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China becomes bot-net epicenter
John Leyden, The Register 2007-03-20

China has displaced Britain as the home of the greatest concentration of compromised (zombie) PCs, according to the latest edition of security firm Symantec's twice-yearly Internet Security Threat Report, published on Monday.

The world's most populous country accounted for 26 percent of the world's bot-infected computers, a higher density than any other nation. Beijing was the city with the most bot-infected computers in the world, accounting for just over five percent of the worldwide total, the report stated.

During the second half of 2006 period, Symantec observed an average of 21,707 new active bot-infected computers per day in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. More than 2.3 million bot-infected computers in the region were identified as being active at any one time, a 130 percent increase from the 1 million seen during the first half of 2006.

In the EMEA region, France and Germany had the highest number of bot-infected computers, compromised systems used to send spam or other nefarious activities. The number of bots affecting computers in the U.K. fell from 22 percent, to 11 percent during the second six months of 2006, a drop Symantec attributes to the economic cycle of broadband penetration and adoption rather than particular Internet security efforts.

Madrid, Spain had the most bot-infected computers of any city in the EMEA region, accounting for six percent of the total. London came third behind Paris in this zombie league of shame.

Many of these compromised PCs (around 40 percent) were controlled via bot command-and-control computers located in the U.S.

Lan of the dead
The U.S. remains both a center and target of cybercrime. Eighty-six percent of the credit and debit cards advertised for sale on the digital underground were issued by banks in the U.S.

Symantec recorded an average of 5,213 denial-of-service (DoS) attacks per day, down from 6,110 in the first half of the year. Systems in the U.S. were the target of most DoS attacks, accounting for more than half (52 percent) of the worldwide total.

Ollie Whitehouse, Symantec research scientist and one of the authors of the report, said that hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the tactics they use to gain control of vulnerable systems. He said the increased use of unpatched (zero-day) vulnerabilities, which occurred regularly during the second half of 2006, provided evidence of this trend.

During the second half of 2006, 23 percent of the 1,318 documented malicious code samples exploited vulnerabilities. Many of these attacks targeted web browser security bugs.

Symantec documented 54 vulnerabilities in Microsoft Internet Explorer, 40 in the Mozilla browsers, and four each in Apple Safari and Opera over the report period. Mozilla did the best job of the browser suppliers in fixing flaws, taking an average of two days to develop an update. Internet Explorer was targeted by 77 percent of attacks specifically targeting Web browsers.

Spam, spam, spam....
Spam and in particular phishing attacks that attempt to trick users into handing over account credentials remained a problem during the reporting period. Symantec blocked over 1.5 billion phishing messages in the second half of 2006, an increase of 19 percent over the first half of 2006.

Forty-six percent of all known phishing sites were located in the U.S., a much higher proportion than in any other country. The U.K. had the second highest number of phishing Web sites in EMEA and third highest in the world, beyond the U.S. and Germany. Karlsruhe in Germany was the EMEA city which hosted the highest number of phishing Web sites.

During the last six months of 2006, 44 percent of all spam detected worldwide originated in the U.S. In the EMEA region, spam made up 66 percent of all monitored email traffic, Symantec reported.

Looking ahead, Symantec expects to see more threats begin to appear on Windows Vista, with a focus on vulnerabilities, malware and attacks against the Teredo platform. Symantec also expects that attackers will focus on third-party applications that run on Vista.

The net security giant expects phishing fraudsters to expand beyond the regular targets of online banks and eBay to new industry sectors, such as multiplayer online games. It also reckons that spam and phishing will increasingly target SMS and MMS on mobile platforms.

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