End of 2005 sees virus count rise with ‘alarming force’

Security experts have warned that during the second half of this year the virus count rose with "alarming force," increasing from 110,000 to approximately 150,000 by year's end.

According to an analysis from security firm F-Secure, this steep increase in overall number of viruses was accompanied by a fall in the severity of mass assaults using network worms. The study noted that there were only two major outbreaks during the last six months of 2005: one in September, with the Zotob worm, and the second, Sober-Y, in late November.

This year, the F-Secure report observed, was also characterized by a spate of criminal phishing attempts, either directly to online banking customers yielding high profits to the malware authors, or by exploiting man-made and natural disasters.

"There is some evidence that the criminal organizations behind phishing attacks have been jumping from one geographical area to another looking for more targets. First we saw them in the U.S., then in Australia and then the U.K. In Germany, the attacks were localized in the German language, as was the case earlier in 2005 when phishing cases localized in Danish were detected in Denmark," F-Secure's report stated.

"As phishing becomes more widespread, however, so too do the authorities' ability to detect it. As a result, typical larger phishing targets, such as those made on Citibank, eBay, Paypal and U.S. Bank have been replaced by more focused attacks against smaller targets in order to find users who still can still be fooled to respond to a phishing email," the report continued.

F-Secure also noted that the last six months of this year have seen trojans that attempted to capitalize on the terrorist bombings in London and Hurricane Katrina to tempt users to open infected emails. Shortly after the London attacks, the first trojan was detected as an attachment in email messages. The ZIP file contained the file ''London Terror Moovie.avi Checked By Norton Antivirus.exe'.
In September there were reports of a spam message with subject fields like "Katrina killed as many as 80 people."

The messages claimed to contain news articles on the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina but actually directed the reader to a website called " Further investigation revealed the site was just a placeholder that refreshes to a page that tries to download the malware.

And finally, 2005 was also the year which saw the number of mobile phone malware exceed the 100 mark - growing proof that the criminal bodies behind their creation are serious in their attempts to exploit this new arena.

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