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Issue of January 2004 

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Annual Virus Round-up and 2004 forecast

TrendLabs, Trend Micro's global anti-virus research and support network has prepared a report on malware. As 2003 draws to a close, malware (viruses and other malicious code) continues to pose a challenge for computer users. Whether at the Internet gateway or on home desktops, users need to exercise vigilance to keep their digital information secure as the malware landscape continues to evolve despite content management solutions that include improved anti-virus, firewall and other security innovations. This report from Trend Micro is intended to provide analysis of malware trends, and future predictions.

Most worms use e-mail and some form of social engineering to entice users to click and execute attachments. Self-compression and encryption, coupled with anti-debugging code is a growing concern as it adds another layer of complexity, thereby affecting the speed with which the behavior of the malware can be analyzed.

What's next? Based on its experience of recent computer virus activity, Trend Micro makes the following predictions and observations regarding 2004:

  • The use of blended threats to attack networks will remain the standard.

  • Current and future malware will continue to attempt to disable anti-virus, personal firewall and anti-Trojan horse monitoring programs.

  • Web-filtering software or, at least, Internet surfing policies, must be put into effect in corporate environments to prevent inadvertent redirection to malware related websites.

  • E-mail attachment filtering will continue to provide add-on protection. However, gateway scanning anti-virus software is more efficient at weeding out infected files passing through corporate networks as well as recognizing different types of archive and file formats.

  • Common public and un-moderated messaging channels such as IRC and P2P will be used from time to time due to the need for faster communication as the e-mail glut continues to hamper day-to-day operations.

  • Several reports published in 2002 estimated that by 2007, 25 percent of all e-mail content would be some form of commercial spam. However, the reality, as published by Nucleus Research, AmikaNow!, IDC, and the New York Times, shows that as at October 2003, the influx of spam has reached 49 percent, and is expected to continue growing at about 7 percent every year.

  • System administrators have to be careful in evaluating and considering the software needs of their corporate networks. They should ensure that the software vendor can commit to timely fixes for vulnerabilities and consistent and reliable delivery of services.

  • As enterprises continue to grow, the use of centrally managed services becomes more important. Several vendors are now offering content management solution packages. However, when evaluating these packages, care should be taken to assess their overall efficiency and ability to provide collaborative data

  • With network viruses becoming ever more prevalent, administrators will need to look at management tools that will allow them to block off different parts of their networks. For example, downloading outbreak prevention policies to quickly isolate vulnerable or infected areas of networks to prevent further spread of infection until a pattern file is released.

  • The costs associated with network restoration, post virus outbreak, will continue to be an issue. Companies can limit the time and resources needed to restore their networks using device-specific, attack-specific damage clean-up templates.
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