M86 Security, the global expert in real-time Web and email-threat protection, today released its latest bi-annual M86 Security Labs Report – which details an increase in targetted and combined email-based threats, a new twist in phishing attacks, and an escalation in social-engineering scams through popular social-networking sites.
In analysing cyber-threat trends for the first half of 2011, M86 Security Labs noted that whilst spam levels are on the decline, cybercriminals continue to enhance their attack techniques, developing new ways – such as combined, embedded files or HTML attachments that go undetected by phishing protection – to entice potential victims and increase their success rates.
“Whether the attacks occur via email or the Web, one thing remains a constant: an increased emphasis on targetted, evasive malware that outpaces most security detection methods,” said Bradley Anstis, Vice President of Technical Strategy, M86 Security. “M86 Security Labs researches and documents these attacks to create a greater awareness of the very real cyber threats organisations face. By understanding the latest attack methods, enterprises and their security administrators can better prevent malware from infiltrating networks and systems.”
Key findings by the M86 Security Labs for the first half of 2011:
• Targeted email-based Attacks Still a Problem
Though Web-based attacks are more prominent today, attacks against RSA, the security division of EMC, and Oak Ridge National Labs show that email-based targetted attacks, delivered via malicious attachments and blended threats, are still significant. Whilst incidents of malicious attachments in email decreased in the second half of 2010, they increased from less than one per cent to nearly three per cent in the first half of 2011.
Conversely, spam volumes have dropped in 2011. According to the M86 Security Labs Spam Volume Index, which tracks changes in the volume of spam received by representative domains, spam levels have decreased by one third of what they were from previous levels reported in the M86 Security Labs 2H2010 report.
• Increasingly Sophisticated Phishing Attacks
Cybercriminals have found new ways to avoid detection to improve the success rates of phishing attacks. One of these methods, noted in the M86 Security Labs report, involves attaching HTML versions of banking websites to emails, rather than linking potential victims to bogus banking sites. Because users access these HTML files locally from their systems, the threats will not be flagged by browsers with built-in phishing protection.
• Combined Attacks on the Rise
In the first half of 2011, M86 Security Labs saw an increase in targetted attacks that used Microsoft Excel files with embedded Flash (.swf) files to exploit vulnerabilities. This method, used in the targetted attack against RSA, is hard to detect by anti-virus and other security solutions because both components must be separated for analysis.
• Social-networking Scams Reach New Levels
As noted in previous M86 Security Labs reports, sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become regular targets for scams. Now, in addition to coercing users to divulge personal information via surveys that earn scammers’ commissions, scams expose users to malware. For example, thousands of Facebook users have fallen victim to a malware campaign disguised as a link to a sex tape of former IMF chairman, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, following the allegations that he sexually assaulted a hotel maid in New York. The malware campaign remained active for more than 72 hours.
About M86 Security Labs
M86 Security Labs is a group of security analysts specialising in email and Web threats, from spam to malware. They continuously monitor and respond to Internet security threats. The Security Labs' primary purpose is to provide a value-added service to M86 Security customers as part of product maintenance and support. This service includes frequent updates to M86's unique, proprietary anti-spam technology, SpamCensor, as well as Web threat and vulnerability updates to the M86 Secure Web Gateway products. The updates allow M86 customers to proactively detect and block new and emerging exploits, threats and malware. Data and analysis from M86 Security Labs is continuously updated and always accessible online.
About M86 Security
M86 Security (m86security.com) is the global expert in real-time threat protection and the industry’s leading Secure Web Gateway provider. The company’s hardware, virtual appliance, software, and Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions for Web and email security protect more than 25,000 customers and 26 million users worldwide. M86 products use patented real-time code analysis and behaviour-based malware detection technologies, as well as threat intelligence from M86 Security Labs, to protect networks against new and advanced threats, secure confidential information, and ensure regulatory compliance. The company is based in Orange, California with international headquarters in London and development centres in California, Israel, and New Zealand.
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