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January 6, 2011

2010: The year of malware, cyberwar and hacktivism, says PandaLabs

Stuxnet and Anonymous deliver new threat landscape

By Steve Evans

Last year saw a huge rise in malware, cyberwar and attacks on social networks, according to a report from security firm PandaLabs.

The firm’s 2010 Annual Security Report, snippets of which were released at the end of last year, revealed that in just one year cybercriminals created and distributed a third of all existing viruses, meaning 34% of all malware that has ever existed was created last year.

Trojans are still the most popular form of malware, totalling 56% of all samples seen by PandaLabs, followed by viruses on 22% and worms on 10%. The company also revealed that fake antivirus software now makes up 11.6% of all malware, which is quite a significant percentage given that it was only discovered four years ago.

PandaLabs also declared 2010 the year of cybercrime, cyberwar and cyberactivism. The arrival of the Stuxnet worm, which targeted nuclear power plants in Iran, and Operation Aurora, allegedly launched in China to target employees of some large multinationals, were the two most high profile examples of cyberwar.

"What we do know for sure is that the Bushehr nuclear plant was infected, or at least this has been confirmed by the Iranian authorities. In fact in December, the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, admitted that Stuxnet had affected the country’s nuclear installations, confirming it as the outstanding incident of the year and one of the most spectacular in the history of cyber-crime or cyber-espionage," the report read.

Last year also saw Google fulfil its threat to stop filtering search results in China following a cyber attack on its services in early 2010. The attacks, labelled highly sophisticated by Google, were aimed at around 20 companies in total and targeted Chinese human rights activists by attempting to access their Gmail accounts.

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The PandaLabs 2010 Annual Security Report also highlighted increased instances of cyber-protests or hacktivism, such as the coordinated DDOS attacks launched by the Anonymous group as a result of the Wikileaks US cables revelations and the subsequent reaction.

Social networks provided a security threat for many organisations during 2010. Panda’s First Annual Social Media Risk Index revealed that 77% of employees at SMBs admitted accessing social media sites when at work, and consequently, 33% of companies have been infected by malware through this channel.

It wasn’t all bad though. The takedown of the Mariposa botnet and subsequent arrests were, "the result of investigative work by police forces in many countries," the report said. The botnet infected 12.7 million computers around the world, ranging from home PCs to PCs at some of the world’s biggest companies. The data stolen includes bank account and credit card details, user names and passwords.

"There is no doubt that 2010 has been a significant year in terms of security and privacy. Now, more than ever, we really feel that there is a genuine effort towards improving the security of businesses and individuals. Even though there is a long way to go before we can feel truly secure, at least we are heading in the right direction," PandaLabs added.

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