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Targeted cyber espionage on the increase, McAfee warns

Warwick Ashford

The first three months of 2013 saw continued increases in the number and complexity of targeted threats, according to McAfee’s latest threat report.

The report also details the first increase in global spam volume in more than three years, a 40% growth in Android malware despite an overall slight decline in the growth of mobile malware, and a spike in instances of the Koobface worm.

However, the increase in the number and sophistication of targeted advanced persistent threats (APTs) represented the most notable evolution in the threat landscape, the report said.

McAfee reports a 30% increase in master boot record (MBR)-related malware and new instances of password-stealing Trojans being repurposed to capture information on individuals and organisations beyond the financial services industry.

Researchers predict an increase in the use of banking malware for cyber espionage operations within non-financial and government organisations.

“Cyber criminals have come to appreciate that sensitive personal and organisational information are the currency of their ‘hacker economy,’” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice-president at McAfee Labs. 

“In the enterprise, we see password-stealing Trojans evolving to become information-gathering tools for cyber espionage attacks,” Vincent Weafer said.

According to Weafer, highly-targeted attacks are achieving new levels of sophistication, whether they target log in credentials or intellectual property and trade secrets.


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