Unnatural troubles: Cyber attacks increased by a billion in 2014

Published December 17th, 2014 - 06:04 GMT
Three quarters of attacks targeting users’ money were carried out using banking malware but these are not the only financial threats.
Three quarters of attacks targeting users’ money were carried out using banking malware but these are not the only financial threats.

A total of 6.2 billon malicious attacks on user computers and mobile devices were blocked by Kaspersky Lab antivirus products in 2014, one billion more than in 2013, the vendor of endpoint protection solutions reported.

In 2014 Kaspersky Lab experts saw considerable growth in the number of malicious attacks on user computers and mobile devices, further development of financial malware and a change in the vectors of web attacks.

Key findings based on the company’s statistics:

•    38 per cent of user computers were subjected to at least one web attack over the year.

•    44 per cent of web attacks neutralised by Kaspersky Lab products were carried out using malicious web resources located in the US (27.5 per cent of all attacks) and Germany (16.6 per cent). The Netherlands (13.4 per cent) came third.

•    Attempts to steal money via online access to bank accounts were blocked on almost 2,000,000 user computers.

•    Kaspersky Lab products protected their users from an average of 3.9 million Internet-based attacks a day.

•    Kaspersky Lab's web antivirus detected over 123,000,000 unique malicious objects: 74 per cent of them were found at malicious URLs.

•    A total of 3.7 million attempts to infect OS X- based computers were blocked by Kaspersky Lab products

•    An average Mac user encountered 9 threats during the year

•    Kaspersky Lab solutions blocked 1.4 million attacks on Android-based devices, four times as many as last year.

Every day Kaspersky Lab’s Anti-Malware Research team processes 325,000 new malicious files, a statement said, adding that the number is up 10,000 a day compared with last year - and 125,000 a day more than in 2012.

Every day more than 1.6 million different files are processed through Kaspersky Lab’s Anti-Malware Research team, according to the statement.

Almost 20 per cent of these, that is to say one in five, is dangerous. There has been a 3.17 per cent increase in the numbers of malicious files detected this year compared with the 2013 figure.

The previous 12-month period, from 2012-2013, saw a growth of more than 50 per cent. According to Kaspersky Lab’s experts this sharp reduction in the growth rate reflects the significant change in tactics that malicious users are now deploying to infect PCs.

“We are now observing a very interesting trend in the malicious landscape,” said Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky, head of the Anti-Malware Research team at Kaspersky Lab.

“More and more often criminals use spear-phishing emails: spam email targeting a very specific group, such as gamers or online banking users. Previously this technique was almost exclusively used by advanced threat operators but now spear-phishing has been commercialized for use by less skilful cybercriminals. This allows them to perform less massive and less noticeable attacks. However our security solutions consistently detect these types of attacks.”

Mobile threats

•    295,500 new mobile malicious programs, 2.8 times as many as in 2013

•    12,100 mobile banking Trojans, 9 times as many as last year

•    53 per cent of attacks involved mobile Trojans targeting users’ money (SMS-Trojans, banking Trojans)

•    19 per cent of Android users (one in five) encountered a mobile threat at least once over the year.

•    Mobile malware attacks were registered in more than 200 countries worldwide

“2011 was the year of mobile malware formation, especially on Android-based devices; 2012 was when they developed and 2013 was when they reached maturity. In 2014 mobile malware focused on financial issues: the number of mobile banking Trojans was nine times greater than in the previous year and developing in this area is continuing at an alarming rate,” said Roman Unuchek, senior mobile malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

Financial threats

The fraudsters who specialize in mobile financial malware are probably inspired by their experienced “colleagues” who have been stealing money via personal computers for years. Zeus remains the most widespread banking Trojan with ChePro and Lohmys coming second and third, said Kaspersky.

Three quarters of attacks targeting users’ money were carried out using banking malware but these are not the only financial threats. Bitcoin wallet theft was the second most popular banking threat (14 per cent). Bitcoin mining software (10 per cent) is another threat related to the crypto currency. It uses computing resources to generate bitcoins.

Maria Garnaeva, security expert at Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team, said: “One of the most effective ways to deliver malware to user computers is to exploit vulnerabilities in Oracle Java and in browsers such as Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, etc.”

“In addition, cybercriminals continue to use exploits for Adobe Reader vulnerabilities. These infection techniques remain popular simply because social engineering techniques are still effective. Each year we see how cybercriminals are creative more inventive ways of luring in their victims.

“That is why recipients are still willing to read a seemingly harmless e-mail from an unexpected source and then open attachments or follow links that expose them to malicious programs,” she added

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