Today, IBM reported that virus-laden emails and criminal driven security attacks increased by 50 percent in the first half of 2005 – underscored by a significant rise in ´customised´ attacks on the government, financial services, manufacturing and healthcare industries.
According to the report, there were more than 237 million overall security attacks in the first half of the year. The government sector was the most targeted industry, with more than 54 million attacks, while manufacturing ranked second with 36 million attacks, financial services was third with approximately 34 million, and healthcare was hit with more than 17 million attacks – accounting for more than 137 million of all attacks this year.
IBM has seen a resurgence of targeted phishing attacks for money laundering and identity fraud purposes, believed to be largely driven by criminal gangs that have become more astute in the creation and delivery of such attacks. According to its latest Global Business Security Index, in the first half of the year, there were more than 35 million phishing attacks launched to steal critical data and personal information for financial gains.
Spawns of phishing threats such as ´spear phishing´ – highly targeted and coordinated attacks at a specific organisation or individual designed to extract critical data – increased more than ten-fold since January of this year alone. Unlike in previous years, when viruses were mainly created and launched to slow down and cripple IT systems, these types of ´customised´ attacks have shown their potential to defraud businesses, steal identities and intellectual property and extort money, while damaging the brand and eroding customer trust.
The ratio of spam to legitimate email continuously decreased over the course of the last six months, from 83 percent in January to 67 percent in June 2005, while virus-laden email increased fifty percent over the same period. At first glance what appears to be good news, the levelling off of massive outbreaks that cripple IT environments on a regional or global basis in the past six months seemingly indicates that hijacking computers to send spam is no longer the network disruption of choice.
Hackers have turned toward more criminal and lucrative areas of directing attacks to specific individuals or organisations, often financially, competitively, politically or socially motivated. IBM´s Global Business Security Index shows that in December of 2004, one in every 52 emails was infected by some sort of malicious security threat; by January it was one in every 35 emails, and by June, that ratio increased to one in every 28 emails – a disturbing trend for businesses and consumers alike.
“IBM advises its clients to rapidly adopt a holistic, enterprise-wide approach to security and risk management,” said John Lutz, general manager, Financial Services Sector, IBM. “To protect their critical data, infrastructure, brands, and money, IBM advises businesses to rethink how they protect their operations, business processes and governance structures. Companies can employ the latest protective technology, while ensuring that their own customers get highest level of protection available.”