Thursday, February 16, 2006

Spyware Exploits Found on 1.5% of Web Pages

"Drive-by" Spyware Downloads Attack You From 1.5% of Web Pages

The Internet is becoming increasingly risky for novice users. You have to protect your PC and browser from "drive-by malware downloads" because so many sites automatically exploit the gaping security holes in Internet Explorer.

A study recently published by a group of researchers at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at theUniversity of Washington has found that 1.5 percent of the URLs studied exploited flaws in Internet Explorer to install spyware without the user's permission.

Although 1.5 percent may seem it a very small percentage, it means that one in every 67 web pages analyzed included malicious content to exploit vulnerabilities in the browser.

The study, available at http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/gribble/papers/spycrawler.pdf, examined 18 million URLs in May and October last year, which also allowed the evolution over time to be studied.

This study is particularly interesting because of the diversity of the data it offers, analyzing many websites by category and type of executable file downloaded (keyloggers, dialers, Trojans, adware or browser hijackers).

The study also shows that a large number of the executable files downloaded contained various attack functions. In May of last year, the most common attack was adware, whereas in October this attack dropped compared to browser hijackers, which were the most common with 85 percent of detections.

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