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Users face increasingly virulent virus threats

Despite a decline of 28% in the fourth quarter 2002, the number of new viruses and hybrid security threats hitting systems still totalled 101, according to research from Internet Security Systems.

The number of viruses and security threats hitting systems during the fourth quarter of 2002 declined by 28%, according to research from Internet Security Systems (ISS). However, a substantial 101 hybrid threats and worms were still created during this period, adding to the 393 that were unleashed during the previous three quarters.

More worrying though is the increasing lifespan and propagation capabilities of more recent worms. This, according to ISS, is the Compound Risk Factor (CRF) which enables worms and other viruses to continue resurfacing long after they have been discovered.

“As we study the threat spectrum and monitor attack activity on a global basis from day-to-day and year-to-year, we can determine that the internet risk of 2003 will continue to rise,” says Chris Rouland, director of Internet Security Systems’ X-Force security research & knowledge organisation.

“Over the last two quarters, we saw a major shift toward computer attacks that no longer target a single point but are characterised by large scale attacks affecting critical systems. This, combined with the lack of the latest threat protection solutions and education within corporate, government and home user environments, continues to allow worms and other hybrid threats to propagate and extend their lifespan,” he adds.

ISS’ research also revealed other findings about the nature of security attacks, which are becoming increasingly incessant with multiple hybrid threats being released to attack the same vulnerability. The underground hacker community is also becoming increasingly unified and virulent as viruses creators release source code for their worms with increasing frequency, enabling variations of their worms to be created. For example, ISS reveals that there were four variants of the Linux.Slapper worm unleashed in a 20-day period.

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