It was a banner year for virus writers, hackers and spammers, as worms and phishing attacks rocketed to new levels and security concerns headed mainstream.
This year, a teenage German boy was allegedly responsible for more than half of all computer viruses spread throughout the world and his Netsky-P virus still makes the rounds as he awaits trial 10 months later, according to a report released by Web security firm Sophos.
Although Sven Jaschan’s creation may have been the hardest-hitting virus of 2004 — five of its variants made the Sophos’ dubious top 10 virus list — Netsky-P had plenty of company.
“2004 was the year of the Netsky – the first of more than 30 versions of this worm arrived on the scene in February and an astonishing five variants have made it into the annual top 10,” Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said in a statement.
Sophos also counted a 51.8 percent jump in the number of new viruses this year, with the Zafi-B virus and the Internet worm Sasser filling the other top three positions.
“It is simply shocking that viruses like Netsky-P and Zafi-B are still infecting computers, months after they were first protected against by anti-virus companies,” Cluley said. “Anyone still being infected by these worms is demonstrating a worrying lack of concern for their PC’s health.”
The list was bad news for Redmond as all top 10 virus clocking in were Windows 32 viruses, according to Sophos. They only affected Microsoft
users, using e-mail or the Internet.
If a virus didn’t hit your computer this year, spam surely did. Once again the United States was the worst offender when it came to the junk e-mail, according to Sophos. Almost 42 percent of it was sent from American computers during 2004. The United Kingdom also sent a fair share of the unwanted e-mails, as one in every 100 came from the country.
While it is fair to say the spam game remained the same, many of the names have changed. At least according to America Online’s
second annual “Top Ten Spam Terms.”
Out where the hackneyed phrases and tired old hooks like “Oprah”, “Teens” and “Viagra”. In were the new and improved slogans advertising mortgage deals, stock offerings and the allegedly not so painless painkiller Vioxx.
AOL also said spam e-mails carrying phishing, or identity theft scams, were on the rise. Subject lines carrying information about about your lost inheritance were a must miss, unless of course your name was Paris Hilton. And while on the subject of the Internet and the heiress, there was much less so-called “porn spam” in 2004 as compared to 2003, which might explain why the inginue was absent from the list this year.
There was also a switch by spammers to more text-based spam instead of image-based spam, especially as it pertains to adult-themed junk e-mails, according to AOL.
Phishing in general showed a 30 percent increase in attempts worldwide, according to Sophos. While the numbers were troublesome enough, the sophistication of the attacks have increasing worried security experts.
Sophos identified a new type of phishing attack this year that rather than direct users to fake banking websites in order to capture personal information, used Trojans that wait for users to visit real banking Web sites before monitoring and secretly recording the login process.