's clear that efforts to take down spam botnets are showing results.

However, while overall spam is down, 92 per cent of e-mail spam contains a URL, illustrating the increasingly blended nature of today's e-mail threats. The top five e-mail malware lures are order notifications, ticket confirmations, delivery notices, test e-mails and tax refund information.