Europe is virus hotbed, warns report
by James Middleton, © 1995-2002 VNU Business Publications
Ltd. All rights reserved
Friday, 18th January 2002 - Trends on the hacker underground are changing.
Viruses are on the way out and exploitation of software vulnerabilities is
increasing, according to research.
Analysts at mi2g's Intelligence Unit said that the emergence of new trends
became evident last year. Figures compiled by the group revealed a decrease
of 41 per cent in new virus species, from 413 in 2000 to 245 in 2001.
But, in contrast, the global exploitation of software vulnerabilities has
increased by 124 per cent from 1,090 incidents in 2000 to 2,437 in 2001.
Although traditional virus development may have dropped, it's by no means
on the way out. mi2g has identified Europe as the hotbed of malicious code
writing, leading the world in the development of 57 per cent of viruses.
Around 21 per cent of these originate from eastern Europe including Russia.
North America accounted for 17 per cent, followed by the Far East at 13 per
The analyst identified the most prolific serial virus writers as Zombie,
author of the Executable Trash Virus Generator; Benny from 29A virus group
and author of the .Net Donut virus; Black Baron, author of Smeg; David Smith,
author of Melissa; and Chen Ing-Hau, author of CIH.
According to mi2g, virus writers fit the stereotype of being fairly young,
male and getting no commercial benefit from their activities.
Steve Trilling, of antivirus firm Symantec, said: "With more and more critical
business and government functions conducted online, we could see more 'professional'
types of attackers."
Computer Associates' Simon Perry added: "We haven't seen a virus with a
really malicious payload yet. We haven't seen a really destructive time bomb.
We're probably about 12 or 24 months away from the motherlode virus."
mi2g pointed out that as "new software vulnerabilities
are exploited by virus writers, disgruntled employees and hacktivists, corporations
are having to patch up their systems continuously".
Computer Economics recently estimated the worldwide economic impact of malicious
code attacks at $13.2bn in 2001. The most significant attacks were from worms
exploiting software vulnerabilities such as Code Red ($2.62bn), SirCam ($1.15bn)
and Nimda ($635m).
DK Matai, chairman and chief executive of mi2g, said: "Why
are so many vulnerabilities coming to light? Software vendors have been keen
to profit from new products without paying adequate attention to the long-term
quality issues, such as trusted computing and the security perspective. As
evidenced by the recent sea change in Microsoft's priorities, the focus on
product development from day one has to be on security as it cannot be bolted