Sophos Reveals Rise of Web-based Malware in Q1 2007

Sophos has announced the results of its research into worldwide cybercrime activity during the first three months of 2007. The findings reveal that the overall number of new pieces of malware has grown dramatically, with the majority of malicious code writers selecting the web as its playground of choice.

Q1 2007 at a glance:
-  Number of malware more than doubled (23,864 new threats) compared to Q1 2006
-  Total spam relayed increased by 4.2 percent over the same period last year
-  Decline in overall infected emails — from 1.3 percent to just 0.4 percent
-  On average, 5,000 new infected web pages were identified daily
-  Troj/Fujif accounted for 50.8% of the ’top ten malware families hosted on websites’
-  China identified as top country hosting web-based malware (41.1%)

In the first quarter of 2007, Sophos identified 23,864 new threats — more than double the number found in the same period last year when the company identified 9,450. At the same time, the percentage of infected email has dropped from 1.3 percent or one in 77 emails in the first three months of 2006, to just 0.4 percent or one in 256 emails in 2007.

From January to the end of March, Sophos identified an average of 5,000 new infected web pages daily, indicating that this route to infection is becoming more popular with cybercriminals. With computer users becoming increasingly aware of how to protect against email-aware viruses and malware, hackers have turned to the web as their preferred vector of attack.

The top ten malware families hosted on websites in Q1 2007 were as follows:
-  1. Troj/Fujif: 50.8%
-  2. Troj/Ifradv: 12.1%
-  3. Troj/Decdec: 10.4%
-  4. Mal/Packer: 6.3%
-  5. JS/EncIFra: 5.5%
-  6. Mal/FunDF: 2.3%
-  7. Mal/Psyme: 2.2%
-  8. Troj/Zlob: 2.0%
-  9. Mal/Behav: 1.2% 10. Mal/DelpBanc: 0.4% Others: 6.8%

Not all of the infected websites were created by the hackers themselves. Sophos has found that the majority, 70 percent, were genuine websites that were vulnerable to attack because they were unpatched, poorly coded or had not been maintained by their owners. 12.8 percent of the compromised websites were hosting malicious script while Windows malware was responsible for infecting 10.7 percent. Adware was found on 4.8 percent of these pages and porn diallers on 1.1 percent.

The highest profile website infection of the quarter happened in February when hackers placed malicious script, identified as Mal/Packer, on the official Miami Dolphins website. The football team was due to host the Super Bowl the weekend after this happened, so the site was an extremely popular destination for web surfers at the time. Sophos points out that attacks like these outline the fact that any site, regardless of subject matter, can fall victim and infect innocent visitors if it is not properly protected.

 [April 24, 2007]

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