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Bed for the night could give you a computer virus

THE number of computer viruses is growing extraordinarily fast and shifting from phishing e-mails to being hidden in seemingly safe Websites such as a local bed and breakfast, Washington Internet security company Symantec Corp said yesterday in a new report.

There has been a huge increase in the number of viruses and worms, also called "malicious code," on the Web with 624,267 identified in 2007 compared with 1.6 million last year, according to Symantec.

"Sixty percent of all the threats in the past 20 years came in the last 12 months alone," said Vincent Weafer, Symantec's vice president of security content and intelligence.

Attackers are shifting away from using a spam e-mail technique called phishing to get personal information from users to corrupting legitimate Websites, for example a local business, and using it to steal, the report said.

The attackers tend to shy away from big corporate Websites run by companies who would quickly repair the site in favor of smaller sites not run by professionals, such as a bed and breakfast. Symantec's report cited other examples - United Nations and British government sites - of infected Internet sites.

The goal of the viruses is to steal, with the spread of broadband overseas making it easier for lawless areas to inadvertently play host to hackers.

"In 2008, 78 percent of confidential information threats exported user data and 76 percent used a keystroke-logging component to steal information such as online banking account credentials," the report said. Once credit card numbers, user names and passwords have been stolen, they are sold on the black market.

"The most popular item for sale on underground economy servers in 2008 was credit card information, accounting for 32 percent of the total," the report said. "The price for each card can be as low as 6 cents when they are purchased in bulk."

Bank account credentials was the second most likely to be sold, at 19 percent, for between US$10 and US$1,000 each. E-mail account user names and passwords were in third place at 5 percent for between 10 cents and US$100.

Weafer said users could no longer rely solely on security protection software and urged international cooperation to stamp out organized crime operating in lawless environments.


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