Cyber Attacks Rose Even As Vulnerabilities Decreased in 2011
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The number of malicious and Web attacks grew rapidly in 2011, with mobile platforms such as Google's Android operating system becoming key targets of cyber-criminals, according to security software vendor Symantec. In its annual "Internet Security Threat Report," released April 30, Symantec pointed out that the rise in malicious attacks -- an 81 percent increase from 2010 -- comes at the same time that the number of vulnerabilities fell by 20 percent.
In 2011, Symantec blocked more than 5.5 billion malicious attacks, and saw the number of unique malware variants jump to 403 million, company executives said. In addition, the number of Web attacks blocked per day increased 36 percent.
The Symantec report noted that targeted attacks, which had been associated primarily with attacks on larger organizations, are becoming more common among small and midsize businesses (SMBs). More than half of the targeted attacks -- which use social engineering and customized malware to get unauthorized access to sensitive data -- were aimed at businesses with fewer than 2,500 employees, with 18 percent targeting companies with fewer than 250 workers.
Mobile vulnerabilities grew 93 percent in 2011 over the previous year, according to the Symantec report, and there was a jump in threats that targeted Android. The relatively open nature of Android and its apps market is making the Google operating system an attractive target for cyber-criminals, according to security firms.
The Symantec report also noted an increase in data breaches, with a rising concern over the issues of lost mobile devices. About 1.1 million identities were stolen during each data breach last year, a significant increase over previous years, the company said. While hacking incidents were a key threat -- exposing more 187 million identities last year -- data breaches were more likely to be caused by lost smartphones, tablets, USB keys or backup devices. Such lost or stolen devices exposed 18.5 million identities.