Conficker and Zeus dominate ESET 2010 threats report

At the same time, however, the Slovakian IT security vendor says that the Zeus trojan also made its mark during the year.

Delving into the report reveals that, for three months in a row, the Bflient.k malware has been present in the Top Ten Threats list of ESET's monthly threat trends chart.

According to the study, Bflient is a commercial kit that is sold to criminals that enables them to create and maintain botnets. Each customer receives a custom version of the kit in order to distinguish one customer from another.

"Once [the] purchase is configured and deployed, the customer can command [the] botnet to perform the usual tasks, such as launching a distributed denial of service attack, infect other computers, and most importantly, download and install dubious software at will", the report notes.

For security researchers, ESET says it is often hard to monitor the entire lifecycle of a botnet, from its creation to its day-to-day activity and, hopefully, its takedown.

"There are so many botnets and so many malware families out there, it is simply impossible to track them all. But sometimes we get lucky and witness a botnet creation or a merger/acquisition. This fall, we saw two Peerfrag botnets entirely drop their 'management' software in favour of a newer model, Bflient.k. This allowed us to learn more about how botnet owners work", says the report.

The WikiLeaks saga – and its consequential attacks – dominated the latter part of 2010 and, says the analysis, leaving aside all the aforementioned global implications to focus purely IT security issues, this is a multilayered phenomenon, where each layer could be expanded into a security analysis all on its own.

Facebook, meanwhile, also caused problems during the year and, says the IT security vendor, the social networking site presents a particular danger.

The site may, says the report, continue to try to cure the symptom rather than the disease by presenting the social media privacy invasion issue as something that their customers actually want, so that it is the responsibility of their customers to ensure that their data are not shared in ways they would not agree to if they were specifically asked.

"Some sites (Bebo for example) have actually moved away from the 'deny nothing' end of the spectrum towards 'deny some things', even though sharing as much as possible of their customers' data is fundamental to their business model", says the report.

Against this backdrop, ESET poses the question is whether most of the people who blithely embrace the concept of `information wants to be free; in the social media context do so because they're not equipped to appreciate the security implications of that world view?

"Automated social networking site scraping tools, as well as leakage of data, will reduce the cost of creating spear phishing attacks, leading to more high-profile attacks. Incautious use of social media and inappropriate or naive acceptance of publicly available data for authentication can only increase the risks", says the report.

Overall, 2010 was a busy year in terms of malware, adds the report, with threats in various platforms, a growing incidence of botnets, the emergence of innovative new malicious code, as well as the continuance of some threats that have been in the wild for years.

"This last attribute – the combination of old threats with other, more recent threats – has made 2010 a year of dramatic growth for malware", the report concludes.

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