[ISN] Government computers top target for cyberattacks
isn at c4i.org
Mon Aug 8 01:01:51 EDT 2005
By Daniel Pulliam
dpulliam at govexec.com
August 5, 2005
Cyberattacks on computer systems escalated in the first half of 2005
and government agencies were targeted more than any other business
sector, according to a new report.
Attacks on the government, financial services, manufacturing and
health care industries have risen 50 percent since the beginning of
the year, according to IBM's Global Business Security Index Report .
In the first half of 2005, there were more than 237 million security
attacks worldwide, with 54 million directed at the U.S. government.
The manufacturing sector received about 36 million attacks, followed
by the financial services industry with 34 million and health care
with 17 million.
Attacks considered to be relatively harmless - such as spam or basic
computer viruses - declined. IBM analysts concluded that for-profit
attacks are becoming dominant, particularly those involving phishing -
the use of e-mail to try to fraudulently obtain personal information.
The percentage of spam in total e-mail traffic dropped from 83 percent
in January to 67 percent in June, but e-mails containing viruses
increased by 50 percent during the same period, the report stated.
In December 2004, one in every 52 e-mails contained a malicious
security threat, such as a virus. By January 2005, the ratio had
jumped to one of every 35 e-emails. By June, the number reached one in
every 28 e-emails.
IBM analysts believe the majority of cyberattacks now are carried out
by criminal gangs, which have become smarter. In the first half of
2005, MessageLabs, a security and management firm that partnered with
IBM in writing the report, recorded more than 35 million phishing
attempts. In 2004, MessageLabs recorded about 25 million such efforts.
One type of phishing, known as spear phishing--which involves
coordinated attacks on specific organizations or individuals for the
purposes of getting important data--has grown more than tenfold since
the beginning of the year, the report stated.
Alan Paller, director of research at the security group SANS
Institute, said that spear phishing is turning into an epidemic. But
despite the growing extent of the problem, Paller says that the
federal government has been ineffective in responding to the threat.
"This is a huge problem," Paller said. "They need to have a strategy
for dealing with it, and I don't mean a go-to-meetings strategy, but
an actual action strategy that they can undertake."
Paller criticized the 2002 Federal Information Security Management
Act, which requires agencies to publish reports certifying and
accrediting major systems and applications for security risks--a time-
and resource-consuming process.
"Agencies are spending significantly more [time and money] writing
reports and less protecting their networks," Paller said. "Let's stop
writing reports and get the stuff fixed."
The United States was the source of the most attacks in the period
studied, with 12 million, followed by New Zealand with 1.2 million and
China with 1 million. Attacks were most likely to occur on Fridays and
Sundays and between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.
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