Virus authors take a vacation, phishers keep working

Virus authors appear to have gone on holiday, according to a new report.

The Malware Report from Fortinet found that virus detections, including heuristics, were down 28 percent for the month of July. Detections for Malware were also down, but only by 15 percent.

"This is great news" said Fortinet Researcher Bryan Lu. "Let's not rest on our laurels however. More than 47 million viruses were detected for July, and that's still a big number."

Variants of the MyTob virus were observed on an almost daily basis but it spread appears to be reduced, the study found. This containment was attributed to use of improved heuristics that could detect the virus quickly coupled with increased blocking of dangerous file extension types such as .exe, .scr and .pif.

A newly discovered variant of the SDBot virus was found disguised as a Microsoft security bulletin. The email has an attachment that pretends to contain updates to address the problems noted in the bulletin, but if executed it could be used by hackers to take remotecontrol of compromised machines.

But it seems the same cannot be said about phishing attacks. The same report saw a steep rise in these attacks targeting eBay users. Last month, HTML-based phishing emails purporting to come from Ebay rocketed and researchers said the attacks are becoming more sophisticated.

"On a scale of one to ten on creativity, the HTML/Ebay-phish phishing scam earns high marks on fooling users. It is important to note that after the first click, this phishing attack brings up text that looks like any other phishing attack." said Patrick Nolan, researcher, Fortinet. The new phishing attack accounted for 1.56 percent of all virus infections.

Experts said phishing attacks are a rapidly spreading problem.

"Companies must therefore respond with action by producing additional guidelines on top of existing workplace email policies, to best advise staff on how to deal with possible threats," said Jamie Cowper, senior technology consultant at email security company, Mirapoint.

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