There is good news and bad news in this year’s X-Force 2010 Trend and Risk Report from IBM. The good news is that it seems that spam and phishing attacks are leveling off. Also, mobile devices have not been compromised in any big way, yet. The bad news is that IT security threats are getting increasingly sophisticated and targeted.
Based on intelligence gathered through research of public vulnerability disclosures, and the monitoring and analysis of more than 150,000 security events per second during every day of 2010, the observations from the IBM X-Force Research team finds that more than 8,000 new IT security vulnerabilities were documented, a 27 percent rise from 2009.
Public exploit releases were also up 21 percent from 2009 to 2010. This data points to an expanding threat landscape in which sophisticated attacks are being launched against increasingly complex computing environments.There seems to be a declining interest in spamming. IBM reports the historically high growth in spam volume leveled off by the end of 2010. This indicates that spammers may be seeing less value from increasing the volume of spam, and instead are focused on making sure it is bypassing filters.
Spam volumes peaked, and then leveled off — In 2010, spam volumes increased dramatically, reaching their highest levels in history. However, the growth in volume leveled off by the end of the year. In fact, by year’s end, spammers seemed to go on vacation, with a 70 percent decline in traffic volumes occurring just before Christmas and returning early in the new year.
There were significantly fewer mass phishing attacks relative to previous years, but there has been a rise in more targeted attack techniques. Although phishing attacks still occurred, the peak volume of phishing emails in 2010 was less than a quarter of the peak volumes in the previous two years. This may indicate a shift toward other, more profitable, attack methodologies such as botnets and ATM skimming.
Despite this decline, “spear phishing,” a more targeted attack technique, grew in importance in 2010, as meticulously crafted emails with malicious attachments or links became one of the hallmarks of sophisticated attacks launched against enterprise networks.
2010 saw some of the most high profile, targeted attacks that the industry has ever witnessed.
For example, the Stuxnet worm demonstrated that the risk of attacks against highly specialized industrial control systems is not just theoretical. These types of attacks are indicative of the high level of organization and funding behind computer espionage and sabotage that continues to threaten a widening variety of public and private networks.