Lavasoft News - June 2007

Ad-aware 2007 Premiere - June 2007

All of our loyal Ad-Aware users have heard about Lavasoft's coming attraction, and now the moment you have been waiting for has arrived. Ad-Aware 2007 is coming to a computer screen near you in just a few short days. That's right - Ad-Aware 2007 will be released worldwide on June 7. Make sure to read our "Ad-Aware 2007 Premiere" article for a peek at what is included in the features of Ad-Aware 2007 Pro, Plus, and Free versions.

In this issue of Lavasoft News, we bring you the latest on spyware trends and advancements in online crime. Even as law enforcement officials try to keep up the fight against cyber crime, it's important to stay educated on the latest threats, so you know how to protect your PC and yourself. Get the scoop on e-surveillance, the raging botnet battle, and the booming business of cyber crime.

Write to editor@lavasoft.com with comments on what you see in this issue and what you would like to see in future issues of LN.

News from Lavasoft

Ad-Aware 2007 Premiere
Our Ad-Aware users are literally days away from getting their hands on the final product. Take a look at the key features included in each version of Ad-Aware 2007.

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Cyber-Stalkers Invade Personal Spaces
It's not just remote hackers that are trying to track your online activity and gain access to your personal information. Find out about cyber-stalking, e-surveillance and how to protect yourself.

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Botnets Grow in Size and Sophistication
The battle of the botnets has begun in earnest. Botnets have become a leading player in the world of cyber crime.

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Cyber Criminals: Savvy, Professional and Organized
Malware suppliers are tailoring their techniques, using personalization schemes and even embracing their competition, all for the pursuit of profits.

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Top Computer Crimes of 2007 U.S. News & World Report
Only halfway through the year, 2007 is already proving to be an impressive year for cyber criminals in America. Take a look at the top cyber crimes for the year's first quarter, pulled together from the U.S. Justice Department's Computer Crime Section, the FBI, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Security Shorts
Lavasoft News has compiled a list of "security shorts" - summaries of other online security stories making news around the world this past month.

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Spyware Newsbits

New Targets in Detection (May 2007)
Protect your privacy with a complete list of new targets for May 2007.

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Lavasoft Blog
If you want to go behind the walls of Lavasoft, hear what we are up to, what we are thinking and what is happening in the industry, the Lavasoft Company Blog is the place to go for regular, up-to-date information.

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Ad-Aware 2007 Premiere

The premiere of Ad-Aware 2007 is only days away, and an all-new Ad-Aware anti-spyware will be available online June 7, and on U.S. retail shelves shortly thereafter.

At Lavasoft, our mission is to develop and deliver the highest quality anti-spyware solutions, in order to give computer users the power to control their privacy and security. Ad-Aware 2007 is Lavasoft's answer to the rapidly changing threat landscape in today's cyber world. The fully redesigned Ad-Aware 2007 has a new architecture that allows for more program flexibility and improved malware detection as the industry continues to grow in sophistication.

"The launch of Ad-Aware 2007 is an important step for us here at Lavasoft, setting the groundwork for our focus on the next generation of malware and spyware threats," said Lavasoft CEO Ann-Christine Åkerlund.

At the same time, we know that security does not have to be complicated to be effective and relevant. Ad-Aware 2007 was developed with direct input from computer users representing the spectrum of ability, and the fresh new interface smoothly guides users through the complexities of detecting and removing malware, while still providing advanced options for experienced users.

With Ad-Aware 2007, Lavasoft has responded to the needs of the everyday computer user at home as well as the IT individual in a business setting. Ad-Aware 2007's fully rebuilt engine results in faster scanning times, and is stocked with convenient new additions like automatic scans and Web updates with the Scheduler feature, the TrackSweep privacy tool that erases tracks left behind from Internet browsing with the click of a button, and the built-in Hosts File Editor to block advertisement sites and reverse browser hijack entries.

The 2007 product will be released in three different versions: Ad-Aware 2007 Pro, Ad-Aware 2007 Plus, and Ad-Aware 2007 Free (formerly known as Personal). Take a look at the host of new features included in Ad-Aware 2007 Pro, Plus, and Free by clicking on the product boxes below. While Ad-Aware 2007 will not be Vista compatible right away, a Vista compatible version (32-bit) will be released at the end of August, and all Ad-Aware users with a valid license will immediately receive the Vista compatible version update upon its release. Remember, if you have a valid Ad-Aware SE license, you are eligible for an update to the new Ad-Aware 2007 version, completely free of charge!

Cyber-Stalkers Invade Personal Spaces

You know that the world is becoming a smaller place when it is possible to find an address and get directions with a few clicks on a mobile device. Another few clicks and you can find out the precise coordinates marking your location in space. You may even keep a record of it in time, if you were so inclined.

If it's easy for you, think about how easy it is for others. But why would anyone want to know your precise whereabouts, and what could they do with that information?

Plenty, it turns out.

You don't need to be a high-profile artist to be the subject of unwanted attention. Cyber-stalking can come from a former partner or spouse, a total stranger, or perhaps an estranged co-worker.

The Washington Post recently reported that stalkers with cursory computer knowledge have been able to track the e-mail and Web activity of current or recently divorced spouses. Stalkers can choose from an array of spyware, GPS devices on their own or embedded in mobile phones, and tiny cameras, to keep track of their victims. By working in this way, they can remain anonymous and operate anywhere from a distance of a few blocks, to many time zones away.

The victims of cyber crime may not readily know who is invading their privacy. This, in itself, can make victims feel powerless. But what is worse is that they may not know the extent of the information that may have been compromised. The range of possibilities, from legal documents and financial transactions, to intimate correspondence, is enormous.

Armed with that information, a stalker can decide to show up unannounced to track a victim. Another may choose to send harassing e-mails, electronic junk mail, and computer viruses. And yet another, as reported on CNET News, could intend to use the collected information as ammunition to help win a divorce settlement.

Whichever form they take, these tactics are meant to induce fear. Police departments are being trained to deal with cyber-stalking, but prosecuting these crimes presents many challenges.

How can you protect yourself against cyber-stalking? According to Douglas Schweitzer, an Internet security specialist with Computer World, it is wise to be cautious with your personal information. Follow these guidelines to protect yourself:

  • Don't use your real name as your screen name or user ID.
  • Don't share personal information in public online spaces or give it to strangers in e-mail or chat rooms.
  • Don't post personal information as part of a user profile.
  • Make sure that your Internet provider and any online communities you frequent have policies that prohibit cyber-stalking.
  • Change passwords frequently.
  • Hand-deliver important documents.

Botnets Grow in Size and Sophistication

Botnets, networks of thousands of computers used to spread malware, have become the hottest commodity of cyber criminals. Malicious code, as dangerous as it is, has taken a back seat to the means to deliver it. As a result, hackers and spammers are no longer the sole leading figures responsible for perpetrating cyber crime.

Botnet controllers are responsible for pulling the strings of an increasingly professional and sophisticated cyber crime community. Emerging as a new serious brand of player, they are threatening the very openness of the Internet that we have come to take for granted.

Botnets have the ability to attack the Internet en masse. As a result, the frequency and complexity of attacks is escalating. Another contributing factor is the professionalism displayed by the cyber criminals.

An example of this was recently reported on PC World. Security firm Panda Software discovered an innovative application called Zunker, which was used to control and monitor botnet computers in as many as 54 countries. The tool had been designed to be easy to use and allowed the owner the ability to tune the performance of the network.

As another sign of sophistication, security researchers have found that a growing number of botnets are being used only once. The botnet controller rents the network to the highest bidder and, once an attack is completed, abandons it. This strategy makes it more difficult for law enforcement to track the botnet controllers, or 'bot herders' as they are also called.

Bringing those criminals to justice, though difficult, is not impossible. Witness the sentencing of Jeanson Ancheta, 21, of California to a term of 57 months in a federal prison. Ancheta, a bot herder, controlled and rented 400,000 computers to other cyber criminals who used the network to launch security attacks.

Contributing to the problem is the large number of home users whose computers do not have adequate protection and are easy prey for botnet operators. It is critical that home users install up-to-date firewalls and security software, in addition to practicing caution when going online.

Notwithstanding all the challenges ahead, security experts remain optimistic that the botnet threat can be mitigated without having to alter how we currently use the Internet. The prospect of a closed Internet is not something that would benefit anyone, cyber criminals included.

Cyber Criminals: Savvy, Professional, and Organized

Malware goes mainstream.

Sound far-fetched?

Think service contracts, personalization, and upgrades. It’s all there. Suppliers of malware have become quite sophisticated in their offerings. Their motivation? Think one simple word: profits.

Malware suppliers have adopted many of the same business practices used by leading software providers. But they are going one step further. By embracing their competitors, malware suppliers are becoming more like a consortium in their ability to strategically deliver customized offerings, to tap into synergies, and, significantly, to share market intelligence.

Large enterprises may continue to be the most visible of the victims of cyber crime, but they are no longer its main focus. Small to medium-sized firms provide much more viable targets. But how do malware suppliers find the right targets?

One thing is for sure: they are not reinventing the wheel.

Malware suppliers are borrowing market research concepts and turning them into tools that can gather relevant information about potential targets. Armed with treasures such as browser version, operating system software, IP address, and level of security patch, malware writers have a ready end-user profile at hand.

The Internet Security Systems X-Force team at IBM, headed by Gunter Ollman has been actively researching the methods used by cyber criminals. In a recent Info World article, Ollman states that the most sophisticated of these cyber criminals are trading information such as IP addresses to ensure that their latest work is not discovered.

Though they may not have face-to-face meetings or send e-mail correspondence, these cyber criminals have other means of communicating with each other. Whether through chat rooms or bulletin boards, they collaborate in ways that help extend the reach of their malicious code.

There is strength in numbers.

As recently reported in Info World, McAfee’s latest research report shows that criminals are connecting in greater volume than ever before. Dave Marcus, a security research manager at McAfee’s Avert Labs believes that the criminals are doing a better job at communicating than the security industry itself.

Countries like Russia and China, which do not participate in worldwide groups that fight malware use, have become hotbeds for cyber criminals. With no shortage of outlets for the distribution of their malicious code, their activity is expected to flourish in 2007.

VoIP systems are expected to see an increased volume of threats, as are mobile devices like smart-phones. Threats in the form of phishing attacks, spyware, and mobile spam will become more commonplace.

What’s an end-user to do? Natalie Lambert, of Forrester Research, recommends using a multi-layer approach to safeguard yourself. Having a single security measure, such as an anti-virus program, is no longer enough and can’t protect against specific, targeted attacks, the type that are becoming de rigueur for sophisticated malware suppliers.

Security Shorts

Security Bill Takes on Botnet Battle
A new bill introduced in the United States Congress, the Cyber Security Enhancement Act, is aiming to widen penalties for cyber crime, including creating criminal penalties for botnet attacks used to aid in identity theft, denial-of-service attacks, and the spread of spam and spyware. The legislation would also allow prosecutors to pursue racketeering charges against cyber criminal groups, expand sentencing guidelines for cyber crime, and add $30 million U.S. a year to the budgets of federal agencies combating cyber crime.

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Google Warns of Web Malware
The sheer volume of malware being hosted on websites was revealed through a Google study based on a year-long scan of over 4.5 million sites. "The Ghost in the Browser" study reports that one in 10 web pages are laced with malicious code. Of the sites the Google research team analyzed, 450,000 were capable of launching drive-by-downloads to install malicious code, like spyware and Trojans, onto users' computers. Another 700,000 web pages were found to contain code that could compromise PCs.

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Mobile Phone Threats Continue to Climb
By the end of 2007, the number of mobile phone viruses is expected to double, a McAfee official recently told Reuters. Spyware and virus threats on phones have risen as mobile malware writers find new ways to break into the cell phone software market. Security firm F-Secure reported that two new spying tools are now facing mobile devices running Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 3 rd edition operating systems.

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Hacking Through Windows Update
A component of Windows Update is being used to stealthily get malicious code downloads past firewalls, researchers at Symantec have reported. Hackers are taking advantage of the Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), a Windows component that allows files to be transferred between machines, to bypass local firewalls in order to sneak in malicious downloads.

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Top Threat: Memory Stick Security
Removable media devices are viewed as the top security concern for corporations, according to a new study from Centennial Software. Nearly 40 percent of IT managers surveyed responded that removable media devices like USB memory sticks and MP3 players are the biggest security threat for their companies. While recognizing the risk, according to the report, 80 percent of firms do not have protection measures in place.

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Stats
Computer users are safety savvy when it comes to understanding potential threats coming in through their e-mail inboxes, like phishing, viruses, and malware. Results from an E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition survey show that over 80 percent of users recognize and report spam through functions in their e-mail service. Yet, it only takes one e-mail user in 10,000 to buy something from a spammer to keep them in business.

Source: Network World
RSS
Term of the Month
RSS is a type of web feed format used to publish constantly updated web-based content like blogs and news feeds. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and can also refer to Rich Site Summary or RDF Site Summary. RSS delivers information as an XML file called an RSS feed or webfeed. By subscribing to a website's RSS feed, new content from that site is retrieved and presented to the computer user through their feed reader or feed aggregator program.

Source: en.wikipedia.org
Tech Tips
It can be difficult and time consuming to keep track of all the news available on the web. Sign up for RSS feeds to stay up-to-date with news from your favorite websites. RSS is a convenient way to distribute news, plus it allows you to control the amount of data you receive online and decrease your online traffic, saving you time by not having to visit individual sites. To use RSS feeds, simply choose an RSS reader tool and then load RSS feeds into your reader from the sites you are interested in.

Lavasoft's Company Blog and the News from Research blog have RSS feeds up and running. By subscribing to the News from Research blog, you will be notified whenever a new Definitions File is released.
Helpful Homepage
Stop Badware.org is a "neighborhood watch" group dedicated to fighting badware - spyware, malware and deceptive adware. Educate yourself by reading their in-depth reports on applications and websites, or fight back by submitting your badware story to aid their clearinghouse effort.
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