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Symantec Intelligence

Risks from web threats mount up in 2010

Created: 08 Jul 2010 • Updated: 27 Jul 2010
MarissaVicario's picture
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Posted on behalf of Matt Charman, Marketing Manager

No-one can deny the phenomenal success of the World Wide Web. But its increasing prominence and importance come at a price. Quite apart from the big risks that businesses can find themselves exposed to as a result of inappropriate web use by their employees, cyber-criminals are focusing more of their resources on transforming the web into a malware minefield. Just one visit to a website infected with a virus or spyware can have serious revenue-reducing, reputation-eroding consequences for your business.

Globally, an estimated 1-1.5 billion people use the internet. Every day hundreds of millions of visits are made to websites worldwide. But as usage continues to climb upwards, some accepted truths about the web have broken down. Take ‘safe surfing’, for instance. A few years ago, common sense was all you really needed to keep your computer free from infection by the malware that lurked in the shadier corners of the internet. But today, all that has changed.

The reality is that infected websites are no longer confined to the ‘dodgy’ margins of the internet. There are now probably many tens of thousands of them – the vast majority perfectly legitimate, often mainstream sites that, unknown to their owners, have been compromised in some way by the sophisticated, skilled and determined gangs of cyber-criminals who now dominate the online ‘underworld’.

Equally concerning is the fact that infection techniques have become much more cunning and virulent than they were just two or three years ago. In many cases, the simple act of visiting an infected website is enough to download malware onto the victim’s PC – the so-called ‘drive-by download’. And with cybercriminals successfully extending the lifespan of many of their threats, the odds of a user stumbling on a malware-bearing website have never been shorter.

Getting infected is just the start. It’s what happens next that can really harm your business. For example, once the malware has breached defences, sensitive systems and confidential data may be exposed to damage or theft, resulting in loss of revenue and/or reputation. For the increasingly skilled gangs behind the attacks, the basic aim is to seize control of computers (usually surreptitiously) and then use/abuse that control in a range of business-compromising ways.

So far in 2010, the average number of website requests blocked by the MessageLabs Hosted Web Security Service, by Symantec Hosted Services, is over 20% higher than in 2009 on a per client per month basis.  

Nevertheless, in the face of unprecedented web threat levels, the Service continues to deliver protection of the very highest quality for thousands of businesses worldwide.

In 2010, the threat posed by the web is sharper and more extensive than ever before.  This White Paper - - assesses web threats today.  Its headline findings are based on the latest data gathered and analysed by MessageLabs Web Security Service, provided by Symantec Hosted Services; every week, on behalf of thousands of clients, the service blocks over 100 million requests to visit websites infected with malware or whose content contravenes clients’ web usage policies. The paper then outlines what those findings tell us about the current tactics being used by cyber-criminals – and their implications for web users.  But it also demonstrates how, in the face of web threats of unprecedented severity, your business can protect itself against them comprehensively and cost-effectively.

Download the whitepaper at