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Whether spying for information, stealing money or merely wreaking havoc, cyber criminals develop increasingly more sophisticated attack models to undermine common user practices/habits and tools. The most recent trend shows cyber criminals demonstrating the dangerous ability to hone in on specific victims and applications.

Companies recognize the danger of such cyber attacks. In fact, 70 percent of firms rank viruses and hacking ahead of fraud and physical break-in as their biggest threats.* Given this fear and the insidious nature of today's threats, placing IT security high on the risk management agenda is vital. Failing to adequately protect against such dangers can result in sensitive information being leaked or destroyed, financial data being stolen, legal action or embarrassing headlines—all of which can severely damage a company's bottom line.

The first step toward adequately protecting a company is to learn the types of threats lurking in cyberspace.

Targeting Specific Individuals or Companies

Research indicates that the number of new computer viruses and worms has dropped significantly, suggesting that there exists one or more new weapons of choice.

This assumption is true, as today’s cyber criminals typically arm themselves with Trojan horses. Accounting for 82 percent of the new threats detected in 2006, Trojans are devastating programs that pretend to be legitimate software only to deploy hidden, harmful functions.

Trojans can and often do more than just attack a computer. Approximately half of today’s Trojans contain spyware that cyber criminals use to log key strokes, steal sensitive information or gain remote access to the victim’s computer.

Inherently, Trojans cannot disperse autonomously. This trait influences criminals wielding Trojans to target specific communities usually via email, as it is cheap and ubiquitous. These spam emails contain an infected attachment or a website link that, when visited, downloads malicious code onto the user's computer.

Spam presents other targeted threats, too. Phishing, for example, is the use of bogus emails that trick users into supplying confidential information. More than one-fifth of computer users now receive at least five phishing emails daily. Sometimes seen as a reckless threat, phishing should instead be regarded as a potential strategic attack. The target is often a specific group of people such as a company’s customers. The targeted company’s image can be irreparably damaged while its customers can be left exposed to future victimization.


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