Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Internet viruses more lethal, faster Symantec warns

FREQUENT ASSAULTS A widespread apathy toward computer security is leading to an increase in 'blended threat' attacks which disrupt networks

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Corporations and individual computer users need to be more aware of Internet security, as the frequency of virus attacks is rising and the viruses are harder to identify, according to a report issued yesterday by Symantec Corp, a leading vendor of anti-virus software.

"Our report shows that for the first half of the year, the overall rate of attack activity rose by 19 percent [from the same period last year]," Rosa Shih (史秀蓉), country manager of Symantec Taiwan Co, told a press conference yesterday.

"A noteworthy phenomenon is that unlike attacks in previous years, which were caused by a single form of virus, `blended threats' are rising, which are not easily detected by firewall or anti-virus software," Shih said.

The report was based on network activity on the more than 20,000 sensors the company installed in more than 180 countries between Jan. 1 and June 30.

The report said that "blended threats" -- combinations of malicious codes to begin, transmit and spread attacks -- are increasing and are the most important trends to guard against this year.

Blended threats can spread to large numbers of hosts quickly, causing rapid and widespread damage.

A recent example of a "blended" attack cited in the report was the "Blaster" worm, which spread worldwide in August, crippling network traffic for systems administrators and home PC users.

Blaster, along with several other worms, caused an estimated US$2 billion in damages.

The speed of virus propagation is also increasing. The report pointed out that the Slammer worm, which appeared earlier this year, disrupted systems worldwide in just a few hours. The Blaster worm infected as many as 2,500 computers per hour, according to the report.

Symantec said MS products are still the favorite target of hackers. Vulnerabilities within Microsoft software or servers allow attackers to compromise client systems, the report said.

However, Symantec believes that attacks on systems which use Linux will increase.

As for the origin of the attacks, the report says the US was home for 51 percent, followed by China and Germany with 5 percent each.

Taiwan was was 12 of the list countries, down from 6 in last year's report.

"Although there is no solution that can completely block virus attacks, preventative measures need to be taken to reduce losses," Shih said.

Shih suggested corporations and individuals enforce patch-management policies to ensure that their systems are protected.

"For example, severe event incidence among our customers has dropped by 52 percent in the first half of the year," Shih said. "We hope we can not only offer support to customers who have suffered virus damage, but provide a total solution before the next attacks come."

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