/ 27 February 2007

Email viruses rule the roost

Computer viruses spreading by email still ruled the roost last year, security solutions provider BitDefender said on Tuesday.

The top 10 viruses propagated via email messages accounted for 55% of the total number of infections by BitDefender in 2006.

Grayford Holton, a local BitDefender distributor, said the infamous Netsky virus caused 13% of last year’s infections, with the Nyxem.E virus in second place.

The Netsky virus refers to a family of computer “worms” that scan a computer for email addresses and sends itself to all addresses found. Nyxem.E works in a similar fashion and is also known as Blackworm. Both viruses can corrupt data on a victim’s computer, sometimes on specific dates.

The new year will see an increase in email-based attacks, he said, “and the recent messages related to Saddam Hussein, the storm that hit Europe or to Putin’s death have proven that the hottest news is going to become a social engineering tool”.

Hackers use such subject lines to draw email users’ attention and persuade them to open the malicious programs received as email attachments.

In 2007, spam messages with attached images and no text will account for more than 50% of the world’s spam, Holton said — and most anti-spam solutions have no defence against this phenomenon, as there is no text to be scanned for typical spam content.

Microsoft Office-type applications and online communities such as those of MySpace and YouTube also remain vulnerable to exploitation, such as the spreading of spyware.

The known vulnerabilities of Office-type applications are even traded “underground” to help hackers create computer attacks that are custom made for certain victims.

Holton says 2007 will also see more computer applications appear on the market that are already infected. “In these cases, hackers pretend to be willing to contribute to users’ security while hiding viruses or spyware in the applications’ codes.”

BitDefender specialists analyse all of such threats to help develop better anti-virus software, firewalls, spam blockers and so forth.