While software companies have made significant progress in protecting customers from malicious online threats, these threats continue to evolve, and now a new player has entered the game: organized crime.
Malware, short for “malicious software,” is designed to infiltrate a computer system without the owner’s consent. It includes viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, and even adware.
The total amount of malware removed from computers worldwide grew more than 43 percent during the first half of 2008, according to a security intelligence report by Microsoft.
According to the report, based on the type of malware most frequently found, financial gain appears to be attackers’ top motivation.
And it may only get worse, because now organized crime networks are distributing malware. Don’t think American mafia; this type of organized crime is more typically loosely organized criminals from underdeveloped parts of the world. Australia’s Verizon investigative response team, which handles data breaches on behalf of that country’s major corporations, has reported that 91 percent of the breaches it found in 2008 could be traced to organized crime activity rather than insider or other threats.
These organized crime networks plot to infiltrate computers—primarily American ones, which have information from which they can profit—and steal data. They may also seek out intellectual property for its potential value. “If a single piece of intellectual property is compromised, and it happens to be the secret formula to your company’s product, then that’s a business-changing event,” said the Verizon report.
Although most of the malware Verizon found could not be detected by current antivirus products, around 87 per cent of breaches could have been avoided by using simple controls, according to Verizon, whose report stated that “on the whole, criminals are still not required to work very hard to breach corporate information systems.”
Here’s what you can do to help protect your systems:
- Enable a firewall.
- Install and maintain up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs that provide increased protection from malicious and potentially unwanted software. Almost 40 per cent of victims Verizon investigated in 2008 did not regularly update their security software.
- Check for and apply software updates on an ongoing basis, including updates provided for third-party applications.
- Open links and attachments in e-mail and instant messages with caution.
Need help implementing these safeguards? We’re here to assist!