Windows not the only OS in danger

While Microsoft products still remain as their favourite targets, hackers and virus writers are branching out to attack software running on other operating systems, according to security research group SANS Institute.

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By  Caroline Denslow Published  May 12, 2005

While Microsoft products still remain as their favourite targets, hackers and virus writers are branching out to attack software running on other operating systems, according to security research group SANS Institute. Anti-virus software from Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro; server and business software from Oracle and Computer Associates; and media players from iTunes, RealPlayer and Helix that run on Linux or Mac operating systems have all become victims of security breaches, SANS said. As Windows users become more vigilant with their security practices, hackers are looking to take advantage of other software programs that might not be patched as frequently. Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute, said the current trend among virus writers is to spread viruses through e-mails and attack a variety of commonly used applications such as multimedia software and music players. Vulnerabilities in such programs are much more tedious to fix as it entails downloading the latest version of the software rather than just installing a patch, Paller said. Users who have dial-up connections will be more prone to such attacks as they are least likely to download the latest software. SANS also published the findings of its recent security report where more than 600 new internet vulnerabilities were found during Q105. Twenty of those are considered dangerous as they remained unfixed on a large number of computers that are connected to the internet even though patches are available. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger and MSN Messenger head the Top 20 list of critical vulnerabilities, while the bottom ten consist of Unix flaws, such as holes in domain name systems. “These critical vulnerabilities are widespread and many of them are being exploited, right now, in our homes and in our offices,” said Paller. “We’re publishing this list as a red flag for individuals as well as IT departments. Too many people are unaware of these vulnerabilities, or mistakenly believe their computers are protected.”

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