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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Hackers increase security risks
Computer user
Sometimes it can be exhausting keeping up with virus protection
It is a sad fact of the internet age that, no sooner have you updated your antivirus software and turned on your firewall, the virus writers have conjured up another trojan, worm or piece of malware to wreak havoc.

There were more than 10,000 new Windows viruses and worms in the last six months, according to a recent report on internet security.

And denial of service attacks - which try to stop websites from operating - were up a massive 679% on last year, says the report, the eighth one carried out by Symantec.

The security landscape seems to be forever changing out there in the online ether.

But the report is trying to show what the current scenario is, says Symantec's Richard Archdeacon, so that this information is all part of our decision-making process.

Although it makes for disturbing reading, Richard says it is not all bad news.

It's not just about technology. It's about how we use the internet
Richard Archdeacon, Symantec
"We are still combating a lot of these new viruses that are coming out. We've actually detected them and we can beat them."

But the biggest change, he says, is in the motivation of attacks.

"That's changed the nature of attacks, the number of viruses being developed, the way vulnerabilities have been discovered."

Awareness important

With the increased use of security software and hardware, and Microsoft's belated decision to switch Windows' own firewall on, one might have thought that the number of successful attacks had reduced.

VoIP
Making phone calls over the internet could be the next target
But Richard says: "I think one has to remember that it's not just about technology. It's about how we use the internet.

"One of the most common scams is phishing, trying to get you to a fake site to get your details from you so I can use them for an illicit gain.

"That's all about how people use the internet. The technology won't stop that by itself. That's about awareness as well.

"But also the kinds of technologies that you require are becoming more complex. You require what is termed in-depth defence now, and a firewall is just one single element of that.

"You also have to be able to block spam, identify phishing sites, you have to have a firewall, anti-virus and intrusion detection, and all of that on a simple home PC.

New targets

Happily for Apple Mac and Linux users, life has been easy when it comes to security troubles. But the report suggests that there is going to be more negative action on those platforms, as Richard explains.

Richard Archdeacon
Operating systems that have been up to now relatively uninteresting will now become far more interesting
Richard Archdeacon, Symantec
"The hackers have been after widespread attacks that got into the news and brought down systems worldwide. So they weren't after those smaller user-base type systems.

"With the motivation changing to one of financial gain, through gaining confidential information, all areas are now more susceptible to attack.

"With vulnerabilities being discovered in all operating systems, with toolkits which will enable hackers to exploit those vulnerabilities, and with this different motivation, we believe that operating systems that have been up to now relatively uninteresting will now become far more interesting."

Making voice calls over the net may be taking off but it too may yet prove to be the victim of its own success.

Think of the potential for spammers to leave voicemail and for spoof calls in the form of voice phishing, where fraudsters call you to try to get your bank details.

And, perhaps even more worryingly, there is constant talk of vulnerabilities for mobile phones and wireless networks.

As Richard says, many of us are familiar now with Bluetooth devices attached to our telephone sets.

Wireless is opening up a whole new debate around security and a whole number of new issues that we have to addres
Richard Archdeacon, Symantec
"At the moment those devices are relatively small in their capacity and capability, and up until now attacks have really been trying to get phone lists from people, from celebrities and so-forth.

"However, in the future, as that device becomes more powerful, then it becomes a far more valuable target for the hacker.

"With wireless again, we have this huge expansion, both in the home and the workplace.

"For home users, much of the equipment that gets set up is actually set up by themselves, some of it quite complex, and often the security is not a key issue.

"So looking after your wireless set-up at home is now an important factor for us to concentrate on.

"Wireless is opening up a whole new debate around security and a whole number of new issues that we have to address."


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