Application security

Rootkits the next-generation IM malware

The number of security threats targeting instant messaging networks increased by 826 percent in December 2005 over the previous year, newly published research has revealed.

This hike in the number of IM threats was categorized by the emergence of a new breed of relatively sophisticated malware designed to cause "significant financial damage and intellectual property loss," according to IM logic. Attackers are found to be increasingly using rootkit software to hide the process, files and registry keys for the software used in their attacks. Notable threats detected include the myspace, "talking worm" and the much publicized Santa worm.

IMlogic's research indicated that December 2005 saw an additional 241 threats; adding to more than 300 for November and 292 in October.

Last December, 41 percent of new threats were found to have targeted AOL Instant Messenger, 48 percent targeted MSN and 11 percent targeted Yahoo. The study noted that worms made up 87 percent of new threats, with viruses at 12 percent and phishing attacks over IM at 1 percent.

"The growth in the level of sophistication and the advanced nature of the malware payloads, such as root kits and information gathering agents, sends a signal to users that IM security is no longer a 'nice to have' technology," said Jon Sakoda, IM Logic chief technology officer. "This rise in complexity and destructive nature of the threats requires organizations and individuals to put in place more adequate protections."

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