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Developing world, developing problems

Richard Bowman | April 24, 2009
Fertile ground for the distribution of viruses, spam and malware

According to industry experts, the shadow Internet economy was worth more than US$105 billion in 2008.  2009 is predicted to be another year of significant growth as e-crime tools become accessible and the market becomes more mature and open, operating to conventional supply and demand rules. Through the continuous improvement in the quality of products on sale in the shadow economy, previous barriers to entry such as technical skills will be lowered and more people will try and make a living out of this economy.

Prevention is better than cure

It is easy to dismiss internet problems as out there, too techie to deal with and not my problem especially by smaller businesses who may not have dedicated IT staff.  The reality is that Internet crime hurts businesses. In 2008, the US authorities indicted a spammer who ripped off US$3 million through a stock spam scam. From late 2008 to 2009, the US Pentagon spent more than US$100 million clearing up Internet attacks and viruses. The most common form of attack is via e-mail or a rogue website. In addition, 70 per cent of all e-mail traffic is unwanted spam, a waste of time and server capacity.

Protecting confidential data is a growing concern for businesses. Not only must they comply with regulations, including the Data Protection Act, but also deal with security breaches, which can have a serious impact on a companys reputation and share price. This is why the latest form of attack, the targeted Trojan, is a real concern. Specifically written and designed for information theft, attackers use public information, such as Companies House records or information from social networking sites, to target key individuals by name.

Because the malware is a one-off, conventional anti-virus software, which uses signatures to spot viruses, has a hard time detecting it. Moreover, as it is carefully targeted at individuals, it has a greater chance of getting through. In 2005, we saw about two such attacks a weekand this figure increased to two attacks a day in 2006. By 2008 this figure increased exponentially to an average of 53 such attacks per day globally.

Be certain in an uncertain world

A looming virus and spam threat from developing countries, combined with the rise of new forms of malware and targeted trojans, makes the threat landscape a very populated and unpredictable place for businesses. The case for managed services is now stronger than ever. Most anti-virus software uses signatures to detect viruses. This means that every e-mail and website request is scanned to see if anything matches a list of known threats. However, signatures have a weakness. A virus or trojan has to be caught and analysed before the signatures can be updated. This leaves them vulnerable to custom-written or brand new threats. With so many new threats emerging around the world, isnt it better to be certain?

Richard Bowman is regional manager, MessageLabs South Asia (now part of Symantec).  Based in Singapore, he is responsible for all aspects of business development in South Asia.  


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