Book a bed and breakfast, catch a computer virus

Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:49pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of computer viruses is growing extraordinarily fast and shifting from phishing e-mails to being hidden in seemingly safe websites such as a local bed and breakfast, says Internet security company Symantec Corp in a new report on Tuesday.

There has been a huge increase in the number of viruses and worms, also called "malicious code," on the Web with 624,267 identified in 2007 compared with 1.6 million last year, according to Symantec.

"Sixty percent of all the (malicious code) threats in the past 20 years came in the last 12 months alone," said Vincent Weafer, Symantec's vice president of security content and intelligence, in an interview with Reuters.

Attackers are shifting away from using a spam e-mail technique called phishing to get personal information from users to corrupting legitimate websites, for example a local business, and using it to steal, the report said.

The attackers tend to shy away from big corporate websites run by companies who would quickly repair the site in favor of smaller sites not run by professionals, such as a bed and breakfast. Symantec's report cited other examples -- U.N. and British government sites -- of infected Internet sites.

"The bad guys are going out to legitimate websites and compromising them," said Weafer.

The goal of the viruses is to steal, with the spread of broadband overseas making it easier for lawless areas to inadvertently play host to hackers.

"In 2008, 78 percent of confidential information threats exported user data and 76 percent used a keystroke-logging component to steal information such as online banking account credentials," the report said.

Once credit card numbers, user names and passwords have been stolen, they are sold on the black market.   Continued...

<p>A woman on a laptop in a file image. REUTERS/File</p>