90% Growth in Malicious Attacks from Legitimate Domains According to Cisco Report

This morning Cisco released their annual security report.

Perhaps most disturbing was the increased hijacking of legitimate domains and legitimate e-mail addresses. When I met with the Cisco team last week, I was reminded that security begins and ends with people–the origin of an e-mail or web attack is a key flag for identifying threats.

It wasn’t all bad news, thankfully. Malware e-mail attachments declined by 50%.

Unfortunately, most security improvements are faster reactions to threats, rather than proactive avoidance. As companies get larger amounts of data from multiple silos, perhaps we’ll see a greater emphasis on identifying potential vulnerabilities, rather than just shutting down obvious threats. Cisco, for example, aggregates the data from their IP, e-mail, and website defense systems to predict new threats.

Highlights below (Full report here):

The overall number of disclosed vulnerabilities grew by 11.5 percent over 2007.Vulnerabilities in virtualization technology nearly tripled from 35 to 103 year over year.

Cisco researchers saw a 90 percent growth in threats originating from legitimate domains, nearly double what was seen in 2007.

Spam: According to Cisco, spam accounts for nearly 200 billion messages each day, approximately 90 percent of worldwide e-mail. The United States is the biggest source at 17.2 percent. Other countries who contribute spam include Turkey (9.2 percent), Russia (8 percent), Canada (4.7 percent), Brazil (4.1 percent), India (3.5 percent), Poland (3.4 percent), South Korea (3.3 percent), Germany and the United Kingdom (2.9 percent each).

Botnets: Botnets have become a nexus of criminal activity on the Internet. This year, numerous legitimate Web sites were infected with IFrames, malicious code injected by botnets that redirect visitors to malware-downloading sites.

Reputation hijacking: More online criminals are using real e-mail accounts with large, legitimate Web mail providers to send spam. This “reputation hijacking” offers increased deliverability because it makes spam harder to detect and block. Cisco estimates that in 2008 spam resulting from e-mail reputation hijacking of the top three Web mail providers accounted for less than 1 percent of all spam worldwide but constituted 7.6 percent of the providers’ mail traffic.