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Security Trends and Highlights of 2004

The year is coming to a close, so I thought I'd offer a sort of 2004 in review (albeit 2 weeks early) regarding highlights and trends in the information security industry. So here are some interesting tidbits that I've collected from various sources around the Internet.

CyberSource released some interesting results from its Sixth Annual CyberSource Fraud Survey, which polled companies involved in e-commerce and drew 348 responses. Companies said that e-commerce-based orders originating from New York were the most likely to be fraudulent, with Miami and Los Angeles coming in second and third, respectively. Companies accepting international orders said that Nigeria was the top source of fraud in locations outside of North America. The findings should open the eyes of those who run e-commerce sites, particularly those hoping to capture the currency of last-minute online shoppers this season (although the results reflect year-round trends).

According to data collected by antivirus vendor Sophos, the worst offending malware programs in 2004 were Netsky-P, Zafi-B, and Sasser, in that order. Netsky-P accounted for almost a quarter (22.6 percent) of all incidents, Zafi-B accounted for 18.8 percent, and Sasser accounted for 14.2 percent. According to MessageLabs, the most serious outbreak of 2004 involved MyDoom.A.

Regardless of which worm or virus was worst, we shouldn't forget that 2 weeks remain in 2004, and who knows what viciousness will be unleashed? Many people will receive new computers as holiday gifts, and many of those people will plug their new computers into the Internet first and think of system security some other day, and intruders are certainly aware of that.

In other trends, I think it's safe to say that spyware has been one of the fastest growing areas of concern this year. You can read the "Spyware Trends" blog item below for more information that supports this notion. Antispyware maker Webroot Software says that the most insidious forms of spyware so far are PurityScan, n-CASE, Gator, CoolWebSearch, Transponder, ISTbar/AUpdate, KeenValue, Internet Optimizer, Perfect Keylogger, and TIBS Dialer. Computer Associates (CA) lists KaZaA, GameSpy Arcade, Download Accelerator Plus, Ezula, and as the top offenders.

Another fast-growing concern is the ever-increasing number of phishing scams, which when combined with naive computer users, represent a major problem. The seriousness of the matter has prompted the recent formation of Digital Phishnet, which is "a joint enforcement initiative between industry and law enforcement designed to ensnare those who perpetrate phishing attacks" (see the first URL below). The Anti-Phishing Working Group counted 6597 unique phishing-based email messages spreading around the Internet in October. The number of phishing-related Web sites increased from 543 in September to 1142 in October (see the second URL below). As you might suspect, the vast majority of phishing scams are targeted at customers of businesses in the financial services industry.

What trends are in store for 2005 obviously remains to be seen; trying to think about what the highlights might be would be little more than guessing at this point. But I'll give it a try anyway: I suspect that by the end of 2005, we'll see significant advances in patch management across all computing platforms. Even if that prediction turns out to be a dud, one thing remains almost certain: Information security will continue to be one of the topmost concerns across the entire computing industry.

Until next time, have a great week.

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