Category Archives: Malware Advisories

Ransom Trojan KDV.153863 – Call Me, Pay The Fee, And I’ll Unlock Your Kidnapped Windows System

imageRansomware is a vicious form of malware, given that that it generally encrypts the victim’s files, or restricts the user’s ability to access the computer in some way. Payment of a ransom fee is the commonality in all ransomware attacks.

According to F-Secure, a new form of ransomware (KDV.153863), which reportedly locks the victim’s computer, leaving the machine essentially unusable, is currently circulating on the Internet .

An infection by KDV.153863 will lead to the following boot screen.

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Graphic courtesy of F-Secure – click to expand.

In line with previous versions of this type of malware, an unlock code can be had (ostensibly for free), by following a set of specific instructions.

The following graphic sets out the method to be followed by the victim to obtain an activation code. The activation code does, in fact, unlock the victim’s computer. Cybercriminals with a conscience, or just good business strategy?

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Graphic courtesy of F-Secure – click to expand.

You’ll notice in the screenshot that all of the available telephone numbers are international, and it’s by way of this recovery construction that the cyber crook profits.

The Trojan author, collaborating with rogue call center operators, has designed a four minute message routine which the victim is forced to listen to while exorbitant long distance toll fees are being generated. Similar, in a sense, to the old 900 premium-rate telephone number scams  Apparently, these fees are shared between the cyber crook and the call center operators.

Following the forced four minute message routine, the victim is given an unlock code (1351236) which, according to F-Secure, appears to be the same every time the number is called.

We’ve been dealing with this type of malware, on and off, for years. If previous experience is any indication (and it is), we can expect to see more of this type of malware, in a more general release, through the balance of this year.

Reduce the possibilities of infection by this and other malware, by taking the following precautions:

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data. If you are infected this may be your only solution

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer

Install a personal firewall on the computer

Install anti-virus/anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet

Ensure your anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments

Don’t store critical data on the system partition

Adhering to the best practices, as noted above, is no guarantee that your system won’t be penetrated. All things considered, running your computer in virtualization mode, while surfing the Net, is highly recommended.

Please read Free BufferZone Pro – Maybe The Best Surfing Virtualization Application At Any Price, on this site, for information on virtualization.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Malware Alert, Ransomware, Software, trojans, Windows Tips and Tools

Will The Epsilon Data Breach Affect You? Don’t Be Surprised!

imageThe damage yet to be realized from the Epsilon Data Management breach, in which 250 million consumers names and e-mail addresses were compromised, has the potential to be staggering.

With 2500 client customer databases residing on their servers, Epsilon likes to characterize itself as the world’s premier email marketing service. Since they are responsible for over 40 billion (generally unwanted) emails annually, I tend to characterize Epsilon less favorably.

To this point, all of the companies involved in this breach (and the list is growing daily), are aggressively making the point that customer financial and confidential information, remains secure – and, has not been stolen. However, in a cover their ass move, many of the affected companies slip in a caveat – “based on everything we know”, or words to that effect.

Now, if one fell off the turnip wagon yesterday, that response might seem acceptable, or even encouraging. Personally, I’ll be guided by what experience has taught me in relation to situations such as this; and that is – there’s a very good chance that what we’re  seeing today, is no more than the tip of the iceberg.

In the short term we can expect the following:

The incidence of targeted spam (since names, addresses, and most importantly, company affiliations are available), is sure to rise dramatically;  with a corresponding increase in malware laden email.

Based on the same information accessibility, spam phishing attempts will move up the list of cybercriminals’ preferred scams. Unfortunately, the success ratio is likely to increase dramatically.

Long term impact has yet to be determined with any accuracy – but, since the type of companies impacted by this breach tend to operates in the Twilight Zone when it comes to safeguarding their customers privacy, heightened vigilance on the Internet, particularly not responding to unsolicited emails, takes on a new urgency if you are one of those who has had previous, or current dealings, with any of the affected companies.

Quick questions: Why wasn’t this enormously sensitive customer information encrypted? Have things gone so far, that we need to legislate common sense?

Internet security provider Kaspersky, has put together a list of the companies impacted by Epsilon’s data breach which is worth reviewing – if you’re unsure of a relationship with an affected company.

From Kaspersky Lab’s Threat Post:

The number of companies that was affected by the attack on online marketing firm Epsilon Data Management has continued to grow, virtually by the hour.

Many retailers, banks and other firms sent out notification letters to their customers on Monday, and to help you keep track of who’s affected, we’ve compiled a list of known companies victimized by the Epsilon attack.

There are likely to be even more companies that send out breach notification letters in the coming days, so check back for updates. Here is a list of companies known to have been affected so far: List of Companies Hit By Epsilon Breach.

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Be Prepared – Japan Earthquake, Tsunami Spam, And Malware, On The Way

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Experts Warn Of Japan Earthquake, Tsunami Spam

As the Pacific Rim braces for deadly Tsunami’s spawned by today’s magnitude 8.9 earthquake in Japan, the SANS Internet Storm Center says users should be on the lookout for a different kind of Tsunami: scam e-mail and Web pages looking to turn curiosity about the events in Japan into illicit gain.

The Internet Storm Center (ISC) issued a warning on its Web page Friday morning warning reader to expect “emails (sp) scams and malware circulating regarding the recent Japanese earthquake.”Examples of Tsunami-related spam have already shown up in spam filters, according to the Web site spamwarnings.com.

You can read more at Kaspersky’s ThreatPost here.

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Super Bowl Sunday – A Super Opportunity For Cybercriminals

Unfortunately, exposure to cybercrime is one of the hidden costs associated with the use of the Internet. It’s not fair – but that’s the way it is.

imageExperienced computer users are aware that if an event is newsworthy, cybercriminals will exploit it to their own advantage. A reminder, from time to time however, is in all our interest.

Cybercriminals have jumped (as expected), on Super Sunday, and are already exploiting this annual event. It’s hardly surprising then, that security experts are predicting record-breaking numbers of Super Sunday related online threats, and cyber attacks.

Cybercriminals are experts at exploiting our curiosity surrounding current events through social engineering , and according to PC Tools, Stephanie Edwards, “Whenever there is a major event, like Super Sunday, we see this kind of increased activity.”

Given the frequency of cybercriminal activity on social networking sites, (designed, in part, to drop malicious code on computers), users need to be aware that the use of social media sites demands an extra degree of caution.

From the Web:

Ad Age predicts that advertisers will use social media at record levels to fan the flames of their ads. Increased numbers of fake ads targeting young males will appear in popular forums and sites. These ads featuring attractive women or cheerleaders encourage people to click on the links which may take them to suspicious or malicious websites.

A “drive-by attack” can occur when a link is inserted onto popular video sharing websites that promise users access to Super Sunday commercials. If a user clicks on the link, they may be redirected to ads not related to Super Sunday or in more extreme cases, users’ personal information may be taken unknowingly through malicious system exploits.

In addition to attacking users, hackers are increasingly targeting legitimate fan and sports websites through redirected links or ads. A football fan scanning the latest sports updates may unknowingly have malware downloading through interactive animations on the page.

Internet users are not entirely at the mercy of cybercriminals, and can take relatively effective steps to protect themselves  from being victimized. You may want to review the following actions you can take to protect your Internet connected computer system:

  • When surfing the web – Stop. Think. Click
  • Install an Internet Browser security add-on such as WOT , which provides detailed test results on a site’s safety; protecting you from security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, and online scams.
  • Don’t open unknown email attachments
  • Don’t run programs of unknown origin
  • Disable hidden filename extensions
  • Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched
  • Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use
  • Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible
  • Disable scripting features in email programs
  • Make regular backups of critical data
  • Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised
  • Turn off file and printer sharing on your computer.
  • Install a personal firewall on your computer.
  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.
  • Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.
  • Consider running your system in a “virtual environment. You can search this site with the keywords “virtual environment” which will produce a listing of articles covering both free, and commercial, virtual applications and add-ons.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, social networking, Windows Tips and Tools

Comment Spam Is Dangerous BS!

imageIf you’ve ever wondered why comments on this site, and many other sites for that matter, are held for moderation by a site administrator, the simple answer is – comment spam, and the need to control it.

Without a doubt, comments are an important part of the mix for a technology site. Comments can spark discussion (always a good thing), allow a reader to present his/her point of view, share tech wisdom, or spread the word on a unique piece of software.

But, comments are not without their share of issues; with comment Spam, in my view, being a significant problem. Spam is virtually everywhere on the Internet. In your inbox, on Twitter and Facebook and other social networks, and so it’s not surprising that you’ll find Spam comments. Recently however, I’ve seen a major increase in the amount of comment Spam.

The following comment spam (full of praise – like many are), is just a small example of the type of nonsense Spam I deal with daily. (click on the screen capture to expand to original size – 1280 x 589).

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Take a look at this one, and try to imagine the type of creep who would submit this as a comment.

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Hard as it is to believe, there are many sites that rely only on a Spam filter to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, this complacency can lead to the posting of comment Spam that contains dangerous links. Links, which if followed, can lead to a malware site – guaranteeing a very painful experience. The comment shown above, for example, contains a number of malicious links.

Some advice:

Be cautious when following links contained in comments on any web site.

Be particularly cautious of comments, on any web site, where the writer is describing a problem with recommended software and offers a link to alternative software.  This is a favorite technique employed by cyber-criminals.

Be cautious when following any link contained in any web site, since the latest reports indicate there are 5.8 million individual web pages infected across 640,000 compromised websites. Cyber-criminals are finding it easier than ever to inject malicious content into legitimate sites.

Be cautious following links on web forums. Forums can often be a source of dangerous links.

Since the majority of infected sites are infected with Java based scripts, consider using Firefox with the NoScript add-on active. NoScript offers superior protection.

Install an Internet Browser add-on that provides protection against questionable or unsafe websites. My personal favorite is Web of Trust, an Internet Explorer/Firefox add-on, that offers substantial protection against questionable, or unsafe websites.

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Symantec Hosted Services 2010 Security Report Released

imageLooking back at what we’ve experienced in the past, enhances our ability to look ahead, and as high level computer users’ (the majority of readers on this site), it’s important to try to get a feel for what we’re likely to encounter in the malware threat landscape in the coming year.

Symantec Hosted Services, MessageLabs Intelligence division, has just released it’s annual security report which presents, in some detail, data on the types of diversified attacks we had to content with this past year.

As a precursor of things to come, Symantec predicts that in 2011 – “botnet controllers will resort to employing steganography techniques to control their computers.

This means hiding their commands in plain view – perhaps within images or music files distributed through file sharing or social networking web sites. This approach will allow criminals to surreptitiously issue instructions to their botnets without relying on an ISP to host their infrastructure thus minimizing the chances of discovery”.

If the past is a reasonable predictor of the future, and it’s almost certain that it is, then it we’re in for another rough year.

2010 Report highlights:

Web Security: For 2010, the average number of new malicious websites blocked each day rose to 3,066 compared to 2,465 for 2009, an increase of 24.3 percent. MessageLabs Intelligence identified malicious web threats on 42,926 distinct domains, the majority of which were compromised legitimate domains.

Spam: In 2010 the annual average global spam rate was 89.1 percent, an increase of 1.4 percent on the 2009. In August, the global spam rate peaked at 92.2 percent when the proportion of spam sent from botnets rose to 95 percent as a new variant of the Rustock botnet was seeded and quickly put to use.

Viruses: In 2010, the average rate for malware contained in email traffic was 1 in 284.2 emails (0.352 percent) almost unchanged when compared with 1 in 286.4 (0.349%) for 2009. In 2010, over 115.6 million emails were blocked by Skeptic™ representing an increase of 58.1 percent compared with 2009. There were 339.673 different malware strains identified in the malicious emails blocked. This represents more than a hundred fold increase over 2009 and is due to growth in polymorphic malware variants.

Phishing: In 2010, the average ratio of email traffic blocked as phishing attacks was 1 in 444.5 (0.23 percent), compared with 1 in 325.2 (0.31 percent) in 2009. Approximately 95.1 billion phishing emails were projected to be in circulation in 2010.

Being aware of the shape of the Internet landscape, and the changes that are occurring, or may occur in that landscape, now, more than ever, is a necessity – a prerequisite to protecting yourself and your computer from cybercriminal attack. Forewarned is forearmed, needs to be your guiding light – appropriate knowledge will act as your shield.

Symantec’s latest MessageLabs Intelligence Report is scary stuff, and I encourage you to read this report which will give you some indication of where we’re likely headed, and what we’ll have to deal with.

The annual MessageLabs Intelligence Report provides greater detail on all the trends and figures noted above, as well as more detailed trends for 2010. The full report is available here.

About Message Labs Intelligence:

Symantec’s Message Labs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from our control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world.  Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available here.

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Hard Drive Kidnapping – GpCode Ransomware On The Attack Again!

imageWhen we think of kidnapping, extortion, or blackmail, I think it’s safe to say, not many of us would consider our computer files being a likely victim. That is, unless we were familiar with a particular form of malware known as Ransomware.

Ransomware is a particular vicious form of malware – malware that encrypts the victim’s files, and then demands a monetary ransom to decrypt those kidnapped files.

Once again the Ransomware Trojan Gpcode, first encountered some years back by Kaspersky Lab, is on the loose. This is the fourth release of GpCode that we’ve covered here in the last few years, and as expected, this version continues to use RSA-1024 and AES-256 encryption.

As opposed to past variants though, this time around GpCode doesn’t delete files after encryption. Instead, to make it more difficult for a victim to recover from the attack – files are overwritten.

Once GpCode has finished its nasty work, the victim is presented with the following Desktop message.

Followed by a ransom note via Notepad, which is launched automatically by GpCode. The ransom note demands payment of a $120 fee.

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Preliminary indications are; the attack vector is a malicious PDF which when opened, downloads and installs, the ransomware.

Vitaly Kamluk over at Kaspersky Lab’s Securelist site, offers the following advice – “If you think you are infected, we recommend that you do not change anything on your system as it may prevent potential data recovery if we find a solution.

It is safe to shutdown the computer or restart it despite claims by the malware writer that files are deleted after N days – we haven’t seen any evidence of time-based file deleting mechanism. But nevertheless, it is better to stay away from any changes that could be made to the file system which, for example, may be caused by computer restart”.

Reduce the possibilities of infection by this and other malware, by taking the following precautions:

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data. If you are infected this may be your only solution

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer

Install a personal firewall on the computer

Install anti-virus/anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet

Ensure your anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments

Don’t store critical data on the system partition

Let me reemphasize – Make regular backups of critical data. If you become infected, this may be your only recovery option.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Ransomware, Windows Tips and Tools

Kate Middleton, Prince William Engagement Leads To Poisoned Search Results

imageIf an event is newsworthy, you can be sure cybercriminals are exploiting it and creating opportunities to drop malicious code on our computers – malicious code designed, in most cases, to separate unwitting victims from their money.

Taking advantage  of our curiosity surrounding current events has long been a favorite tool of the bad guys, and as expected, cybercriminals have jumped on the news of  Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton, and are actively exploiting this popular topic.

Cybercriminals don’t have to jump through hoops, write brilliant code, or take extreme measures, to be successful at the type of social engineering that goes hand in hand with capitalizing on newsworthy happenings. They simply poison selected search engine results – not as difficult to do as you might imagine.

For example, the Sunbelt Software Blog is currently reporting that “a Google search for “Kate Middleton” results in a poisoned link on the second photo under “Images for Kate Middleton.”

Google search string “Kate Middleton” = 14,300,000 results. (Click on a graphic to enlarge).

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Google search string “Images for Kate Middleton” = 8,600,000 results.

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Sunbelt warns that searching for photos of Middleton, can lead to images which redirect a  Firefox user to a compromised site where the user is encouraged to download a Trojan masquerading as a Firefox update.

Click on the graphic to expand and check the URL closely. You’ll notice that it reads Friefox – not Firefox.

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(Graphic courtesy of Sunbelt Blog).

The Sunbelt warning goes on to say:

The destination pages are usually legitimate ones, but are rarely ones dedicated to bringing news to readers. Depending on which browser the users are using, they will be redirected either to a YouTube-like page offering a video codec or to a page sporting and infection warning and offering a fake AV for download (IE users).

To save you the trouble of having to search – here’s a pic of the bikini clad Middleton.  Winking smile

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Old advice, but worth repeating nonetheless – Save yourself from being victimized by scareware, or other malware, and review the following actions you can take to protect your Internet connected devices including your computer system:

  • When surfing the web – Stop. Think. Click
  • Install an Internet Browser add-on such as WOT (my personal favorite), which provides detailed test results on a site’s safety; protecting you from security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, and online scams.
  • Don’t open unknown email attachments
  • Don’t run programs of unknown origin
  • Disable hidden filename extensions
  • Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched
  • Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use
  • Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible
  • Disable scripting features in email programs
  • Make regular backups of critical data
  • Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised
  • Turn off file and printer sharing on your computer.
  • Install a personal firewall on your computer.
  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.
  • Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

For additional information on fake search engine results, you can read an earlier article on this site – Malware by Proxy – Fake Search Engine Results.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox, Internet Safety, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Search Engines, trojans, Windows Tips and Tools, WOT (Web of Trust)

Firefox Update (3.6.12) Fixes Zero Day Vulnerability

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Yesterday, we reported on a critical zero day vulnerability in both Firefox 3.5, and Firefox 3.6., which could have allowed remote code execution in the Browser.

Mozilla jumped on this issue immediately, and has provided a fix by releasing Firefox version 3.6.12. Firefox 3.5 users, can ensure protection is in place against this vulnerability by updating to version 3.5.15.

If you haven’t updated your version of Firefox yet, then go to Help – Check for updates. Not all users allow automatic updates and installation – I’m one, as the following graphic illustrates. However, I do allow the update to download.

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For an overview of Browser security add-ons you should consider installing, read – An IT Professional’s Must Have Firefox and Chrome Add-ons, here on this site.

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Symantec MessageLabs Intelligence October 2010 Report – Targeted Email Attacks On The Rise

imageEven in a world where Internet threats present an ever evolving and increasingly sophisticated danger to businesses, targeted email attacks are the most potent of all – potentially dealing  devastating short and long-term damage to the victims.

Counter to intuitive thinking, a high degree of sophistication gives these low volume, highly personalized emails an edge, and a higher probability of success than mass email blasts.

The goal of targeted attacks is simple – an attempt to gain access to specific sensitive data, intellectual property or confidential internal systems, by targeting specific individuals and companies.

According to Symantec Hosted Services, targeted attacks on the retail sector took a big jump in October, with 25 percent of all targeted attacks directed at this economic sector.

When you consider that in the previous 2 years, less than half of one percent of targeted email attacks were directed at the retail sector – versus the 25% discovered by Symantec Hosted Services in October, it’s evident cyber crooks have a razor sharp focus on the retail sector.

The spam landscape changes constantly, and while your industry sector may not be in the crosshairs currently, given that 200 and 300 organizations are targeted each month with the industry sector varying, it may be only a matter of time.

Knowledge is power, and as computer users we need as much power as we can get in order to stay safe on the Internet, so I encourage you to read the highlights of MessageLabs Intelligence October report, just released today. The full report is available here.

Selected report highlights:

Spam: In October 2010, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was 87.5 percent (1 in 1.4 emails), a decrease of 4.2 percentage points since September.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 221.9 emails (0.45 percent) in October, an decrease of .01 percentage points since September. In October, 23.1 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, an increase of 15.5 percentage points since September.

Endpoint Threats: Threats against endpoint devices such as laptops, PCs and servers may penetrate an organization in a number of ways, including drive-by attacks from compromised websites, Trojan horses and worms that spread by copying themselves to removable drives. Analysis of the most frequently blocked malware for the last month revealed that the Sality.AE virus was the most prevalent. Sality.AE spreads by infecting executable files and attempts to download potentially malicious files from the Internet.

Phishing: In October, phishing activity was 1 in 488.0 emails (0.20 percent), a decrease of 0.06 percentage points since September.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that 51.3 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in October, an increase of 17.7 percentage points since September. Additionally, 24.7 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in October, an increase of 2.9 percentage points since last month. MessageLabs Intelligence also identified an average of 2,280 new websites per day harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs such as spyware and adware, a decrease of 23.9 percent since September.

About Message Labs Intelligence:

Symantec’s Message Labs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from our control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world.  Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, MessageLabs, Symantec, trojans, worms