Cybercrime attacks were at an all time high in 2013 with the highlights being the very successful credit card hacking schemes that afflicted Target and other retailers during the holiday season and the marked increase in mobile malware.
Even though retailer attacks gained the most press it represented only a small portion of all the malware tracked by McAfee and reported in its McAfee Labs Threats Report: Fourth Quarter 2013. The company saw a 15 percent increase in malware with 196 million unique malware examples being found in 2013. Ransonmare, where the thief literally holds data for ransom threatening to release it if not paid off, doubled during 2013 with 1 million new samples being detected.
The number of suspicious URLs grew by 40 percent last year with the majority of these being hosted on U.S.-based servers.
The Target-type point of sale attacks were called unprecedented by the security software firm McAfee in its recent security report. Most disturbingly, the report states that the attacks were accomplished with off the shelf malware that the crooks bought and then modified. Granted, the malware was not bought legitimately, but the fact that they do not have to develop it themselves makes it easier for newcomers to enter the business.
"During the last few years we have seen a notable rise in the malware families POSCardStealer, Dexter, Alina, vSkimmer, ProjectHook, and others, many of which are available for purchase online," the report stated.
Target was attacked using BlackPOS, described as one of these off-the-shelf malware kits by McAfee. What has become of the financial data is also starting to be known. McAfee said large dumps involving millions of credits are appearing in "carding" marketplaces. Here the credit card numbers are made available to thieves who may, ironically, pay for the stolen data with Bitcoins.
"We believe these breaches will have long-lasting repercussions. We expect to see changes to security approaches and compliance mandates and, of course, lawsuits. But the big lesson is that we face a healthy and growing cybercrime industry which played a key role in enabling and monetizing the results of these attacks," the report stated.
Smartphones and tablets are also no longer immune to hacker's evil plans. McAfee collected 2.47 million samples of new mobile malware last year with 744,000 being picked up in the fourth quarter alone. This is a 197 percent increase over 2012.
Criminals are using every avenue available to break into mobile devices.
Malware can arrive on a mobile device through just about every attack vector commonly associated with other endpoint devices - usually as a downloaded app, but also from visits to malicious websites, spam, malicious SMS messages, and malware-bearing ads," the company said.