Himalayan News Service

Los Angeles, March 24:

Current technology is totally inadequate to combat cyber crime as hackers increasingly seek financial gains by illegally accessing personal information online, says an IT security firm.

Releasing its latest Internet Security Threat Report, Symantec said more than half the major Internet threats targeted personal information, Xinhua reported. The report stated identity theft features were found in 54 per cent of the top 50 malicious codes detected between July and December 2004, marking an increase on the 36 per cent found during the same period in year 2003. This represented a clear trend that attackers had gone from seeking fame to seeking fortune, said Oliver Friedrichs, senior manager with Symantec Security Response.

The report suggested regulatory intervention and technological means of checking the legitimacy of e-mail as methods to reduce identity threat attacks. However, regulations were somewhat limited because the individuals behind the scams were already breaking the law and showed an apparent disregard for rules, said Friedrichs.

He added that technology, in its current form, was hard-pressed to combat phishing e-mail messages and identity threat attacks. Phishing involves sending e-mail to users falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to trick users into surrendering private information that is used for identity theft. “Most of the technology today is in its infancy,” Friedrichs said, “There are a number of efforts underway to create standards to validate these e-mails, but right now there is no clear standard that has been incorporated into technology.” Because a failure to prevent, detect or remove these threats could mean severe financial losses, the disclosure of confidential information, and the loss of data, organisations were in dire need of updating their anti-virus solutions more often than ever before, Symantec said. Computers were increasingly coming under attack from Trojan horses, worms and viruses that attempted to glean users’ cached log-on data and passwords to financial information and this trend was not likely to slow down soon, he said. The study also detected a rise in phishing attempts used by financially motivated attackers. Symantec said that by the end of December 2004, it was blocking an average of over 33 million phishing attempts a week, up from an average of nine million a week in mid-July, representing an increase of over 366 per cent. Phishing would continue to be a serious concern in 2005, the study said.