Malware networks smarter, faster than you: Blue Coat

It’s not time to run for the hills quite yet, but you might want to start packing. That's effectively the conclusion of a new report from security vendor Blue Coat, which in its latest state-of-security report has warned about everything from in-detectable malware to the explosion in 'malvertising'.

Citing the emergence of malware networks ('malnets') and what it says is a 240 per cent jump in malicious sites over the past year, Blue Coat's report – based on analysis of more than one billion requests to its hosted Blue Coat WebPulse security service – says the new structures are allowing cyber criminals to rapidly adjust their attack vectors through use of flexible malware kits and rapid cycling through malware related domain names.

The company says it is already tracking a number of malnets, with the top five – Shnakule, with 1269 average hosts; Glomyn (621); Cavka (190); Naargo (172); and Cinbric (80) reflecting the large size of the malware networks in the wild. Search engines, email, mobile devices, and social networking have emerged as the primary attack points for the malnets, which try to trick users into handing over personal and financial information using tricks such as spam, fake videos and application updates, pornography, and other attack vectors.

The growth of this trend was reflected in the ban on .info and other domains recently discovered to have been imposed within Australia's Parliament network – an approach that was held to be important by government IT staff but slammed by Greens senator Scott Ludlam as "censorship". Such bans may become more widespread, however, if rapidly climbing threat penetration continues to complicate the landscape: Blue Coat cites the example of a malware payload that in February 2011 changed its location more than 1500 times in a single day – outpacing the ability of any protective system to keep up.

Even advertisements are becoming dangerous territory, with 8 per cent of all WebPulse scanning requests related to advertisements and 3 per cent of those found to be malicious. Such 'malvertising' can plant malicious content in a page that would otherwise be innocuous.

Paired with distributed systems that host malware payloads on hacked online storage sites – online storage services were associated with 74 per cent of all new malnets last year – the malware threat profile continues to change on a regular basis. To respond appropriately, Blue Coat says businesses need to step back from their traditional acceptance of sites that are perceived to be secure simply because they are widely used within the business.

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