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Malware is becoming increasingly complex, designed with multiple components that target different enterprise weaknesses, according to industry watchers. In other words, the next security threat that hits your organisation could be a keylogger, Trojan and 'bot' rolled into one.

Jens Andreassen, vice president for Asia-Pacific at Fortinet, told ZDNet Asia in an email that multi-component threats have existed for several years, but today's blended threats have many more components or functionalities "to maximise the opportunity for a successful attack".

"As security products add multiple layers of defence, cybercriminals are matching this with a multi-component offence approach. Multi-component threats are…becoming more sophisticated and adding more and more components for a snowball effect," said Andreassen, adding that malware writers are also tapping on "higher-profile vehicles, such as blogs and social-networking sites".

"Most modern malware involves a series of attack stages, relying on and using a number of parts," he explained. "With the internet, it is no longer necessary for the malware to carry around all the pieces it needs in a single file or on a single disk; additional parts can be easily downloaded when needed."

According to Ducklin, security vendors face both challenges and opportunities in dealing with multi-component threats. "The most obvious challenge is that, when we see one part of a multi-component threat, we don't automatically know where this component fits in to the entire attack."

On the other hand, there are more avenues to counter the threat; attacks can be thwarted by blocking any one of the components involved, noted Ducklin.

He said: "Such attacks have all the weaknesses of an electrical circuit — cut a wire anywhere and the whole thing goes dead — compared to the strengths of a parallel circuit, in which each component has to be isolated separately."

Businesses, said Ducklin, run into the danger of having their corporate websites used as "a staging post" for malware attacks. According to Ducklin, about 80 percent of all infected web pages are on compromised, legitimate sites.

Suffering a website attack not only damages the company's reputation by highlighting the fact that there is a security problem, it is also time-consuming and costly to repair, Ducklin pointed out. In addition, legitimate visitors may no longer be able to use the site effectively, and end up visiting a competitor's site instead.

Source: ZDNet Asia

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