Today almost every user browsing Internet is at risk. The increase in threats related to social networking sites, banking security, botnets, and attacks targeting users, businesses, and even applications made Internet a risky landscape. Many industry consultants and analysts refer Internet as ‘Wild West’ because of its huge insecurity, where nobody or no website can be trusted. Every year, cyber crime costs billions of dollars to repair systems hit by attacks and loss in productivity because of disruptions. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), consumers and businesses lost $5.8 billion in 2009 due to cyber crime.

Risks increased exponentially
Today, any user can get affected by cyber threats through browsing, searching or merely visiting legitimate sites than ever before in the Internet history. Malicious web links are sprouting at a rapid pace. According to CA Internet Security Business Unit (ISBU), 78% of threats came from online interaction during the first six months of 2009. IBM’s ‘X-Force 2009 Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report’, states that there was more than 500% increase in new malicious web links in the first six months of 2009. The vulnerability towards the threats seems to have reached the peak point. In the first half of the year 2009 alone, nearly 3,240 new vulnerabilities were discovered.

New threats
With the evolution of web based communities and explosion of Internet services, users are spending more time online and engaging in social networking activities on the Internet than ever before. This is resulting in new threats that exploit these services and communities. When a reputed website hosts third-party content, users often let down their guard while following hyperlinks in the third-party content or installing applications offered by them. Malware authors follow social networking buzz and the most popular activities online to attack the users. They are always ready to exploit significant and popular news stories to trap the netizens. Thus many people become victims of cyber traps.

The attackers are constantly upgrading their tools to attack the unwary users. This criminal activity is scaling new peaks constantly. According to IBM, the SQL injection attacks almost doubled from first quarter to second quarter of 2009. Through SQL attacks, malicious code is injected into genuine web sites to infect the visitors.

For the past few years, Botnets are the primary tools for many cyber criminals. They are always a challenge to the cyber security professionals as it is very difficult to track them down. Botnets can launch almost every type of cyber attack including data exfiltration, sophisticated espionage, and spam.

Targeted attacks
Although targeted attacks were rare earlier, they are seen often these days. Apart from the common people, top management of companies, governments, industries and even journalists are being targeted for private information. Emails with Malware attachments is the popular and preferred method for targeted attacks. According to CA (ISBU), 17% of the infections are distributed through E-mail. There is also an increase in attacks targeting client software using Adobe products including Flash and Acrobat Reader.

Criminals are adapting more effective methods to target online banking system. Trojans are the result of new tactics that go beyond the simple key logging-with-screenshots efforts, which prevailed earlier. CA (ISBU) reported that Trojans were the most common threats representing 71% of the total infections in the first half of 2009. When it comes to Phishing, IBM says that 66% of the phishing attacks targeted financial industry and 31% targeted online payment in the first half of 2009.

Over the years, Internet security issues have been growing. Initially, virus was the only problem. Later with the explosion of Internet, many newer threats have evolved increasing the security vulnerability such as malicious domains or untrusted web sites, presence of malicious content on trusted sites, including popular search engines, blogs, bulletin boards, personal Web sites, mainstream news sites and online magazines. Today you are in a high-risk zone as soon as you are online. It is always advisable to be alert while you are browsing.

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