Web attacks struck 38 percent of all computer users this year — an overall increase of 1 billion from 2013 — as cybercriminals become more focused on financial gain, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Security Bulletin 2014.
Based on data from the Web attacks blocked by its antivirus software products, Kaspersky’s report showed that while the United States and Russia have traditionally been the source of cybercriminal activity, Germany rose to second place in its rankings this year, followed by the Netherlands.
Perhaps the most alarming trend was a shift from targeting individual consumers to cybercriminal activity aimed at large financial institutions. For instance, in a detailed look at its findings on Securelist, Kaspersky analysts said mobile banking Trojans shot up by a factor of nine, and attempts to steal money through online banking channels hit nearly 2 million. Cybercriminals may also be acting strategically by launching malware during periods when people typically go on vacation, which could account for a spike that occurred in financial hacking in the late spring of this year.
Meanwhile, Businessweek pointed out that some of the malware isn’t limited to online users — it is also happening in bank machines, evidenced by the Tyupkin malware that exploited the physical keypads where people enter PINs. BankExchange.com suggested the economics of these tactics favor the attackers. A banking Trojan that only costs $3,000 on the underground market could wind up stealing close to $72,000 if an attack is successful. Mobile Enterprise posited that as Apple Pay and other forms of mobile payment vie for consumer attention over the next few years, this kind of danger is only set to increase in 2015 and beyond.
Who Is Vulnerable?
To some, the Kaspersky Lab data shone a huge spotlight on the increased vulnerability of Apple hardware and software. For example, the company detected nearly 1,500 OS X malware programs — much of it malicious adware — aimed at consumers this year, an average of nine attacks per OS X user over the course of 2014. When you consider this in the context of the overall security problems presented in the report, OS X is still not a high priority for attackers, MacRumors argued, and more entrenched operating systems such as Windows and even Android may represent a much larger target. Still, as The Telegraph pointed out, not all Apple security threats were desktop-based, with iOS-oriented malware such as WireLurker recently surfacing as a way to see user data.
If there is one area that is most susceptible to Web attacks, it’s likely the browser. As Computer Business Review reported, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Firefox often have security holes, and Java remains an area ripe for exploitation. In other words, don’t expect the situation to get much better when Kaspersky releases its report around this time next year.