Web Protectors Falling Behind

Dennis Faas's picture

Money makes the world go 'round. That's hardly surprising to anyone, although for a long time it seemed Internet hackers were more interested in simple, wanton destruction than the almighty dollar. According to security guru Symantec, that's all changed.

At one time, many viruses were created just to cause trouble. These were largely referred to as "nuisance" attacks, not much different than "teepeeing" mean old Mr. Anderson's house down the street. It seems that web hackers have discovered being loud and destructive doesn't exactly pay well, and have instead turned to more subtle approaches that make life miserable for all of us Internet users.

According to Dean Turner, Symantec's director of Global Intelligence Network based in Calgary, Alberta, "If you're making noisy, nuisance attacks, you're alerting people. And that's not the goal. If you want to make money you want to be quiet". (Source: canadianpress.google.com)

So, no longer are crude messages popping up. Check that, only crude messages that pay off, like that explicit link to online nudies.

"We've seen a real sophistication and a real commercialization of professional attack tools," Turner said.

Riiiight.  There's something Shakespearean about that pop-up featuring artificially inflated body parts.

In all honesty, however, we have seen an elevation in the way hackers work. Personally, I was surprised to receive a recent spam message, something about a "Free loan!", that contained poor spelling, a tell-tale sign that the message ain't legit. By and large, the best hackers are now using very well-written spam messages, overshadowing links that immediately install dangerous software.

They're also targeting websites we've trusted in the past, using phishing schemes to soak up our logins and passwords. (Source: canada.com/vancouversun/)

Although companies like Symantec are constantly in touch with law enforcement agencies and the government, the latter institutions routinely admit they're a few steps behind the bad guys.

Compounding the problem even more is the growing rate of attacks. According to one Symantec report, over 200,000 malicious code threats were detected in just the first six months of 2007. That's a hike of nearly 200% from last year. For the record, Israel boasts the most goonery, followed by Canada and the United States.

Despite the fact that Symantec has grown immensely during its fight with the web enemy, it realizes the allure of being an Internet hacker. "So even if you could track somebody, if they're in one jurisdiction and attacking somebody in another jurisdiction, how are you going to prosecute them? Where did the crime take place? There are some real fundamental questions that make this very attractive for the bad guys," Turner said.

I can't help but detect a smidgen of hopelessness in that statement. And, that might be the scariest threat of them all.

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