Spyware Threat

By eweek  |  Posted 2005-01-01 Print this article Print

Beyond the phishing epidemic, spyware was on track to replace mass-mailing worms as the biggest security threat in the coming year. This technology, which uses covert techniques to install itself on computers and track user activity, is dangerous because malicious code can be executed on infected systems. As eWEEK.coms Ryan Naraine reported, spyware, also known as adware, has become the preferred way to deliver malicious Trojans, which can relay information to other computers or Web locations, thus putting user passwords, log-in details, credit card numbers and other personal information at risk. Notwithstanding financial chief security officers complaints, the Feds spent a good deal of the past year studying cyber-crime, pondering and passing legislation to thwart it, and even handing down the first-ever felony conviction of a spammer. The spammer, Jeremy Jaynes, received a sentence of nine years in prison when a jury in AOLs home county convicted him and his sister.
Meanwhile, a federal sweep, named Operation Web Snare, nabbed 150 individuals and 117 criminal complaints between June and August. As eWEEKs Dennis Callaghan reported, the effort, largely directed against phishers, was thought to be the largest one yet taken against cyber-criminals.
Reactions to the cyber-criminal sweep were mixed, however, as some legal and online fraud experts opined that it was too little, too late. Finally, if theres any silver lining to the dark cloud of cyber-crime thats blossomed in the past year, it is this: Congress is finally taking these issues seriously. As eWEEKs Caron Carlson reported, the Senate in June approved legislation aimed at stopping identity theft by increasing criminal penalties and creating a new crime of aggravated ID theft, which the president has since signed into law. The House took on the task of probing spyware in April, and legislation targeting spyware was introduced into the Senate and House, with Utah ahead of the curve in enacting an anti-spyware law. The House in September approved legislation that prohibits "taking control" of a computer, surreptitiously modifying a Web browsers home page, or disabling anti-virus software without proper authorization. With all of these busts, and with all of this legislative pondering, does it finally mean we have some tools to beat down the alarming rise of cyber-crime? eWEEK.coms Larry Seltzer earlier in the year had read various versions of bills pending at the time, and he wasnt optimistic, given that the legislative language had too much wiggle room. The upshot: In 2005, youll have to be more vigilant, youll have to demand more from vendors vis-à-vis secure products, and youll have to go through legislative wording with a fine-toothed comb. Is that different from other years? No. But take it much, much more seriously this year. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog. Related articles:


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