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Targeted cyberattacks jump 42 percent in 2012, Symantec says

The security company's latest Threats Report shows a small decline in spam and a huge rise in the number of targeted attacks.


Internet users are seeing less spam but more targeted attacks, according to security software company Symantec.

Looking at last year's security landscape, Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report 2013 found that traditional spam accounted for 69 percent of all e-mail in 2012, down from 75 percent in 2011. Yet, 30 billion spam messages are still sent on a daily basis.

Junk e-mails that hawk sex or dating products and services now account for 55 percent of all spam, taking the top spot away from pharmaceutical spam.

Malware is also part of one out of every 291 e-mail messages, with 23 percent of those malware-carrying messages offering links to malicious Web sites. Around 247,350 malware attacks were blocked every day in 2012, according to Symantec, a 30 percent jump over 2011.

Last year also saw a 42 percent rise in the number of targeted attacks, averaging around 116 per day, triggering a comparable increase in data theft and acts of industrial espionage. Small businesses with fewer than 250 employees were fingered in 31 percent of those attacks in 2012. Symantec believes smaller businesses are targeted because many of them don't have the stronger security employed by larger firms.

More cybercriminals are using a special type of targeted cyberattack known as a "watering hole attack," Symantec noted. The attackers infect a Web site that their targeted victims are apt to visit, exposing the victims to malware as soon as they access the site.

Mobile malware attacks grew by 58 last year, compared with 2011, according to the report. Apple's iOS was hit by 387 vulnerabilities, much higher than the 13 recorded for Android. Yet Google's mobile OS accounts for a greater percentage of treats due to its larger market share, open platform, and multiple app distribution methods, Symantec said.

Released today, Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report 2013 captured information from more than 69 million attack sensors across 157 different countries.