More clever hackers emerging

Cyber crime grew more sophisticated, targeted, and dangerous in 2005 according to a report released this week by Counterpane Internet Security and MessageLabs.

The two companies teamed up to write about their security research in a report titled "2005 Attack Trends and Analysis." The report summarized key cyber attacks across 15 industry sectors and examines how the attacks affect organizations.

Some of the key findings included the fact that financial services and healthcare companies are the most exposed to probes and enumeration attempts. Financial services and banking industry organizations suffered the largest percentage of trojan attacks last year with close to 40 percent of all trojans sent to these companies. Meanwhile, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies were the most assaulted by spyware. Nearly 50 percent of all spyware attacks were targeted toward these companies.

Overall, experts with MessageLabs and Counterpane concluded that cybercrime poses a greater threat to corporations in the future as the criminals become more focused on the monetary gains rather than the notoriety afforded by their activity.

"Cyber attacks will cause greater damage to corporations in the coming years," said Bruce Schneier, founder and chief techhnology officer of Counterpane. "We estimate that some malware with a modest infection rate could cost a small company $83,000 a year. The larger a company is, and the deeper an infection goes, the higher the costs - $1 million or more."

In addition to posing greater risks, future cybercrimes will become more difficult to detect as attackers become stealthier.

"Security attack trends have rapidly evolved," concluded Schneier. "In just 12 months, cyber-criminals have moved away from deploying large-scale generalized attacks, like Blaster and Slammer, towards carefully engineered attacks calculated for precise outcomes. Today's attackers are smarter and stealthier. They're much more likely to install spyware; they're more interested in making money."

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