Dasient, a company that provides anti-malware solutions, has just released its malware report for the third quarter of 2010. The report's major finding was that the number of websites that became infected with malware during the third quarter was approximately 1.2 million. Not only is that figure quite high, but it is also double the amount of infections found during Dasient's 2009 report for the same three-month period. Perhaps most alarming of all is the fact that some of those infected websites were those of government agencies and other legitimate organizations.
In 2008 and 2009, Dasient noticed that websites of government agencies were being targeted for malware infections. Many of those sites, such as DC.gov, Govtrip.com, and others, had low monthly page views. In 2010, however, government sites that are viewed by many more web surfers have been hit with infections. The National Institute of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Treasury are three examples of widely viewed government sites that have been affected by malware.
This trend of popular government websites getting infected shows that hackers may be focusing their efforts on seemingly trustworthy and legitimate sites that have much larger viewing audiences. Despite having detected infections previously, some of the government agency websites became re-infected. The National Institute of Health's site was most recently infected in October, marking the fifth time such an event had occurred. Even worse was the State of Alabama's site, which experienced re-infection 37 times.
The third quarter revealed another malware instance that could have drastic effects on governments, when the Stuxnet Trojan was detected. Stuxnet is a sophisticated Trojan that can sabotage industries critical to a nation's infrastructure, and possibly give its owners access to control equipment in factories and other areas. The sophistication of the Stuxnet virus leads many to believe that it could have only been created with plenty of financial backing. Many also believe it was possibly written by a nation state with plans to spread terrorism on a massive level.
In terms of malware distribution, Dasient found that hackers used anti-virus scams and drive-by downloads on an increased basis. They also predict that the growing popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will cause such sites to become favored targets for malware distribution. One well-known offender in this realm is the Koobface botnet; it has affected many social networking users. Koobface developers have successfully created attack modules that attempt to spread phony anti-virus software among the networks. The attack modules have been programmed to also post comments on profiles that contain malicious links.
Another highlight of Dasient's report was its findings on the existence of malvertisements across the Internet. Malvertisements are online advertisements that contain malware or scareware that try to trick users into clicking them to install fake anti-virus software to eliminate infections, and more. During the third quarter of 2010, Dasient estimated that 1.5 million plus malvertisements were served per day, and that the average malvertising campaign had a life expectancy of 11.1 days. The combination of the frequency and the decent life span of malvertisements makes them another solid avenue for malware distribution.
For more on this topic, visit http://blog.dasient.com/2010/11/normal.html.
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