Financial Gain Driving Most Web Site Breaches

Financial gain driving Web breaches, IBM says

Internet attacks are increasingly being motivated by financial gain, with organized crime supplanting thrill-seekers as the main computer security threat, IBM said on Sunday.

Cyber-crime is likely to become more targeted and sophisticated this year than in the past, when the biggest threats were widespread viruses aimed at disrupting entire networks, IBM said in a report summarizing security trends in 2005. In the past, these things were often-times just 'hackers' out for a thrill, money not necessarily the object; just vandalism or a 'learning experience.'

"There's an underground economy out there that's trading fraudulent credit card information and extorting money from Web sites," said David Mackey, director of security intelligence at International Business Machines Corp., the world's biggest computer company.

Businesses have made their networks more secure, using software from companies such as IBM, Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc. to thwart viruses and worms that wreaked havoc on computers in 2003 and 2004. In

2005, only one attack, the so-called "Zotob" worm aimed at media organizations, was big enough to generate widespread attention, IBM said.

"Gone are the days of curiosity-seekers looking for their 15 minutes of fame," Mackey said.

In 2003, the Blaster worm targeted Microsoft Corp. software and devastated hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide.

In addition to more-sophisticated software and hardware, high-profile arrests in a number of virus cases appear to have thwarted would-be attackers, Mackey said.

Symantec, the world's biggest security software maker, found a similar pattern in a September report. It said viruses exposing confidential information made up three-quarters of the top 50 viruses, worms and so-called Trojans in the first half of last year, up from 54 percent in the year-earlier period.

Cyber-vandals increasingly use "phishing" -- fraudulent Web pages that look like legitimate sites -- to gather personal and financial information, IBM said. Also in vogue are spam attacks that seek confidential data, Mackey said.

Financial fraud cost consumers and businesses nearly $15 billion in

2005, with some 10 million people falling prey to identity theft, according to market researcher Gartner.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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