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Thu 23 Dec 2004 04:00 AM

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2004 a sickening year for IT security

2004 saw a record number of virus outbreaks in the region, according to Trend Micro’s network of laboratories, TrendLabs.

2004 saw a record number of virus outbreaks in the region, according to Trend Micro’s network of laboratories, TrendLabs.The security specialist claims the Middle East sufferent 30 different virus outbreaks over the course of the year. No less than 28 of these were ‘medium-risk’ alerts, while two ( WORM_NETSKY.C and WORM_SASSER.B) were classified as high-risk.

Worlwide these outbreaks caused 37,822,805 computer infections, an eight per cent increase on Trend Micro’s figure for 2003. Trend’s new report also explains that most outbreaks occurred in the first quarter of the year, suggesting that users should be particularly on their guard during the New Year.

“In 2004, we saw that virus writers are continuing to develop malicious code that is intended to steal personal or confidential user data,” said Justin Doo, managing director, Trend Micro Middle East. “Today’s malware, which includes Trojans, backdoors, as well as viruses and worms, is purpose-built to hijack users’ machines and is more deceptive than ever. Malicious code can be hidden in an e-mail, in fake software and can even be found on web pages.”

Six of 2004’s ten most prevalent malware programs were mass-mailing viruses that usually used ‘social engineering’ methods (such as encouraging people to open messages by disguising them as coverage of celebrities or world events) to create an impact. Only last month for instance Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden was featured by the ‘Famus-F worm’, which arrived in users’ inboxes bearing the subject line: 'More terrorism this year.' Four of the ten most widespread malware programs propagated themselves via peer-to-peer networks, exploiting the popularity of file-sharing software such as Kazaa.

This week search giant Google has itself been suffering virus woes. The so-called ‘Santy’ worm has used Google to hunt out and infect thousands of web sites by searching the portal for sites that use a vulnerable version of phpBB’s bulletin board software. Following almost immediate pressure from anti-virus firms to tackle the problem, Google now claims to have started blocking the worm’s attempts to replicate.

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