Cyber attacks are being unleashed faster than ever before, while the number of software vulnerabilities discovered has risen by 12% to more than 1,400 in the past six months, according to the latest Symantec Internet Security Threat Report.
The security company's half-yearly report found an increasing rate of malicious attacks, up 19% in six months, with companies surveyed reporting 38 attacks a week.
The time between the discovery of a new vulnerability to a virus outbreak exploiting it has shortened significantly, which is putting extra pressure on overstretched corporate IT departments trying to patch and protect their systems, according to the report.
The recent Blaster worm was infecting as many as 2,500 computers an hour and struck just 26 days after the vulnerability it exploited was announced, according to Symantec's technical services director, Richard Archdeacon. "Patch management is absolutely critical to the survival of a business," he said.
Symantec said it was aware of 8,000 vulnerabilities affecting 4,000 different technology products and its report highlighted the growing menace of blended threats, which use a combination of malicious code and vulnerabilities to launch an attack.
One blended threat alone, Slammer, disrupted systems round the world in just a few hours. Its speed of propagation, combined with poor configuration management on many corporate sites, enabled it to spread so fast and cause outages for many corporations, the report noted.
The report also highlighted the growing threat of attacks, such as Bugbear, which try to extract confidential data form systems, and the dangers posed by unprotected instant messaging and peer-to-peer applications. Symantec registered a 400% increase in the detection of malicious code.
The survey was based on analysis of 20,000 registered sensors in more than 180 countries.