The global IT threat remained at a medium level for most of 2005, according to IBM's 2005 Global Business Security Index Report, which also offers BCS members an insight into some of the potential security threats in 2006.
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Notable in 2005 was the criminal element motivating many IT attacks, said the report. High-profile arrests of cybercriminals around the world pointed to primarily financially motivated individuals linked to organised crime.
With software and networks becoming increasingly secure, IBM anticipates that many of these criminals will target the most vulnerable access point within an organisation - its personnel - to execute an attack.
"IBM believes that the environment has shifted. With increased security protection on most systems and stiffer penalties, we are seeing organised, committed, and tenacious profiteers enter this space. This means that attacks will be more targeted and potentially damaging," said Cal Slemp, vice-president of IBM's security and privacy services.
"Organisations around the world, from the public and private sectors, must move quickly and work together to address this growing challenge."
The report highlighted the following potential threats for 2006:
- Cybercriminals taking advantage of poor international co-operation against cybercrime and launching cross-border attacks. The threat to and from emerging and developing countries is increasing.
- The increased use of collaboration tools, such as blogging will increases the possibility of leakage of confidential business data.
- Botnets - a collection of software robots that allow a system to be controlled without the owner's knowledge - will continue to represent one of the biggest threats to the internet. Newer, smaller botnets will move to instant messaging and other peer-to-peer networks for command and control of infected systems.
- Mobile devices - malware affecting mobile phones, PDAs and other wireless devices increased substantially in 2005, but have not yet materialised into pervasive outbreaks since they cannot spread on their own - yet.
The report examined the security threats from 2005 and identified the following trends:
- Targeted e-mail attacks, generally financially, competitively, politically or socially motivated, were often directed at government departments, military organisations and other large companies.
- Spear phishing, where criminals bombard businesses with highly targeted spam that appears as though it has originated from inside the organisation, typically from the IT or HR departments, is on the increase.
Individuals are duped into thinking the e-mails are legitimate and unwittingly reveal information that enables access to restricted areas of the corporate network. Spear phishing has also been used to bait people into opening malware.
- Overall, viruses delivered via e-mail were on the decline in 2005. Only 2.8% of e-mails contained a virus or Trojan in 2005, compared with 6.1% in 2004.
- The rise in phishing activity was possibly due to the increased use of botnets to pump out massive volumes of scam e-mails, as cyber-criminals looked to increase their profits through more aggressive targeting.
- Malware ingenuity - there was a rise in blended and increasingly complex threats with the integration of bot capabilities into existing malware.